Buffalo Gals

17 Jul

(click here for tab)

[gDGBD tuning]

Even though most people growing up in the United States learn this as a children’s song, this is another one that goes wayyyy back. According to a thread at Mudcat.org, this song was published in 1844 by a fella named John Hodges who performer under the monicker “Cool White.” The Lomaxes believed that Cool White “borrowed” it from traditional sources, and a similar tune called “Midnight Serenade” in Knauff’s Virginia Reels [pub. 1839] gives weight to this claim. It has also been suggested that the tune itself is based upon a German dance piece known as Im Grunewald ist Holzauktion, and while there are certainly close similarities between the two, the earliest date I have been able to track down for the German piece is 1872. Who knows. I defer to the previously mentioned discussion at the Mudcat Cafe for more information.

The earliest recording (as “Alabama Gal”) comes from Fiddlin’ John Carson [OKeh 40204, 1924], for those keeping track. For a particularly strange, yet hugely popular version check out the late Malcolm McLaren’s 1983 recording.



7 Responses to “Buffalo Gals”

  1. L Nixon 01/20/2012 at 2:01 pm #

    I am just a retired carpenter wanting to learn 2 finger banjo. I always thought buffalo girls were hookers out west who did multiple men a night of the plains, ie buffalo skinners. After a busy evening they would begin to smell like their customers, hense Buffalo Gals. I could be wrong

    • 2ftlbanjer 02/09/2012 at 2:50 pm #

      Hmmm…not one I’ve heard before but makes sense. I reckon any gal smelling like a buffalo probably didn’t have to fight off to many would-be suitors 🙂

  2. Eddie McNulty 02/08/2012 at 12:41 pm #

    Tried the tab link not working

    • 2ftlbanjer 02/09/2012 at 3:05 pm #

      Shoot. You’re right. I’ll fix it ASAP. Sorry about that. -Sean

      • Eddie McNulty 02/09/2012 at 3:08 pm #

        Thanks Sean,
        Anyone on this site near me,Im in Coventry UK

      • Eddie McNulty 02/29/2012 at 11:51 am #

        Hi Sean,
        Brilliant site and a big help thanks you.
        Do you have a video or could you recommend one as an extra aid to learning as I am a complete beginner.
        Regards and thanks again

  3. Paul Certo 03/25/2013 at 5:58 pm #

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Gals http://www.pdmusic.org/1800s/44lfwycotn.txt
    There’s more to this story than meets the eye. John Hodges (Cool White) first published the song as “Lubly Fan” in 1844, if this Wikipedia article is correct. Notes from The Library Of Congress indicate Hodges ‘ published it in 1843, but also suggest the song was already in circulation before that date. http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/h?ammem/afcreed:@field%28NUMBER+@band%28afcreed+reedt011%29%29 It may have been in oral circulation, but not yet actually published. Hodges may have found his composition becoming popular and sought to publish it after the fact, or may have taken a traditional song and published it as his own composition. It’s a cold trail! I never heard the Hooker/Buffalo Skinner story before, but it’s as believable as any other folklore, who’s to say?

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