Note: In the notes that follow, all individuals are black unless otherwise identified. The music publishers are all white companies.
"Shivering and Shaking Out in the Cold" (1878)
This slow waltz ballad is an early example of the character songs that Lucas favored throughout his career. The lyrics describe a life of poverty in a setting of urban gentility that
could apply to whites just as well as blacks; the references to slavery that typically dominated black comedy, dance, and songs of the 1870s are absent.
It's possible that Lucas and fellow minstrel Abe Cox sang this song when both were members of Callender's Georgia Minstrels (one of the earliest all-black minstrel troupes). The minstrel show's first part always contained at least one sentimental song sung by a tenor. As early as 1873 there are references to each of them singing a song called "Out in the Cold" ("The Georgia Minstrels," Nashville Union and American, Nov. 8, 1873), but the title alone doesn't confirm whether this was "Shivering and Shaking," for there was another song (also a slow waltz) on the same theme called "Wandering Out in the Cold," composed by J. A. Barney (white) and published by J. L. Carncross (Philadelphia) in 1871 (http://www.loc.gov/item/sm1871.02292). It could have been Barney's song that Lucas and Cox sang, or perhaps Barney's two verses inspired "Shivering and Shaking," which over four verses renders the character's pathetic situation in finer detail.
"Shivering and Shaking" was also likely performed on the legitimate stage, particularly in Anna Madah and Emma Louise Hyers' 1876 production of Joseph Bradford's (white) music drama Out of the Wilderness (later known as Out of Bondage), which featured Lucas singing sentimental ballads and jubilee songs. (The Hyers sisters were classically trained singers; Lucas worked with their various dramatic and concert troupes for about a decade.)
Composer and music publisher Charles A. White (white) began promoting Lucas in 1876 in his publishing house periodical Folio, pronouncing "Shivering and Shaking" the "'boss' song of the period" and advising readers to "send for it" (June 1876: 212). Although this implies that the sheet music had been published, no record of publication is evident until the 1878 edition (see link above). Whether Lucas wrote this song is debatable, as it bears no resemblance to his earliest compositions, but the song played a crucial role in Lucas's attempts to move beyond minstrel performance.
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"De Day I Was Sot Free!" (1878)
In contrast to "Shivering and Shaking," the majority of Lucas's earliest published songs resemble black folk song, specifically spirituals, which he grew up hearing his mother sing. The stylistic link to spirituals in "De Day I Was Sot Free" is evident in the density of repetition (five of the six phrases that comprise the verse are identical), duple meter, minor mode (which white audiences often interpreted as an African influence), dialect, and use of call and response in the chorus. The musical interlude is a minstrel convention — in this case a schottische that furnishes the opportunity for a lively dance.
The elderly narrator of this song, a former slave from Louisiana, recalls for "white folks" the effect of the Emancipation Proclamation on him and his family. A dignified interpretation reveals this to be a stirring and touching song, although the potential for a stereotypical minstrel performance existed (through the use of exaggerated makeup, costume, and dialect, for example, and by embedding the song in a comic skit). In the late 1870s/early 1880s, when the South and the black minstrel show especially were in the grip of "plantation nostalgia," Lucas's song refuses to sentimentalize the era of slavery. Lucas could well have performed this song in one of the Hyers Sisters' musical plays.
"Sot Free" is very similar to another Lucas composition published the same year, "Hannah Boil Dat Cabbage Down": Both songs are in e-minor, they have almost identical piano introductions, and there are phrases of identical melodic contour (including most notably the descending octave-plus leap found at the end of the penultimate phrase of the verse in "Sot Free"). Lucas borrowed freely throughout his career — from folk songs, from his own work, and from the work of others. (In this he was not unusual, among both black and white composers!)
Performance note: In our recording Chad sings the triplet melisma at the beginning of phrases as a vocal slide, so that the individual notes aren't distinguishable. To mimic this effect in the piano I play a C# rather than a C-natural as notated.
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“De Young Lambs Must Find de Way” (1880)
In 1872 the Fisk Jubilee Singers (Fisk University, Nashville) began to attract national attention with their four-part concert arrangements of spirituals. The minstrel show took note, and by the mid-1870s a new genre of “commercial” spirituals (songs written for the stage by an identifiable composer for profit, but based on folk spirituals) had been established. The commercial spiritual “De Young Lambs” was modeled on the traditional spiritual “De Ole Sheep Done Know de Road,” a version of which was popularized by the Hampton Institute Singers and notated in the anthology Hampton and Its Students (1874, edited by Mary Frances Armstrong and Helen Ludlow, p. 198). Lucas’s song adopts the words to the chorus of the Hampton spiritual and adheres closely to its melody throughout. Lucas wrote original lyrics for the verses. Unlike the preponderance of spirituals written for minstrel performance, the words to “Young Lambs” are earnest and avoid minstrel humor and stereotypes. In fact, a sincere performance of many of Lucas’s commercial spirituals would render them indistinguishable from traditional spirituals.
