1 A train song collected from S.C. blacks as early as 1905, and now common also in white fiddle and banjo tradition (see BROWN COLLECTION, III, 264). At the end of the film, Peg sings a stanza, an unusual one. Peg first began to play the harmonica as a child. "My daddy bought me a 10-cent harp once for Christmas," he says, "and I heard people playing that song they call "Reuben." I wanted to play that song, bad. I got back by the chimney corner where the sun would hit me and practiced up."
2 The dance appears to illustrate Charlie"s running. The film maker intended this opening to parody and puncture the cliches of sentimental "folklore films." Peg liked, or at least went along with, the idea, trying it several different ways before the filming. He revealed himself a thorough professional, interested in possible effects.This section of the film found its way into the French feature film "Amelie" which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2002.
3 The dance appears to illustrate Charlie"s running. See also the discussion of the filming of this sequence on p. 4. The film maker intended this opening to parody and puncture the cliches of sentimental "folklore films."
4 One of Peg"s medicine-show routines, and apparently common stock. Variants floated into both blues and "talking blues" (cf. Chris Bouchillon"s "Born in Hard Luck" on Columbia 15151-D). Peg"s live performance of it in an actual medicine-show can be heard in Flyright 508-B.
5 From a videotape made by Bruce Bastin and Pete Lowery at the Chatham County Fair, Pittsboro, N.C., on Saturday night, Sept. 16, 1972. We made a film transfer of the original 1/2" reel to reel b&w video tape. The sound came from a reel to reel 1/4 audio tape made on a Nagra tape recorder. All the original material for this film in the Southern Folklife Collection of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
6 Related to Washboard Sam"s "Back Door" on Bluebird 7001. The complete medicine-show performance is included on Flyright 508B. Trix 3302 has a rather different version.
7 Less showy as a narrator than Peg, his brother Bill nevertheless employs mimicry and other devices common among black story tellers. (Cf., "The Art of Negro Story-telling" in R.M. Dorson, AMERICAN NEGRO FOLKTALES, p. 47ff.
8 The medicine-show routines include many such jokes, in which a feisty Peg Leg Sam gets cut down to size.
9 The incident may possibly have happened, but Peg is equally likely to be drawing on folktale stock. (cf. Thompson Motif J1062.)
10 He closes off the tale with a tag from his show routine.
11 A memorat of a personal experience that probably evolves into fantasy with a typically grotesque tone.
12 The show-routine tag line may signal a shift from memorat to fantasy.
13 This account has the ring of truth. But Bill also tells for fact about his grandfather the widely found story "Cussing Master" (cf. Botkin, p. 8).
15 They gave Jackson a job and he worked for three years, saving up "right smart of money."
16 "he-haint" is a male ghost. Some reasons why medicine-show work was attractive. Pink Anderson in 1918 was getting $10 a week as a guitarist with Dr. Kerr. Playing on the streets in 1972 Peg set his minimum rate at 50 cents a song. Kip Lornell saw him rebuke a bystander who offered only a quarter.
17 A ballad with British antecedents and many variants (cf. BROWN COLLECTION, III, 154-166).
19 Peg"s personal signature, a unique touch.
20 The canteen actually holds water.
21 It was raining and Peg picked, for a place where they could film, the home of a neighbor, a mother living on welfare in a house built with a long-term, low-mortgage federal rural-housing loan. Her feminine taste contrasts markedly with that of the bachelor"s hall kept by the Jackson brothers next door. Many of these younger people in the neighborhood, however, have warm memories of how Peg would amuse them with songs and jokes when he turned up at home during their childhood.
22 This double-entendre song, which Peg views as one of his trade marks, is discussed in the notes to Flyright 507-A. Collected by Howard Odum in Alabama as early as 1904-1916, the song was recorded also by Pink Anderson (Prestige/Bluesville LP-1051).
23 Peg sings this song on both Flyright 507A and Trix 3302. Between them, these have 4 additional stanzas, variant lines in shared stanzas, and different spoken interjections and harmonica effects.
25 Peg"s irreverent parody draws on a number of floating stanzas from the minstrel-show repertory. Flyright 508-A holds a complete performance of the song, one quite close to this one.
26 Recorded in the session at the neighbor lady"s house. Black construction workers in hard hats had crowded in to watch--they were struggling to stifle their laughter so as not to ruin the taping. The verses grow from the song "Rye Whiskey." Peg"s bottle held moonshine.
