22 Oct

Lather and Shave

It was down in the city not far from this spot,
Where a barber he set up a snug little shop,
He was silent and sad, but his smile was so sweet,
That he pulled everybody right in from the street.

One horrid bad custom he thought he would stop,
That no one for credit should come to his shop,
So he got him a razor full of notches and rust,
To shave the poor mortals who came there for trust.

Some time after that, Pat was passing that way,
His beard had been growing for many a day,
He looked at the barber and set down his hod,
“Will you trust me a shave for the true love of God?”

“Walk in,” says the barber, “Sit down in that chair,
And I’ll soon mow your beard off right down to a hair.”
The lather he splattered on Paddy’s big chin,
And with his “trust” razor to shave did begin.

“Ach murder!” says Paddy, “Now what are you doin?
Leave off with your tricks or my jaws you will ruin,
By the powers, you will pull every tooth in my jaw,
By jeepers, I’d rather be shaved with a saw.”

“Keep still,” says the barber, “don’t make such a din.
Quit working your jaw or I’ll cut your big chin.”
“It’s not cut, but it’s saw with that razor you’ve got,
For it wouldn’t cut butter unless it was hot.”

“Let up now,” says Paddy, “Don’t shave anymore,”
And the Irishman bolted right straight for the door,
“You can lather and shave all your friends ‘til you’re sick,
But by jeepers, I’d rather be shaved with a brick.”

Not many days later as Pat passed that door,
A jackass he set up a terrible roar,
“Now look at the barber! You may know he’s a knave,
He’s giving some devil a ‘love of God’ shave.”

We have a song this month in honor of everyone whose “pandemic beard” needs a trim! “Lather and Shave” (aka “The Irish Barber” or “The Love of God Shave”) seems to have originated in the early 19th century as a broadside ballad in England. From there it travelled to Ireland and North America where it was sung on the stage and by traditional singers in many regions including the Upper Midwest.

The above text is my own blend of two Midwestern versions: one from Bernadine Christensen of Harlan, Iowa collected by Earl J. Stout and another from Charles C. Talbot of Forbes, North Dakota collected by Franz Rickaby and printed in the collection “Folk Songs Out of Wisconsin.” My melody and chorus come from a third source: Angus “The Ridge” MacDonald of Antigonish County, Nova Scotia as recorded by MacEdward Leach (click to listen online).

22 Oct

The Hat My Father Wore

I’m Paddy Miles an Irish boy, from far across the sea,
For singing or for dancing, oh, I’m sure I can please ye;
I can sing or dance with any man as I did in days of yore,
And on St. Patrick’s Day I long to wear the hat my father wore.

Oh, it’s old but it’s beautiful and the best you’ve ever seen,
It was worn for more than ninety years on that little isle so green;
From my father’s great ancestors it descended with galore,
It’s the relic of old decency, the hat my father wore.

I bid you all good evening, good luck to you I say,
And when I’m on the ocean, I hope for me you’ll pray;
I am going to my happy home in a place called Ballymoor,
To be welcomed back to Paddy’s land with the hat my father wore.

And when I do return again the boys and girls to see,
I hope that with old Erin’s style you’ll kindly welcome me;
And sing me songs of Ireland to cheer me more and more,
And make my Irish heart feel glad with the hat my father wore.

The sheet music for “The Hat My Father Wore” was printed in New York City in 1876. The cover of that publication lists it as one of the “Popular Songs SUNG BY JOHNNY ROACH THE GREAT FACIAL ARTISTE” with words written by Daniel Macarthy. Vaudevillian Johnny Roach also had a hand in popularizing the song “Dick Darby the Cobbler” (sung by Tommy Makem and countless others) as that song was part of a larger routine he did called, simply, “The Cobbler.” Roach also sang “When McGuiness Gets a Job” which, along with both other songs, went into tradition in the north woods. It is also worth noting that “The Hat My Father Wore” and the Orangeman’s song “The Sash My Father Wore” are directly related in text and tune but it is unclear which came first.

“The Hat” was in the repertoire of Minnesota singer Michael Dean and many other north woods singers I have researched throughout the Great Lakes and Maritimes. The above melodic transcription comes from the beautiful singing of Maine/Nova Scotia singer Carrie Grover (thanks to two digitized recordings available on the Carrie Grover Project site). Grover’s melody is full of delicious deviations from the much simpler melody printed in the 1876 sheet music. The text above is my own blend of Dean’s and Grover’s.

22 Oct

The Three Dreams

John Bull he was an Englishman and went to tramp one day,
With three pence in his pocket for to take him a long way,
He travelled on for many a mile, yet no one did he see,
’Til he fell in with an Irishman, whose name was Paddy Magee.

“Good morning Pat,” said John to him, “where are you going to?”
Says Pat, “I hardly know myself, I want a job to do,”
“Have you got any money about you?” said John Bull unto Pat,
Says Pat, “It’s the only thing I’m lacking for I haven’t got a rap.”

Then they overtook a Scotchman who like them was out of work,
To judge by his looks he was hard up, and as hungry as a Turk,
“Can you lend me a shilling Scotty?” at last said Paddy Magee,
“I am sorry I canna,” said the Scotchman, “for I hae nae got ane bawbee.”

Said the Englishman, “I three pence have, what can we do with that?”
“Buy threepenny worth of whiskey!  It will cheer us up,” says Pat,
“Nae dinna do that,” said the Scotchman,  “I’ll tell you the best to do,
We’ll buy threepenny worth of oatmeal, and I’ll make some nice burgoo.”

“I think we had better buy a loaf,” the Englishman did say,
“And then in yonder haystack, our hunger sleep away,
We can get a drink of water from yonder purling stream,
And the loaf will be his in the morning who has had the biggest dream.”

The Englishman dreamt by the morning, a million men had been,
For ten years digging a turnip up, the biggest ever seen,
At last they got that turnip up, by working night and day,
Then it took five million horses, this turnip to cart away.

Said the Scotchman, “I’ve been dreaming fifty million men had been,
For fifty years making a boiler, the largest ever seen,”
“What was if for?” said the Englishman, “Was it mad of copper or tin?”
“It was made of copper,” said the Scotchman, “for to boil your turnip in.”

Said the Irishman, “I’ve been dreaming an awful great big dream,
I dreamt I was in a haystack, by the side of a purling stream,
I dreamt that you and Scottie were there, as true as I’m an oaf,
By the powers, I dreamt I was hungry so I got up and ate the loaf.”

This month we have a great “punchline” song from the repertoire of Angelo Dornan of New Brunswick. I transcribed the above from Helen Creghton’s 1956 recording of Dornan’s singing. Creighton’s collection titles the song “Johnny Bull.” Broadside versions, which date it to the latter half of the 19th century, usually use the title “Paddy Magee’s Dream” or “The Three Dreams.” A version from Donegal singer Jim Doherty titled “John Boiler” is available via the Inishowen Song Project collection on at itma.ie. I heard it sung at with great effect by Pennsylvania singer Steve Stanislaw at a session at a festival out east.

The caricature of the “Scotchman” in the song references his desire to make “burgoo.” According to Anthony Willich’s 1802 Domestic Encyclopaedia, burgoo was the name for the oatmeal porridge “eaten by mariners, and much used in Scotland.”