Sunday, December 1, 2013

"The Preacher And The Bear" - The Jubalaires


This song was originally recorded by Arthur Collins sometime in the early 1900’s. I've seen it listed as 1905, which puts it in the category of a waxed cylinder. It was recorded 2 more times by Claude Hopkins in 1935 and then the Golden Gate Quartet in 1937.  It didn't do much after that for about 12 years until Phil Harris recorded it in the 1947, the same year as the Jubalaires recorded theirs. (I’ll wager that their recording preceded Mr. Harris’.)

It was the Jubalaires who really immortalized the song. That’s the group you see singing it here. This film is from shortly after the records release. It was later covered by artists such as the Big Bopper in 1958, and then many more, including; The New Christy Minstrels in 1962; Jerry Reed in 1971; Jim Kweskin in 1979; David Holt in 1986; and also the Robert Decormier Singers in 1996. I’m sure there are many others, but these seem to be the most well-known versions.

The Jubalaires were a gospel oriented group from Florida originally comprised of Orville Brooks, Ted Brooks, Caleb Ginyard and George McFadden. At times the group included J.C. "Junior" Caleb Ginyard and even Willie Johnson. There have been many incarnations of the group over the decades since these men performed, all calling themselves some sort of derivative of the Jubalaires name. There are the Fairfax Jubalaires, the Sunset Jubalaires and etc. They all perform reasonably well, in the same style as the original Jubalaires, which is reminiscent of the Mills Brothers, with their tight harmonies sounding almost as one voice with different layers.

The group originally recorded under the name of The Royal Harmony Singers, beginning in 1936. In 1941 they relocated to Philadelphia. At that time the group was composed of Brooks as baritone; Willie Wright as tenor; Elijah Wright as bass; (he was soon replaced by Biggie McFadden); and the talented Billie Lee Johnson joined as guitarist in 1946. There had been quite a few others on guitar before him, but his style complimented the groups vocals in a way no other guitarist had done before.

The groups greatest success came in 1942 with their hit recording of “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” which reached #10 on the R&B charts for the week of November 14, 1942.

By 1946 the group was appearing on shows such as Arthur Godfrey’s radio program on CBS. A short time after that Willie Johnson left the Golden Gate Quartet to become leader of the Jubalaires. They recorded on Decca, King and even Capital Records.

For a more lengthy history of this group please use the following link;


Note: You will have to scroll about halfway down the page before you see the Jubalaires, but it’s worth the trip as the article is much more detailed than my own.

The song itself is about a Preacher who goes hunting on the Sabbath, knowing that it’s wrong. He encounters a bear larger than he can handle and finds himself supplicating the Lord to help him in his time of need, all the while knowing he has left his own flock to fend for themselves.

THE PREACHER AND THE BEAR
(Traditional / Joe Arzonia)

The preacher went out a huntin’, it was on one Sunday morn’
It was against his religion, but he took a shotgun along
He got himself a mess o’ mighty fine quail and one old scraggly hare
And on the way home he crossed the path of a great big grizzly bear
Well the bear got down lookin’ ready to charge
The preacher never seen nothin’ quite that large
They looked each other right smack in the eye
Didn’t take that preacher long to say bye

The preacher, he run till he spotted a tree
He said, "Up in that tree’s where I oughta be"
By the time that bear made a grab for him
The preacher was a sittin’ on top a that limb
Scared to death, he turned about
He looked to the sky and began to shout

"Hey lord, you delivered Daniel from the bottom of the lion’s den
You delivered Jonah from the belly of the whale and then
The Hebrew children from the fiery furnace
So the good books do declare
Hey lord, if you can’t help me,
For goodness sake don’t help that bear"

Yea, look out preacher!

Well, about that time the limb broke off
And the preacher came tumblin’ down
Had a straight razor out of his pocket
By the time he lit on the ground
He landed on his feet right in front of that bear
And Lord, what an awful fight
The preacher and the bear and the razor and the hair
Flyin’ from left to right

Well first they was up and then they was down
The preacher and the bear runnin’ round an’ round
The bear he roared, and the the preacher he groaned
He was havin’ a tough time holdin’ his own!
He said, "Lord if I get out a here alive
To the good book I’ll abide
No more huntin’ on the Sabbath day
Come Sunday I’m headin’ to the church to pray"

Up to the heavens the preacher glanced
He said, "Lord won’t you give me just one more chance"
So the preacher got away, he looked around
Seen a tree where he’d be safe and sound
Jumped on a limb, turned about
Looked to the sky and began to shout

"Hey lord, you delivered Daniel from the bottom of the lion’s den
You delivered Jonah from the belly of the whale and then
The Hebrew children from the fiery furnace
So the good books do declare
Hey lord, if you can’t help me,
For goodness sake don’t help that bear"

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