In 1880 and 1881 Lucas published fourteen “original jubilee songs,” or commercial spirituals. They furnished the repertory for Lucas’s performances with the Colored Ideal Musical Company, a troupe consisting of Marie Selika, Isabella Miles Taylor, Alice Mink, the Hyers sisters, Wallace King, Sampson Williams, and J. M. Waddy. Waddy had previously sung bass with the Hampton Institute Singers and could have been Lucas’s link to this traditional spiritual. The Ideals’ programs featured Lucas with a “jubilee quartette” (see advertisements and blurbs in the Boston Daily Globe, Nov. 28 and Dec. 5, 1880), while the rest of the company performed operatic excerpts, quartets and choruses, and instrumental selections. By 1881 Lucas was producing concerts with his own troupe of “Ideal” Jubilee Singers, who were in residence in Boston for several summers; he also traveled with the Colored Ideal Musical Company under the auspices of the Redpath Lyceum Bureau (Folio, July 1881, p. 259). By composing his own “jubilee songs,” Lucas was able to distinguish himself from the many jubilee troupes singing arranged spirituals in concert and refresh his repertory.)
Lucas’s “jubilee songs” should be interpreted within a broader context. Plantation nostalgia held sway over minstrel entertainment in the early 1880s, and parodic spirituals with demeaning stereotypes were pervasive. For example, in 1880 impresario J. H. Haverly (white) “recreated” the sunny, happy southern plantation in an extravaganza using 75–100 black performers; it ran concurrently with a “colored camp meeting” vaudeville entertainment in Boston (Boston Globe, 22 August 1880, p. 3). That Lucas wrote so many commercial spirituals that failed to gratify the demands of such fantasies is worthy of note.
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“Talk about Your Moses” (1880)
(an arrangement for guitar and voice by W. L. Hayden)
(a piano medley by popular song composer George Thorne [white], which showcases Lucas’s song)
“Talk about Your Moses” is another commercial spiritual. The verses feature two internal refrains (“sing glory, hallelujah” / “sing glory in my soul”), a common feature of traditional spirituals. The chorus is notable among Lucas’s arrangements because of the expressive effects notated in the score: Rests punctuate the first two words (“Um…what…”), fermatas lengthen the name of Moses, there is dynamic contrast, and there are two measures of humming. Even the piano accompaniment gets special attention, with staccato markings and sudden contrasts of piano and forte. It seems the intent is to emulate the performance practice of groups like the Fisk Jubilee Singers, who were famed for their dynamic control and enunciation. The tempo designation “moderato, maestoso” at the beginning of this “camp meeting hymn” (a synonym for “spiritual” and “jubilee song”) suggests an earnest as opposed to a comic delivery. Like “Young Lambs,” the lyrics are devoid of minstrel stereotypes and could be mistaken for those of a folk spiritual.
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“What Kind of Shoes You Gwine to Wear” (1881)
Given Lucas’s entrepreneurial nature and penchant for borrowing, it can’t be coincidence that this 1881 song by Lucas followed on the heels of the 1880 publication of “What Kind of Shoes Are You Going to Wear?”, a popular spiritual in the repertory of the Fisk Jubilee Singers that was published in a piano-vocal sheet music edition by John Church & Co., Cincinnati (http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.music/sm1880.13650) as well as an a cappella arrangement in J.B.T. Marsh’s The Story of the Jubilee Singers; with Their Songs (1880 and subsequent editions). The Fisk version is in a major key throughout, whereas Lucas begins his verse in minor and resolves it in major. Both songs are asymmetrical: The Fisk verse is 10 measures long and Lucas’s verse has 12 measures (in contrast to the typical popular song verse of 4 + 4 = 8 measures, or a “double verse” of 16 measures). Otherwise Lucas’s song and the traditional spiritual are unmistakably similar both melodically and lyrically, with almost identical choruses, their chief difference being the arrangement of the call and response. The tremolo in the piano accompaniment to the verse suggests a majestic tone, which we’ve enhanced in our recording with a rhythmically free interpretation.
The melody of the chorus in both Lucas’s and the traditional spiritual is the same as that in Joseph Eastburn Winner’s 1869 song “Little Brown Jug.”
