With Clayton Freeman
Recorded in Little Rock, AR 11/02/67

Click here to listen to the first part of the original recording

Freeman: "As a boy, I lived many years on the Hiram Bradford plantation, which was approximately five miles west of Brownsville. There were several families of negroes living on this plantation at the time who were descendents of slaves. Some of them that lived there . . . There was Joe Bradford, Sr., who had a son, Joe Bradford, who played the guitar and played a few songs. The songs that he played and sang he knew well. He had one or two songs that he had composed the words and the music. There was another descendent of the Bradford slaves, Peyton Bradford, who had several sons and daughters. They all sang, they all hoodled, and some of them played on the guitar a little. Then another negro boy who lived there was named Simmie Powell, who had a crippled brother named P.D. Powell. Simmie owned a guitar. He played a few tunes on those and sang. He had some songs that he had composed. Nearly all of the negro men and boys could hoodle."

Wolf: "About when was this?"

Freeman: "I lived there from approximately 1906 . . . I remember we lived there in 1907, when Oklahoma was made a state, until--oh--1912 or '13. But these boys are . . . Some of them are living in that vicinity now, I'm sure. The plantation just south of that was the Lanier plantation, and there were several descendents of the slaves living there. Jake Lanier was a barber in Brownsville. He had brothers and sisters. And there were several other plantations around there, and nearly all of them had descendents. There was one plantation west of there, the Southhall plantation. All of the white people named Southhall were gone, but George Southhall, a descendent of one of the slaves, owned most of the old Southhall plantation. I believe the English poet pronounced that 'Soothhall,' did he not?"

Wolf: "Yeah, I guess he did."

Freeman: "But they pronounced it 'Southhall.' East of the Bradford plantation was part of an old plantation. I don't remember the name, but in the family graveyard there, there were people buried there back in 1700, and some of those . . . The descendents of their slaves were living there up until within the last few years, twenty years ago."

Wolf: "So these were the hoodlers. You remember any of the songs they sang?"

Freeman: "No . . . It's been so long. Now, last Christmas when my sister and I attempted to do some hoodling, we hadn't hoodled any since we were a child, and we learned that from these negroes, and if those hoodling tunes had names, I don't even remember."

Wolf: "You remember any other songs?"

??: "What was the . . ."

Freeman: "Well, that was just some of the words that went with one of those. There was another tune that they sang, was a pretty good tune.

Oh, the old hawk watches where the little chicken scratches
And the spider looks out for the fly.
Them niggers in the cotton patch keep a-looking back
When they see that gal go by.

Did you ever hear any of that?"

Wolf: "No, . . ."


When they see that gal go by,
When they see that gal go by,
Them niggers in the cotton patch keep a-looking back
When they see that gal go by.

And there were several verses to that, and fairly . . ."

??: "You remember any?:

Freeman: "Yeah. Part of it said, 'Her lips just as sweet as the corn cob stopper that comes out of the 'lasses jug.' And there were several verses to that, and fairly well composed, but I don't remember the name to that. Well, then, they used to sing some songs . . . You remember the slave chasers, the one who would capture the runaway slaves, that we would call the patrol of some kind, but the niggers called them pateroll."

Wolf: "Yeah."

Freeman: "And one song they sang was

Run, nigger, run, the pateroller catch you,
Run, nigger, run, it's almost day.
Nigger run and the nigger flew,
Nigger lost his Sunday shoe,
Run, nigger, run, it's almost day.

And of course there were lots of verses to that."

Wolf: "Well, can you hoodle some?"

Click here to listen to the second part of the original recording

Freeman: "I don't, don't believe so. I don't remember enough of those . . ."

??: "Well, just do the hoodling part."

Freeman: "And I can't do my lips the way they have to."

??: “Come on, come on . . .”

Mr. Freeman: “It isn’t worth a darn without you do that lip work there. ‘Come on, eep, ope, ack, ikph . . . I can’t do it without . . .”

??: “. . . slap your thigh. That’ll help.”

Mr. Freeman: “Well, I can’t. There’s some of the words, then you kind of chant some of the words in there, and then you start in with the lip work, but I . . .”

Dr. Wolf: “You can just make any kind of sound . . . What it was like . . .”

Mr. Freeman: “That’s the heck of it. I can’t make those sounds with my lips anymore. Eep, ope . . . I can’t do it. I’ll get my sister to run through with me sometime. We’ll see if we can remember some more of it. I'll see my older sister up in Crockett County, they tell me she remembers a lot of those.”