27 This card game was on, camera or no camera. Bill has reached the age of reflection and he refrains from drink and gambling. His older brother Peg is still game.
28 A rhyme Peg usually recites during his medicine-show routine.
29 For related stanzas, see BROWN COLLECTION, III, 525, and Bruce Bastin"s notes for Flyright 508A.
30 For related stanzas, see BROWN COLLECTION, III, 535 and 540.
31 This story is presented as personal experience, but is a familiar theme in both oral lore and literature from the South--cf. Mark Twain"s HUCKLEBERRY FINN, Ch. 20; J. J. Hooper"s SIMON SUGGS, Ch. 10, etc. For a scholarly description of the form he parodies, see Rosenberg, esp. Ch. 4 and Ch. 5.
32 This line, at least, has scriptural authority: Rom. 7:24.
33 A spiritual based on Ezekiel, Ch. 1, though only distantly, if at all, related to the well known "Ezekiel saw a wheel."
34 A parody on the line "Looks like everybody in the whole round world"s down on me" from a spiritual (cf. Work, p. 115).
35 From a more-sober-than-usual interview taped when the audience of black friends was not present.
36 Monroe, Peg"s younger brother, has a high reputation locally as a dancer. Note the stylized, playfully aggressive gesture with which he signs off the dance.
37 In 1930, hungry and half asleep from days of hoboing, Peg lost a leg when he fell from a freight train near Raleigh, N.C. "That"s when I started playing the harp good," he says, "--making something of it."
38 When Peg first began to work in medicine shows, they were a popular form of entertainment in the small-town South. A "doctor" with a supply of wonder soap, snake-oil liniment, and tonics would hire musicians and comics (generally 5 to 10 of them) to drum up crowds at tobacco auctions and county fairs. Sometimes they even "dragged the streets"--collected a crowd with their playing-- and led the people to the show, where music, comic routines, and dancing alternated with the sales pitch.
39 By the late 1950s, when Peg and Chief Thundercloud began to travel regularly together, medicine shows were fast disappearing from the scene, and theirs was much shrunk from those of earlier days. The Chief himself had once run a troup composed of 3 or 4 head comedians, 2 straight men, 2 dancers, 2 blues singers, and a band with 6 or 7 musicians. But the chief and Peg now traveled with at the most only one other man, a guitarist like Pink Anderson.
40 Chief Thundercloud hauled out a tattered but ferocious-looking stuffed rattlesnake and began his sales pitch for bottles of "Prairie King Liniment, " a rosy fluid concocted of turpentine, the oils of mustard, cloves and eucalyptus, pine oil, methyl salicylate, and kerosene. During the sales, the Chief handed bottles one at a time to Peg, who carried them into the crowd, swapping them for the dollar bills of the customers, singing out "So-o-o-ld, CHIEF!" at each sale.
41 This dance imitates the convulsive flapping of an old "Dominicker" hen just killed for frying. This dance had several times been promised during the evening, and repeatedly called for by the audiences.
42 The most complex situation was the performance in Whitehead"s Store. Peg had often played there for nickles and dimes in the old days, but is little interested in doing so now that he had found a more appreciative (and generous) audience on the college campuses. He dressed up for the scene, with clean shirt, gold watch, and good hat, and while there he asserted his independence from direction by refusing a request to repeat a sequence when the film ran out. He was perhaps both pleased that local whites should see him being the star of a film and also determined to retain his dignity by being the master of the situation. A group of stylish black youths who entered the store showed great astonishment at the performance and were highly demonstrative. Peg"s own friends were more subdued than usual--a fact which made his brother Monroe"s unexpected dance at the end of the scene all the more surprising.
45 Charles Manuel "Sweet Daddy" Grace was the founder of The United House of Prayer for All People, a Pentecostal Church that began in Wareham, Massachussetts in 1919. The United House of Prayer for All People has been seen as one of the most extreme charismatic sects in the country. For decades, Bishop Grace was the undisputed head and direct source of all major decisions. Sweet Daddy" Grace, healer and miracle worker, was to many even God Incarnate, the second Christ. It was said he had a green mustache and owned a fleet of Cadillacs, gold-fitted, painted red, white and blue. For more information see: religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/nrms/daddy_grace.htm
46 One of the dogs is missing a leg like Peg.