Buddy, Stay Off That Wine

That unmentionable object bobbing around in the SA wine spittoon is the problem of endemic alcohol abuse in rural communities, especially farm workers in the Western Cape. The issue will shortly come to a head as BAWSI, the Black Association of the Wine and Spirits Industry, is demanding government and the industry establish a fund to deal with the problem and is threatening legal action if nothing happens.

A recent publication Paying the Tab (Princeton, 2007) by Philip Cook, professor of public policy at Duke University, challenges the model of alcoholism as a disease – a socially useful interpretation for producers as they can ramp up production with a clean conscience while the afflicted go for treatment without stigma. Cook discusses recent sociological research that proposes that alcoholics are just one tail of an alcohol consumption distribution with teetotalers the other (usually larger tail).

He proposes a simple supply side solution – raise sin taxes. Increased alcohol excise taxes will decrease consumption which will ameliorate the abuse problem. As the blurb for his book puts it “the scientific evidence that has accumulated over the last twenty-five years of economic and public-health research, demonstrates that higher alcohol excise taxes and other supply restrictions are effective and underutilized policy tools that can cut abuse while preserving the pleasures of moderate consumption.”

Which is bad news indeed for producers, battling to raise per capita consumption from a lowly 9 litres per annum to the more Luxemburgian levels of 66, or even the French at 48½. Listening to a recording of Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio program devoted to the thorny issue of “drink”, I came across the perfect anthem for BAWSI in their struggle to reduce alcohol dependence. Sung with gusto by Betty Hall Jones, I transcribed the 1949 recording of Buddy, stay off that wine as I couldn’t find the lyrics anywhere on the internet.

bhj Buddy, Stay Off That Wine

Buddy, stay off that wine – by J. Rogers

Now drinking wine is an old, old thing
You’ve heard that all the queens and even the king of Egypt
Used to sip it now and then
But they didn’t get drunk and fall on the floor
And turn round and run smack into a door
Like some of these modern wine drinking men

They drank their wine from a silver mug
And not somebody’s old two-bit jug
And they always knew when they had had enough
And the wine they drank was mighty fine
Just like the juice right off the vine
Not anything like this new green stuff

Chorus: Buddy stay off of that wine
Although it makes you feel mighty fine
You can drink gin and beer (that’s good)
You can drink liquor aged in wood
But buddy stay off of that wine

Now I saw a fellow the other day
Mooching everybody got in his way
And I could tell that boy wasn’t well
So I took him into a joint
To buy him a drink and I ordered and shot
And what do you think
That character up’d and ordered muscatel

I said boy, you’re gonna lose your mind
If you keep on drinking that two-bit wine
Your’re gonna land up in the gutter as sure as…, well
He got up with a stupid grin
And used his sleeve to wipe his chin
And when he walked away, he almost fell


Now nobody’s gonna call you a sinner
If you have a glass or two before dinner
And nobody’s gonna say that you were out of line
But if you’re a man who like to drink
And don’t want to get so you can’t think
Remember buddy, stay off of that wine

Cos when you get to craving that stuff
It means you’ve had more than enough
And then you’re right on the danger line
So when you start to buy a drink
Stop… think…
Remember buddy, stay off of that wine


Now if you don’t want to hasten your decline
To that little box of pine
Remember buddy, stay off that wine

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