“Bill Grogan's Goat”


Bill Grogan has a goat; "He loved that goat just like a kid." One day the goat, "Ate three red shirts from off the line." Bill angrily ties the goat to the railroad track. The goat "coughed up those shirts (and) flagged down the train."


Almost certainly based on a poem by Robert Service -- which may, however, have been based on a folk song or story. - PJS

Norm Cohen, however, makes no mention of this; he notes that the 1904 "Tale of a Shirt" (the earliest precisely dateable version) is very distinct from the common text, requiring recensional activity. The earliest traditional version seems to be Brown's, from 1913. Cohen also notes a link to a Will Hays song, "O'Grady's Goat," published by 1890.

It sounds to me as if the thing goes back into the mists of time, with periodic performers grabbing some traditional fragment and expanding it into a full-blown song.

Carson's version, incidentally, has a final verse in which the singer marries a widow and the widow's daughter marries the singer's father. It's not "I'm My Own Grandpa" -- but it's very possibly an inspiration for that song. - RBW

Cross references


  • Fiddlin' John Carson, "Papa's Billy Goat" (OKeh 4994, 1924; rec. 1923) (Okeh, unissued, 1927)
  • Uncle Dave Macon, "Papa's Billie Goat" (Vocalion 14848, 1924)
  • Riley Puckett, "Papa's Billy Goat" (Columbia, unissued, 1924)


  1. Cohen-LSRail, pp. 288-295, "Papa's Billy Goat/Rosenthal's Goat" (3 texts plus some excerpts and a sheet music cover of "The Tale of a Shirt," 2 tunes)
  2. BrownIII 514, "The Billy Goat" (1 short text)
  3. Peacock, p. 65, "Joey Long's Goat" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Spaeth-ReadWeep, pp. 140-141, "(The Goat)" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Silber-FSWB, p. 404, "Bill Groggin's Goat" (1 text)
  6. Pankake-PHCFSB, pp. 54-55, "Papa's Billy Goat" (1 text, 1 tune, with additional elements added)
  8. Roud #4574
  9. BI, SRW141


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1904 (sheet music, The Tale of a Shirt)
Keywords: animal humorous train
Found in: US(SE) Canada(Newf)