“Sweet Thing (I)”


"What you gonna do when the pond goes dry, honey, What you gonna do when the pond goes dry, baby?" Sundry verses about catching fish, rural life, and (presumably) sexual innuendo


Songs with this tune and metrical pattern turn up throughout North American tradition; like the limerick, this skeleton seems to have become a favorite framework for humorous material. - PJS

This song poses a conundrum (hinted at in Paul's comment), because it merges continuously with the "Crawdad" family; they use the same tune (at least sometimes) and ALL of the same verses. Roud lumps them. Chances are that they are the same song. But the tenor of the song changes somewhat with the presence or absence of a crawdad; after initially lumping the song, the Ballad Index staff decided to split them, based solely on mention of a crawdad. Which meant, e.g., that "The Crow-Fish Man (I)" files here even though it's clearly derived from "Crawdad." So one should definitely check all versions of both to get the complete range of material. - RBW

Well, adding to the conundrum, the version of "The Crow-fish Man" in SharpAp *does* mention crawdads, so it gets filed under "Crawdad Song." - PJS

Same tune

  • Bud & Joe Billings (pseud. for Frank Luther & Carson Robison) "Birmingham Jail #2" (Victor V-40082, 1929)

Cross references


  • Callahan Brothers, "Sweet Thing" (Decca 5952, 1941)
  • Lulu Belle and Scotty, "Sugar Babe" (Melotone 6-08-58/Perfect 6-08-58, 1936)
  • Lester McFarland & Robert Gardner, "Birmingham Jail" (Brunswick 293, 1929/Supertone S-2031, 1930)
  • (Banner 6401/Regal 8792/Conqueror 7363, 1929; probably the same as the Pickard Family's "Get Me Out of This Birmingham Jail," Brunswick 385, 1929; Supertone S-2068, 1930)
  • "T" Texas Tyler, "Sweet Thing" (4-Star 1228, n.d.)


  1. Randolph 443, "Sweet Thing" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 349-350, "Sweet Thing" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 443)
  3. Lomax-FSUSA 34, "Sweet Thing/Crawdad Song/Sugar Babe" (3 texts, 1 tune)
  4. SharpAp 245, "Sugar Babe" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Sharp/Karpeles-80E 62, "The Crow-Fish Man" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Sandburg, p. 240, "What Kin' o Pants Does the Gambler Wear" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Silber-FSWB, p. 235, "Sweet Thing" (1 text)
  8. Roud #4853
  9. BI, R443A


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1917 (Cecil Sharp collection)
Keywords: nonballad courting sex
Found in: US(Ap,So)