Cotton Eye Joe

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#1
Lots of questions. But it's for a good cause, not just my curiosity.

Do dancers do Cotton Eye Joe - the progressive dance that can be done either as a couple or solo
http://homepages.apci.net/~drdeyne/dances/cej.htm
- where you dance? And where do you dance?

Does your dj play the Rednex version of the song?
http://www.amazon.com/Sex-Violins-Rednex/dp/B00000057K

Do people line dance to this song?
If so, what line dance do they do?

In an interview Asleep at the Wheel band leader Ray Benson says that the dance was being taught in the schools in Texas (I think he is talking about the 70s). http://www.honkytonks.org/showpages/lonestar.htm Can anyone confirm this? Is it still being taught?

Was anyone taught Cotton Eye Joe in school outside of Texas?

Thanks for your replies.
 

tangotime

Well-Known Member
#4
Steve, was in in big d, fort worth and houston in the early to mid seventies. It was played at most studio parties . Not my particular "bag " , but very well recd, as I recall .
Know for a fact it was being taught and danced in Atlanta. in the same period --- the guy that specialised in c and w is still teaching there, doing the same old thang !! --- And it was partnership type .
 

kayak

Active Member
#5
The way I have done it is a progressing circle with spokes of people. Each spoke has as many people as they want. Some people do fancier turns and steps. It doesn't excite me enough to want to think about more steps. So I just kind of go with the flow. It is usually a mixer sort of thing at a social dance.
 
#6
People in Birmingham Al, as well as Knoxville Tn do it. The way you describe.

There was also a well known line dance to the rednex version a while back called the 8 second ride. It came out around the time of the video for Allan Jackson's video for Sold. You'll notice similarities between the dance and the video.
 
#10
The way I have done it is a progressing circle with spokes of people. Each spoke has as many people as they want. Some people do fancier turns and steps. It doesn't excite me enough to want to think about more steps. So I just kind of go with the flow. It is usually a mixer sort of thing at a social dance.
I learned this way in public school in San Antonio, Texas in the early 90s. I danced it with my 1st grade class for a performance at a PTA meeting! We learned the boot skootin boogie that year and did some square dancing the next year. I didn't know of anyone that didn't know the Cotton Eye Joe until I got to college (still in Texas), but I still find that most people here know it!

They still play it at Midnight Rodeo in Texas. I pretty much only ever hear the original song or one very similar to it because that's what the dance tends to work best to. I think people are also kind of attached to the original since they've been doing it forever! I think that the one they play at Midnight Rodeo has the original instrumental music but doesn't have many words. The DJ says "Now what you say?" and everyone yells an obscenity that I'm not sure if I can type here... People say the first syllable every time they cross their leg and the second syllable every time they kick their leg.

There's actually another dance that traditionally follows the Cotton Eye Joe. It's called the Schottish I think. I didn't learn it until I was a little older but some people swear there's no Cotton Eye Joe without it. A lot of people leave the floor when it comes on because it's not as interesting and a lot probably don't know it (even though it's very repetitive).

I have never ever seen it done in any other way than the one kayak described with people linking arms or with their arms around each other in spokes. People come and go. They pretty much do whatever they want, though I rarely see anyone do anything fancy. The dance is often pretty much out of control anyway!! The dance is very consistent here but I don't doubt that it is different elsewhere.
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#11
If you google Cotton Eye Joe you can see a pretty good history of both the song and the dance.
Here's the main part of the article:
During the first half of the twentieth century the song was a widely known folk song all over English-speaking North America. In more recent decades, the song has waned in popularity in most regions except some parts of the South where it is still a popular folk song.
Ray Benson of the Western Swing band Asleep at the Wheel talks about playing the Bob Wills version of "Cotton Eye Joe" in Texas in the 1970s, when the dance was very much alive. http://www.honkytonks.org/showpages/lonestar.htm
A Western "Craze" followed the 1980 release of Urban Cowboy. Dancers nationwide even dressed the part in cowboy boots, hats, and jeans. To accommodate the singles in attendance, creative Texans resurrected old nonpartner, spoke-line dances (Cotton-eyed Joe) and invented new ones. They changed some of the formations from couple to spoke-lines and altered the steps to fit, so that lines made up of happy single dancers could link arms around each other's waists and prance or glide happily around the hall.
http://www.dorisvolz.com/
The Bob Wills version of the song is still popular with dancers.
http://www.gladmusicco.com/Music/1100-1.mp3

