A Prairie Home Companion Camp-Song Songbook

Set 7, June 28


This is a song my Dad taught me when I was a boy and we were traveling the 12 hours or so from Rochester, NY to Cadillac, MI to visit his family. I have no idea where he got it from; probably his parents or siblings, as they were and are a musical bunch of characters. The tune is unique to the song as far as I know, and is in 3/4 time. The second and third verses are variations on the first verse, and I assume are meant to make the short song a bit longer and more interesting.

The Poor Old Slave

1. The poor old slave has gone to rest, we know that he is free;
His bones they lie, disturb them not, way down in Tennessee.

2. The pee-or old slee-ave has gee-one to ree-est, we knee-oh that hee-oh
is free-oh-free-free;
His bee-ones they lee-eye, dis-tee-urb them nee-ot, way dee-own in
Tee-ennessee-oh-see-see.

3. The piggety-pag-poor old sliggety-slag-slave has giggety-gag-gone to
riggety-rag-rest,
we kniggety-nag-know that higgety-hag-ho is free-oh-free-free;
His biggety-bag-bones they liggety-lag-lie, dis-tiggety-tag-turb them
niggety-nag-not,
way diggety-dag-down in Tiggety-tag-tennessee-oh-see-see.
Ah-miggety-men!

Bryan Cass, Charlotte, VT


Camp Loons on the Lake: At this girls-only camp, sailing was a BIG item... only C-scows and Snipes (like X's) from the 50's to at least the mid-80's. Each boat had it's own "fight song" which was sung lustily prior to the weekly Sunday afternoon regattas. In addition to these, there were some general, all-boat sailing songs of which this is one...

Tune: What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor?

Wind over port and the sails a' flyin';
Gulls overhead, you can hear 'em cryin';
Rolling waves as the bow arises;
Skipper man your tiller.

Chorus:
Feed, hoist, up the sails go.
Feed, hoist, up the sails go.
Feed, hoist, up the sails go,
As we're sailing onward.

Wind, wind fill our sails;
We'll hike out in your gales.
Jib set, the crew is ready;
Skipper, man your tiller.

Chorus:

I imagine you'll get some great entries. Anxious to listen to the July 5 broadcast.

Molly De Haven, Hayward, WI

I hope you had pirate, sailor, or mermaid outfits for the Sunday afternoon regattas. - MM


My son just recently attended Boy Scout day camp and learned this song. He thought it was great. I told him that I learned it when I went to camp 30 years before him and them also sang it for 4 years each fall when the band would travel by bus to football games. I do not know the name of the tune but I can sing it or write the syllable name for the tune.

Three Fishermen

There were three jolly fish-er-men
There were three jolly fish-er-men
Fisher fisher men men men)
Fisher fisher men men men
There were three jolly fish-er-men

The first one's name was I-I-saac
The first one's name was I-I-saac
I-I-saac saac saac
I-I-saac saac saac
The first one's name was I-I-saac

The second one was Ja-a-cob
The second one was Ja-a-cob
Ja-a-cob cob cob
Ja-a-cob cob cob
The second one was Ja-a-cob

The third one's name was A-bra-ham
The third one's name was A-bra-ham
A-bra A-bra ham ham ham
A-bra A-bra ham ham ham
The third one's name was A-bra-ham

They all went down to Am-ster-(shh)
They all went down to Am-ster-(shh)
Am-ster Amster (shh) (shh) (shh)
Am-ster Amster (shh) (shh) (shh)
They all went down to Am-ster-(shh)

I must not say that naugh-ty word
I must not say that naugh-ty word
Naugh-ty naugh-ty word word word
Naugh-ty naugh-ty word word word
I must not say that naugh-ty word

I'm goin' to say it an-y-how
I'm goin' to say it an-y-how
An-y an-y how how how
An-y an-y how how how
I'm goin' to say it an-y-how

They all went down to Am-ster-dam*
They all went down to Am-ster-dam
Am-ster Am-ster dam dam dam
Am-ster Am-ster dam dam dam
They all went down to Am-ster-dam

*When this syllable (word) is sung it is really shouted . The fun of the song is right here.

