Pete Seeger - Buffalo Gals

First performance: 20/04/2006


Bruce recorded the song with The Seeger Sessions Band for his 2006 album We Shall Overcome:  The album was recorded over the course of nine years at Thrill Hill East, Springsteen's home studio in Colts Neck, NJ: During these sessions, all of the album's songs were cut live in the living room of Springsteen's farmhouse – they were not rehearsed and all arrangements were conducted by Springsteen as he and the band played them. "We were doing trapeze without a safety net," Sam Barfeld told Backstreets magazine. "He plays the song for you once, a couple of arrangement ideas. Have enough time to scrawl out a chord chart, and then boom! You record."
'Buffalo gals' was recorded during the third session  
First Session : 02/11/1997 
  • Soon after the conclusion of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's short Vote For Change Tour, Springsteen was liaising with manager Jon Landau regarding material for a potential future second volume of the Tracks boxed set. Some of the leftover material from the 02 Nov 1997 session was being evaluated and out of those discussions came the idea of releasing this session material as a stand-alone album project. "Thanks to Jon Landau for another one of his 'I think we've got something here...' phone calls," Springsteen later wrote in the liner notes of the 2006 album.  
Second Session: 19/03/2005  
There were not enough songs recorded on 02 Nov 1997 to fill an album, so the original 1997 musicians were contacted again and an additional recording session took place on 19 Mar 2005, just prior to Springsteen embarking on his Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour. Nine songs were recorded during the second session: ERIE CANAL, JOHN HENRY, O MARY DON'T YOU WEEP,  PAY ME MY MONEY DOWN, OLD DAN TUCKER, FROGGIE WENT A COURTIN', SHENANDOAH, MRS. MCGRATH, and MICHAEL ROW YOUR BOAT ASHORE. Eight of the songs recorded during this second session ended up on the album. 
Third Session: 14/01/2006
Springsteen undertook a third and final studio session following the Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour. There were eight songs recorded during the third session: JACOB'S LADDER, BUFFALO GALS, EYES ON THE PRIZE, HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING?, AMERICAN LAND, BRING 'EM HOME, IF I HAD A HAMMER (THE HAMMER SONG), and 
Bruce performed the song 21 times and 2 times as a snippet:
2008-03-07 HSBC Arena, Buffalo, NY
2006-06-19 Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY
2006-06-13 First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, Tinley Park, IL
2006-06-11 Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul, MN
2006-05-28 Nissan Pavilion, Bristow, VA
"Dirty Water", in a medley with "Buffalo Gals" with Peter Wolf joining in. 
2006-05-21 Hovet, Stockholm, Sweden
2006-05-20 Oslo Spektrum, Oslo, Norway
2006-05-17 Festhalle, Frankfurt, Germany
2006-05-16 Heineken Music Hall, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2006-05-14 Pavelló Olímpic De Badalona, Barcelona, Spain
2006-05-12 DatchForum, Milan, Italy
2006-05-10 Palais Omnisports De Paris-Bercy, Paris, France
2006-05-08 Hammersmith Apollo, London, England
2006-05-07 Manchester Evening News Arena, Manchester, England
2006-05-05 Point Theatre (The), Dublin, Ireland

2006-04-30 New Orleans Fairgrounds, New Orleans, LA
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
2006-04-26 Convention Hall, Asbury Park
Rehearsal Show
2006-04-25 Convention Hall, Asbury Park
Rehearsal Show

2006-04-24 Convention Hall, Asbury Park
Rehearsal Show 

2006-04-20 Convention Hall, Asbury Park 
Rehearsal Show
  • Snippets
Always when he was playing in Buffalo
2016-02-25 First Niagara Center, Buffalo, NY 
The set kicks off with a riff on the opening line from "Buffalo Gals": "Buffalo won't you come out tonight?".
2012-04-13 First Niagara Center, Buffalo, NY
Bruce and band, without Patti Scialfa, enter the stage with "Buffalo Gals" playing over the PA - Bruce even sings a few lines. 


The song was published in 1844 with the title "Lubly Fan". It was written by one of the first black-faced minstrels, Cool White (John Hodges). Allen and John Lomax believe it was a traditional tune, known before Cool White published the music. It was popular in minstrel shows throughout the United States and the location was changed accordingly to New York Gals, Charleston Gals, etc. Buffalo, therefore, refers to the city rather than the animal. In Collection of North Carolina Folklore, Frank Brown suggests it may have its inspiration from an English singing game, "Pray, Pretty Miss", and that the tune is close to that of an old German music hall song, "Im Grunewald, im Grunewald ist Holzauktion". Other scholars have suggested the song originated around the Erie Canal. Alternate titles of the song: "Alabama Girls", "Buffalo Gal", "Buffalo Girls", "Lubly Fan", "Portsmouth Airs", "Round Town Gals", "Round Town Girl". 
Dave Marsh's liner notes about BUFFALO GALS: 

