Cotton-eyed Joe is a traditional American jig that has been reworked, sung, played, and recorded by a vast number of musicians. It started out as a minstrel song about a rounder of a slave who has various adventures.

Cotton Eye Joe has remained popular throughout the years for square dances and polkas. The most popular version out now is by the Rednex,although it has been performed by Bill Monroe, The Freight Hoppers, Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, and many others. Some people add choruses, but it seems that the original version didn't have one. Here are some (but by no means all) of the verses people have sung in this song. The first eight are from Alan Lomax's book "American Ballads and Folk Songs," the rest are from Elmo Newcomer's recordings in the Library of Congress, and the OLGA file on the song.

Hold my fiddle and hold my bow,
I'm going to beat the Devil out of Cotton-Eyed Joe!

Cornstalk fiddle and a cornstalk bow,
Gonna beat the Hell out'a Cotton-Eyed Joe!

If it hadn't not a' been for Cotton-Eyed Joe,
I'd 'a been married 'long time ago.

If it hadn't not a' been for Cotton-Eyed Joe,
I'd 'a been married fourty years ago.

Hain't seen ol' Joe since way last fall,
Say he's sold down to Guines Hall.

Great long line and a little short pole,
I'm on my way to the crawfish hole.

Oh, it makes them ladies love me so,
When I come around a-pickin' Cotton-Eyed Joe.

O Lord, o Lord, come pity my case,
For I'm gettin' old and wrinkled in the face.

Eighteen nineteen, twenty years ago,
There was a man called Cotton-eye Joe.

Way back yonder a long time ago
Daddy had a man called Cotton-eyed Joe

Blew into town on a travelin' show
Nobody danced like the Cotton eyed Joe.

Mama's at the window Mama's at the door
She can't see nothin' but the Cotton-eyed Joe

Daddy held the fiddle, I held the bow
We beat the hell out of Cotton-eyed Joe

Made himself a fiddle, made himself a bow
Made a little tune called the Cotton-Eyed Joe

Hadn't oughta been for the Cotton-eyed Joe
I'da been married some forty years ago.

Whenever there's dance all the women want to go
And they all want to dance with the Cotton-Eyed Joe

Daddy won't say but I think he knows
Whatever happened to the Cotton-eyed Joe!

CST Approved

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