The complete lyrics - all in good time
some = all / the effluxion of time

9 'No More Cane On The Brazos'

(Traditional, arr: Eyre, Gillan, Mases, Morris) from the Ian Gillan album 'Naked Thunder'.

There's something distinctly heroic about the lyrics to this traditional song, and it moves me greatly. I can only read between the lines as research has proved difficult. But I see vivid pictures of terrible human abuse and the unbowed spirit. I did try to get hold of Lonnie Donegan, whose version I first heard, but he didn't return my calls, a pity because he is a great authority on material like this, which I would describe as a field lament.

Many thanks to Barron Dowling who writes.......

"Allegedly written by Leadbelly (Huddie Ledbetter), who did time in prisons in Texas and Louisiana during the first half of the 20th century. This was one of his two notable songs about working on a chain gang in a Texas prison outside of Houston. The other related song is the classic "Midnight Special," about prison life after being busted in Houston. I suspect that Cane on the Brazos was actually a field work chant used by the inmates in the prison, which Leadbelly continued to perform after his parole.

The Brazos River runs through Texas, with it is mouth located about 50 miles southwest of Houston. Along its lower reaches, there is a large stretch of boggy but fertile soil, which is ideal for growing sugar cane. Black inmates were sent to several prison farms along the Brazos, to work on chain gangs chopping sugar cane and cotton. Large numbers of black men were sent to prison, often on minor charges. They paid for their keep by being forced onto work gangs, to perform what was essentially slave labor.

Chopping cane is one of the most unpleasant jobs imaginable. It required that the inmates stand in several inches of muddy water in dense, snake-infested stands of cane, stooping over to chop cane with a machete, during oppressive summer heat, with mosquitoes too thick to even bother swatting them. White guards watched the inmates from horseback, with rifles ready to shoot anyone who tried to escape. These chain gangs continued to exist into the 1960s. They could easily be seen from the main highways passing west of Houston. The town with the prison headquarters and sugar mill was named "Sugarland." It is now a Houston suburb. The prisons are still there, but the chain gangs are gone. They were one of the worst legacies of segregation when Texas was part of the old South."

No More Cane On The Brazos

(Eyre, Gillan, Mases, Morris)

There ain't no more cane on the Brazos
They ground it all up in molasses
Captain don't you do me like you done your poor shine
Well they drove that poor Billy 'til he went stone blind

You want to come on the river in 1904
You could find many dead men most every road
If you going on the river in 1910
They was driving the woman like they drive the men

Why don't you rise up you dead men
Help me drive my road

Why don't you rise up you dead men
Help me drive my road

Well there's some in the building
And there's some in the yard
There's some in the graveyard
And there's some going home

Why don't you wake up you people
And lift up your heads
You may get your pardon
But you may end up dead

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