Turkey In The Straw

Album: Folk Songs (1835)

Songfacts®:

  • "Turkey In The Straw" is one of the most famous and well known of American folk songs, both inside and outside of the USA. Like many folk songs, its origins are lost in antiquity, but it appears to have originated with the blackfaced minstrels of the 1820s and 1830s. Although originally an early coon song, it has been "cleaned up" over the years, "Turkey in de straw, turkey in de hay" becoming "Turkey in the hay, in the hay, in the hay," etc. There are also many different versions, including some that are not suitable for children!
  • The lyrics are different from version to version, but generally find the singer doing a series of dumb things (like milking a goat instead of a cow) or lamenting his sad state of affairs (his girl has a peg-leg and false teeth).
  • As of December 2010, the British Library catalogue listed over two dozen entries with this title - including a 1979 musical comedy, and what appears to be a 1934 arrangement of the original song "From 'way down South. Turkey in de Straw" for piano by Oscar Rasbach, which was published by G. Schirmer of New York.

    There is also "Old Zip Coon. Turkey in the Straw. Minstrel Song for Two-part Chorus," S. A. Setting by B. Treharne, published by Willis Music of Cincinnati in 1936. (Ie two songs with the same melody). The original melody was actually called "Natchez Under The Hill."

    Bryceson Treharne (1879-1948) was a classical composer, and arguably the most famous son of Merthyr Tydfil (after Timothy Evans!). After the First World War he relocated to the United States.

    Zip Coon was the alter ego of Jim Crow, another of those best forgotten racially derogatory stereotypes that persisted until well into the 20th Century.
  • Written in 2/4 or 4/4 time, "Turkey In The Straw" is probably best known both as a song and as instrumental for solo violin.
  • An earlier arrangement by Otto Bonnell, is subtitled "A Rag-Time Fantasie," copyright 1899, was transferred to Will Rossiter of Chicago, and assigned in 1904 to Leo Feist. There was a politically incorrect cover of the sheet music for that version.
  • A slightly risqué version was recorded on film by The Original Schnickelfritz Band in 1942. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for all above
  • For several decades, "Turkey In The Straw" has been the jingle that plays from the speakers of many of the nation's ice cream vans. However, following the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, many questioned why a song that was used in blackface shows had become an anthem for American ice cream.

    Arising from this, Minneapolis-based ice cream manufacturer Good Humor commissioned RZA to pen a new jingle. The Wu-Tang Clan rapper said he drew inspiration for the new jingle "from his childhood memories of chasing after ice cream trucks on Staten Island - blending traditional ice cream truck sounds with jazz and hip-hop elements."
  • The children's song "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" uses the melody for this song.

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