Patricia J. Martin, Lancaster, PA


I remember learning this song in fourth grade, before a class trip to Long Lake Conservation Camp. I remember it to this day because it was my absolute favorite, taught to me by one of my favorite childhood teachers... I don't know if it was sung to a different song or if it had it's own music... I just know the melody.

The Cannibal King

Oh, the Cannibal King with the big nose ring
Fell in love with the dusting maid,
And every night, in the pale moon light,
It sounded like this to me:

Aaroomp! *kiss* *kiss*
Aaroomp! *kiss* *kiss*
Aaroomp-ba-de-ah-de-aa,
Aaroomp! *kiss* *kiss*
Aaroomp! *kiss* *kiss*
Aaroomp-ba-de-ah-de-aa.

In years to come they married
And raised a family
And every night, in the pale moon light,
It sounded like this to me:

Aaroomp! "Ma Ma!"
Aaroomp! "Pa Pa!"
Aaroomp-ba-de-ah-de-aa,
Aaroomp! "Ma Ma!"
Aaroomp! "Pa Pa!"
Aaroomp-ba-de-ah-de-aa.

(melody changes, barbershop trio style)

We'll build a bungalo
Big enough for two
Big enough for two, my honey
Big enough for two
And when we're married
Happy we'll be
Under the bamboo
Underneath the bamboo tree.

If you'll 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 time

Rack-em-up, stack-em-up, any old way
(to Shave and a Haircut) Match in the gas tank
Boom! Boom!

Dan Becker, St. Paul, Minnesota


When you're in the Boy Scouts - in New Hampshire - in a troop sponsored by a Catholic church - your outlook on live tends to lack a little sophistication. Might even be described as Wobegonean. Thus, life was breathed into this camp fire classic:

National Embalming School
(Sung to the tune of O, Tannenbaum - mostly)

We live for you, we die for you,
National Embalming School.
We do our best to give you rest,
National Embalming School.

And when you die we dig a whole
And slip you in to turn to mold.

We live for you, We die for you,
National Embalming School.

(Music for the bridge is ad-libbed)
Cut the gut and have a drink.
There's got to be a reason.
Golly how the body stinks,
It must be out of season.

(This next part of the bridge is sung to A Hunting We Will Go)
Postmortem! Postmortem! Postmortem!
Autopsy we must have!
Postmortem! Postmortem! Postmortem!
Autopsy we must have!

(Close with refrain:)
We live for you, We die for you,
National Embalming School.

Jerry Vaillancourt, Wethserfield CT

Can't say that I've seen many camp songs with three melodies. - MM


Official name and tune unkown

She stood on her head and she smoked her cigar,
smoked her cigar,
smoked her cigar,
she stood on her head and she smoked her cigar,
smoked her cigar.

This song or this part of this song is all I can remember from my old Boy Scout days in Romulus Michigan. We used to sing it in the bus or on the troop carrying trucks that our leader would get to take us camping. I know there is more to it but can't call it up. Maybe there are other scouts out there that remember this song and can help with the other verses and perhaps the tune. We were in Joe Martinez's troop and had a great time.

Tim Thomas, Fort Worth Texas


This is a naughty song we sang at fraternity campfires (called "blanket parties") at the University of Minnesota. I don't think it could be sung on PHC, though. I think the tune is the Missouri Waltz.

Mary Margaret Truman is the daughter of the Pres
She lives in the White House with her ugly mother Bess
Her social rating is not worth debating
For she is a member of Phi Beta Phi
When her father Harry gets the gate in forty-eight
Mary Margaret Truman will be left without a date
She'll move to Missouri and work in a brewery
So let's all drink beer!

I think we were all Democrats, too!

Lorraine Edwardson Van De Riet, Palo Alto, CA
(But my heart's still in Minnesota!)

