Tighten on the Backband

Sam Hinton put this song together from bits of mule and ox driver shouts and work songs. Sam was an East Texas songster who left home to become an aquatic biologist. As devoted to his academic career as he was, Sam kept on singing and recording throughout his life and left us some wonderful material.

Here is Sam's commentary on this from his Folkways album "Sam Hinton Sings the Song of Men - All Sorts & Kinds."

When I was a boy in Crockett, Texas, some of our neighbors in the bayou bottoms still used oxen, although mules were much more common. Whichever animal was being used, it was not at all unusual to hear snatches of this song sung by the driver. Most often. it was a formless song, without beginning or end partly sung, partly spoken. and to a great extent expressed through its relation to the whole environment; the swish of the plowshare, the creak of the harness, the drowsy sounds of the East Texas swamp country on a warm afternoon.


Sometimes I plow my old grey horse,
Other times I plow old mulee,
Soon's I put this cotton crop by
I'm goin' home to Julie.

Tighten on the backband loosen on the bow
And I won't quit pickin' on the banjo so.

Last year was a mighty good year
For cotton and corn and tomatoes
Pappy didn't raise no peas and greens
But Lord got potatoes

'Tatoes, 'tatoes Lawd got potatoes.

Eighteen, nineteen, twenty years ago
I'd taken my gal to a party-O
All dressed up in calico
But she didn't want a dance but a set or so

Party-O, Calico, lawd I couldn't let her dance but a set or so.

It takes four wheels to carry a load
It takes two mules to pull double
Send me back to Georgia-land
And I'll not cause no trouble

Rowdy-O, Rowdy-O, If ya got the wagon loaded let me see you go

Tighten on the backband loosen on the bow
And I wont quit pickin' on the banjo so.