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-   -   Buffalo Gals (http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=78022)

snopes 26 December 2011 01:38 AM

Buffalo Gals
 
Comment: I just watched the movie IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. In it was the
song BUFFALO GIRLS. Wikopedia says it has to do with prostitutes in
Buffalo, NY along the Erie Canal. It said that "Buffalo girls won't you
come our tonight" is a call for prostitutes to come out. What's the truth
about this very popular song of the 1920's?

Avril 26 December 2011 02:16 AM

Number one, the song is "Buffalo Gals," not "Buffalo Girls." Two, the song is not from the 1920s, though I guess it was popular then; it's from 1844.

Here's another source of dubious quality.

Here's a more acceptable one, but Google Books won't display all of the relevant pages.

My search of Google Books returns a whole lot about this. It looks legitimate to me.

A Turtle Named Mack 26 December 2011 02:27 AM

I thought 'buffalo girls' referred to black women, the way buffalo soldiers referred to black soldiers, based on the coarse, black, curly hair reminiscent of that of bison.

snopes 26 December 2011 02:30 AM

Were prostitutes really so reserved about soliciting customers that they had to be coaxed into it by a song?

Avril 26 December 2011 02:32 AM

Doesn't seem so. The song has had lots of different names; "Buffalo Gals" was the one that stuck, but there have been any number of locales referenced: "Cincinnati Gals," "Louisville Gals," "Charleston Gals," etc., if you believe this source.

ETA: It's just a song about prostitution, I think, snopes, not an actual means of soliciting their services.

snopes 26 December 2011 02:43 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Avril (Post 1573725)
It's just a song about prostitution, I think, snopes, not an actual means of soliciting their services.

Yeah, I get that, but the supposed conceit of the lyrics is about asking prostitutes to come out and make themselves known. Why sing a song about that, even if it's just fanciful?

Lainie 26 December 2011 02:49 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by A Turtle Named Mack (Post 1573719)
I thought 'buffalo girls' referred to black women, the way buffalo soldiers referred to black soldiers, based on the coarse, black, curly hair reminiscent of that of bison.

The origin of the term "buffalo soldiers" is disputed (link -- scroll down to "Etymology"). And as Avril points out, the name of the song varied based on where it was sung, "Buffalo Gals" being the Buffalo, NY version.

A Turtle Named Mack 26 December 2011 03:14 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by snopes (Post 1573731)
Yeah, I get that, but the supposed conceit of the lyrics is about asking prostitutes to come out and make themselves known. Why sing a song about that, even if it's just fanciful?

Why sing drinking songs? They interfere with drinking.

Sometimes the point of a song is to celebrate vices, rather than facilitate them

diddy 26 December 2011 03:16 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by A Turtle Named Mack (Post 1573742)
Why sing drinking songs? They interfere with drinking.

Or as I like to put it: “why bother?” “Why not?” It’s fun for fun’s sake.

LizzyBean 26 December 2011 03:29 AM

I've only ever heard it sung as "Buffalo Gals". I didn't realize other cities had their own versions.

Gary Larson of "Far Side" fame did some sort of cartoon about a "Buffalo Gal" (literally), in a bar, meeting the Elephant Man. It was snicker worthy, because he said that's what came to mind when he heard the song.

Avril 26 December 2011 03:56 AM

Real buffalo gals are a bit shy; it would be very hard to get them to come out and dance by the light of the moon. ;)

Several of the books I skimmed on Google Books indicated that this song was sung as a line of dancing girls was brought out (something akin to the Rockettes, as I understand the description), part of a minstrel show. That might make slightly more sense, but I still think the song has some connection to prostitution.

ganzfeld 26 December 2011 06:07 AM

Looking around at some of the original lyrics, I don't see any evidence at all for this story. The point of the song wasn't to celebrate or even talk about prostitutes but to make fun of black people. However, I do think that what A Turtle NM says might be true, re "buffalo". It's true that the song was sung with different cities than Buffalo but it also seems true that Buffalo Gal was used as a term for a black woman (after the song, perhaps?). (The black man of the song was just called by the n word.)

So far, most of the supposed references for claim this were written way way after the song was first around, over 150 years ago.It was already being parodied by the late 1850s. (It occurs to me that the story of the OP might come from some of those parodies rather than the original meaning.)

Lainie 27 December 2011 02:13 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Avril (Post 1573754)
Real buffalo gals are a bit shy; it would be very hard to get them to come out and dance by the light of the moon. ;)

Too bad, really, because I'd love to see that. I imagine them being quite graceful, like the hippo corp de ballets in Fantasia.

Avril 27 December 2011 03:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ganzfeld (Post 1573778)
So far, most of the supposed references for claim this were written way way after the song was first around, over 150 years ago.It was already being parodied by the late 1850s. (It occurs to me that the story of the OP might come from some of those parodies rather than the original meaning.)

I think that the answer to this question will be found in the academic book I cited originally, that omits several relevant pages. It will have good checkable references. But the song itself is a version of "Lubly Fan." This is starting to feel like textual criticism of the Old Testament. :lol:

ganzfeld 27 December 2011 11:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Avril (Post 1574143)
I think that the answer to this question will be found in the academic book I cited originally, that omits several relevant pages.

Avril, which one?

Avril 27 December 2011 11:23 PM

This is the one I was talking about:

Quote:

Originally Posted by Avril (Post 1573714)
Here's a more acceptable one, but Google Books won't display all of the relevant pages.


ganzfeld 28 December 2011 10:29 PM

It seems to give some very circumstantial evidence but, as far as I could see, doesn't really make the claim about that particular song. (Are there missing pages?) None of the lyrics give any hints although the feet taking up the whole sidewalk thing is a pretty interesting clue. Wonder what that's all about. I also have to wonder why the whole thing about taking her home to marry but, of course, that could be the song simply making fun of the darkies again.

barbrainey 29 December 2011 11:58 PM

Part of the lyrics refer to dancing with a girl with a hole in her stocking. I doubt if a prostitute would have a hole in her stocking.

Also, about 50 years ago there was a weekly animated cartoon TV show about Alvin and the Chimpmunks. One episode feature Buffalo Bill--or someone who resembled him--longing for an old girlfriend, and he sang with song, "Buffalo Gals," only he called in "Buffalo Gal." Well, the Chimpmunks sing this song on TV, and the old sweetheart is watching as they show a picture of her. She rushes to the TV station and meets Bill who exclaims, "You've changed." She talks in a coarser voice and has gained weight.

No doubt, this was a children's presentation of the song.

Barb Rainey

Lainie 30 December 2011 12:13 AM

Why wouldn't a prostitute have a hole in her stocking? :confused:

ETA: Wasn't there a line in a Joni Mitchell song like that? "Dance with a lady with a hole in her stocking/and feel good. . ."

diddy 30 December 2011 01:21 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lainie (Post 1575264)
Why wouldn't a prostitute have a hole in her stocking?

Presumably she would be able to make enough that she could afford new stockings to attract clients. Just a guess though.


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