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“Every Day’ll Be Sunday By and By” (1881)
The title phrase was a common figure of speech in Lucas’s day (and had already been used by white minstrel composer John Rutledge for his derogatory 1879 song “Ev’ry Day Gwine to Be Sunday”). Lucas’s commercial spiritual displays several hallmarks of the folk spiritual: dense repetition (the verse alternates between a solo call and a choral response, so that there are only two measures of unique melody in the 8-measure verse), a melisma on the word “shine” in the chorus, and a gapped-scale melody (B♭, C, D, F, A). Although the patchwork quality of Lucas’s lyrics may seem incoherent, black audiences of the time would have found many of the phrases familiar from traditional spirituals. For example, the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ spiritual “Oh, Yes! Oh Yes!” contained the phrases “As I went down in the valley to pray” (also present in their spiritual “Come, Let Us All Go Down”) and “I met old Satan on the way” (both spirituals are in the anthologies of Fisk Jubilee songs compiled by G. D. Pike and later by J.B.T. Marsh).
Lucas’s song had an afterlife beyond the heyday of minstrelsy. The Original Nashville Students, an independent black jubilee concert troupe (who were not actually students), sang Lucas’s “Every Day’ll Be Sunday” on a program that also featured traditional spirituals and popular songs that claimed to represent the true music culture of the plantation (this 1886 program can be found in the New York Public Library — Lincoln Center, Minstrels, U.S., scrapbook of clippings, pictures, programs). Because the program did not credit a composer, and because popular songs were generally better known for their performers than composers at that time, audiences could be excused if they assumed Lucas’s song to be a folk spiritual. Furthermore, in the Nashville Students’ published anthology of jubilee songs, most of which were appropriated from the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ anthology, two of Lucas’s songs were interspersed without attribution: “Every Day’ll Be Sunday” and “O, I’ll Meet You Dar.” Such mixing was common at the time, and it suggests one way in which commercial songs entered folk tradition.
In the mid-1890s, when jubilee groups downsized to male quartets and quintets and attracted the attention of the nascent recording industry, the Standard Quartette recorded “Every Day’ll Be Sunday” (The Earliest Negro Vocal Groups, vol. 2, 1893–1922, Document Records, Vienna). Although they sang a different melody, the resemblance to Lucas’s song is strong. “Every Day’ll Be Sunday By and By” was kept alive into the twentieth century. A white group called the Zonophone Quartette recorded it in 1906, and it can be found in a 1910 songster titled Wehman Bros.’ Good Old-Time Songs. (This song is discussed in further detail in my forthcoming book, The Popularization of Spirituals, University of Illinois Press, in preparation.)
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“Down By de Sunrise” (1884)
This is the final commercial spiritual in this group of recorded songs, and it was the last one that Lucas composed except for his 1887 collaboration with lyricist J. O’Halloran (white), “Come and Row on de Golden Stream.” In 1884 Lucas was still performing with his jubilee troupe, but his fame rested on his motto and character songs. In addition to the already familiar aspects of folk style (call and response, dense repetition, internal refrain, gapped scale), “Down By de Sunrise” uses a flatted seventh scale degree in the chorus (also found in Lucas’s “Children, I’m Gwine to Shine”). Nineteenth-century transcribers of black folk song were challenged by pitches that they perceived to be “in between” the notes of a diatonic scale, often rendering them as a flatted tone (see for example William Allen’s [white] well-known introduction to Slave Songs of the United States, 1867), which explains the presence of such tones in the transcriptions of many folk spirituals.
Although the lyrics index traditional spirituals in such phrases as “play on the golden harp” and “glory, I’m a trav’lin,” the lyrics are minstrelized, describing the frying of ham that all “coons” love to eat for a Sabbath celebration and, in the third verse, the comic image of “Jackariah” climbing a tree to better view his Lord but losing the opportunity when the limb breaks precipitously. Of course, Jackariah is not an actual biblical character, but the name is similar enough to Zechariah to effect a biblical allusion. The piano introduction is a schottische.
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“Don’t You Hear the Baby Crying?” (1881)
In 1881 Lucas published three songs written in the style of white popular song. Internal refrains, dialect, call and response, gapped scales, duple meter, and lyrical references to black culture were exchanged for major-mode melodies that featured large intervallic leaps, balanced phrases (e.g., a 4-measure statement is answered with 4 measures), a variety of meters (duple, triple, compound), lyrics in standard English, and generic themes. Over the next few years Lucas’s output of such songs increased as his compositions modeled on black folk song decreased in number. In his ongoing search for respect and dignity, Lucas was resolutely leaving minstrelsy behind and focusing his energies on the variety stage and legitimate theater.
Although this song could be performed in a sentimental style, we’ve chosen to interpret with humor, in the belief that Lucas — a gifted comedian and mimic — did likewise.
