Frankie and Johnnie

Original Text: 
American Tramp and Underworld Slang, ed. Godfrey Irwin (New York: Sears, ): 209-213. PE 3726 .I7 1971 Robarts Library.
2O, my Gawd, how they could love,
3They swore to be true to each other,
4As true as the stars above;
5    He was her man, but he done her wrong.
6Frankie was a good woman,
7As everybody knows,
8Gave her man a hundred dollars,
9To get him a suit of clothes;
10    He was her man, but he done her wrong.
11Frankie and Johnnie went walking,
13"Oh, my Gawd," said Frankie,
14"But don't my Johnnie look cute?"
15    He was her man, but he done her wrong.
17Went on the morning train,
18Paid a hundred dollars,
19Got Johnnie a watch and chain;
20    He was her man, but he done her wrong.
22Crib-house with only two doors,
23Gave her money to Johnnie,
24He spent it on those parlour whores;
25    He was her man, but he done her wrong.
26Frankie went down to the corner,
27Went for a bucket of beer,
28She said, "Oh, Mr. Bar-tender,
29Has my loving Johnnie been here?
30    He is my man, and he's done me wrong."
31"I won't make you no trouble,
32I won't tell you no lie,
33But I saw Johnnie an hour ago
34With a girl named Nellie Bly;
35    He is your man, and he's doing you wrong."
38Aimed that gun at the ceiling,
39Shot a big hole in the floor;
40    "Now where's my man that's doing me wrong?"
42Looked in at a window so high,
43There she saw her Johnnie,
44Loving up Nellie Bly,
45    He was her man, but he done her wrong.
46Frankie went up to the front door,
47She rang the front-door bell,
49Or I'll blow you all to hell;
50    I want my man, who's done me wrong."
51Frankie went into the hook-shop,
52She didn't go there for fun,
54She toted that forty-four gun;
55    He was her man, but he done her wrong.
56Frankie looked in at the keyhole,
57And there before her eye,
58She saw her Johnnie on the sofa,
59A loving up Nellie Bly;
60    He was her man, but he done her wrong.
61Frankie threw back her kimona,
62Took out the little forty-four,
63Roota-toot-toot, three times she shoot,
64Right through that hardwood door;
65    He was her man, but he done her wrong.
67Said, "Oh, Gawd, Frankie, don't shoot!"
68But she pressed hard on the trigger,
69And the gun went roota-toot-toot;
70    He was her man, but he done her wrong.
71"Roll me over easy,
72Oh, roll me over slow,
73Roll me over on my right side,
74'Cause my left side hurts me so."
75    He was her man, but he done her wrong.
77Bring out your rubber-tyred hack,
78I'll take my man to the graveyard,
79But I won't bring him back;
80    He was my man, but he done me wrong."
81They brought out the rubber-tyred hearses,
82They brought out the rubber-tyred hack,
83Thirteen men went to the graveyard,
84But only twelve came back;
85    He was her man, but he done her wrong.
86"Bring 'round a hundred policemen,
87Bring 'em around to-day,
88And lock me in that jail-house,
89Then throw the key away;
90    I shot my man, 'cause he done me wrong.
91"I've saved up a little money,
92I'll save up a little more,
93I'll send it all to his widow,
94And say it's from the girl next door;
95    He was my man, but he done me wrong."
96Frankie went to the madame,
97She fell down on her knees,
98"Forgive me, Mrs. Halcome,
99Forgive me, if you please;
100    I've killed my man, 'cause he done me wrong."
101"Forgive you, Frankie darling?
102Forgive you I never can.
103Forgive you, Frankie darling,
104For shooting your only man?
105    For he was your man, though he done you wrong."
106Frankie went to the coffin,
107Looked down at his face,
108Said, "Oh, Lord, have mercy on me,
109I'd like to take his place;
110    He was my man, but he done me wrong."
111A rubber-tyred buggy,
112A rubber-tyred hack,
113Took poor Frankie to the jail-house
114But it didn't bring her back;
115    He was her man, but he done her wrong.
116Frankie sat in her prison,
117Had no electric fan,
118Told her little sister,
119Never marry no sporting man;
120    "I had a man, but he done me wrong."
121The Sheriff took Frankie to the gallows,
122Hung her until she died,
123They hung her for killing Johnnie,
124And the undertaker waited outside;
125    She killed her man, 'cause he done her wrong.


1] "There is but small doubt that this extremely old and popular ballad had its origin somewhere along the Mississippi, the reference to Memphis makes that clear; and from its phrasing it seems not unlikely that it is of negro extraction. So many versions have been heard and published, that it is hard to tell just which is the original authentic one. The above is representative. Going very well to chords on a guitar or a mandolin, this is no less popular with cowboy and ranch hands than with the tramps, and has been sung all over the United States" (Godfrey Irwin, 213).
For recent versions of the song, see American folksongs & spirituals: 75 songs of the American Heritage (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Hal Leonard, 1996). M 1629 .A52 1991 Music Library; and compact discs by Bunny Berigan, 1937/1939 (Paris: EPM Musique, 1991), the music copyright to Kahn, Kaper, and Jurman, and by J. J. Johnson, Vivian (Concord Jazz, CCD 4523), recorded June 2-3, 1992, the music copyright to Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz. Back to Line
12] bran' new: very new, like a brand-name product off the shelf, not second-hand. Back to Line
16] Memphis: city in Tennessee. Back to Line
21] crib-house: a small wooden shack (a crib is an animal's stall or a storage bin for feed). Back to Line
36] hock-shop: pawnshop. Back to Line
37] a big forty-four: pistol. Back to Line
41] hook-shop: shop where hookers (prostitutes) are for sale. Back to Line
48] chippies: prostitutes. Back to Line
53] kimona: loose dressing robe, kimono. Back to Line
66] Stetson: trademark name for a broad-rimmed felt hat. Back to Line
76] buggy: one-horse-drawn four-wheel carriage. [also hack 77]. Back to Line
Publication Notes: 
late 19th century (?)
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1999.