Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mr. Moon - Song #17

In general, songs at Ajawah are either campfire songs (usually slower songs) and mess hall songs (usually rowdier and often involving physical action). A perfect example of the former is Mr. Moon, often sung as the first song at the evening campfire.

Oh Mr Moon, moon, great big silvery moon, won't you please shine down on me
Oh Mr Moon, moon, great big silvery moon, won't you come from behind that tree
There stands a man with a big shot gun
ready for to shoot you if you start to run
So Mr Moon, moon, won't you please shine down on - talk about your shining -
Please shine down on me

Jim Dixon posted the following on a thread at mudcat.org

"This song is oddly hard to track down. It seems like an old pop song, yet I have failed to find any web site that credits an author, or gives any specific information like a date of publication. There are a lot of variants out there. Some even change it to "Mister Sun." It is a popular kids' song, and often appears on lists of camp songs. One version appears on a Barney video. The Delta Delta Delta sorority has adapted it for their purposes. It is popular with barbershop quartets, and I have seen many ads for songbooks that include it, but no actual lyrics."

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

My grandmother used to sing this to me and I have been looking for it for years.

Joe said...

Hi Anonymous, thanks for the comment. Can you tell me when and where your grandmother grew up? I'd be curious to see if it was near Minnesota.

Anonymous said...

My dad used to sing it to us. He was born in 1907 in Massachusetts and lived in New England all his life. He sang it with the exact lyrics you posted.

Joe said...

Thanks, anonymous. Interesting that the lyrics were a perfect match and that your dad spent his life in New England, far from Minnesota.

Anonymous said...

I don't remember who sang it to me, but I've recently began singing it to my daughter, remembering it from my own youth. I grew up in FL, and my family was from FL, MD, and TN. Once I realized the words, I've began to wonder if it's roots are in slavery hymns. Certainly makes sense. And for why the origins are so hard to place since it would've been passed orally.

Joe said...

Thanks, Anonymous, for chiming in (and for passing Mr. Moon on to your daughter). Your guesses about the songs origins could well be correct.

Sadie O'Deay said...

Hi; I'm a little late to the party, but I thought I would share what I have been able to find as I have also been wondering about this song every since I became a mother and remembered that my mother used to sing it to me, just as I now sing it to my son. My mom learned it from her father, who was born in 1920 in Lompoc, California. His mother, in turn, sang it to him; she was born in 1884.

I dug a little deeper and found that the lyrics we all remember are included in the Serenade Medley of Otterbein University, founded in 1847 in Ohio. The link to the lyrics page is http://faculty.otterbein.edu/DDeeveR/stories/SweetheartSong.html#medley. I have not been able to discover how a college's serenade became so obviously popular all over the country, but I hope this information is of some use.

Joe said...

Thanks, Sadie, for the interesting link to Otterbein. My reading of the info is that "Mr. Moon" was one of a few popular songs that was sung in a medley by the school's serenading groups. It prodded me to look again, and I did find this info that seems to ID the song as a vaudeville tune written in 1903 (http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=44759#2159179).

That would work for your timeline, as your great grandmother would have been 20 when it was written and she sang it to your grandfather almost 20 years later (and I'm assuming she sang the version most of us know, which evolved a bit from the original).

Pauline said...

I remember this song being sung by a girl in a talent contest in the parish hall of a small village called Heage in Derbyshire, England. It was in 1947, not long after the end of the War, and there were Italian P.O.W.s in the audience who were still waiting to be repatriated and were allowed out of their camp. It was sung very badly and I have often wondered since what they thought of it. I've never heard it sung again. I thought it was an American popular ballad of the time but, obviously, it goes back much further.

Pauline

Joe said...

Pauline, thanks for sharing that interesting memory. You must have liked the song to have only heard it once yet still remember it all these years later.

Joe said...
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Kimberley Johnson said...

My grandmother sang this song to me as a child and I now sing it to my children and God babies... However, I heard my grandmother sing this song with different words. When I asked her about it, she said that her older sister sang it to her- both versions- one similar to the one above and one about the sun, with no mention of a man with a gun or being scared. However, she said that her sister told her that the moon was the important version. I asked her if she knew how her sister knew the song and she said that her mother would often sing it as she was hanging the wash. My grandfather would also sing this song, but only when he was working in his garden/fields. One time I heard him and asked how come he never sang it when my Nana sang it, he said that his parents told him it wasn't a song for everyone. Now, that I am an adult and a Family Historian and nearly certified genealogist, I believe that this song was around long before any school or what have you was given credit for it'd creation... Based on all the info I've been able to gather, it seems that the version above was meant to be an all clear, get going and don't look back song. The version with the sun would have been sung when it was not safe up make a run for it, whatever the reason or case may have been.

Kimberley Johnson said...

My grandmother sang this song to me as a child and I now sing it to my children and God babies... However, I heard my grandmother sing this song with different words. When I asked her about it, she said that her older sister sang it to her- both versions- one similar to the one above and one about the sun, with no mention of a man with a gun or being scared. However, she said that her sister told her that the moon was the important version. I asked her if she knew how her sister knew the song and she said that her mother would often sing it as she was hanging the wash. My grandfather would also sing this song, but only when he was working in his garden/fields. One time I heard him and asked how come he never sang it when my Nana sang it, he said that his parents told him it wasn't a song for everyone. Now, that I am an adult and a Family Historian and nearly certified genealogist, I believe that this song was around long before any school or what have you was given credit for it'd creation... Based on all the info I've been able to gather, it seems that the version above was meant to be an all clear, get going and don't look back song. The version with the sun would have been sung when it was not safe up make a run for it, whatever the reason or case may have been.

Joe said...

Kimberly, thank you for your comment and the information regarding your family history with the song (and "Mr. Sun" as well). I'm glad to hear you're continuing to pass the song down to the next generation.

Julia Clark said...

I grew up hearing this song sung by my mother and her mother...we hail from Kansas.

Julia Clark said...

I grew up hearing this song sung by my mother and her mother...we hail from Kansas.

Joe said...

Julia, thanks for the info!

Zarah Levy said...

My mom sang it to me and told me that it was sung to her and her grandmother sang it to her mother as well. They all said it was a song about an escaped slave on the run.

Joe said...

Thanks, Zarah, very interesting!

Quinn Merrell said...

My grandfather (1927-2015) sang this to his children and us grandchildren, using the same or nearly the same lyrics (I can't see any differences). The only different lyric was instead of "talk about your shining" it was "spread your silver light on". I love thinking back on his deep voice singing the beautiful words of that song, comforting us kids around a Bonfire.

Joe said...

Quinn, thanks for sharing that wonderful memory here. Just curious, whereabouts do you live (and/or where did your grandfather grow up)?