18 February 2014

Frog Courting Addendum

As I was writing last Friday’s blog post, All For Love, I kept thinking there should be new verses in the Frog Went A-Courtin’ folk song, verses about water ripples and bat echolocation. Since I couldn’t remember the current verses, I checked and found the song has a history that’s worthy of an addendum.

Cover of Randolph Caldecott’s 1883 book, A Frog He
Would A-Wooing Go,
from Project Gutenberg,
Wikipedia traces the song to a Scottish book printed in 1549. While there were many text versions of the ballad, the earliest musical version was 1611, The Marriage of the Frogge and the Mouse.

Frogge, Mr Frog, Froggy and Froggie are some of the names the frog has gone by, and there have been a variety of song titles. Though we in the U.S. favor “a-courting,” the British use “a-wooing.” As for my thought about adding new verses, one website has already compiled over 170 different verses to the song.

Picture from page 11 of Project Gutenberg's A Frog He
Would A-Wooing Go, Randolph Caldecott’s 1883 book.
Picture from page 16 of Project Gutenberg's A Frog He
Would A-Wooing Go,
Randolph Caldecott’s 1883 book.
Many singers have recorded the piece, including Elvis and Dylan and Springsteen. The Brothers Four’s parody about the hip Frogg heading to the Coconut Grove is the one I remember best, but probably the most popular versions were by Burl Ives and Pete Seeger.

If you followed folk music, you’ll appreciate Woody Guthrie’s recording; and country-western fans, especially those who remember Tex Ritter’s movies, will like his take. Having seen Doc Watson at a folk concert in the early 1960s not long after the Brothers Four version came out, I enjoyed his version.

An unmailed postcard with a picture from Randolph Caldecott’s
1883 book. (michelesworld.net/dmm2/frog/wooing.htm)

- Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frog_Went_A-Courting
- Words and music to earliest (1611) musical version: www.pbm.com/~lindahl/ravenscroft/melismata/mel37small.html
- Compilation of over 170 verses: home.earthlink.net/~highying/froggy/froggy.html
- English and French words to a common children’s version of the song: www.mamalisa.com/?t=fs&p=1152&c=23
- YouTube links to selected recordings of the song:
Burl Ives: www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXhO0fitW7A
Pete Seeger: www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZM4CsauUjE
Tex Ritter: www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFJLbMVgS-E
Doc Watson: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vjDMaJdQYk
Brothers Four: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QiuxyTW0kc

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