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Azizi Lyr Add: Sail on, Chalk Ginger Blue! (14) RE: Lyr Add: Sail on, Chalk Ginger Blue! 30 Sep 11

More than five years have passed since I first posted to this thread. And I feel the need to clarify & expand upon my statements about the meaning of the chorus "Walk Chalk Ginger Blue" as found in the song "Gooseberry Wine" as found in Thomas Talley's 1922 book Negro Folk Rhymes.

I'm willing to concede that my interpretation of the lyrics "walk chalk get over double trouble" and the name "Ginger Blue" are heavily (perhaps too heavily) influenced by my 20th and early 21st century afrocentric perceptions.

I'm aware now (when I wasn't when I wrote those posts in 2006) that "Ginger Blue" was the name given to a pre-minstrel/minstrel character "created" by Thomas Dartmouth Rice in the mid 1800s. See partial lyrics and information about that song below.

However, I still stand by my opinion that "Ginger Blue" is a descriptive name for a Black man with a reddish complexion. I also still believe that the walk chalk etc chorus in "Gooseberry Wine" could mean and I think did mean that life is difficult so be careful how you walk through it (to use contemporary African American phrasing).

HOWEVER, this is not what Rice's song "Ginger Blue" or the character "Ginger Blue" was about (though I believe that Rice probably lifted the Ginger Blue name from a descriptor name that probably was used by Black folks and/or Black folks then).

From my online reading, I believe that the pre-minstrel/minstrel character "Ginger Blue" was a self-assured lover man character, not quite like Zip Coon because he (Ginger Blue) came from the plantation, while Zip Coon was an urban dandy. But Zip Coon was self-assured, meaning he thought well of himself, as did Ginger Blue. It was that self-assuredness of both of those White created characters which caused them to be considered ridiculous by White folks. Perhaps the other stock minstrel character "Mr Tambo"* was also self-assured, at least when it came to his musical skill, but (to use another contemporary African American phrase), I'm not sure that Mr Tambo "bragged on himself" like Zip Coon and Ginger Blue did. And I don't think that Jim Crow- the other major White created minstrel character-was at all self-assured.

From my 20th/21st century afrocentric perspective, I think that it's both interesting & suspect that the self-assured Black male character Ginger Blue isn't recognized and studied as a minstrel character as Jim Crow and Zip Coon have been. I don't mean to imply that White folks in the 19th century didn't think that Ginger Blue was a character who was ridiculous and laughable in his fake diction and in his mannerisms. Rather, to reiterate, I think that the fact that he was so self-assured was what White folks might have considered ridiculous. After all, why would a Black man feel that he was "all that"? (to use a now retired 20th century African American slang). But that doesn't mean that Black folks then or even now saw/see him as ridiculous. His self-assurance could have made (could make) him admirable to Black folks-which doesn't mean that I think that fake dialectic, n-word song should be sung nowadays. I don't think that at all.

*Btw I think that "Mr Tambo" character is like or patterned after Whistling Rufus-see that Mudcat thread on that song/character which seems to have been based on a real person.


Here's a quote from a Google Book that includes a version of the Walk Chalk Ginger Blue song:   
Behind the burnt cork mask: early blackface minstrelsy and Antebellum American popular culture
William John Mahar University of Illinois Press, 1999

One representative example of preminstrelsy is Thomas Dartmouth Rice's "Ginger Blue" which is seldom addressed in any discussion of minstrelsy but which showed up regularly on playbills from 1844-1851. The "Ginger Blue" character first appeared in Rice's Ethiopian opera "Bone Squash Diavolo", and returned in a number of vehicles through the early 1850s. The song may have changed when it entered the minstrel show genre and may have been shortened somewhat, since it then became part of a variety show rather than an extended solo act. How the performance worked is uncertain, but the following example demonstrates the combination of sung and spoken sections characteristics of the "Ginger Blue" act, as well as a mixture of eye dialect and Black English elements typical of the early minstrel shows.

"Ginger Blue"(Ethiopian Serenaders's Version): Song, Narrative, and Chorus

Verse 1
My name is ginger blue and wat I tell yous mity true
I come from the Tennessee mountains
My paragraf is short and my words they are as true
As the waters that flow from the fountains.
The first thing that I sed, when I could raise this n****r head,
To the darkies all on the plantation,
(Chorus/ Refrain) Was walk chalk ginger blue get over double trouble
Old Virginia neber tire.

additional verses and spoken words found in


Another version of Walk Chalk, Ginger Blue can be found online by googling the key phrase walk chalk giner blue -Newman Ivey White's American Negro Folk Songs (1928).

In that version, Ginger Blue (who is also referred to as "Ginger") goes to a dance, challenges Clum Grum, another Black man for Pete Williams' daughter Rosana, and wins because he has a better figure.(I think the meaning given to that phrase in this song is that Ginger Blue looks better than the other man-or at least that's what he believed.)

One final point, the "Walk Chalk Ginger Blue" chorus in the song "Gooseberry Wine" demonstrates that every verse of every song in Thomas Talley's 1922 Negro Folk Rhymes book wasn't composed by Black folks. Talley never said that all of those songs were of "Negro" origin. He collected songs from African Americans who sung them and danced to them.

African Americans who were the sources of Talley's collection may have borrowed some of the songs from White folks, and may changed the words to some of the songs and also may have changed the meaning to some of the songs that didn't originate with them.

Azizi Powell

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