Dr. Wolf: “When will you see her?”

Mr. Freeman: “Tomorrow.”

Dr. Wolf: “Oh, are you? Good. Yeah.”

??: “Sing the one about going down the river.”

Mr. Freeman: “Well, let me see.”

I wonder where did the poor gal go,
I wonder where did the poor gal go,
Down the river forty miles or more, lord, baby.

There ought to been a gal, and I stayed at home.
There ought to been a gal, and I stayed at home
With your mama and around the cooking stove, lord, baby.

Dr. Wolf: “Where’d you learn that one?”

Mr. Freeman: “Those old nigger men used to sing that. But I have an idea that tune was composed back during the slave days, you know, when they would sell slaves and they’d wonder where that girl went. They’d, uh, send them down to . . . down South to work on those plantations still further south, and I have an idea that’s when that song . . . ‘Cause I do remember that old Joe Bradford used to sing that song. There are a few more verses to it. Must have been about some girl who'd been sold down the river.”

??: “. . . wouldn’t you say that was sort of a threat if they got obstreperous or something?”

Mr. Freeman: “Yeah, they . . . Well, of course, that was . . .”

??: “Send them down the river . . .”

Mr. Freeman: “Yeah, they’d, uh . . . Say that boy’s getting feisty, down the river for him. By the way, doctor, do you know where the word Dixie came from?”

Dr. Wolf: “No, I don’t.”

Mr. Freeman: “Well, I was very much surprised, and I don’t remember now whether the Dixie’s farm was either in New York State or New Jersey. Some man named Dixie owned a farm up there, had a number of slaves, and was very kind to them, and he sold a lot of his slaves, and they went down to some of the Southern states to work in cotton fields. And, uh, they got to sing, and they began to make some little tunes of their own, saying they wished they were back on Dixie’s land, ‘cause they liked it much better there. And, of course, that’s where part of the words and part of the idea came . . . That’s the first time that anyplace was called Dixie Land. Not in the South, but up in either New York State or New Jersey.”

Dr. Wolf: “Well, getting back to this hoodle business, the Negroes knew a good many of those hoodle songs, didn’t they?”

Mr. Freeman: “Oh, yes, yes.”

??: “Well, Aunt --- said that that corn cob stopper one was a hoodling song. That’s how the thing came up.”

Mr. Freeman: “Yeah, there’s part of that in there, they say. They put in a lot of that lip work there.”

Dr. Wolf: “Well, can she sing? Can she hoodle?”

Mr. Freeman: “Yeah, she can do better than I can. She remembers more.”

??: “. . . she still sings in church choir twice every Sunday. She’s got a good voice.”

Dr. Wolf: “Well, can you get her to hoodle on a tape?”

??: “I don’t know. She’s over Aunt ---‘s now.”

Mr. Freeman: “We’ll try to arrange that sometime. We’ll get Tiny to bring you a tape down.”

Dr. Wolf: “Who’s Aunt ---?”

??: “She’s lives over here on . . .”

Mr. Freeman: “Mrs. Ethan Allen.”

Dr. Wolf: “Oh, she’s over here.”

??: “We brought her over with us.”

Dr. Wolf: “Oh, you did? My word, why didn’t you bring her by here?”

??: “She went over to spend the night with Aunt ---. We’re going to have all five of them together tomorrow, Aunt Merle and Papa and Aunt Lee, Papa’s twin sister, and Aunt Beulah, who’s 77, and I don’t know how old Aunt May is. She’s older than you, isn’t she?”

Mr. Freeman: “Uh huh.”

Dr. Wolf: “Well, can you get her over here this afternoon . . .”

Mr. Freeman: “We’ll try.”

??: “Why don’t I give her a call? Are you busy right now? You got something, some commitment?”

Mr. Freeman: “Well, now wait a minute. We’re supposed to meet them when and where today for lunch?”

??: “Uh . . .”

Dr. Wolf: “Well, I don’t want to be . . . I don’t want them to have to rush off . . .”

Mr. Freeman: “Well, we’ll try, doing our best to get them together . . . one of my sisters . . . This is Clayton Freeman. Want my address? Address is 315 . . . Wait a minute; that’s wrong. 115 North Spring Street, Little Rock, Arkansas. Today is November 2, 1967.”

All Songs Recorded by John Quincy Wolf, Jr., unless otherwise noted

The John Quincy Wolf Folklore Collection
Lyon College, Batesville, Arkansas
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