THE STATE OF ARKANSAS

(trad./ALMANAC SINGERS) (1800s/1941)


THE ALMANAC SINGERS, 1941: WOODY GUTHRIE, LEE HAYS, MILLARD LAMPELL, PETE SEEGER
(left to right)

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Two further variants of this song (which shares some of its lyrics with "Diamond Joe" and "Buffalo Skinners" and Kelly Harrell's March 23, 1927 variant "My Name Is John Johannah") can be found at my BOB DYLAN MUSICAL ROOTS SITE (Variant #1/Variant #2).

The recitation (following the third verse) most likely inspired Bob Dylan's own "East Orange, New Jersey."

Manfred Helfert

Lyrics as reprinted (with minor corrections by Manfred Helfert) in Ronald D. Cohen & Dave Samuelson, liner notes for "Songs for Political Action," Bear Family Records BCD 15720 JL, 1996, p. 88.
ORIGINAL ISSUE: "SOD-BUSTER BALLADS," Gen 5019 A (General Album G-21).
[LEE HAYS, lead vocal]

My name is Charlie Brennan,
From Charleston I come.
I've travel'd this wide world over,
Some ups and downs I've had.
I've travel'd this wide world over,
Some ups and downs I've saw,
But I never knew what mis'ry was
Till I hit old Arkansas.

I dodged behind the depot,
To dodge that blizzard wind.
Met a walking skeleton
Whose name was Thomas Quinn.
His hair hung down like rat-tails
On his long and lantern jaw.
He invited me to his hotel,
The best in Arkansas.

I followed my conductor
To his respected place.
There pity and starvation
Was seen on every face.
His bread it was corn dodger,
His meat I couldn't chaw,
But he charged me half a dollar
In the state of Arkansas.

SPOKEN:
Then I got me a job on a farm. But I didn't like the work, nor the food, nor the farmer, nor his wife, nor none of his children. So I went up to him one day and I told him, "Mister, I'm quittin' this job, and you can just pay me off right now."
He says to me, "OK, son, if that's the way you feel about it." And he handed me a mink skin. I told him, I said, "Hell, brother, I don't want this thing, I want my money."
He says to me, says, "Son, that's what we use for currency down here in Arkansas." So I took it and I headed for a saloon to see if I could get me a pint of drinkin' whisky. Put my mink skin on the bar, and durned if the bartender didn't throw me a pint. An' he picked up my mink skin, and he blowed the hair back on it, and he handed me three 'possum hides and fourteen rabbit skins for change...
I'm going to the Indian Territory
And marry me a squaw.
Bid farewell to the cane-brakes
In the state of Arkansas.
If you ever see me back again,
I'll extend to you my paw,
But it'll be through a telescope
From hell to Arkansas.

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