Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home?

Grade Level
3-5, 6-8, 9-12

Selection: Bill Bailey
Recorded: Como, Mississippi; September 21, 1959
Performers: Bob Pratcher (fiddle), Miles Pratcher (guitar, vocal)

Activity 1: Rousing Up an Old-Time Song (Grades 3-5, 6-8, 9-12)

1. Play the recording (through one rendition of the chorus) and invite students to pat (their laps) and clap along with the clappers that they hear.

2. As students listen to the recording again, focus their attention on answering these questions:

* What instruments are playing (violin and guitar)
* Who is singing, man or woman? (man) One or more singers (mostly one, but another man joins in for a phrase)
* Is the body percussion (patting and clapping) even or syncopated? (Even, every beat)

3. Listen for the harmony, with the guitar strumming double-time on every beat and chords shifting from I to V. Show with one finger and a five fingers the chord changes as they come.

I   I   I  V
V V V  I

4. Sing the song with the recording. Standard lyrics to the chorus of this old-time song follow:

Won't you come home, Bill Bailey, won't you come home?
I've moaned the whole night long.
I'll do the cookin', honey, I'll pay the rent
I know I done you wrong.
You remember that rainy evenin' I threw you out
With nothing but a fine tooth comb.
I know I'm to blame, now, ain't it a shame?
Bill Bailey won't you please come home

5. Play the chords, four (or eight double-time) chords per numeral (I or V); see step 3. Note that this eight-chord sequence is played four times over the duration of the chorus.

Activity 2: Many Views of Bill Bailey (Grades 6-8, 9-12)

1. Begin a discussion with the question, “Who was Bill Bailey?". Students can review the lyrics of the song for clues, and also be encouraged to fill in the pieces by imagining where Mr. Bailey lived, when he lived, what he did for a living, who his family was. (The chorus tells little about the man, but the seldom-played verse contains information. Write it up in a short essay.

2. Share with students the following information about the song:

* First titled “Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home?"
* Words and lyrics were written by Hughie Cannon, published in 1902
* Continues to hold a place as a standard song in Dixieland and other traditional jazz bands.

3. Share some examples of famous musicians who have covered the song: Louis Armstrong, Patsy Cline, Della Reese, Aretha Franklin, Phish, Michael Buble.

4. Ask students if they know of songs that have more than one recording rendition of a song. Share and compare titles and artists, in a list. Then use the list to search out the recordings for group listening and discussion of similarities and distinguishing features of these songs.

Lesson plan by Patricia Shehan Campbell