“May Irwin's Frog Song (The Foolish Frog, Way Down Yonder)”


"Way down yonder in Pasquotank, Where the bullfrogs jump from bank to bank, They jump so high they break their shank, The old grey goose went 'yankety-yank.'"


This is a confusing situation. I have met this chorus only once in tradition, in the form quoted above from Brown. But folkies will know it from Pete Seeger's "Foolish Frog." That is apparently a tall tale concocted by Charles Seeger based on a vaudeville item called "May Irwin's Frog Song." Hence the title I use. Beyond that I cannot trace the piece.

May Irwin was a notable popular singer who was at the height of her powers in the 1890s; In Sigmund Spaeth's _A History of Popular Music in _America__ she is credited with the song, "Mamie, Come Kiss Your Honey Boy" (pp. 265-266), and with popularizing George M. Cohan's "Hot Tamale Alley"(pp. 282, 339) as well as such songs as "I Couldn't Stand to See My Baby Loose" (p. 347) and "Mister Johnson, Turn Me Loose" (p. 285). Her biggest success of all was apparently "May Irwin's Bully Song," written by Charles E. Trevathan; it is indexed as "The Bully of the Town [Laws I14]," though most folk versions are far removed from the May Irwin original - RBW


  1. BrownIII 189, "Way Down Yonder in Pasquotank" (1 fragment); also 435, "The Dummy Line" (2 short texts; the "B" version is a mixed text that seems to be mostly this with a "Some Folks Say a Nigger Won't Steal" verse)
  2. Roud #15891
  3. BI, Br3189


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1913 (Brown)
Found in: US(SE)