A variant of "The State of Arkansas," originally recorded on Mar 23, 1927 by Kelly Harrell, vocals, at RCA Victor's studios in Camden, NJ, with Posey Rorer, fiddle, Alfred Steagal, guitar, and R.D. Hundley, banjo.
This song is mentioned by Bob Dylan in "For Dave Glover" and seems to have been part of his early repertoire.
The tune used by Kelly Harrell is an obvious variant of the "Maggie Walker Blues", "Peggy Walker", "The Girl I Left Behind," etc. song family and was also used for Dylan's "Long Time Gone."
Dylan's most likely source is Harry Smith's "American Folk Music" Folkways anthology (track No. 14).
My name is John Johannah, I come from Buffalo town,
For nine long years I've traveled this wide, wide world around.
Through ups and downs and miseries and some good days I've saw,
But I never knew what misery was, till I went to Arkansas.
I went up to the station the operator to spy,
Told him my situation and where I wanted to ride,
Said, "Hand me down five dollars, lad, a ticket you shall draw
That'll land you safe by railway in the state of Arkansas."
I rode up to the station, I chanced to meet a friend.
Alan Catcher was his name, although they called him Cain.
His hair hung down in rat-tails below his under-jaw,
He said he run the best hotel in the state of Arkansas.
I followed my companion to his respected place,
Saw pity and starvation was pictured on his face.
His bread was old corn dodgers, his beef I could not chaw,
He charged me fifty cents a day in the state of Arkansas.
I got up that next morning to catch that early train.
He says, "Don't be in a hurry, lad, I have some land to drain.
You'll get your fifty cents a day and all that you can chaw,
You'll find yourself a different lad when you leave old Arkansas."
I worked six weeks for the son-of-a-gun, Alan Catcher was his name.
He stood seven feet two inches, as tall as any crane.
I got so thin on sassafras tea I could hide behind a straw,
You bet I was a different lad when I left old Arkansas.
Farewell you old swamp rabbits, also you dodger pills,
Likewise you walking skeletons, you old sassafras.
If you ever see my face again, I'll hand you down my paw,
I'll be looking through a telescope from home to Arkansas.