Blue Tail Fly: About the Song

Song History

"Blue Tail Fly" is usually associated with blackface minstrel songwriter and performer, Daniel Decatur "Dan" Emmett, but it was credited when published in 1846 to F.D. Benteen. During the 1840s the Virginia Minstrels, of which Emmett was a founding member, popularized the song in their performances. The song gained renewed popularity during early days of the American folk music revival in the 1940s through performances and recordings by the Andrews Sisters with Burl Ives, Leadbelly, Pete Seeger, and others.

Although blackface minstrel shows relied heavily on negative racial characterizations, this minstrel song has an abolitionist attitude. A favorite of Abraham Lincoln, the song reflects the hostility of slave towards master in Southern plantation society.

Lyrics

chorus:
Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care
Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care
Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care
Master’s gone away

verses:
When I was young I used to wait
On master, handing him his plate
I brought his bottle when he got dry
And brushed away the blue tail fly

He used to ride each afternoon
I'd follow with a hickory broom
The pony kicked his legs up high
When bitten by the blue tail fly

The pony run, he jump, he pitch
He threw my master in the ditch
My master died and who'll deny
The blame was on the blue tail fly

We layed him under a simmon tree
His epitaph is there to see
"Beneath this stone I'm forced to lie
A victim of the blue tail fly"

Old master's dead and gone to rest
They say all things is for the best
I won't forget until I die
My master and the blue tail fly

The skeeter bites right through your clothes
A hornet strikes you on the nose
The bees may get you passing by
But, oh, much worse, the blue tail fly

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