A Prairie Home Companion Camp-Song Songbook

Set 6, June 27


I think I learned this, the world's shortest song, at St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee in about 1968 or so, sometime after the death of Gregorian Chant:

I'm so lonesome
In the saddle
Since my horse died.

Any old made-up cowboy tune will do.

I took it with me to Camp Villa Jerome in Hubertus, Wisconsin. The kids loved it. Maybe they didn't want me to sing longer songs.

Easy to learn & good subject matter. MM

Joe Offer, Sacramento, CA

and

I feel an uncontrollable urge to cheat and post a second song, because I want to know if anyone knows more verses. It's from Camp Chippecotton in southeastern Wisconsin, once the camp of the Racine County Council of the Boy Scouts.

The Dummy Line

Little Willie Jones fell down the elevator
There they found him six months later
They held their noses and said, "Gee, whiz,
What a spoiled child our little Willie is."

[chorus]
Ridin' ridin' ridin' on the dummy dummy line
Rain or shine I'll pay my fine
Rain or shine I'll pay my fine
Ridin' ridin' ridin' on the dummy dummy line.

This song is a new one for me. This could be one of those make-up-your-own-verses songs. - MM


This was a popular song at Hillaway-on-Ten-Mile-Lake in Hackensack, MN which is closed in 1976. If there are any former Hillaway campers out there please let me know by contacting me at lilly003@tc.umn.edu

Sung to the tune of Edelweiss from The Sound of Music

Birch tree white, our delight
Northern symbol of beauty.
Sea foam white, sea blue bright,
Tall and stately and lovely.
Pines on the hills won't you sway and grow,
Sway and grow forever.
Birch tree white, our delight,
Guard our friendships forever.

I would like to dedicate this song to Kay Cram, director of Hillaway-on-Ten-Mile-Lake in Hackensack, MN for 44 years, from all of her campers around the world who still think of her as one of the most influential people in their life and at age 87 1/2, Kay is still actively pursuing equality for all people and quality of life for all life on this earth.

Did Norma cook for you at Hillaway? She was some cook and worked at Camp Knutson for a good 3 years. - MM

Mary Palmer Lilly

and

The Titanic song, submitted by Renee Rosengren has two more verses which i would like to share with you as well as one variation of the chorus which is especially popular with kids. Of course it is not politically correct in this decade of reverence and awe of the Titanic and its discovery, but back in the 60s, it was great fun to sing:

Oh, they sailed away from England,
And were almost to the shore
When the rich refused to associate with the poor.
So they put them down below,
Where they'd be the first to go. . .
It was sad when the great ship went down.

Chorus: oh it was sad,
Oh it was sad (TOO BAD - in speaking voice)
It was sad when
The great ship went down
To the bottom of the sea -
Husbands and wives little children lost their lives
(or...uncles and ants little children lost their pants)
It was sad when the great ship went down.

Oh the moral of the story as you can plainly see,
Is to wear a life preserver when you go out to sea.
The titanic never made it across the raging sea
(We know now it wasn't a raging sea)
It was sad when the great ship went down.
Chorus

PS the directors of Hillaway did NOT approve of this song.

I sang this song about every chance I had, at least once a week. I could never bury this song. That would be more like martyrdom. -MM


I attended Camp Whitewood, a 4-H camp in Windsor, Ohio (northeast Ohio) as a camper, counselor and staff person. It was the highlight of many summers for me and my brothers and sisters. I loved singing camp songs and continue to torture my children with them today. Here's one (with its own unique tune):

Granny's in the Cellar

Granny's in the cellar
Lordy can't you smell 'er
Making biscuits on her derned ol' dirty stove
In her eye there is some matter that keeps dripping in the batter
and she whistles while the (big sniff) runs down her nose

Down her nose
Down her nose
And she whistles while the (big sniff) runs down her nose
Hit the bottom
In her eye there is some matter that keeps dripping in the batter
and she whistles while the (big sniff) runs down her nose

Theresa Short, Saline, Michigan

Great song with hand motions and sound effects so even those who cannot sing can get in on the act. - MM


To the tune of the River Nile camp song
Which is a bit obscure but a lot of fun.

I want to throw my counselor in the Nile
So she can get eaten by a crocodile
Inlaid tooth marks on her toes
Bamboo shoots stuck up her nose
And when she marries Mr. Tall and Dark
He will throw her to the sharks
Torturing counselors in uptmost style
In my torture torture chamber on the river Nile
The river Nile

I am embarrassed to say that I wrote this song myself. I don't remember when or where, but I was in grade school at a Girl Scout camp somewhere in Southern California - possibly Camp Lakota or Camp Skyland Ranch.

I guess I didn't like my counselor that year....

