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Published on Aug 5, 2008
The song, "Stewball", originated in either England or Ireland, where it began as "Skewball", meaning a horse with white patches on a coat that is not black. The horse in question won a race in Kildare in the eighteenth century.
An American version of the song was sung by slaves in the Southern states, and the location varies between California, Texas and Kentucky. It uses an African-American-style call and response technique, as opposed to the ballad style of the English version. This version was popularised by Lead Belly.
A recording by Joan Baez, which was my introduction to the song, is closer to the English version. This better-known version has been recorded by Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston, Dan Fogelberg, Peter, Paul and Mary, Slainte and The Hollies among many others.
There are some excellent versions by YouTube stars such as Lew Dite, the BCB Band, marcoacca and David Holness.
This video is dedicated to my YouTube friend Max, aka oldstewball.