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"Turkey in the Straw" is a well-known American folk song dating from the early 19th century. The first part of the song's tune may be derived from the ballad "My Grandmother Lived on Yonder Little Green" which was a derivative of the Irish ballad "The Old Rose Tree."[1] Originally a tune for fiddle players, it was first popularised in minstrel shows during the late 1820s and early 1830s by blackface performers, notably George Washington Dixon[2] and Bob Farrell.[2]


This version mentions tuckahoe (Peltandra virginica, also called green arrow arum), an edible wetland plant with long petioles:

Turkey in de straw, turkey in de hay
Turkey in de straw, turkey in de hay
Roll 'em up an' twist 'em up a high tuc-ka-haw
An' twist 'em up a tune called Turkey in the Straw

One traditional version has a chorus with these lyrics:

Turkey in the hay, in the hay, in the hay.
Turkey in the straw, in the straw, in the straw,
Pick up your fiddle and rosin your bow,
And put on a tune called Turkey in the Straw.

Another goes:

Turkey in the straw — Ha ha ha
Turkey in the hay — Hey hey hey
The Reubens are dancing to Turkey in the Straw
Hey highdy heydy, and a haw haw haw

Here, "Reubens" refers to farmers.

And another:

Turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay
Tune up the fiddle, doodle de day
With a rump and riddle and a high tuc-ka-haw
Strike up that tune called "Turkey in the Straw"

The Full Lyrics:

As I was a-gwine down the road,
Tired team and a heavy load,
Crack my whip and the leader sprung,
l seys day-day to the wagon tongue.

Turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay,
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,
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."

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.

The Wiggles and Sharon Lois and Bram use these lyrics:

Turkey in the straw—Haw haw haw
Turkey in the hay—Hey hey hey
And the old folks danced with their mother-in-law
As they danced to a tune we call "Turkey in the Straw"

Another version is called "Natchez Under the Hill". The lyrics are thought to have been added to an earlier tune by Bob Farrell who first performed them in a blackface act on August 11, 1834.

Another one goes:

Turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay,
Turkey in the straw what do you say.
Funnest thing I ever saw.
It's a little tune called Turkey in the Straw.

Harry C. Browne recorded a version in 1916 called "Nigger Love a Watermelon Ha! Ha! Ha!".[3] This version relied heavily on the offensive and widespread coon stereotype.

In 1942, a soundie titled, "Turkey in the Straw" was created by Freddie Fisher and The Schnickelfritz Band. (Directed by Sam Coslow and Produced by Josef Berne).

There are two versions to the chorus that are sung. The first goes:

Turkey in the Straw, A' Turkey in the hay,
A' Turkey in the Straw, "What did you say?"
Hay! Roll 'em, twist 'em up a high tuc-ka-haw,
Hittin' up a tune called "Turkey in the Straw."

Followed by:

A' Turkey in the Straw, A' Turkey in the grass,
A' Turkey in the Straw, "I get a kick outta this.."
Roll 'em, twist 'em up a high tuc-ka-haw,
Hittin' up a tune called "Turkey in the Straw."

In Barney & Friends they used these lyrics:

Turkey in the Straw (whistles)
Turkey in the Straw (whistles)
Hats on, boots on Yee Hah
Sing a little song called "Turkey in the Straw."

Mickey's Fun Songs and Sesame Street use these lyrics

I was a-going down a dusty road,
With a team of horses and a great big load,
It was oh such a warm and lazy afternoon,
So I tapped my toe and started singing a tune.

Dancing tonight,
Dancing tonight,
Happiest people you ever saw
Will be Dancing Together with the Turkey in the Straw

"Zip Coon"Edit

Another song, "Zip Coon", sung to the same tune as "Turkey in the Straw",[4] was popularized by Dixon and flourished during the Andrew Jackson administration. 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.[5]

"Zip Coon" has a vocal range of an octave and a minor sixth. Both the verse and the chorus end on the tonic, and both begin a major third above the tonic. In the verse, the highest note is a fifth above the tonic and the lowest is a minor sixth below. In the chorus, the highest note is an octave above the last note, and the lowest is the last note itself. The song stays in key throughout.

