Green, Green Rocky Road

I was playing my guitar the other day and this melody just came into my head with a couple of verse fragments. I could not for the life of me remember where it come from. So, I did a YouTube search and came up with a video of Dave Van Ronk teaching 'Green, Green' as a guitar lesson. Dave's guitar arrangement was pretty much what had just come into my fingers. So back in the reassesses of my memory there must be an old recording of Dave Van Ronk playing 'Green, Green Rocky Road.' It was a signature piece for Dave.

Harold Courlander collected this song from the children of Lilly's Chapel School in York, Alabama. You can hear the original field recording on Smithsonian-Folkways 'Negro Folk Music of Alabama, Vol. 6: Ring Game Songs and Others.' It was a ring-game with kissing! Courlander describes it:

    The children form a circle with the leader in the center, The group sings "Green, green" and the leader answers, "Rocky road, " skipping around the ring , As the chorus is sung the leader is deciding which person to choose . As he picks one, the group sings the first line of the verse, naming the child selected . The leader brings his choice to the center and kisses her at the line, "Give her a kiss and let her go."

Green Green was recorded by several of the 1960's folk revivalists, such as Dave and Len Chandler. One of these was Karen Dalton, a beautiful Cherokee woman from Oklahoma with a voice like an old lady blues singer. Karen played a haunting version on the twelve-string guitar and banjo and put it on an album titled 'Green Rocky Road.'

The children at Lilly's Chapel School only sang two verses. I wondered where lines like "Hooka dooka soda cracker" came from. In an interview, now on YouTube, Dave Van Ronk said that he and Len Chandler learned the song from beat poet Bob Kaufman one night at a coffee house. Maybe Kaufman wrote the words or perhaps he remembered them from his childhood in New Orleans.


When I go by Baltimore,
I make my pallet on the floor.
Come along and follow me.
To see that man from Galilee

Green, green rocky road
Promenade in green
Tell me who ya love,
Tell me who ya love.

See that crow up in the sky
He don't walk, he just fly
He don't walk he don't run
Just keep on flappin to the sun

Green, green . . .

Little miss jane runnin' to the ball
Don't you stumble don't you fall
Don't you sing and don't you shout
When I sing come runnin' out

Green, green . . .

Hooka, dooka , soda cracker,
Does your mamna chew tobacker?
If your mama chew tobacker,
Hooka, dooka soda cracker.

Green, green . . .

If you seem me comin' fast,
Sweep the yard and cut the grass;
Girls who kiss are bound to fall,
Boys who kiss will soon tell all.

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