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The song has been alleged to refer to the notorious Daniel Tucker (1575-1625) of Jamestown, Virginia, and Bermuda.The music may be from the oral tradition or may have been a product of collaboration.Musicologist Dale Cockrell argues that the song represents a transition between early minstrel music and the more European-style songs of minstrelsy's later years.Other verses appear that do not go along with the main narrative.Their lines seem to be confused jabber, due to the unfamiliar slang and products of the time. Dan Tucker is both the teller and subject of the story.Verses 1, 3, and 5 of the 1843 edition are in the first person, whereas verses 2, 4, and 7 are in the third.Musicologist Dale Cockrell argues that "Old Dan Tucker" represents a bridge between the percussive blackface songs of the 1830s and the more refined compositions of songwriters such as Stephen Foster. The melody is far superior to anything that had preceded it." The origin of the music of "Old Dan Tucker" has always been obscure, and no sheet music edition from 1843, its year of its first publication, names a composer.
Minstrels could begin leaping about at the introduction and coda, beginning the full music at the vocal section. Nathanson called it "the best of what I have denominated the ancient negro ballads.The blackface troupe the Virginia Minstrels popularized "Old Dan Tucker" in 1843, and it quickly became a minstrel hit, behind only "Miss Lucy Long" and "Mary Blane" in popularity during the antebellum period."Old Dan Tucker" entered the folk vernacular around the same time. The first sheet music edition of "Old Dan Tucker", published in 1843, is a song of boasts and nonsense in the vein of previous minstrel hits such as "Jump Jim Crow" and "Gumbo Chaff".Another version, sung by Charles Edward Carpenter—a Lawrenceburg, Tennessee business man and World War II Veteran (born in Crewstown, TN)—to his children and grandchildren in Middle Tennessee during the mid- to late 1900s speaks of Old Dan Tucker's love of a hard drink.The last line appears to have been sung in the first person ("Oh my goodness, what'll I do?