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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Jon Bartlett Lyr Req: All Around the Water Tank? (J Rodgers) (15) RE: All Around the Water Tank 06 Jun 09

Here's a version, again earlier than the Rogers set, I found in the Gordon Collection (Gordon 1720) at the Library of Congress:


All around the water tank,
Waiting for that train,
All tired out and hungry
From sleeping in the rain;
My heart was filled with sorrow,
My days are filled with pain;
Five thousand miles away from home,
Nobody knew my name.

I stepped up to that brakeman
To hand him a line of talk,
He says, "If you got that money, son,
I'll see that you don't walk."
My pocket book was empty,
Not a penny could I show;
"Get off, get off," that brakeman said,
Arid slammed that box car door.

He put me off at Denver,
Got stuck on a Denver girl,
You know she was all right,
For she wore that Denver curl.
She was pretty as a picture,
She was dressed in the fashion too;
But when that train pulled out, boys,
I bade that girl adieu.

From there I went to Albuquerque,
And I meant to stay a while,
But the bulls they got my number,
And I had to hit th' spile.
I dropped down to El Paso,
But they also knew me there,
The Judge said,"30 days or leave"
And I had to take the air.

I hopped on board a rattler,
And beat it across the state,
They threw me off at Corsicana,
And there I met my fate.
I woke up in the hospital,
I was minus of a leg,
Now that I can roam no more
To live I have to beg.

Terrell McKay San Antonio, TX, Apr 5, 1926

(Learned from men around the oil wells.)

From accompanying correspondence from Gordon to Terrell McKay, 1 June 1926: "…The Hobo Song. – I have fragments of this, a number from negroes, but no version as complete as yours. Thank you! The last line you quote and other lines is some of the scraps I've picked up lead me to think it was often used as a begging song. It must have started with a humble author and then been made over many times. It sounds to me like a genuine "hobo" song."

Verse 3 has elements, as Dick Greenhaus pointed out, of "The Danville Girl". Whether we have here two songs that merged, or two songs that came out of one original, I don't know. I note the the set above includes lines from McClintock's "Great American Bum", though he may well have incorporated (as we know he did with "Hallelujah, I'm a Bum") popular material he didn't himself create. I supsect that most "bum" or "Hobo" songs have this Protean characteristic.

I have to say I like Gordon's set: I wonder if anyone ever recorded it?

Jon Bartlett

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