Songs to raise girls: Billy Barlow

I knew the song “Billy Barlow” as “Let’s go hunting”. It was one of the silly songs that we recorded. I adored this song when I was little for two reasons. One was that it was funny. The other was that I interpreted it as a song that could be changed and sung about more than one animal. I can remember when I realized that no, the adults sang it the same way each time and they would not change the animal. I was disappointed but I still loved the song. And I could change the animal on my own.

It’s a good song to raise girls: an illustration of a group of guys….

Let’s go hunting, says Risky Rob
Let’s go hunting, says Robin to Bob
Let’s go hunting, says Dan’l and Joe
Let’s go hunting, says Billy Barlow

When my son was a teen, another parent commented that the IQ dropped in half for each teen added to a group. Two boys cut the IQ in half, three had it to one quarter and four was trouble.

What’ll we hunt for, says Risky Rob
What’ll we hunt for,
What’ll we hunt for,
Let’s hunt rats, says Billy Barlow

How’ll we catch them,
How’ll we catch them,
How’ll we catch them,
Let’s borrow a shotgun, says Billy Barlow

How’ll we divide them,
How’ll we divide them,
How’ll we divide them,
How’ll we divide them, says Billy Barlow

I also loved this song because the last line changed. Sometimes Billy Barlow said the same thing and sometimes he said something different. When I was very small and still learning the song, that was part of the joy of it, to see what Billy Barlow would do. And clearly he was wicked, like Coyote or Pan or Loki and going to lead the group to trouble if he could….

I’ll take shoulders,
I’ll take sides,
I’ll take hams
Tailbone mine, says Billy Barlow

How’ll we cook them,
How’ll we cook them,
How’ll we cook them,
How’ll we cook them,

I’ll fry shoulders,
I’ll boil sides
I’ll bake hams,
Tailbone raw, says Billy Barlow

Oh, delicious ickiness, raw rat tailbone… It would give my sister and me shivers….

Let’s go hunting, says Risky Rob
Let’s go hunting, says Robin to Bob
Let’s go hunting, says Dan’l and Joe
Let’s stay home, says Billy Barlow

And relief. Billy was messing with them all the time and he doesn’t want to go and he never did, which is why he suggested a shotgun to hunt rats…. I like this Billy.

When I search on Billy Barlow, here is an entirely different song, a civil war marching song for Company B from New York City that marched into Maryland in 1863 and had a 63% loss. My sister had a civil war marching band play at her rehearsal dinner and we ended up marching in pea gravel for a couple hours. It turns out that my oldest cousin had ambitions to be a marching band drum leader. The band thought we were so funny that they offered to return. But the civil war fighters on both sides had marching bands with them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1ZlfsP7dZA

And here is Pete Seeger with our song, in a slightly different style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrgTOPufru4

And here is another site that says the song is a version of “The Cutty Wren” or “The Hunting of the Wren”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_oAPCVkMP0

The picture is my daughter. She was playing alone and was having a wonderful time with her imagination. I am not sure who took this picture…..

9 thoughts on “Songs to raise girls: Billy Barlow

  1. macmsue says:

    I enjoyed listening to this one, I’ve never heard it before. Guess it didn’t make it to Australia but I would have loved singing that with my kids.

    • drkottaway says:

      Now I want to know what songs you DID sing with your kids….

      • macmsue says:

        All the terrible ones like, “There’s a Hole in my Bucket”, “How Much is that Doggie in the Window”., “Do Your Ears Hang Low” etc I was a long time ago!!!! The little grandkids like, “Ten Little Speckled Frogs” etc the repetitious counting ones. I like the one you sang better, it had a nice little trick to it.

      • drkottaway says:

        We had a bunch of counting ones too and the old play songs like “We’re marching across the green grass” that has a game rather like London Bridge but it’s a flirt.

      • macmsue says:

        I don’t know that one but it did remind me of “This Old Man” another counting one and the kids loved the part, “Knick knack paddy whack”.

      • drkottaway says:

        We loved ones that set up terribly puns by the end or used “dam” multiple times so we could pretend we were swearing and story songs, like The Frog he would a courting go. I know two versions of that..Heiho says Anthony Rowly…

      • macmsue says:

        Yes, we sang that one too.

      • macmsue says:

        I’ve just remembered, an Australian singer, Patsy Biscoe was all the go when my kids were little so we listened to and sang heaps of her songs.

      • drkottaway says:

        I will have to check her out…. I still have my kid albums.

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