Monday, February 1, 2010


I’ve been humming “Froggy Went A-Courtin’” this morning, since I sang a few lines to our Baby Girl as we were playing earlier. Later when she was being entertained by the good offices and characters of Sesame Street, I did a bit of folksong research and found that the original thought is credited to a song in Scotland in the 1540’s. “The frog rode up to the myl dur.” I have no idea what business a frog would have at a mill, unless perhaps he had a taste for some nice weevil stew, but a myl dur certainly would open to reveal lots of Mousies, both ladies and gents, as they lived and nibbled and gnawed at all the wonderful grain in the mill.

The song was embellished to tell the tale of the unlikely courtship in 1611 English balladry, and it made its way to America with the pilgrims, spreading to the far corners of the country by settlers, pioneers, miners and explorers. It took hold as mainly a Southern song, and is still sung around Scout campfires and in silly church-party skits and at all sorts of children’s gatherings.

We’ve sung it on long road trips and at weenie roasts, and one night, with voices bellowing the words, the energetic gestures of several little boys threatened to fling the blazing marshmallows right off their sticks. Cub Scouts especially love belting it out (for the umpteenth time) whilst sardined into a station-wagon with a harried driver.

My favorite memory of the song is from a Delta wedding I attended many years ago. The groom was a talented musician and a member of a popular quartet at college, and the four guys secretly did a wonderful arrangement of the song as a surprise for the bride at the reception.

They sang one beautiful number as the bride sat and blushed and smiled, and after the applause, they began the Froggy song a capella, and sang about twelve verses, some of which I’d never even heard. The story took on the charm of Cinderella’s being dressed by little birds, as a happy moth tended the tablecloth and a ladybug served whiskey in a water jug, and went on from there, including the Wedding Supper of “Three green flies and a blackeyed pea.”

The four splendid voices modulated to a new key between several of the verses, swinging WAY up in runs and scales, and everyone was just captivated by the charming concert. I’ll always think of my friend’s lovely wedding surprise whenever I hear that wonderful old “Southern” song.


  1. I remember Daddy playing that on the guitar and singing it to me when I was just a wee little one along with Little Brown Jug and another about a ground hog or something.

  2. OH, Cookie!

    I've missed you from GG, and hoped all is well with you. It's good to have you back.