Cris Carusi, Hartington, Nebraska


This is to the tune of... well... to the tune of

Ta-rah-rah-boom-dee-ay

Ta-rah-rah-BOOM-dee-ay
There is no school today
We made the teacher pay
We threw her in the bay
She swam to Monterey
And bought a Chevrolet
And then she drove away
Ta-rah-rah-boom-dee-ay!

This regional song was the traditional opening-day song of 4-H camp in the '50s near Santa Cruz, California. Santa Cruz is on the shores of Monterey Bay, and the town of Monterey is across the bay. Across the bay is a lonnnnnng way, and the water is very cold... poor teach, all that misery just to end up in a Chevy!

Ellen Chiri-Bakaleinikoff, Half Moon Bay, California


I Have a Daisy on My Toe

(Irregular tune, sometimes more irregular than others)

I have a daisy on my toe,
It is not real, it does not grow.

It's just a tattoo of a flower,
So I'll look neat, taking a shower.

I have a daisy on my toe,
It is not real, it does not grow.

It's on the second toe of my left foot,
It's got a stem, but it's got no root.
BECAUSE IT WOULDN'T LOOK GOOD!

I have a daisy on my toe,
It is not real, it does not grow...oh oh oh oh.

Tom Irby, Plano, TX

Taught to me by the greatest campfire song leader of all time - Annabelle Harn.


This song is sung to the tune of You've Got to Have Heart

It was "learned" to me by my dear friend Pam Merrill of Marino Valley, California when we were girls going to LDS Church girls camp. We went each year from 1967 through 1971. The camp was located SW of Albuquerque, New Mexico in the Manzano mountains. The camp was later closed due to some land grant disputes with the native locals. I remember the first time Pam taught me this song was at a slumber party at her house where we ate raw hamburger and crackers while laughing and singing under bed sheets.

I envision a big production number, Broadway-style, at a talent show... - MM

You Gotta Have Skin

Chorus:
You gotta have skin,
All you really need is skin,
Skin's the thing that if you got it outside,
It helps keep your insides in.

Verse:
It hangs on your nose.
And it wraps around your toes.
And inside it you put lemon meringue,
And outside you hang your clothes.

Skin is what you feel at home in (oooo-ah-oooo).
And without it further-more (oooo-ah-oooo).
Both your liver and ab-do-men (oo-oo-oo-oo)
Would be lying on the floor (Not to mention your intestines)

Repeat Chorus.

Tommie Sue Woolley, Tucson, Arizona

P.S. Don't eat raw hamburger anymore, okay? And don't try that at home. - MM


I'm breaking the rules (I prefer to call it "coloring outside the lines") by sending you a second camp song, but I just remembered this one. I haven't seen it in camp-song book so far and it's a good'un. It's from 4-H camp near Santa Cruz, California.

It starts to the tune of My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean:

My stomach is in a commotion,
my head's hanging over the rail,
I don't want to dirty the ocean
O someone please bring me a pail!

Come up, come up,
Oh come up sweet dinner
Come up, come up!
Come up, come up,
Oh come up sweet dinner
Come up!

Then changes to the tune of Ol' Black Joe (S. Foster)
for the second part:

(softly and distantly)
I'm coming... I'm coming...
for my head is bending low...
I hear their gentle voices calling...

(shouted)
Hasten, Jason, bring the basin!
OOP!! SLOP!!!!

(resignedly)
Bring the mop...

You really have to do this aloud with a group of six- to 10-year-olds to appreciate it. Even better if you *are* a six- to 10-year-old!

And I promise I won't send another song, but is it possible that no one has sent the one about B-I-N-G-O the dog? Or the one about How I wish I were a little bar of soap, so I'd slippey and I'd slidey over everybody's hidey...?!?

Ellen Chiri-Bakaleinikoff, Half Moon Bay, California


Our family used to sing in the car - especially at night on long drives "up North" or on "deer rides" (evening drives to spot deer). Many of our favorites are already in the songbook but here are some more .

A true classic here in the Upper Midwest - MM
John Johnson

(Pronounced Yon Yonson, as anybody from the North Central States would know)

My name is John Johnson, I come from Wisconsin (Visconsin), I work
(vork) in the lumberyard there -

All the people I meet when they walk down the street say, "Hey, What's
your name? and I tell 'em:

My name is John Johnson I come from Wisconsin I work in the lumberyard
there etc. etc. etc.

and:

I had a dream dear
You had one too.
My was the best one
Because it was of you.
Come sweetheart tell me
Now is the time.
You tell me your dream,
And I'll tell you mine.

Meril Yu


Yawning in the Morning
Tune: Roamin' in the Gloaming

Yawning in the morning when the rising bell has rung.
Yawning in the morning when the dawning day's begun.
And when our dip is o'er, and we've had good food once more
Then we're happy yawning in the morning.

This song was written in 1940 and is often sung in the dining room after breakfast at Camp Loons on the Lake. Songs like this one are sung while waiting for all the tables to finish eating and be cleared -- just prior to the inevitable and sometimes interminable Announcements.