The song gave rise to the blackface minstrel show character Zip Coon.[6]


"Zip Coon" has many different lyrical versions. Thomas Birch published a version in 1834,[7] while George Washington Dixon published a version called "Ole Zip Coon" with different lyrics circa 1835.[8] Both Birch's and Dixon's versions keep the same chorus and the first four stanzas:

(3×) O ole Zip Coon he is a larned skoler,
Sings posum up a gum tree an conny in a holler.
(3×) Posum up a gum tree, coonny on a stump,
Den over dubble trubble, Zip coon will jump.

O Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
O Zip a duden duden duden duden duden day.
O Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.
Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day.

O ist old Suky blue skin, she is in lub wid me
I went the udder arter noon to take a dish ob tea;
What do you tink now, Suky hab for supper,
Why chicken foot an posum heel, widout any butter.


Did you eber see the wild goose, sailing on de ocean,
O de wild goose motion is a berry pretty notion;
Ebry time de wild goose, beckens to de swaller,
You hear him google google google google gollar.


I went down to Sandy Hollar t other arternoon
And the first man I chanced to meet war ole Zip Coon;
Ole Zip Coon he is a natty scholar,
For he plays upon de Banjo "Cooney in de hollar".

In subsequent stanzas, both lyricists talk about events in the life of Andrew Jackson, Birth of President Jackson's battle with the Second Bank of the United States[7] and Dixon of General Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans.[8] When the Mexican–American War broke out, Dixon published a new version of "Zip Coon" with updated lyrics pertaining to the war:

And spite of any rumors
We'll vanquish all the Montezumas![4]

The chorus "Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day" influenced the song "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" in Walt Disney's 1946 adaptation of Joel Chandler Harris' Uncle Remus tales, Song of the South.[4]

Another version of "Old Zip Coon" with new self-referencing lyrics by David K. Stevens (1860–1946) was published in the Boy Scout Song Book (1920).[9][10] Stevens' lyrics contain no direct racial references other than the title of the song itself:

There once was a man with a double chin,
Who played with skill on a violin:
And he played in time and he played in tune,
But he never played anything but 'Old Zip Coon'.

Performance historyEdit

Artistic and popular use of "Turkey in the Straw" through the years has established the song as an item of Americana.