It sounds like it's a song of the wild west but it is not. It's a song about Buffalo in the days of the Erie Canal, the Buffalo Gals being the hookers parading on Canal Street, which was lined with brothels (and, since it was the end of the Canal line, lavish corporate headquarters of rail and shipping companies). The tune, originally known as "Lubly White," and attributed to one of the first black-faced minstrels, Cool White (John White), clearly was not written by White. As "Midnight Serenade," some of the same versions and the tune appeared in print in 1839. It has been traced to an English song, "Pray, Pretty Miss," and to an older German music hall song, "Im Grunewald, im Grunewald ist Holzauktion." The Buffalo Gals lyric came about when the tune was used for a canal song, and some speculate that the words became "New York Gals," "Rochester Gals," or whatever town the canalmen happened to be passing through. In parts of Virginia and West Virginia, it's called "Round Town Gals." There was also an early hillbilly version called "Alabama Gals." Alan and John Lomax found a version called "As I Walked Down on Broadway." White copyrighted the song in 1844. Exactly a century later, it became a hit as "Dance with the Dolly." Two years later, Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed sang it while prancing down the street in It's a Wonderful Life. Almost forty years later, Sex Pistols impresario Malcolm McLaren and the World's Famous Supreme Team did a very early hip-hop version whose video featuring kids from the Bronx helped initiate the break-dancing craze of 1982.
Pete Seeger's rendition is on American Favorite Ballads

Other cover versions

Bruce on the artist

In 2006, Bruce released  the album ' We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions' . The album contains Springsteen's interpretation of thirteen folk music songs associated with Pete Seeger. The project began in late 1997 when Springsteen agreed to contribute a recording for an upcoming Pete Seeger tribute album on Appleseed Recordings. "Growing up a rock n' roll kid I didn't know a lot about Pete's music or the depth of his influence," Springsteen later wrote in the liner notes of his 2006 album. He headed to the record store, came back with an armful of Pete Seeger records, and proceeded to investigate and listen to his music.
More info on Springsteenlyrics

"As Pete and I traveled to Washington for President Obama's Inaugural Celebration, he told me the entire story of "We Shall Overcome". How it moved from a labor movement song and with Pete's inspiration had been adapted by the civil rights movement. That day as we sang "This Land Is Your Land" I looked at Pete, the first black president of the United States was seated to his right, and I thought of the incredible journey that Pete had taken. My own growing up in the sixties in towns scarred by race rioting made that moment nearly unbelievable and Pete had thirty extra years of struggle and real activism on his belt. He was ao happy that day, it was like, Pete, you outlasted the bastards, man!...It was so nice. At rehearsals the day before, it was freezing, like fifteen degrees and Pete was there; he had his flannel shirt on. I said, man, you better wear something besides that flannel shirt! He says, yeah, I got my longjohns on under this thing. And I asked him how he wanted to approach "This Land Is Your Land". It would be near the end of the show and all he said was, "Well, I know I want to sing all the verses, I want to sing all the ones that Woody wrote, especially the two that get left out, about private property and the relief office." I thought, of course, that's what Pete's done his whole life. He sings all the verses all the time, especially the ones that we'd like to leave out of our history as a people. At some point Pete Seeger decided he'd be a walking, singing reminder of all of America's history. He'd be a living archive of America's music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along, to push American events towards more humane and justified ends. He would have the audacity and the courage to sing in the voice of the people, and despite Pete's somewhat benign, grandfatherly appearance, he is a creature of a stubborn, defiant, and nasty optimism. Inside him he carries a steely toughness that belies that grandfatherly facade and it won't let him take a step back from the things he believes in. At 90, he remains a stealth dagger through the heart of our country's illusions about itself. Pete Seeger still sings all the verses all the time, and he reminds us of our immense failures as well as shining a light toward our better angels and the horizon where the country we've imagined and hold dear we hope awaits us. Now on top of it, he never wears it on his sleeve. He has become comfortable and casual in this immense role. He's funny and very eccentric. I'm gonna bring Tommy out, and the song Tommy Morello and I are about to sing I wrote in the mid-nineties and it started as a conversation I was having with myself. It was an attempt to regain my own moorings. Its last verse is the beautiful speech that Tom Joad whispers to his mother at the end of The Grapes of Wrath."

'Wherever there's a cop beatin' a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there's a fight 'gainst the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me Mom I'll be there'

"Well, Pete has always been there. For me that speech is always aspirational. For Pete, it's simply been a way of life. The singer in my song is in search of the ghost of Tom Joad. The spirit who has the guts and toughness to carry forth, to fight for and live their ideals. I'm happy to report that spirit, the very ghost of Tom Joad is with us in the flesh tonight. He'll be on this stage momentarily, he's gonna look an awful lot like your granddad who wears flannel shirts and funny hats. He's gonna look like your granddad if your granddad could kick your ass. ..

This is for Pete... "


As I was walking down the street
Down the street, down the street
A pretty girl I chanced to meet
And we danced by the light of the moon
Buffalo gals won't you come out tonight
Come out tonight come out tonight
Buffalo gals won't you come out tonight
And we'll dance by the light of the moon
I danced with a gal with a hole in her stocking
And he knees was a-knockin' and her shoes was a'rockin'
I danced with a gal with a hole in her stocking
And we danced by the light of the moon
Buffalo gals won't you come out tonight
Come out tonight come out tonight
Buffalo gals won't you come out tonight
And we'll dance by the light of the moon
I danced with a gal with a hole in her stocking
And her knees was a-knockin' and her shoes was a-rockin'
I danced with a gal with a hole in her stocking
And we danced by the light of the moon