In this rare clip from the late 1920’s, an unknown group of musicians perform the American classic “Turkey in the Straw,” which dates back to the 19th century.
A mesh of Irish and other folk melodies, “Turkey in the Straw” was popularized in early musical minstrel shows in the 1920’s.
As its recognition grew, it would be incorporated into the American vernacular of songs, with references to it in too many places to list here.
It was the influence for the music behind Walt Disney’s “Steamboat Willie,” and is the same melody as the song “Do Your Ears Hang Low.”
“Turkey in the Straw” was so well known that it is said it was one of the songs the band played as the Titanic sank in 1912.
In this performance, it’s evident that “Turkey in the Straw” had become a song of great celebration and revelry, as seen in the mesmerizing jig captured here.
There are many lyrics attached to “Turkey in the Straw,” but some of the most popular today were contributed by bluegrass originator Bill Monroe who sang:
Well, I had an old hen and she had a wooden leg,
Just the best old hen that ever laid and egg,
She laid more eggs than any hen on the farm,
But another little drink wouldn’t do her any harm.
Turkey in the hay, in the hay, hay, hay!
Turkey in the straw, in the straw, straw, straw!
Pick ’em up, shake ’em up, any way at all,
And hit up a tune called ‘Turkey in the Straw’.