skip navigation  The Library of Congress >> Research Centers
AFC Logo The American Folklife Center
A - Z Index
 home >> collections & research services >> online collections >> gordon collection

Folk-Songs of America: The Robert Winslow Gordon Collection, 1922-1932

Band B6

In 1931 Gordon received a letter from Betty Bush Winger of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. A native of the Ozark region of Missouri, Miss Winger had read an article Gordon had written (possibly in the New York Times) on Negro spirituals and sent a manuscript containing some of the songs she recalled. Like others whom Gordon recorded, she was not only an informant but also a collector who responded to Gordon's "scientific" interest in the songs. Gordon learned of Winger's songs at a time when he was experimenting with portable disc recording equipment. He convinced the Amplion Company to loan him a new disc recording machine and visited Winger in West Virginia in late 1931 or early 1932 in order to record her songs.

Miss Winger continued to correspond with Gordon, and in the mid-1940s resumed her correspondence with the Archive of Folk Song, contributing various materials until the mid-fifties. She not only collected songs, she also composed songs and wrote religious plays, some of which she sent to the archive. Such materials, though of limited interest to folksong researchers, tell us much about persons such as Winger who contributed so generously to Gordon's collections over the years. She perceived an essential connection between the collection of rare old songs which had historical value, and the creation of new compositions—songs or stories—based on these models or dealing with the same subject matter. Content and not process was the most important facet of folksong traditions for her.

"Yes, Ma'am" is a children's song, perhaps a play-party song, which Winger almost certainly learned from black tradition. Gordon noted two other versions of this song in his manuscript collections (McAdams Thesis, p. 131; Newcomb MS. p. 255). The call-response form of the song is not evident in this performance as it would be in the proper context, sung by a group of children. For a children's game version which preserves the call-response form, see "Shoo Turkey" in Jones and Hawes (pp. 53-54).

YES MA'AM [BED TIME QUIZ] [MP3 file]
(concludes with "All God's Children..." below)

Winger disc 17B2, Winger MS. II 58
Betty Bush Winger
Point Pleasant, West Virginia
Ca. 1931-32

My little boy have you been to the barn? Yes Ma'am.
Did you feed my horse? Yes Ma'am.
Did you give him hay? Yes Ma'am.
Did you give him corn? Yes Ma'am.
Well little boy don't you cry. Yes Ma'am.
Did you feed my cow? Yes Ma'am.
Did you feed her hay? Yes Ma'am.
Did you feed her corn? Yes Ma'am.
Did you feed my cat? Yes Ma'am.
Did you feed her hay? Yes Ma'am.
Did you feed her corn? Yes Ma'am.
Well you should've give her milk. Yes Ma'am.
Now go to bed. Yes Ma'am.
And cry if you like. Yes Ma'am.

"All God's Children Got to Humble Down" was one of the spirituals in Winger's repertoire which Gordon found of great interest. He cited her collection in his part of the 1932 Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress (p. 322) as an important new piece of evidence for spiritual scholarship. Presumably the non-stanzaic form appealed to his interest in the earliest spirituals, as discussed above with regard to Mary Mann.

ALL GOD'S CHILDREN GOT TO HUMBLE DOWN [MP3 file]
(begins with "Yes Ma'am" above)
Winger disc 15B1, Winger MS. (I) 12, (II) 17
Betty Bush Winger
Point Pleasant, West Virginia
Ca. 1931

All God's children got to humble down, humble down, humble down.
All God's children got to humble down, if they gwine to wear a crown.
All God's children got to humble down, got to stretch out a hand and-a humble down.
Got to stretch out a hand and-a humble down, while the blood come [?] trickling down.
Get you the blood of-a Jesus, a fallin' right down on you.
Got to humble-a down child if you want-a be washed clean through.
All God's children got to humble down, humble down, humble down.
All God's children got to humble down, if they gwine to wear a crown.
Brother, sister, take off your shoe, humble down, humble down.
Honey and oil gonna fall-a fall on you, humble down, humble down.

 

  Back to Top

 

 home >> collections & research services >> online collections >> gordon collection

A - Z Index
  The Library of Congress >> Research Centers
   June 23, 2011
Legal | External Link Disclaimer

Contact Us:
Ask a Librarian