"As I was standing on a corner, Not doing any harm, Along came a policeman And took me by the arm." The singer ends in prison. He watches the bedbugs and cockroaches play ball. The food is terrible: "The coffee tastes like tobacco juice"
County Jail (I), The Partial text(s) *** A *** From Emelyn Elizabeth Gardner and Geraldine Jencks Chickering, Ballads and Songs of Southern Michigan, p. 357. "Obtained in the Detention Home, Detroit... from a sixteen-year-old boy of Mohammedan faith." As I was standing on a corner, Not doing any harm, Along came a policeman And took me by the arm. I woke up in the morning And looked up on the wall. The bedbugs and the cockroaches Were playing a game of ball. I went downstairs to breakfast; The bread was hard and stale; The coffee tastes like tobacco juice In the damned old county jail. (Stanzas 1, 3, 5 of 5)
Nearly every part of this has parallels elsewhere, but the combination, particularly the bedbug/cockroach contest, seems to be unique. - RBW
Lehr/Best's tune is close to the usual one and the cockroaches and bedbugs playing ball are replaced by "a hundred and fifty bedbugs playing a game of ball." It has "coffee like tobacco juice and bread so hard as steel." Close enough for me. - BS