Cisco Houston Web Site

The Songs He Sang

Old Dan Tucker: Lyrics

As performed by Cisco Houston


Appears on:
I went to town the other night
to hear a noise and see a fight,
All the folks was running around
said Old Dan Tucker's a-coming to town.

   Hey, get out of the way for Old Dan Tucker
   Too late to get his supper,
   Supper's over and dinner's cookin'
   Old Dan Tucker just standin' there lookin'

Well Old Dan Tucker he come to town
He was ridin' a billy goat, leadin' a hound,
Well the hound dog barked and the billy goat jumped,
They throwed Dan Tucker right straddle a stump.


Well Old Dan Tucker he come home drunk
He jumped at the fire and he kicked out a chunk
Got a live coal down in his shoe
And holy gosh mighty how the ashes flew


Old Dan Tucker was fine old man
He washed his face in a frying pan
He combed his hair with a wagon wheel
And died with a toothache in his heel


Just a-standin' there lookin'

Notes from the Folk Song & Minstrelsy Set

This is one of the most famous of the "walk-around" tunes connected with the 19th century minstrel shows, which featured white males performing in black-face makeup songs supposedly representing the slave culture of the pre-civil war South. The "walk-around" was generally sung at the end of the show by a soloist who gave out verses, and a small chorus who joined in with phrases such as "Git Out of the Way" or "Look Away, Look Away." This was in imitation of the "call and response" pattern of many Negro songs.

Dan Emmett, who was a member of the Virginia Minstrels, the first four-man minstrel team to strut before the footlights, claimed he wrote the tune of "Old Dan Tucker" in 1830 or 1831, when he was 15 or 16 years old. However, this is a claim that he made in old age, and it doubtful that he composed it. The song first appeared in print in a copyrighted edition that described it as "An Original Negro Melody by Dan Tucker, Jr." The year of publication was 1843. That was the same year that the Virginia Minstrels made their debut. Mr. Emmett, however, remains famous as the composer of an even better-known "walk-around" titled "Dixie." To his chagrin, because he was actually an abolitionist, the song "Dixie" was claimed by the Confederacy during the war.

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