“Ain't No Bugs on Me”

Author: assembled by Fiddlin' John Carson
Earliest date: 1928 (recording, Fiddlin' John Carson)
Keywords: humorous nonballad nonsense bug

Description

Nonsense and topical verses; "The night was dark and drizzly/The air was full of sleet/The old man joined the Ku Klux/And Ma she lost her sheet"; Chorus: "There ain't no bugs on me (x2)/There may be bugs on some of you mugs/But there ain't no bugs on me."

Long description

Nonsense and topical verses; "The night was dark and drizzly/The air was full of sleet/The old man joined the Ku Klux/And Ma she lost her sheet"; "Billy Sunday is a preacher/His church is always full/For the neighbors gather from miles around/To hear him shoot the bull"; "The monkey swings by the end of his tail/And jumps from tree to tree/There may be monkey in some of you guys/But there ain't no monkey in me." Chorus: "There ain't no bugs on me (2x)/There may be bugs on some of you mugs/But there ain't no bugs on me."

Notes

In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan attained great influence in the Southeast and Midwest; it took a certain courage to make fun of them in public. Also in the 1920s, the Scopes trial turned Darwinian biology into a courtroom circus; Carson vents anti-evolution sentiments in the "monkey" verse. And Billy Sunday was a popular evangelist of the time. - PJS

This seems to be a modification of "It Ain't Gonna Rain No More," with topical and floating verses inserted by Carson. The resulting song may have gone into oral tradition due to its use in camps.

Incidentally (and not too surprisingly, considering), the bit about humans and monkeys is wrong. While neo-Darwinism does posit that humans are descended from apes, and from monkey-like creatures before that, we are not descended from any living ape species, nor indeed any living monkey. Rather, humans are descended from a sort of proto-ape, which was descended from a proto-primate somewhat like a monkey. According to Richard Dawkins, _The Ancestor's Tale_, Mariner, 2004, p. 137, the last monkeys split from the ape lineage about 25 million years ago, and the earliest split from monkeys was some 40 million years ago (p. 141). The oldest surviving monkey species that still exist are thought to be some 15 million years old. Thus there are a total of some 35 million years of evolution separating us from the existing monkey most closely related to humans. Note that apes aren't monkeys either. Not that that would satisfy an I-don't-do-science type.... - RBW

Cross references

Recordings

References

  1. Cohen/Seeger/Wood, p. 226, "Ain't No Bugs on Me" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Silber-FSWB, p. 244, "There Ain't No Bugs On Me" (1 text)
  3. DT, AINTNOBG*
  4. Roud #17569
  5. BI, CSW226