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Author Topic: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?  (Read 31564 times)

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Offline Mike Shipman

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Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« on: May 08, 2012, 02:57:45 PM »
Hi folks, not sure if this should be in the lyrics section....

I really like the song Shake Sugaree (ElizabethCotten / Mary Flower et al) but cant find out what it means ...can anyone shed any light on the meaning of the term?

Thanks, Mike.
Mike Shipman
New Forest - Hampshire, UK.

Offline yogi

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2012, 01:15:24 AM »
Possibly it means having a good time and is related to throwing sugar on the floor and then dancing on it, producing a percussive sound when the feet move on the sugared floor.
This could very well be wrong, mind you, I just think I may have heard this explanation at some point.

Yogi

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2012, 04:51:47 AM »
In the context of the Cotten song (ignore Grateful Dead version -- it has no relation to tradition), the meaning involves loss: "everything I got is done in pawn." I think it's a reasonable assumption that "shake" refers to shooting dice. I could find no credible (underline credible) information about "sugaree." It sounds like it would be southern African-American vernacular, but there's no mention of anything remotely like it in Bartlett's 1890s Dictionary of Americanisms (other than "shake" means to throw dice) nor in Partridge's 1940s Dictionary of American Slang. The notes to the album where Cotten sings it do not speculate on its meaning, and Zora Neale Hurston's  "Of Mules and Men" (source of meaning of "skin game" and "let your deal go down") has nothing about it.

Google is no help -- it's overwhelmed by GD hits and ignorant speculation based mainly on the words to their song. The notes to the Cotten album say the words were made up by her great-grandchildren, as she encouraged them to sing this song at bedtime, and they competed to make up new verses. Still, I can't help but think Cotten had already supplied the chorus. Too bad we can't ask her what she thought it meant.

Lyle

Offline Slack

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2012, 06:48:58 AM »
"Sugaree" could possibly be a nickname of the good luck (and no doubt attractive) lady that is throwing the dice in a game of craps.

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2012, 07:20:17 AM »
The only problem with that theory is that, per the song, "sugaree" is obviously BAD luck.

Lyle

Offline Slack

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2012, 07:21:13 AM »
Right, time to give the dice to someone else.   ;)

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2012, 07:23:53 AM »
It could also just be a nonsense word used to rhyme with lordy me.

Offline Gumbo

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2012, 07:44:46 AM »
I hear this as a 'pet name' so
O Lordy me! Didn't I shake, Sugaree.

lovely track btw

Offline Johnm

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2012, 08:09:09 AM »
Hi all,
I would opt for the nonsense explanation.  It's a children's song, with non sequitir verses, and the tag line of the refrain doesn't pertain to the verses in any obvious way.  I see it as being meaningful in the way that "fee fie foe fum" from "Jack in the Beanstalk" is meaningful.  It is a beautiful song, too, especially as sung by Brenda Evans and backed by Libba Cotten--such calm time.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2012, 08:21:12 AM »
To confuse the matter further without getting any closer to what it might mean, I ran across the following paragraph in "A History of Rowan County, North Carolina" (1916) (http://archive.org/stream/historyofrowanco00rump/historyofrowanco00rump_djvu.txt) :

"The earliest accounts of the hill-country of North
Carolina, accessible to the writer, are those contained
in Lawson's History of a Journey from Charleston to
Pamlico Sound, in the year 1701. Starting from the
former place in December, 1700, he passed around to
the mouth of Santee River in a boat, and thence up
that stream for a distance in the same way. Then
leaving the river he traveled up between the Santee
and Pee Dee Rivers, until he crossed the Yadkin River
at Trading Ford, within six miles of where Salisbury
now stands. As there were no European settlers
from the lower Santee to Pamlico, and as he often
forgets to mention the scenes through which he passed,
it is very difficult to trace his exact route. Still there
are some waymarks by which we can identify
a part of his course. Among the first of these
is the High Hills of Santee, in Sumter County, S. C.
Then the Waxsaws, Kadapaus (Catawba), and
Sugarees, have left names behind them that indicate
the spots he visited. The name ''Sugaree" suggests
the inquiry whether the ancient name of Sugar
Creek, was not Sugaree, rather than "Sugaw," as
found in old records. "

So maybe it was a localism that Cotten picked because she (or the children) liked the sound, alliteration with "shake," and the previously-mentioned rhyme. I love mysteries.

Lyle

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2012, 08:27:20 AM »
Stop the presses! Here's more information:

philblank.net/Shake%20Shoccoree.doc

Lyle

Offline Gumbo

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2012, 08:52:10 AM »
wow - good find, Lyle

Quote
It is hard to know what Elizabeth Cotten's relationship to the Shoccoree/Chicora/Sugaree was. Perhaps this lullaby about dejected poverty, with its references to tobacco (twice),  a pipe, antiquated items like buggies and watch-chains and an obscure reference to an extinct tribe was spontaneously created by her great grandchildren (although her original statement that it was composed by her great grandchildren was contradicted by one of those grandchildren who said that Elizabeth Cotten injected the chorus.) Perhaps it could have been a local minstrel song or popular jingle that she adapted. Her amibguity on the subject could be intentional as "mixed race communities" are still an extremely touchy subject to speak openly about in the South, especially the Carolina piedmont.

here's the Brenda Evans/Elizabeth Cotten version that John mentioned.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2012, 09:54:25 AM by Gumbo »

Offline Mike Shipman

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2012, 03:18:45 PM »
Wowee - what a triumph of investigation!

Thank you so much everyone who responded to this request, I'm really impressed that there was so much interest and considered response.

But, the biggest thanks must go to Lyle for investigation above and beyond the call of duty. In fact, I might go as far as suggesting that Lyle be nominated for the "Sherlock Holmes Investigative Trophy".

This award is not often offered, nor apparently accepted, it would appear that recipients are not always happy with the way the award is referred to "acronyminally"......!

Thanks again , Mike.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2012, 09:57:33 PM by Mike Shipman »
Mike Shipman
New Forest - Hampshire, UK.

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2012, 03:50:09 PM »
Aw, Shucks! Thanks for the compliment, Mike. I'll be sure to put the acronym on my resume'. Oh wait, it's already there, in a letter of recommendation.

Lyle

Offline Shovel

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2012, 05:59:41 AM »
Don't know what a sugaree is but I know what a stingaree can refer to as well as what a sugarbush can refer to in certain contexts. 

Or maybe the producer wrote down sugaree and djr esd really domhomh shake sugary, just a good old milkshake?

I like Lyle's localism post too.

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