PROBABLE GENESIS OF THE HILLBILLY OUTHOUSE CLICHÉ: PART 2

This 1919 sheet music was written by Will E. Skidmore and Marshal Walker. It is subtitled “A Novelty Surprise Package.” In the center of the “drawn by Gosh” cartooned cover is a photo captioned “Successfully Introduced by Chick Sale in New York Winter Garden.”

h223

From the lyrics of ON THE OZARK TRAIL:

Way down yon-der in the O-zark Moun-tins, where folks aint ver-y good at books or coun-tin; There lived old Zeke, an odd “Ga-loot”, -Bout all he knew was how to shoot; He had a gal and he would al-ways tell ‘er To nev-er monk-ey with a cit-y Fel-ler; This cit-y chap came with-out fail And Zek-ie shot ‘im on the O-zark Trail

CHORUS (slow)

On the O-zark Trail – that’s where they shot him On the O-zark Trail; They come and got ‘im , Zek-ie saved his Fam’-ly’s Name; But since that cit-y Fel-ler came Zek-ie‘s gal don’t act the same – On the O-zark Trail. On the Trail. –

Though the hayseeds on the cover aren’t dressed hillbilly and the word isn’t used, the Ozarks is identified as a place populated by ignorant and violence-prone people who fear competition from “city fellers” for their women. Gradually the generic country bumpkin merged with the maverick mountaineer of journalism and fiction. The earlier rube survived in country comedy concurrently with the rawer hillbilly that was not always so funny, and if he were the humor might not be of the gentle bucolic variety.

It’s a theory of course that the hillbilly outhouse fixture and its abundant commodifications derived from Chuck Sales privy builder skit, but we’ve discovered no other antecedents in hillbilly history. Our point is that the hillbilly gradually absorbed many of the primitive traits that were attributed to rural folks nationwide. The Ozarks even in 1919 had already been targeted as being especially “hick” even before the hillbilly had been completely created by mass media.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *