Come Back Stephen

Come Back Stephen

[Alternately: “Come Back, Stephen,” “Come Back, Steben,” “Come Back Steben”]

Published as early as 1848 at Boston as “Come Back Steben, Negro Cavatina as sung by a Kentuckian,” the song is of some significance due to its extra-musical effects. In the Boston publication, as well as a version published by Lee and Walker at Philadelphia as late as 1898, the following instructions are provided: “To be sung in the imitation of the mew of a Cow, by closing the mouth on the middle note and forcing the other against the roof of the mouth”. These types of extra-musical specifications are generally rare in published versions of these songs, an obvious exception being “The Railroad Overture”. Of the editions surveyed, there is very little difference in the lyrics and dialect.

If the number of published editions of the song prior to 1900 can be taken as evidence (at least four in the United States), the song appears to have been fairly popular during the period. We also know that the song was certainly a part of Juba’s repertoire. With that said, its impact on the other side of the Atlantic is more difficult to determine. With only two appearances in extant programs and no known published editions in the region, the song may not have been as popular in the United Kingdom. The popularity of the song did not endure into the twentieth century. There are no known recorded versions.

Mark Turner


Performance(s) listed of this act

Performer(s) Troupe Event and Venue

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

Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49) Minstrel Show, 21 Dec. 1848 - 22 Dec. 1848
Theatre Royal, Birmingham, Warwickshire