Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

The Great American Bum Song (from my father’s memory bank)


Come all you jolly jokers,
and listen while I hum,
The story I'll relate to you
of the Great American Bum.

From the East to West,
From North to South,
Like a swarm of bees they come
They sleep in the dirt, and wear a shirt
That's dirty and full of crumbs!

From the boxcar and the hay-stack,
He gazes everywhere,
And never turns back upon his track
Until he gets a square! [meal]

Standing in the railroad yard
waitin' for a train--
Waitin' for an East bound freight,
but I think it's all in vain.
Going' East they're loaded,
Goin' West, sealed tight!
I think I'll have to get aboard
A fast express tonight!

I met a man the other day
I never had met before,
He asked me if I wanted a job
shovelin' iron ore.
I asked him what the wages were,
He said: "Ten cents a ton."
I said: "Oh, fella, go chase yourself,
I'd rather be a bum."

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  1. I had the original record until 1953 . On one side it was the bum's song, on the other was Halleluiah I'm a bum. The first two lines of the third verse go: Oh, it's early in the morning ere the dew is off the ground , The bum arises from his nest and gazes all around. From the box car etc.... It is a great American folk song which few Americans know these days.

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