“Camptown Races”, sometimes referred to as “Camptown Ladies”, is a comic song in
broad, stereotyped African American “dialect” by Stephen Foster, known as the “father of
American music,” who was the pre-eminent songwriter in the United States of the 19th
It was published in 1850 in Foster’s Plantation Melodies as sung by the Christy &
Campbell Minstrels and New Orleans “Serenades”. Its official title was “Gwine to Run
All Night”, and is also known as “De Camptown Races”. The camptown of Foster’s own
experience was in Pennsylvania, but a “camptown“, or tent city was a temporary
workingmen’s accommodation familiar in many parts of the United States, especially
along the rapidly expanding railroad network. The rag-tag mix of horses that are racing,
and the disorder of the racing conditions at the ramshackle camptown track provide the
fun, with the usual unspoken undercurrent of superiority among the entertained hearers.
The present day-version of the “Camptown Races”, a cross country foot race, is the
region’s oldest 10 K race and one of the most challenging. It’s held every year, the first
weekend in September and includes the community’s annual Old Home Day celebration.
De Camptown ladies sing dis song, Doo-dah! doo-dah!
De Camptown race-track five miles long, Oh, doo-dah day!
I come down dah wid my hat caved in, Doo-dah! doo-dah!
I go back home wid a pocket full of tin, Oh, doo-dah day!
Gwine to run all night!
Gwine to run all day!
I’ll bet my money on de bob-tail nag,
Somebody bet on de bay.
De long tail filly and de big black hoss, Doo-dah! doo-dah!
Dey fly de track and dey both cut across, Oh, doo-dah-day!
De blind hoss sticken in a big mud hole, Doo-dah! doo-dah!
Can’t touch bottom wid a ten foot pole, Oh, doo-dah-day!
Old muley cow come on to de track, Doo-dah! doo-dah!
De bob-tail fling her ober his back, Oh, doo-dah-day!
Den fly along like a rail-road car, Doo-dah! doo-dah!
Runnin’ a race wid a shootin’ star, Oh, doo-dah-day!
See dem flyin’ on a ten mile heat, Doo-dah doo-dah!
Round de race track, den repeat, Oh, doo-dah-day!
I win my money on de bob-tail nag, Doo-dah! doo-dah!
I keep my money in an old tow-bag, Oh, doo-dah-day!