I Know a Boarding-House

DESCRIPTION: "I know a boarding-house Not far away Where they have ham and eggs Three times a day." "Lord, how those boarders shout..." "Lord, how those boarders yell When they hear that dinner-bell!"
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1927 (Harbin-Parodology) for the "organ peeled potatoes" verse; 1938 (recording, Uncle Dave Macon) for the rest
KEYWORDS: food home humorous nonballad derivative campsong
REFERENCES (6 citations):
Randolph 479, "I Know a Boarding-House" (1 text)
Pankake/Pankake-PrairieHomeCompanionFolkSongBook, "At the Boarding House Where I Live" (1 text, tune referenced); also p. 190, "While The Organ Pealed Potatoes" (1 text, tune referenced)
Harbin-Parodology, #69, p. 23, "While the Organ Peeled" (1 text); #116, p. 35, "Our Boarding House" (1 short text, tune referenced)
Averill-CampSongsFolkSongs, pp. 98, 168, 237, 285, "At the Boardinghouse Where I Lived"/"At the Boardinghouse"/"While the Organ Peeled Potatoes"/"Our Boarding House" (notes only)
ADDITIONAL: _Sing Out_ magazine, Volume 42, #2 (1997), p, 120, "Country Ham and Red Gravy" (1 text, 1 tune, a slightly cleaned-up transcription of the Dave Macon version)

Roud #7636
Uncle Dave Macon, "Country Ham and Red Gravy" (Bluebird 7951, 1938)
cf. "There Is a Happy Land" (tune, form)
cf. "Silver Threads Among the Gold" (tune)
cf. "The Barefoot Boy with Boots On" (floating lyrics)
NOTES [136 words]: This is one of those composite songs -- the key element is humorous verses to the tune of "Silver Threads." The most common verse -- shared with "The Barefoot Boy" -- is "while the organ pealed potatoes"; my father learned this from a substitute teacher in Detroit around 1941.
Dave Macon copyrighted his "Country Ham and Red Gravy" version of this song, which does indeed seem to be a rewrite (rather racist), but it's clearly from the same roots. Though he may have supplied the tune, also known as "New Five Cents."
Laura Ingalls Wilder printed a stanza of this in By the Shores of Silver Lake, chapter 4. If she actually heard it then, it would date the song from 1879. But, of course, she was writing half a century later, and her work is much fictionalized anyway, so that's not a very trustworthy date. - RBW
Last updated in version 6.3
File: R479

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