Ginger Blue

Title: 
Ginger Blue
Type: 
Song
Description: 

To listen to this song (and others) on the Artists Respond to Juba Site, Click Here and/or Here.



The invention of the character is generally credited to Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice (1808-1860). Pre-dating the codified minstrel show, Mahar records that the character of Ginger Blue first appeared in Rice’s Ethiopian opera Bone Squash Diavolo which premiered in 1835 (198). It is likely that the music and lyrics of latter versions of the song are transmissions of a song specific to the Ginger Blue character in Bone Squash Diavalo, but there is no extant original to confirm this. Supporting the argument for variation through transmission are the considerable differences in the lyrical settings in the two versions surveyed for this entry: Mahar’s transcription of the Ethiopian Serenaders’ version and the edition published by B. Williams at London before 1852. The song is unique for its use of spoken interjections which follow each verse. For a full consideration of the form and structure of the song, as well as its possible subjects of critique, see Mahar pp. 198-201.



In this instance, the number of confirmed nineteenth century publications (only the above mentioned edition by B. Williams) cannot be taken as an indication of its popularity. The character was likely more widely known than the song (or version thereof) attributed to him. According to Mahar, the character is even referenced in Christy’s Minstrels song “Phantom Chorus” (published in 1848), which is itself a parody of “A fosco cielo” from Bellini’s opera La Sonnambula (125). Moreover, versions of “Ginger Blue” appear in a number of concert programs on both sides of the Atlantic throughout the period. Post-minstrelsy, it appears that both the character and the song crossed into the folk canon, as evidenced by the two more recent publications listed below. A folk song “Dr. Ginger Blue” was recorded as late as 2002 that has the same basic verse followed by spoken word structure as the version of the song discussed here. While possibly unrelated, there are also a number of jazz and children’s performance ensembles that have songs with the words “ginger” and “blue” in their titles; albeit there is no direct musical or lyrical connection with the version discussed here.



Recently Published Editions:

  • Ford, Ira W. Traditional Music of America. 1940. Hatboro: Folklore Associates, 1965.


  • Vance, Randolph. Ozark Folksongs. Volume II. Columbia: Missouri UP, 1980.



    Works Cited:
  • Mahar, William J. Behind the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture. Chicago: Illinois UP, 1999.


    Mark Turner


  • Media: 
    Sheet Music Cover
    Sheet Music Cover #2
    Lyrics
    Audio File - Minstrels in the Parlour

    Performance(s) listed of this act

    Performer(s) Troupe Event and Venue

    Parker
    American Southern Minstrels Dramatic, 29 Mar. 1844 - 29 Mar. 1844
    Royal Amphitheatre/Royal Adelphi Theatre, Yorkshire: West Riding

    Brown, W.
    Brown, W. Circus, 27 Oct. 1845 - 27 Oct. 1845
    Astley's Royal Amphitheatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 11 May. 1846 - 11 May. 1846
    Crosby Hall, London (city-county)

    White, W.
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Minstrel Show, 25 May. 1846 - 25 May. 1846
    Sussex Hall, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 10 Jun. 1846 - 10 Jun. 1846
    Horns, The, Kennington, London (city-county)

    White, W.
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Minstrel Show, 29 Jun. 1846 - 04 Jul. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 13 Jul. 1846 - 18 Jul. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 20 Jul. 1846 - 25 Jul. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)

    Roberts, B.
    Ethiopian Harmonists (1846-47) Minstrel Show, 06 Mar. 1847 - 08 Mar. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire

    Roberts, B.
    Ethiopian Harmonists (1846-47) Minstrel Show, 30 Mar. 1847 - 01 Apr. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire

    Roberts, B.
    Ethiopian Harmonists (1846-47) Minstrel Show, 15 May. 1847 - 15 May. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire

    Roberts, B.
    Ethiopian Harmonists (1846-47) Minstrel Show, 17 May. 1847 - 22 May. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire

    Levison
    Ethiopian Melodists and New York Serenaders Minstrel Show, 21 Sep. 1847 - 24 Sep. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire

    Levison
    Ethiopian Melodists and New York Serenaders Minstrel Show, 27 Sep. 1847 - 01 Oct. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire