Jack Plays The Banjo For Tom

Reprinted in AppLit with permission, from the James Taylor Adams Collection
U of Virginia's College at Wise/Blue Ridge Institute and Museum of Ferrum College

Collected by James M. Hylton

Wise, Virginia

NOTE: This text was recopied directly from a typewritten copy in the archives of the Blue Ridge Institute. James Taylor Adams (1892-1954) kept typewritten copies of the folktales he and others collected during the last thirty years of his life, while he lived in Wise County, VA. Apparent typographical mistakes in the archive manuscript have not been altered. This tale contains realistic details about courting girls, drinking, and cursing, unlike more widely known Jack tales that are reprinted in children's books and linked with types of European wonder tales. For details on other Jack Tales, see AppLit's Annotated Index of Appalachian Folktales.

Told to me by Lonnie Hopkins, aged 39 yrs., Hurricane, Virginia, and a son of J.B. Hopkins, who enjoys a good Jake or Tale and who has contributed to this writer at an earlier date. He plays the Banjo and had one under his arm when he told the Writer this Tale of Jack and Tom and said that he'd always heard it in his home by the older folks long before he started playing music. He relates here on August 28th, 1941, as he was on his way to the Wise County Fair held at Wise, Virginia each year that he was expecting to see a lot of his old friends there and that they would try to get together and have some good music but he didn't want to play like Jack and Tom did at the old Pie Supper of which he tells here.


"Jack an' Tom, I've always heard was a couple of fellers who played the Banjo and went 'round to the many places an' played for the folks at Bean Stringin's an' Box Suppers. One time they's at a Box or Pie Supper so's my old folks always told me an' was having' a good time with the girls an' never cared so much for the banjo playin' an' some of the folks talked to them an' explained what they would have to play if they had any fun. Well, Tom had a good lookin' girl an' he figured a way to get Jack to do all the playin' an' get him a girl to take home. Well he got to drinkin' an' played the whole of the night through an' Toms all time havin' a girlish good time. Some time a little fore day he looked up an' asked where Tom was an' they told he had already gone home with his girl. An when Tom left he'd left with the girl that Jack wanted most. They all had a good laugh an' it made Jack mighty mad an' some of the boys made up a song 'bout it too". I've heard it played and I've heard it at all the oldtime Box and Pie Suppers in this Country some time or other".

Jack and Tom was boys that'ud play
Music for the girls an' boys to sway.
Jack got drunk an' played all night
An' his hair an' eyes looked a fright.
But Tom got the girl an' went away
But Jack played on till break'o 'day.
An' while Tom was eatin' pickles an' ham
Jack was a 'playin' an' didn't give a dam.
But daylight come an' found him alone
Head achin' an' sore plumb to the bone.
He cused an' tore his hair an' swore
That music he'd play never no more.
So the boys an' girls made up a song
For the boy with a banjo an' girl along.
If you love the girl an' her pretty charms
Keep the girl 'stead the banjo in your arms.

Note: Songsters gather at the annual Fair here and play in Public and I heard the informant play and sing this song and he only regrets that he cannot give it as he did with the music and expression. JMH.

(Folklore Tales) 16 Lines 225 Words


Replaced Copy Made by the Blue Ridge Institute to Replace Unstable Original April, 1991

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