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Cadence Calls

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A caller from San Antonio, Texas, remembers a song her father, a World War II vet, used to sing: “Around the corner and under a tree / A sergeant major proposed to me / Who would marry you? I would like to know / For every time I look at your face it makes me want to go —” at which point the verse repeats. These marching songs are known as cadence calls or Jody calls. They apparently arose among American troops during World War II, when a soldier named Willie Duckworth began chanting to boost his comrades’ spirits. Such songs echo the rhythmic work songs sung by enslaved Africans and prison chain gangs, which helped to make sure they moved in unison and to pass the time. You can learn more about the songs here. This is part of a complete episode.

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