Guest Author - Chris Curtis
Turkey in the Straw History and Lyrics
Turkey in the Straw is one of America's oldest folk songs for which its origins are unrecorded. It's likely that the lyrics and the melodic tune were written by different people at different times and later melded together. Some suggest that the tune is of celtic origins either from an 18th century British air called the "Tea Rose Tree". Still others believe it to be crafted from an Irish Jig called "The Kinnegad Slashers". It's appearance in America dates back to the 1830s originating as a traveling minstrel tune called "Zip Coon" to which the black faced minstrels danced a jig.
The best known lyrics are traced to about 1864. It has become best know for its appeal as a children's sing-a-long song, but has also has been a favorite among fiddlers playing old time music. As a piano tune, it was popularized during the Ragtime era. The song endures today as a popular fiddle tune and has been frequently used in movie sound tracks and cartoon animations to convey a feeling of the rural or rustic living.
As I was a-going down the road,
With a tired team and a heavy load,
I crack'd my whip and the leader sprung,
I says day-day to the wagon tongue.
Turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay
Roll 'em up and twist 'em up a high tuckahaw
And twist 'em up a tune called Turkey in the Straw. ,
Went out to milk, and I didn't know how,
I milked the goat instead of the cow.
A monkey sittin' on a pile of straw,
A-winkin' at his mother-in-law.
Met Mr. Catfish comin' down stream.
Says Mr. Catfish, "What does you mean?"
Caught Mr. Catfish by the snout,
And turned Mr. Catfish wrong side out.
. Repeat Chorus
Came to a river and I couldn't get across,
Paid five dollars for a blind old hoss;
Wouldn't go ahead, nor he wouldn't stand still,
So he went up and down like an old saw mill.
As I came down the new cut road,
Met Mr. Bullfrog, met Miss Toad
And every time Miss Toad would sing,
Old Bullfrog cut a pigeon wing.
Oh I jumped in the seat and I gave a little yell
The horses ran away, broke the wagon all to hell
Sugar in the gourd and honey in the horn
I never been so happy since the day I was born.
Here's an interesting take on the familiar tune which has been cleverly woven into a Disney Animation and melded with the William Tell Overture. This clip was produced in 1935.