“Song of an Old Time Jailbird”


"I went down town and got on a whiz... the polie nabbed me and put me in the pokey Way out in the middle of town." The singer complains of bad air, bad food, rats as big as whales, "clinches so old, they had to wear specs"; he vows to stay away from town


This is one of those songs where a lot of the lines seem familiar (though the bit about the clinches wearing spectacles an walking with canes seems unique). The combination, however, is unfamiliar. Shellans compares the tune to "Little Brown Jug." Given that he had the song from John Daniel Vass, who definitely fiddled with a lot of songs, I have to suspect that this is a Vass recreation.. - RBW

Cross references

  • cf. most other prison songs, especially "The County Jail (I)" (theme of hard times in prison and the dangers posed by bugs)


  1. Shellans, pp. 72-73, "Song of an Old Time Jailbird" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Roud #7324
  3. BI, Shel072


Author: (very possibly assembled by John Daniel Vass)
Earliest date: 1958 (collected by Shellans from John Daniel Vass)
Found in: US(SE)