What'll We Do with the Baby-O?

This is an old time traditional tune. Typical lyrics describe in dark humor the various things you could do with a baby including: wrap him up in calico, put him in his cradle, wrap him in the table cloth, throw him in the hayloft, hang him in the tree top, give him moonshine, etc.

Notes from Jean Ritchie 2007: The "Baby-O" tune, as it's often called, is a traditional tune with some trad and many borrowed verses. In our Kentucky mountain community, the fiddle often played the tune for running sets (now usually known as 'square dancing'). Whole families went to these weekend parties at each other's houses- from grandmas down to babies-in-arms. Babies as they fell asleep would be put on a big bed in a back room, and the womenfolk took time-about watching them. To amuse them the minder would bounce the bedsprings up and down with her hands, in time to the fiddle tune in the next room, and sing the verses she knew to the old tune. Many new verses got made up that way. My mother made up the one about, "give Old Blue your chickenbone" (at dinner, sometimes the baby would be playing underneath the table, and his Mom would hand him a drumstick bone to chew on to keep him-or her- quiet). I made up the verse "Dance him north, dance him south, Pour a little moonshine in his mouth," one time while I was taking my turn being a minder at a dance. Other verses I sing,in our family version, are mine, and I also added the line to the chorus, "He/she won't go to sleepy-O."

This tune can be found is several of the old children's song books. Wouldn' it be fun at a jam session to call on different ones to make up another new verse to this hilarious tune?

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