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STATE OF ARKANSAS

(trad./Lee Hays)


THE ALMANAC SINGERS, 1941: WOODY GUTHRIE, LEE HAYS, MILLARD LAMPELL, PETE SEEGER
(left to right)


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Contains "floating"/"commonplace" stanzas also to be found in "Buffalo Skinners" and "Diamond Joe" (both covered by Bob Dylan).

A Kelly Harrell variant ("My Name Is John Johannah") is mentioned by Dylan in "For Dave Glover" and was most likely a part of his early repertoire (no recording in circulation). "My Name Is John Johannah" shares the tune with Clarence "Tom" Ashley's "Maggie Walker Blues," which is a most likely source for Dylan's "Long Time Gone."



The recitation following the third verse of Version No. 1 is a likely source for Dylan's "East Orange, New Jersey" monologue.


VERSION #1

No. 167 in Alan Lomax, The Folksongs of North America, Garden City, NY, 1960.


My name is Charlie Brennan, from Charlestown I come.
I've traveled this wide world over, and many a race I've run,
I've traveled this wide world over, and some ups and downs I saw,
But I never knew what mis'ry was till I came to Arkansas.

I dodged behind the depot, to duck that blizzard wind.
Met a walking skeleton whose name was Thomas Quinn,
His hair hung down in rat-tails on his long and lantern jaw.
He invited me to his hotel, the best in Arkansas.

I followed my conductor to his respected place,
Where pity and starvation was seen in every face.
His bread it was corn dodger, his meat I could not chaw,
But he charged me half a dollar in the state of Arkansas.

SPOKEN:
But I didn't like the work, nor the food, nor the swamp-angel,
nor his wife, nor none of his children. So I went up to him and I told him,
"Mister, I'm quittin' this job. I want to be paid off."
He says to me, "All right, son." And he handed me a mink skin.
He says, 'That's what we use for currency down here in Arkansas.'
So I took it into a saloon to see if I could get a pint of whisky.
Put my mink skin on the bar, and be durned if the bartender didn't slip me that pint.
Then he picked up my mink skin, blowed the hair back on it,
and handed me three 'possum hides and fourteen rabbit skins for change...

I started back in Texas a quarter after five,
Nothing was left but skin and bones, half dead and half alive,
I got me a bottle of whiskey, my misery for to thaw,
Got drunk as old Abraham Linkern when I left old Arkansas.

Farewell, farewell, Thomas Quinn, and likewise his darling wife,
I know she never will forget me in the last days of her life,
She put her little hand in mine and tried to bite my jaw,
And said, "Mr. Brennan, remember me when you leave old Arkansas."

Farewell, farewell, swamp-angels, to canebrakes and to chills,
Fare thee well to sage and sassafras tea and corn-dodger pills.
If I ever see that land again, I'll give to you my paw,
It will be through a telescope from here to Arkansas.

O now I am a railroad man at a dollar and a half a day.
An' there I 'low to work, boys, till I can get away,
Then I'll go to the Cherokee mountains and marry me a squaw,
Farewell to hog and hominy in the state of Arkansas.


VERSION #2

as sung by Lee Hays, Digital Tradition File Name: STATEARK


My name is Charlie Brennan, from Charlestown I come.
I've traveled this wide world over, some ups and downs I've had.
I've traveled this wide world over, some ups and downs I saw,
But I never knew what mis'ry was till I hit old Arkansas.

I landed in St. Louis with ten dollars and no more.
I read the daily papers till both my eyes were sore.
I read them evening papers, until at last I saw
Ten thousand men were wanted in the State of Arkansas.

I wiped my eyes with great surprise when I read this happy news.
And straight off I went to see the agent, Billy Hughes.
He said "Pitch me five dollars, and a ticket you shall draw
To ride upon the railroad to the State of Arkansas."

I started off next morning at a quarter after five.
I started from St. Louis, half dead and half alive,
I bought me a quart of whiskey, my misery to thaw
And I got drunk as a boiled owl when I left for Arkansas.

'Twas in the year of '82 in the merry month of June
I landed in Ft. Smith on a sultry afternoon.
The air so hot and dusty, my breath I could not draw
But I got off to see what was in the state of Arkansas.

I dodged behind the depot, to duck the oven wind.
There I met a walking skeleton, his name was James T. Glynn.
His hair hung down in rat-tails o'er his long and lantern jaw.
Invited me to his hotel, "the best in Arkansas."

I followed my conductor into his dwelling place.
There mis'ry and starvation could be seen in ev'ry face.
His bread it was corn dodger, his meat I could not chaw
But he charged me a half a dollar in the State of Arkansas.

I started off next morning, in a hard and driving rain.
He says to me, "If you will work, I have some land to drain
I'll pay you fifty cents a day, your board and wash and all
You'll find yourself a different man when you leave old Arkansas."

He fed me on corn dodgers, as hard as any rock,
Till my teeth began to loosen and my knees began to knock.
I grew so thin on sassafras tea, I could hide behind a straw
And, indeed I was a different man when I left old Arkansas.

So farewell to swamp-angels, to canebrakes and fever chills
Farewell to sage and sassafras and corn-dodger pills.
If I ever see this land again, I'll give to you my paw
But it'll be through a telescope, from Hell to Arkansas.


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