Another version taken from the LoC collection of dust bowl music.
Elmo Newcomer on fiddle, taken during The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip. For more about them and their recordings, see here.
This is a different set of lyrics than the Rednex version, and I found a couple of the vocal effects rather, um, startling. Here’s one of the verses, as near as I can tell (I found it really hard to distinguish the words in this old recording):
I’d a got married ’bout twenty years ago
had it not a been for Cotton-Eyed Joe
I’d a got married fifty-seven years ago
had it not a been for ???? (some sort of doe?)
Some folks say that a n—– won’t steal
but I found three in my corn field
One had a bushel
One had a peck
T’other had a roastin’ ear
around his neck
That line startled me, as I had always heard it ‘some folks say that a preacher won’t steal…’ Folk songs are malleable, so I imagine you could insert whatever group you either don’t like (Politicians), or just want to rib a little bit.
Other lyrics from this version (I really had trouble distinguishing words, and I wondered if Elmo Newcomer of Texas hadn’t just randomly added snatches of lyrics from other songs for the Lomax Recording:
Rawhide, fiddle, and….?
A gal over there for Cotton-eyed Joe
How in the devil does the old folks know
that I like sugar in the coffee-oh?
A long tailed buck and a short tailed doe
but I’ll take sugar in muh coffee-oh
According to mudcat there are some R rated versions (there always are), and then there are some almost like lullabyes- Burl Ives recorded a version in the 50s:
Where did you come from, where did you go?
Where did you come from, old Cotton-eyed Joe?
Come for to see you, come for to sing,
Come for to show you my diamond ring
There’s a great version linked here– no lyrics, just good fiddling (keep listening- the first few seconds you’ll be sure there’s a mistake somewhere).
The Boy and I discovered last night that Cotton Eyed Joe is a good laundry folding song.
What I really should have found is a good ironing song, since they had been sitting in laundry baskets on my floor since the clothes we folded, hung up, and put away last night were taken off the line three days ago, and I might be fudging about that.