DIXIE

Latest update on 29/01/2013

Artist: Bryant's Minstrels
Author: Daniel Decatur Emmett
Year: 1850s

As I Wish I Was In Dixie's Land; bandleader Dan Emmett had been asked to compose a 'walk-around' for Bryant's minstrel act. Written while he toured with the Cincinnati Circus in northern states, hence: "I wish I was in Dixie". Since Emmett couldn't write music, the tune was played several times to Memphis horn player Herman Arnold, who wrote down the chords by ear. Arnold's grave at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis holds that original musical score. Emmett, who is also credited for writing Turkey In The Straw, may have learned Dixie from two black brothers, Lew & Ben Snowden, sons of Maryland slaves. The lyrics reflect the hopes of a runaway slave for a better future, even in the south. Ben & Lew, well known entertainers in Ohio, share the same gravestone with inscription: "They tought Dixie to Dan Emmett". They knew the song from their own mother Ellen, who sang it as a child.

Covers:

1860:

Carlo Patti [first performance in the South (Variety Theatre, New Orleans) in the play Pocahontas; vocal: Susan Denin]

1861:

Francis J. Crosby [as Dixie For The Union; northern propaganda]

1863:

Gen. Albert Pike [Confederate General as Southrans Hear Your Country Call You (The War Song Of Dixie)]

1895:

Issler's Orch. [oldest recording (Phonograph)]

1901:

Peerless Quartet [as Dixie Land]

1910:

Byron G. Harlan & Frank Stanley

1916:

Billy Murray & Ada Jones

1924:

Uncle Am Stuart [at the age of 73; see also: Cumberland Gap]

1927:

Skillet Lickers

1972:

Elvis Presley [in An American Trilogy (see there)]

2006:

Jimbo Mathus

2007:

Mavericks [as Dixie's Land on Song Of America]

No matter the clear association with Southern States and the fact it was used as a campaign song against Lincoln in 1860, it became one of President Lincoln's favorite songs. Dixie stands for the States beneath the Mason-Dixon Line and was also inspired by the $10 bank notes printed in New Orleans bearing the inscription 'dix' on the reverse side on behalf of the local French speaking population.

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