TURKEY IN THE STRAW
“Turkey in the Straw” is a well known American folk song dating from the early 19th
century. The song’s tune was first popularized in the late 1820s and early 1830s by
blackface performers, notably George Washington Dixon, Bob Farrell and George
Nichols. Another song, “Zip Coon”, was sung to the same tune. This version was first
published between 1829 and 1834 in either New York or Baltimore. All of the above
performers claimed to have written the song, and the dispute is not resolved. Ohio
songwriter Daniel Decatur Emmett is sometimes erroneously credited as the song’s
author. There are versions from the American Civil War, versions about fishing and one
with nonsense verses. Folklorists have documented folk versions with obscene lyrics
from the 19th century.
“Turkey in the Straw” is still popular today among street fiddlers and ice cream trucks. It
can be heard in many movie sound tracks; the song was already public domain by the
start of sound film, so it was extensively used. In animated cartoons it is commonly used
for suggesting farms or rural life, or old fashioned country people. Perhaps the first use of
the tune in an animated cartoon soundtrack was in Steamboat Willie.
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.
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,