Old Dan Tucker

Title: 
Old Dan Tucker
Type: 
Song
Description: 

[Alternately: “Ole Dan Tucker,” "Dan Tucker"]



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



While Dan Emmett (1815-1904) of the Virginia Minstrels claimed to have written the song, this claim remains unverified. There are other published versions of the song in the Library of Congress collection which credit its composition to Philip Ernst (dates unknown), and James M. Deems (1818-1901). First published in 1843, the song became immensely popular, and along with “Mary Blane” and Lucy Long” was one of the most published minstrel songs during the period (Mahar 367). Of the versions surveyed, there is some variation in the lyrical settings, albeit the first verse consistently begins with some variation of the lines “I come to town the other night/I heard a noise and saw a fight,” while the rest of the lyrics vary to a much greater degree. Generally, the melody and song structure is consistent with the notable exception of Bruce Springsteen’s recent recording of the song which appends an instrumental interlude at the conclusion of each chorus.



Today, the song is frequently identified as belonging to a folk canon rather than to a/the canon of minstrel song. Likely due to its migration into the folk canon, the song continues to remain popular. During the past sixty years, recordings by Pete Seeger, and in turn, Bruce Springsteen have ensured that the song continues to retain a prominent position in folk canons and on the verge, if not fully a part of the canon of popular American song.



Select Recording History:

  • Golden Gate Quartet with Josh White. Virginia & The Piedmont - Deep River of Song - The Alan Lomax Collection. Various Artists. Rounder, 2000.


  • Grimes, Anne. Ohio State Ballads. Smithsonian Folkways, 1957.


  • Seeger, Pete. American Favourite Ballads, Vol. 1. Smithsonian Folkways, 1957.


  • Springsteen, Bruce. We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. Columbia, 2006.



    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
    Sheet Music Cover #3
    Sheet Music Cover #4
    Sheet Music Cover #5
    Sheet Music Cover #6
    Sheet Music Cover #7
    Lyrics
    Audio File - Minstrels in the Parlour

    Performance(s) listed of this act

    Performer(s) Troupe Event and Venue
    American Southern Minstrels Circus, 21 Oct. 1844 - 21 Oct. 1844
    Astley's Royal Amphitheatre, London (city-county)

    Ware
    Negro Entertainment Troupe (Sheffield, 44) Dramatic, 11 Nov. 1844 - 11 Nov. 1844
    Theatre Royal, Sheffield, Yorkshire: West Riding

    Ware
    Ware Dramatic, 20 Jan. 1845 - 20 Jan. 1845
    Theatre Royal, Sheffield, Yorkshire: West Riding
    American Southern Minstrels Circus, 27 Jan. 1845 - 01 Feb. 1845
    Astley's Royal Amphitheatre, London (city-county)
    American Southern Minstrels Variety, 03 Feb. 1845 - 08 Feb. 1845
    Astley's Royal Amphitheatre, London (city-county)
    Virginia Minstrels, The (1844) Minstrel Show, 20 Aug. 1845 - 20 Aug. 1845
    Bower Saloon, Yorkshire: West Riding
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Minstrel Show, 23 Feb. 1846 - 28 Feb. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)

    Germon, Francis
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Minstrel Show, 24 Feb. 1846 - 24 Feb. 1846
    Gloucester House, Piccadilly, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 02 Mar. 1846 - 07 Mar. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 09 Mar. 1846 - 14 Mar. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 16 Mar. 1846 - 21 Mar. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 23 Mar. 1846 - 28 Mar. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 30 Mar. 1846 - 04 Apr. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 22 Apr. 1846 - 22 Apr. 1846
    Crosby Hall, London (city-county)
    Variety, 27 Apr. 1846 - 27 Apr. 1846
    Drury Lane Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 01 May. 1846 - 01 May. 1846
    Crosby Hall, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 04 May. 1846 - 09 May. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 18 May. 1846 - 22 May. 1846
    Sadler's Wells, London (city-county)
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Minstrel Show, 25 May. 1846 - 30 May. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)

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

    Germon, Francis
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Minstrel Show, 30 May. 1846 - 30 May. 1846
    Chiswick House, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 09 Jun. 1846 - 13 Jun. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 10 Jun. 1846 - 10 Jun. 1846
    Horns, The, Kennington, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 12 Jun. 1846 - 12 Jun. 1846
    Green Man, Blackheath, London (city-county)

    Thumb, General Tom
    General Tom Thumb Variety, 23 Jun. 1846 - 23 Jun. 1846
    Vauxhall Gardens, 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, 06 Jul. 1846 - 11 Jul. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 13 Jul. 1846 - 18 Jul. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)

    Mackney, E.W.
    Original Creole Vocalists Variety, 14 Jul. 1846 - 17 Jul. 1846
    Vauxhall Gardens, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 20 Jul. 1846 - 25 Jul. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)
    Minstrel Show, 27 Jul. 1846 - 01 Aug. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)

    Germon, Francis
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Minstrel Show, 03 Aug. 1846 - 08 Aug. 1846
    St. James Theatre, London (city-county)

    White, W.
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48) Dramatic, 08 Sep. 1846 - 09 Sep. 1846
    Theatre Royal, Bristol, Bristol (city-county) in Gloucestershire

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

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

    Rosa
    Female American Serenaders Dramatic, 14 Apr. 1847 - 15 Apr. 1847
    Queen's Theatre, Lancashire

    Rosa
    Female American Serenaders Dramatic, 17 Apr. 1847 - 17 Apr. 1847
    Queen's Theatre, Lancashire

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

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

    Russell, Henry
    Russell, Henry Vocal Entertainment, 29 May. 1847 - 29 May. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire
    Beyadere and Female Serenaders Minstrel Show, 26 Jun. 1847 - 26 Jun. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire
    Ethiopian Delineators (not Pelham's, 1847) Minstrel Show, 10 Jul. 1847 - 10 Jul. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire

    Russell, Henry
    Russell, Henry Vocal Entertainment, 07 Oct. 1847 - 07 Oct. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire

    Fortescue
    Roberts, B.
    Ethiopian Harmonists (1847-?) Minstrel Show, 01 Nov. 1847 - 05 Nov. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire

    Fortescue
    Roberts, B.
    Ethiopian Harmonists (1847-?) Minstrel Show, 13 Nov. 1847 - 13 Nov. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire

    Fortescue
    Roberts, B.
    Ethiopian Harmonists (1847-?) Minstrel Show, 15 Nov. 1847 - 19 Nov. 1847
    Concert Hall, Lancashire

    Pell, Gilbert W.
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49) Minstrel Show, 31 Oct. 1848 - 03 Nov. 1848
    Music Hall, Sheffield, Yorkshire: West Riding

    Briggs, T.F.
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49) Minstrel Show, 18 Dec. 1848 - 20 Dec. 1848
    Theatre Royal, Birmingham, Warwickshire

    Briggs, T.F.
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49) Minstrel Show, 23 Dec. 1848 - 23 Dec. 1848
    Theatre Royal, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire

    Briggs, T.F.
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49) Minstrel Show, 19 Mar. 1849 - 24 Mar. 1849
    Theatre Royal, Birmingham, Warwickshire

    Briggs, T.F.
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49) Minstrel Show, 05 Jun. 1849 - 09 Jun. 1849
    Sadler's Wells, London (city-county)

    Briggs, T.F.
    Ethiopian Serenaders (1849-50) Dramatic, 28 Aug. 1849 - 28 Aug. 1849
    Edinburgh Adelphi Theatre, Edinburgh