1911 Sheet Music describes the “Texas Tommy Swing,” with a reference to the “Buck and Wing”

Jerome H. Remick & Co. published a piece of sheet music entitled “Texas Tommy Swing” by Val Harris and Sid Brown, as featured by the Ziegfeld Follies of 1911.


The chorus lyrics describe the “Texas Tommy Swing” as follows:

“It’s a-hopping on the right

And a-hopping on the left,

Like a good old ‘Buck and Wing.’

Do a graceful slide by your baby’s side,

Like a birdie on the wing;

Throw your lovin’ arms around your baby’s waist

And to her softly sing

It’s the Texas

It’s the Texas

Oh you Texas Tommy Swing!”

Here is an original 1912 recording of the “Texas Tommy Swing,” sung by Bill Murray, and provided by youtube user Musicboxboy:

It is also available at the National Jukebox. The lyrics reference a dance called the “Buck and Wing.”  A little research into the Buck and Wing reveals it to have a complicated history, with ties to early tap and clogging, as well as to minstrel and vaudeville shoes.  It is deserving of its own article, something that has been attempted at StreetSwing.  

Duke University professor of African American studies and dance Thomas F. DeFrantz discusses and demonstrates buck and wing dances on the Duke University youtube channel:

Professor DeFrantz states, “Black social dances in the Americas…developed after the middle passage when African Americans had to figure out ways to kind of be outside of the controlling eye of the clergy.  A lot of these dances were forms that were restricted by white slaveholders who were really only interested in dances that were easily identified as being Christian movement.”  According to Professor DeFrantz, “Buck dances were forms that were very very percussive and weighted down into the foot.”  Wing dances, on the other hand, are “where you literally flap parts of your body as if they were wings.”  He provides a demonstration of both movements.

Tap dancers Honi Coles & Cholly Atkins demonstrate a more contemporary version of “wings” at 9:00 of the following clip provided by youtube user crackedoreo:

The dance also appears to have been appropriated by minstrel and vaudeville performers, with all of the  racism that one might expect such an appropriation to involve.  In the September 9, 1900 edition of The San Francisco Call, an interview with dancer Querita Vincent produced the following article on buck and wing movement:

The San Francisco call., September 09, 1900, Image 11

The San Francisco call., September 09, 1900, Image 11

Ms. Vincent appears to have been a vaudeville performer on the Orpheum circuit who performed in minstrel shows.  She died of consumption in 1902.

All of this is to say that when Mr. Harris and Mr. Brown referenced “Buck and Wing” movement in their description of the Texas Tommy, they may have been attempting to attribute a looseness of limbs and a grounded, syncopation of feet to the dance’s stylings.  Or they may have been obliquely referencing the dance’s African American roots.

This sheet music was provided by the Mississippi State University Digital Library.  The article was provided by Chronicling America.

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