Granny, Does Your Dog Bite?

Here’s a recording of the Paint Branch Blue Boys practicing “Soldier’s Joy” on March 3, 2008:

download here

The line-up is James Key, bass; Peter Jensen, violin; Michael Sevener, banjo; Ryan Jerving, banjo ukulele and most singing; Mike Paul and Bob Smith, guitar. We never played it all the way through at the practice we recorded, so this is pieced together with parts from three different passes (and the brain of one “Abbie Normal”) into what sounds like a pretty solid performance, with some especially nice improvised bodhran/guitar playing by Mike Paul in the banjo-uke and fiddle breakdown.

The lyrics are PG-13 and are pulled, more-or-less at random, from the following collection:

General Washington and Rochambeau
Drinking with the Hessians by the fireside glow
They’re spending up their money, they’re racking up their pay
They’re never going to win the war this-a-way

So Jimmy get your fiddle out and rosin up your bow
Johnny tune your banjer up we’re gonna have a show
Pass the jug around to Kirk and McCoy*
We’re gonna have a tune called Soldier’s Joy

I’m my mother’s angel child
I’m my mother’s random child
I’m my mother’s only child
I won’t get married for a while

Rock the cradle, Lucy
Rock the cradle, high
Rock the cradle, Lucy
Don’t Let the baby die

I’m gonna get a drink, don’t you want to go?
I’m gonna get a drink, don’t you want to go?
I’m gonna get a drink, don’t you want to go?
Oh! that soldier’s joy

15 cents for the morphine
15 cents for the beer
15 cents for the morphine
Gonna take me away from here

Rooster chews tobacco
And the hen dips snuff
Baby chicks they don’t do nothing
But they sure can strut their stuff

Grasshopper sitting on a sweet potato vine
Grasshopper sitting on a sweet potato vine
Grasshopper sitting on a sweet potato vine
Along come a rooster and he says he’s mine

Chicken in a bread pan scratching that dough
“Granny does your dog bite?” “No child no”
Daddy cut his balls off a long time ago
All for the soldier’s joy

To a butcher’s block or a cobbler’s last
With dedication bend ye,
But oy! From a soldier’s awful life
Good Providence defend thee!


*  I always thought the Holy Modal Rounders (from whom I take this verse) were singing “Kirk and McCoy,” which I thought was a pretty funny contemporary reference. However, since the Rounders sessions at which this was recorded were from 1964-65, and since Star Trek wasn’t on the air until 1966…well, now I’m thinking they were just singing “Coffer and McCoy” which is from the 1957 Jimmy Driftwood version of the song. But in the best Stampfelian surrealist tradition of purposefully singing lyrics as you mishear them, I’m going to continue imagine morphine being administered medically on the Starship Enterprise while Bones plays jug (and maybe Kirk plays bones).

2 thoughts on “Granny, Does Your Dog Bite?”

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