I’m Just A Black Sheep

February 3, 2010 at 2:47 am (Uncategorized)

When he was a “guest” at the Ohio Penitentiary, Harry Ainsworth Dawson was better known as inmate number 54763.  However, that all changed in 1929 when his song, “I’m Just A Black Sheep (A Real Prisoner’s Song),” was published by Joe McDaniel Music, Chicago and New York.  Dawson, who played guitar, sax, and cornet, had teamed up with fellow inmate, Roy Stout, as Harry & Roy.  At first they performed exclusively for the other prisoners and staff, but soon they were heard over WAIU radio in Columbus on the “Prisoners Program.”  Presumably, a local music publisher caught one of their broadcasts and arranged for the initial publication of Dawson’s song.

Originally from Lorain County, Dawson was sentenced to the Ohio Penitentiary in 1925 to serve 15 years for robbery.  He was a former carnival and circus man and played the part of a Jewish comedian in the prison Christmas minstrel show.  He also sang in the International Four and played sax in the saxophone quartet, both inmate groups.  Dawson was paroled in 1929 (just before the 1930 fire) with the hope that he would be able to make a successful career in music.  The same year, his short story, “The Bindlestiff’s Revenge,” was published in issue number one of Smokehouse Monthly.

As the sheet music (at right) shows,  Jack Jackson, the Strolling Yodeler, recorded “I’m Just A Black Sheep” on the Columbia label.  So did the ubiquitous Carson Robison Trio and John L. White, the Lonesome Cowboy.  Bill Dalton played a chorus of the song on the console organ at Loew’s Ohio Theatre.  At the time, Dawson had two other songs performed: “You Didn’t Know or Care” and “When We Meet in the Palace of Dreams.” However, they do not appear to have been published.  Before departing Columbus, he had also composed “The Charity Newsies Song.”

Not much else is known about Dawson’s subsequent career, although he was still writing songs as late as 1938 when Joe McDaniel Music issued, “Only A Broad Along Broadway.”

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1 Comment

  1. Robert Fulkrson said,

    When I was a boy of 9 or 10 years of age, my aunt had this old wind up Victrola which I played constantly. The old records were mostly those of Jimmy Rogers and the ilk, but she had this song, “I’m Just a Black Sheep” which I loved and learned to sing. I still remember most of the lyrics today. I always attributed it to one of Jimmy Rogers’ songs but now I know who wrote it. I am now eighty one, thanks for the memory.
    Bob Fulkerson.

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