  • "Turkey in the Straw" was Billy the Kid's favorite song.[11]
  • In 1909 the composer Charles Ives incorporated the tune, along with other vernacular American melodies, into his orchestral Symphony No. 2.[12][13]
  • According to survivors, "Turkey in the Straw" was among songs played by the band of the RMS Titanic at one point during the sinking on April 14 and April 15, 1912.[14]
  • "Nigger Loves a Watermelon" (1916) parody recorded by Harry C. Browne[15]
  • In 1920, American composer Leo Wood wrote the lyrics to Otto Bonnell's version of "Turkey In The Straw, A Rag-Time Fantasy" which was published by Leo Feist Inc., New York.
  • In 1925, American composer Joseph W. Clokey (stepfather of Gumby creator Art Clokey) wrote the choral ballad "The Musical Trust," which incorporated "Turkey in the Straw" (with a reference to "Zip Coon") and other traditional American tunes.
  • In 1926, "Turkey in the Straw" was recorded by the old-time band Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers with Riley Puckett[16].
  • In 1928, this was used as the base melody in the famous early Mickey Mouse cartoon Steamboat Willie.[17][18][19] The rendering of the tune in the cartoon is noted for being one of the first instances of successful synchronization in animated films.[20] The tune became prominent in Mickey's animated series and was used in many subsequent cartoons in the 1920s and '30s.
  • In 1942 Carson Robison performed an anti-Axis Powers version of Turkey in the Straw. [21]
  • In the video game Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind, the music used in chapters 10-12 contains a sample of Turkey in the Straw.[22]
  • The song is the base to "Wakko's America" on the hit children's TV show Animaniacs.
  • A looped segment of the song is used during the Astro Chicken minigame in Space Quest III, and used in later Space Quest games as easter eggs or whenever Astro Chicken is shown.
  • The song is one of the selectable songs in Wii Music.
  • The animated adaptation of Rosie's Walk uses "Turkey in the Straw" as incidental music.
  • Erno Dohnanyi used the tune (and also two other traditional American folktunes) in his composition American Rhapsody (1953).
  • The melody is played by many ice cream trucks;[23] in 1942 Raymond Chandler's novel The High Window, the protagonist recounts "The Good Humor man went by in his little blue and white wagon, playing 'Turkey in the Straw' on his music box".
  • The song is played in the MSX game Mouser (1983).
  • The theme music of short-lived WWF character The Gobbeldy Gooker was an instrumental rock version of the song. This version has many titles on BMI and the Uncaged X Download & Stream CD. Turkey in the Straw, Gooker, Gobblely Gooker, Gobbledy Gooker and Break an Egg upon release WWE went with Break an Egg for the release version out on Friday 10/04/2019 - 04/10/2019 at 12am UK time.
  • In the episode of Sonic Boom entitled "Don't Judge Me", during Stick's time on the witness stand during Sonic's trial, she stated that Dr. Eggman got songs stuck in people's heads. Afterwards, she sings "Well, if frogs had wings and snakes had hair, And automobiles went flyin' thro' the air...".
  • The song "Verishuvi" of the Japanese Idol group Sakura Gakuin use this melody as opening and interlude.
  • The instrumental "Hoedown" from Emerson Lake and Palmer's album Trilogy quotes the melody.
  • In 2015 Japanese singer Ai had a surprise hit with her version of the song, done for a phone commercial, called "Everyone Is a Hero" ("みんながみんな英雄"). [24]
  • "Why Don't You Love Me" by Hank Williams is based around this melody.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Linscott, Eloise H. (2011) [First published 1939]. Folk Songs of Old New England. Dover Publications. p. 244. ISBN 978-0486278278.
  2. ^ a b Studwell, William E. (1997). The Americana Song Reader. Haworth Press. p. 58. ISBN 0-7890-0150-0.
  3. ^ Browne, Harry C. "Nigger Love a Watermelon Ha! Ha! Ha!". Recorded March 1916. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Emerson, Ken (1997). Doo-dah!: Stephen Foster and the Rise of American Popular Culture. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 60. ISBN 978-0684810102.
  5. ^ "Dan Emmett – The Man Who Wrote "Dixie" by Wayne Erbsen". Archived from the original on March 17, 2010. Retrieved June 10, 2012.
  6. ^ "Blackface!". Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  7. ^ a b Birch, Thomas. "Zip Coon". University of Virginia. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  8. ^ a b Dixon, G.W. "OLE ZIP COON". International Lyrics Playground. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  9. ^ Boy Scout Song Book. Boston, Mass.: C.C. Birchard and Co. 1920. pp. 48–49 – via Internet Archive. Old American tune.
  10. ^ Stevens, D. K.; Repper, Charles. "Old Zip Coon". Brigham Young University. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  11. ^ "Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride", by Michael Wallis.
  12. ^ Georgetown University:"Charles Ives's America"
  13. ^ J. Peter Burkholder, '"Quotation" and Paraphrase in Ives' Second Symphony', 19th Century Music, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 3-25. [accessed 26 July 2013]
  14. ^ Fitch, Tad and J. Kent Layton, Bill Wormstedt (2012) On a Sea of Glass: The Life and Loss of the RMS Titanic. Gloucestershire: Amberly. p. 303
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Rimgaila Salys, The Musical Comedy Films of Grigorii Aleksandrov: Laughing Matters, p. 86, at Google Books
  18. ^ New Scientist 7 Jun 1979, p. 832, at Google Books
  19. ^ The New Illustrated Treasury of Disney Songs, p. 9, at Google Books
  20. ^ Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age, p. 55, at Google Books
  21. ^ Robison, Carson (January 1942). "1942 Turkey In The Straw Lyrics". History on the Net. Retrieved May 16, 2018.
  22. ^ Accolade (May 1993). Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind. Super NES. Accolade, Retroism. Level/area: Beavery Careful, Rock around the Croc, Claws for Alarm.
  23. ^ San Diego Reader
  24. ^

Further readingEdit

  • Fuld, James (1966). The Book of World Famous Music, Classical, Popular and Folk.

External linksEdit