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Exploring songs of the south

Posted by rrode on Sunday, May 12, 2013

It is interesting how some tunes and songs endure the test of time and keep reappearing.  Even simple little ditties.  Recently I've encountered the tune that goes by various titles -- Hedy West has a version called Run Slave Run.  R.D Lunceford's Cotton Blossom has a version called Run Rabbit Run.  In Dorothy Scarborough's On the Trail of Negro Folk Songs the title is Run Nigger Run.  She credits her version of the song to an overheard singing of an old black man walking down the road.   A couple of thread's on put the subject of the song as "usually understood to refer to slaves escaping patrols after Nat Turner's Revolt of 1832.  After the Nat Turner War, the song was by blacks for blacks, signaling that "pattyroller'll get you" (  But when you consider some of the versions, it almost sounds like a song that was created within a white southern tradition.  At least that is the opinion expressed in Marybeth Hamilton's In Search of the Blues (page 63).

Whatever the origin, the song keeps coming up, so there must be something enduring about it.  I worked up my own version based on Hedy West's playing and adapting the lyrics from the mudcat post to put together a story where the slave comes out on top.  Things didn't go quite as well for Nat Turner ( .  I didn't work up a tab version.  The tune is simple enough to pick up, although if anyone wants the tab just ask in a comme t here..  The tuning is standard G -- I am capoed on third fret.  Hopefully I do it justice -- if not go ahead and look for Hedy's version.  And see if you can understand why the song has endured.

The history of the banjo is intertwined with the history of US Slavery. Songs like this are a remembrance of that fact.

    Run slave run, patrollers gonna get you
    Run slave run, you gotta get away
    Run slave run, patrollers gonna get you
    Run slave run, its almost day

The slave he run, the slave he flew
He almost tore his shirt in two
The slave he tried to do his best
Patrollers got stuck in a hornet's nest

    Instrumental Chorus + Verse


The slave ran to the farmer's pasture
Patrollers shot; but the slave ran faster
The slave he whirl'd, the slave he wheel'd
The slave tore up the whole corn field

    Instrumental Chorus + Verse


Slave ran to the railroad track
Hitched an engine to his back
The engine's mighty whistle blew
And out away the slave did flew

    Instrumental Chorus + Verse

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