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“Jeremiah Brown” (1882)
This is a comic song in the “can’t-get-a-break” mold that American variety and vaudeville inherited from British music hall. In fact, the song seems to have a British origin: the lyrics are printed in The New Standard Song Book and Reciter: Comic and Sentimental, compiled by J. Diprose, p. 65 (London: Diprose & Batemen, first published in 1877, and reprinted ca. 1884 and 1894), an anthology of songs from England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, and France. That publication credits the lyrics to Oswald Allan (white) and the music to J. A. Gifford (white). The story concerns two men named Jeremiah Brown, one a villain and one an innocent — and of course the innocent man is continually blamed for the other’s misdeeds. Lucas’s song duplicates the first three verses of the British song, which ends with a fourth verse that finds the innocent Jeremiah threatening to break “that Brown’s” neck if he ever finds him. Lucas’s song has a little more drama, with the innocent Brown first being arrested for a murder (verse 4) and then vindicated as the guilty Brown is hanged (verse 5).
If Lucas appropriated this song, he nonetheless made it his own. The reference in verse 4 to the Tombs – a city jail in lower Manhattan – suggests that the verse was at least “Americanized” if not newly composed by Lucas. The sheet music states that “speeches can be introduced if desired” between the verse and chorus, and I’m certain that Lucas exploited this opportunity. On this recording we’ve used the speeches from The New Standard Song Book as well as some other special effects typical of music hall performance practice.
The cover illustration on the sheet music portrays a white Jeremiah and a black Jeremiah facing off. The black man is holding a chicken, the implication being that he has just robbed a chicken coop and is therefore the villainous Brown. This stock minstrel imagery was probably another attempt to “Americanize” the song, for the cover bears no relation to the lyrics in the score (although perhaps Lucas related such a story in a spoken interlude).
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“Get Up with the Lark” (1882)
Lucas was especially known for his character songs (e.g., “Jeremiah Brown”) and motto songs (e.g., “Get Up with the Lark”), which Lucas’s publisher, White, Smith & Co., marketed to vaudeville and specialty artists. Although White published “Get Up with the Lark” under Lucas’s name, the song was the creation of lyricist Robert Alexander Douglas-Lithgow (white) and composer Vincent Smith (white), according to Billy Andrews’ Comic Songster of newest and choice songs (New York: Samuel Booth, 1873), where it appears under the title “Up and Doing” (p. 40). According to that songster, De Witt’s Half-Dime Series of Choice Music published a vocal-piano arrangement.
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“The Jolly Dude” (1883)
In 1883 the term “dude” came into vogue in New York and spread rapidly throughout the U.S. It referred to a man who dressed stylishly, was fastidious in his manners and speech, and was somewhat affected (synonyms were “dandy” or “swell”). The lyrics of this song provide an extended definition of the term as well as its feminine counterpart, dudette (which never really caught on).
Around 1880 Lucas started commissioning plays with music that would display his particular talents. The Dude was one of these. Performed by Lucas and his “opera company,” this three-act opened the 1883–84 theater season in Beloit, Wisconsin (Boston Globe, 19 Aug. 1883, p. 14) and seems to have toured only in the Midwest. “The Jolly Dude” was Lucas’s hit song from the show. That popular melody spawned “The Jolly Dude Waltz” (http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.music/sm1883.16487) and “The Jolly Dude Schottische” (http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.music/sm1883.16070), both piano solos arranged by the same George Thorne who arranged a piano solo of “Talk about Your Moses.”
The song opens with a schottische, during which Lucas probably pranced and uttered comicalities. The common-time verse in the key of C gives way to a waltz-time chorus in F, with a spoken interlude in between.
Lucas performed “The Jolly Dude” in his variety act. One review described him this way: “His get-up as the ‘Dude’ was quite startling, while the motions performed by his lower limbs in that character were a study for a professor of gymnastics, forming quite a show by themselves” (New York Age, 12 Dec. 1885). The off-beat accents in the piano are notated only in the last measures of the interlude at the end of the score, but in the recording I play them on those notes throughout.
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“Things That Make a Man Feel Like a Fool” (1885)
Lucas performed this song on variety bills throughout his career. One noteworthy performance occurred in late February 1888, when Lucas and his wife, Carrie Melvin Lucas, performed in a revival of Augustin Daly’s (white) play Under the Gaslight at the People’s Theater in St. Paul, MN. Lucas sang it in the pier scene, which was given over to specialties and musical selections (St. Paul Daily Globe, Feb. 27, 1888, p. 3; and 3 Mar. 1888, p. 3). Although we have tried to convey the humor in this audio recording, the comic effects would have been greatly magnified on stage, through facial expressions, pratfalls, mime, costume, and other visual effects.
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All text and audio at The Songs of Sam Lucas website are licensed by Sandra Jean Graham under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.