"Cotton Eye Joe", and its continued popularity in Texas, was referred to in the lyrics to Alabama's song "If You're Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)|If You're Gonna Play in Texas." "I remember down in Houston we were puttin' on a show
When a cowboy in the back stood up and yelled, "Cotton-Eyed Joe"!"
http://www.cowboylyrics.com/lyrics/...you-gotta-have-a-fiddle-in-the-band-3831.html

Do they ever play version by a Swedish band called Rednex? It's got a thumping bass line with lots of fiddle.
Or maybe it's the Bob Wills one?
The song is very, very, old, so I would be curious to know exactly which version they use where you are. Maybe you could ask the DJ?

And, oh man, schottiche can be really interesting. But, based on my one dance experience in San Antonio, the dancers in Texas aren't too much into variations.
 

anp73ga31

Active Member
#12
They still play it at Midnight Rodeo in Texas. I pretty much only ever hear the original song or one very similar to it because that's what the dance tends to work best to. I think people are also kind of attached to the original since they've been doing it forever! I think that the one they play at Midnight Rodeo has the original instrumental music but doesn't have many words. The DJ says "Now what you say?" and everyone yells an obscenity that I'm not sure if I can type here... People say the first syllable every time they cross their leg and the second syllable every time they kick their leg.
When I lived in Florida and went to country bars back in the mid 90s, we did the Cotton Eyed Joe all the time. Most people participated because even when inebriated it was an easy dance to do. lol! And they played a version of the song like you mentioned where it says "Now what you say?" and everyone yells out "B*** S***!" along with the song (then, "a little bit louder", "B.S.!", etc.). In our version it was built into the song, though, the DJ didnt say it. Mostly now, on the rare occasions that I go line dancing, they still do Cotton Eyed Joe but they use the Rednex version. My sister, however, still turns to me and says, "Now what you say?" and I reply appropriately. :D
 
#14
Where I used to dance in No. Calif. the Cotton Eyed Joe is danced as a line dance and also in a circle around the dance floor with singles or couples dancing the 10-step. We've also done the spoke thing with 3 to 5 people. It's a lot of fun and very popular!
 

kayak

Active Member
#15
Yea, one thing cool about the spoke version is that it is playful enough to get the guys who hate line dancing out on the dance floor. Plus, as long as one person in the spoke knows how to do the steps, the whole spoke of 4-5 people can quickly figure it out. I have been to a couple wedding dances that used it has a mixer. So part of each spoke moved to the next spoke every little while during the dance.

It is just plain fun to screw around with :)
 
#16
We learned it as a progressive dance...have heard about the line dance, but I've never seen it done, except on YouTube, I think. Never learned anything but modern dance in school. Oh, and yes, we do it to the Rednex version!
 
#17
My experience is ...........Learning to dance in Houston, TX during the URBAN COWBOY hey day the CEJ was played everywhere and every night. Issac Payton Sweat is known as the King of the CEJ and is the one followed by the schottish.
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#18
Hey, Vic, welcome.
I'd been dancing to the song for years and hadn't even heard of Issac Payton Sweat until I ran across it on the web.
How many others didn't know about "the King of the CEJ", and where do you live?
 
#20
I learned it at a club, but down South they do it almost polka style following the usual rotation of a dance floor (in a circle/oval)...complete with the hitch-kicks.
 

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