This tradition lives on at some of the fraternity houses here; same song too. - MM


Each line is repeated , adding the next (like the way 12 days of Christmas is done, not that tune.)

one hen -
two ducks -
three squawking geese -
four limerick oysters -
five porpoirly porpoises -
six pair of dona verses tweezers
(boldly) seven thousand macedonians in full battle array
eight brass monkeys from the ancient sacred crypts of Egypt -
nine apathetic, sympathetic, diabetic old men on roller skates, with a
marked propensity toward procrastination and sloth-
ten lyrical, spherical, diabolical denizens of the deep, who stall around the
qwai of the quo at the quay all at the very same time.

beep - beep!!

ja vell, ay hope yoo could yoose dis tiny ditty , ay learnt it from a college roommate turty years ago. ve sang it on roadtrips and around campfires. you betcha!!

Lance Sorensen

A good, long song for a rainy day songfest. - MM


Bill Bailey and I wrote these lyrics back in 1968 for our jug band to perform at a "talent" show at Camp Carolina in Brevard, NC. It became part of the camp's standard repertoire, and when my wife and I visited about ten years later, I was handed a guitar and the lyrics and "forced" to sing for our lunch. The song is performed with guitar accompaniment (chords G, C, and D) in the style of Woody Guthrie's "Talking Blues."

The Old Man of the Mountain is an award for good behavior. First-time campers were presented a canoe paddle with the camp logo, and returnees had their paddles branded during the weekly campfire. We were pretty liberal with this award, if my memory serves me.

I think Woody would approve. (Arlo too.) - MM

Talking Camp Carolina Counselor Blues

If you want to get to Heaven, everybody knows,
You go to Brevard and take a left at Joe's.
You drive down the road and pretty soon
Your car gets drenched by a water balloon.
And you know you're there ... heaven ... better known as ... Camp Carolina

Carolina's a camp just for boys.
Lots of fun, lots of noise.
Ol' Nath Thompson owns the place;
He's the guy with the honest face.
Actually, he's a dirty old man ... takin' money from kids.

I asked ol' Nath if he'd gimme a job.
He said he don't hire no common slob.
If I'd shave my beard and wash my feet,
He said he'd pay me fifteen bucks a week.
Thanks, Nath ... now I'm a counselor ... Yippee!

Ol' Nath asked me what I could do.
I said I drank a little beer, smoked some, too.
He said, 'Naw, I mean what can you teach?"
Told him I was a lifeguard at Myrtle Beach.
He put me on the waterfront ... joke's on him ... I can't swim!

The boys in my cabin couldn't a 'been worse;
They'd yell an holler and scream an curse.
I said, "Hey boys, I'm your counselor here."
Then I ducked a brick, got kicked in the rear.
Cute kids ... "boys will be boys" ... famous last words.

I thought I'd have to resort to shoutin',
But then I thought of the Old Man of the Mountain.
I figured that would get 'em rattled;
Then a kid hauled off and hit me with his paddle.
'A useful instrument in a boy's hands" ... darned kid broke it over my head.

Come Friday night and I was ready for leave;
I figured I was due a reprieve.
I thought I'd find me a pretty girl
And take in some of the social whirl
In Brevard? ... Hendersonville? ... Rosman?

I got in my car and drove around,
All up and down old Breevard Town.
Asked a guy on the street, 'Where are the girls?"
She smoothed her mustache and fluffed her curls.
Said, "Here I am."... looking good ... braided armpits.

I drove back to camp, thoroughly defeated,
Climbed into bed. I'd been short-sheeted!
Now camp is really great for a guy.
Gives boys a chance to see a grown man cry.
It's enough to drive me to ... Naw, I can't do that.

If you want to get to Heaven, everybody knows,
You go to Brevard and take a left at Joe's.
You drive down the road and pretty soon
Your car gets drenched by a water balloon,
And you know you're there ... heaven ... better known as ... Camp Carolina.

John Benbow, Concord, NC


At Camp Loy White in the foothills of North Carolina, the Camp Director used to make up songs for blessings or sing-alongs dependent on the happenings of the day. For instance, when everybody was sunburned from a trip to the lake, the blessing that night was:

To the tune of the Doxology

Thank God for sun and sun tan oil.
Thank God for crabs and shrimp to boil.
Thank God we spent the day in fun.
May our sunburns be minor ones. AMEN.

Mike S-R, Pearl, MS


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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