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You can order this video from Davenport Films or from Amazon.com. It is also an "Extra" on the DVD
" Willa: An American Snow White"

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Born for Hard Luck

A portrait of the last Black medicine-show performer, Arthur "Peg Leg Sam" Jackson, with brilliant harmonica songs, tales of hoboing, buck dances, and an authentic live medicine-show performance filmed at a North Carolina county fair in 1972.

Arthur "Peg Leg Sam" JacksonBetween the Civil War and World War II, many such gifted and
restless young black musicians found careers in the traveling patent-medicine shows, a favorite entertainment in the rural and small-town South. They sang and recited comic routines and danced to attract a crowd for the pitchman and his sales of wonder-cure "snake oil."

Born for Hard Luck includes highlights from Peg Leg Sam's performance at a North Carolina county fair in 1972, the only film record of a live medicine show. It gives excerpts from his comic routines, a mock chanted sermon, "toasts," folktales, three "buck dances," and his brilliant harmonica playing and singing of "Reuben Train," "Greasy Greens," "Hand Me Down," "Who Left My Backdoor Running," and "Froggie Went A-Courting."

A rare film for Blues buffs.
Peg Leg Sam and friends
Directed by Tom Davenport and produced by
Davenport Films and the Curriculum in Folklore at UNC, Chapel Hill with
Daniel Patterson and Allen Tullos.

(29 minutes B&W)

Stream Born for Hard Luck for free at folkstreams.net - an archive of documentary films about American folk or roots culture produced by independent filmmakers.


"You look at me, you look at a man that was born for hard luck. I was born on the thirteenth day, odd day, on Friday, on a bad luck day. To show you that I is in hard luck, if I go up the street walking fast, I run over something. I'm in such hard luck, if I go up there walking slow, something run over me. I'm in such hard luck, if I'm sitting down I'm in everybody's way. I'm in such hard luck, if it's raining down soup at this very minute, everybody'd be standing there with a spoon--why, I'd have a fork. Yes sir, I was born for hard luck!"


"I don't believe the good Lord would let me live three score and ten and then kill me and throw me in a lake of fire, gnashing and gashing of teeth, and he a-looking at me. Why, ain't no need of praising him if he gonna do that. Don't never feel sorry for you. Laugh at your calamities. That's the biggest lie that's ever been told! I ain't scared of being french fried that way! No!"

  • American Film Festival -- Finalist
  • Sinking Creek Film Celebration -- Juror's Prize
  • Washington Film Festival -- Best Documentary
  • CINE Golden Eagle award
  • Athens Film Festival -- Best Documentary
  • Big Muddy Film Festival -- Judges' Award
  • Humboldt Film Festival -- Judges' Choice

Go to the Study Guide for Born for Hard Luck.

Go to the Trasncript (and References) of Born for Hard Luck.

The published16 page "Background, Transcription, and Commentary" for this video written by Daniel W. Patterson and Allen Tullos may be ordered under "Study Guides" on the Ordering Information page.