Birmingham Boys

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"Birmingham Boys" is vocal harmony song recorded in Atlanta, Georgia by the Birmingham Jubilee Singers and released on April 23, 1926 as the b-side of the first group of singles they released on Columbia Records.

The lyrics describe the migration of rural laborers to booming Birmingham and announce the pride of the singers in hailing from the center of a lively African-American gospel quartet tradition:

"Birmingham boys are we,
Jolly as can be.
Rolly, jolly, Birmingham boys are we.
You can tell without a doubt,
When the Birmingham boys are out,
Rolly, jolly, Birmingham boys are we.
I was tired of living in the country,
So I moved my wife to town,
And there I bought a cottage,
And then I settled down,
Well the dogs in the valley"
they go bow-wow-wow
and the pigs in the pen
they go wee-wee-wee
and the cat joins in
with a mew-ew-ewwww"
and the rooster on the fence
go cock-cock-a-doo-doo-doo
Birmingham, Birmingham boys are we.
If you could hear those Birmingham boys,
How happy you would be (oh, you would be)."

The song is credited to the group's trainer and manager Charles Bridges and was used as a theme song for the group, usually to introduce them in concert. It was also sung by other area groups, and eventually became popular nationwide, sometimes with adapted lyrics. A 1940 recording of the Marvel Quartet's "Union Boys are We" shows how it was adapted to changing conditions for laborers.

The track is available on the compilations Birmingham Quartet Anthology issued in 1980 by Clanka Lanka and Birmingham Jubilee Singers: Volume I, 1926-1927 issued in 1995 by Document Records.

References

  • McCallum, Brenda (1993) "The Gospel of Black Unionism" in Green, Archie, ed., Songs about Work: Essays in Occupational Culture for Richard A. Reuss.. Issue 3 of Special Publications of the Folklore Institute of Indiana University. Indiana University Press. ISBN 1879407043
  • Mathews, Burgin (September 10, 2009) "Do That Stomp: 20 Days, 20 Birmingham Songs" Pavo magazine