Beets McMahon


I wrote these lyrics to "Billy Boy" to amuse myself during last fall's elections, with a couple of later updates. I am a Clinton supporter and campaign contributor, but, alas, also a liberal, trying to come to terms with the "New" Democratic Party. I've never sung these words aloud and never intended to share them with anybody, but this could be a camp song for obsolescent liberals, if there were enough of us left to constitute a camp.

ODE TO BILLY J.

Oh where do you stand, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Oh where do you stand, Charming Billy?
I stand where I need to stand
To please the people of the land,
But I want you to know I loved my mother.

Are you a liberal, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Are you a liberal, Charming Billy?
No, I am a pragmatist,
Swaying as the boat does list.
I can steer the ship of state without a rudder.

What about the Army gays, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
What about the Army gays, Charming Billy?
Oh I think they'll do quite well
If we just don't ask, don't tell,
And they never openly love one another.

What about health care reform, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
What about health care reform, Charming Billy?
Forget it; it is dead,
Let's reform welfare instead.
Poor folks should work to get themselves out of the gutter.

And what should we do next, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
And what should we do next, Charming Billy?
Well, I think that we should get
All children on the Internet,
Even though it may turn their brains to butter.

What will be your legacy, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
What will be your legacy, Charming Billy?
An economy that's strong,
Admitting slavery was wrong,
Scandals? Bah! They won't rate even a mutter.

Roberta Lathram, Fairfield, OH

I could lead this song, and with conviction - MM


I could be a "good" adult Girl Scout and send you one of the many cute graces Girl Scouts sing, but instead I'll send a fun one. Just add campfire and girls. I have sung this with girls in varying places from in cars en route to trips, to stuffing plastic Easter eggs with candy for a service project (big sacrifice, they were forced to eat some candy in the process), and at Camps Tweedale and Tohikanee of Freedom Valley Girl Scout Council (home office in Valley Forge, PA).

God Bless My Underwear
Tune: God Bless America

God bless my under wear, my only pair
Stand beside them and guide them
Through the wash and the wear and the tear.
Through the washer and the dryer
Or the clothesline, back to me
God bless my underwear, my only pair
God bless my underwear, my only pair.

and

Itsy Bitsy's Birthday

The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the birthday cake.
Itsy bitsy quickly learned he'd made a big mistake.
He climbed up on the candle before the cake was cut.
The itsy bitsy spider, he burned his little butt!

anon.


I went to Camp Pemigewasset (Wentworth New Hampshire) as a boy- the
oldest US camp under single family ownership.

It has a wonderful songbook written decades ago.The lyrics run the
gamut from silly to soulful. One beautiful example:

The Campfire Song

If I live to be nearly a hundred
And every year one of joy,
I wonder if I shall remember
The times when as a boy
I sat by the campfire at Pemi
With a group of the nation's best
As the moon drifted low o'er the hillside
And finally dropped in the West.

And I wonder if anyone's better
For anything I've done or said.
And whether good will of the heart
May offset mistakes of the head.
And perhaps when life's memories are gathered
The camp ones will be with the rest
As the moon drifts low o'er the hillside
And finally drops in the West.
(A lovely song in 3/4 time and beloved by the campers)

Tricia & James Dehls


Well those Lutheran camp songs are pretty tame. Here's one my wife won't let me sing to our one-year-old daughter for fear she might learn it and then (heaven forbid!) repeat it.

The Boarding House

In the boarding house where I lived
Everything was green with mold.
Grandma's hairs were in the butter -
Silver threads among the gold (among the gold!).

When the dog died we had hot dogs.
When the cat died, catnip tea.
When the landlord died, I left there -
Spare ribs were too much for me (too much for me!).

and

Here's most of a song (all I remember now, anyway) that was top of the hit parade when I was in 7th grade. I remember the tune, too.

My momma told me long long ago,
"Son don't you marry any old gal you know.
She'll spend all your money, wear all your clothes.
What will become of you the good Lord only knows!"
BOOM BOOM - BOOM BOOM - BOOM - BOOM - BA BOOM BOOM
If you'll be M-I-N-E mine I'll be T-H-I-N-E thine
and I'll L-O-V-E love you all the T-I-M-E time
you are the B-E-S-T best of all the R-E-S-T rest
and I'll L-O-V-E love you all the
T -- I -- M -- E T-I-M-E time,
Rack 'em up stack 'em up any ol' time
Match in the gas tank - BOOM BOOM!

Dr. James M. Coggins, Chapel Hill, North Carolina


Set 1 - Set 2 - Set 3 - Set 4 - Set 5 - Set 6 - Set 7 - Set 8 - Set 9 - Set 10

Camp-Song Songbook

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

Old Sweet Songs

Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

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