The Songs He Sang
Old Dan Tucker: Lyrics
As performed by Cisco Houston
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. CHORUS: 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. CHORUS: 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 CHORUS: 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 CHORUS: 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.