Various Versions Of The "Hambone" Song (information, lyrics, & YouTube examples)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post presents information about the "Hambone" song and text (lyric) examples of various versions of "Hambone".

This post particularly focuses on examples of "Hambone" that either include "Hush Little Baby Don't You Cry" ("Mockingbird") verses or "Frog Went A' Courting" verses.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the featured artists and the publishers of these YouTube examples.
This post is part of an ongoing series about the "Hambone" song and percussive body patting activity.

Click for a 2011 pancocojams post on Hambone (pattin juba) beat and body percussion.

Click the tag below for other pancocojams posts that are also part of an ongoing series on "Hambone".

These comments and song examples are given in no particular order and are numbered for referencing purposes only.

The "Song Example" title and the numbers that are assigned for the text (lyrics) examples of this song which are included in this post are given for the purposes of this blog post and aren't included in the source material that is quoted. I've written these examples with numbers in italics to differentiate those numbers from the remainder of those comments.

Excerpt #1:
From Step It Down: Games, Plays, Songs & Stories from the Afro-American Heritage, edited by Bessie Jones and Bess Lomax Hawes, (University of Georgia Press, originally published in 1972, 1987 edition), pages 34-35

"You just say it, and then you say it with your hands

"Hambone" probably refers to the part of the anatomy most involved in playing this hand jive game, though there is undoubtedly more to it than that. Most young black men, I find, know it in one version or another.

"Hambone" may be performed alone or with a group all jiving together. While the rhyme is being said, the players slap their thighs, lightly on the offbeat. After each line of the poem, they pat in the following rhythm [a drawing of musical notes is included here.] ...

The "patting" may be done on one side of the body only, using the right hand or thigh; or on both sides at the same time in parallel motion. The triplet phrase is done as follows:

1. Slap the side of the thigh with the palm of the hand in an upward brushing motion.
2. Continuing the upward brushing: strike the side of the chest with the palm of the hand.
3. Strike the thigh downward with the back of the hand.

Song Example #1

Hambone Hambone pat him on the shoulder
If you get a pretty girl, I'll show you how to hold her.
Hambone, Hambone, where have you been?
All 'round the world and back again.
Hambone, Hambone, what did you do?
I got a train and I fairly flew.
Hambone, Hambone where did you go?
I hopped up to Miss Lucy's door.
I asked Miss Lucy would she marry me.
(falsetto)"Well I don't care if Papa don't care!"
First come in was Mister Snake,
He crawled all over that wedding cake.
Next walked in was Mister Tick,
He ate so much it made him sick.
Next walked in was Mister Coon,
We asked him to sing us a wedding tune,
Now Ham-....
Now Ham....

Pat thigh on the offbeat while the rhyme is being recited. (The first two lines have been underscored on the offbeat as an example.) At the end of each line of the rhyme, do the hambone "pat" as previously described."
Note: The lyrics in this excerpt are given as Example #1 of "Hambone" in this pancocojams post.

Bessie Jones - Hambone

WallakAt, Published on May 26, 2012
I remember reading somewhere that Bessie Jones said that the "Hambone, hambone where you been/round the world and back again" verse was about an actual bone with ham meat that was re-used [in a soup] over and over again because people were poor. However, I can't find where I read that statement. I offer this theory for the "record" and not because I necessarily believe it is true.

However, in this example of the song "Hambone", and in other examples, "Hambone" appears to be used as a person's (probably male) nickname.

Excerpt #2:
From "Re-creating Hambone, Body Music of the Past" by Glenn Collins, Published: July 18, 1987
..."The body music called hambone is made by using the hands to slap the thighs and the chest muscles. ''I guess lots of people have never seen it,'' said the 23-year-old Mr. [Derique] McGee of the art of hambone. ''Sometimes I'm asked if I invented it.''

In fact, hambone "is a living bit of black history, a neglected part of our heritage that flourished in minstrel shows and vaudeville,'' he said ...

According to Dr. Joseph Boskin, professor of history and Afro-American studies at Boston University, Mr. McGee's efforts to revive hambone "are representative of a growing movement in America to keep alive elements of black culture that have survived through the generations."

Like rap music, which has been traced to African roots,the rhythmic patting motion of hambone has its origin in West African dance, ''where movement was a form of communication and religious ceremony,'' said Professor Boskin. It ''was refined in the plantations,'' he added. 'A Lost Art' to Be Preserved�.


Although the etymology of the word hambone is debated, "It makes sense that the word comes from hitting your thigh, your hambone," said Mr. McGee."..

Excerpt #3
Subject: Lyrics Req. Hambone

Subject: RE: Lyrics Req. Hambone
From: Stewie
Date: 26 Jan 00 - 07:39 PM

"There's a version recorded on a lovely CD: Various Artists 'Georgia Folk: A Sampler of Traditional Sounds' Global Village Music CD 03. It is performed by Ray Favors - with body patting, mouth popping etc - and was recorded by Dave Evans in 1970."

Song Example #2


Hambone, hambone have you heard
Papa gonna buy me a mockingbird
If that mockingbird don't sing
Papa gonna buy me a diamond ring
If that diamond ring don't shine
Papa gonna buy me a nanny goat
It that nanny goat don't rate
Papa gonna whup my boom-de-yay

Hambone, hambone where you aye (?)
In the chicken house cookin' rye
Hambone, hambone where you bin
Round the world and I'm goin' agin

Subject: RE: Lyrics Req. Hambone
From: Bill in Alabama
Date: 26 Jan 00 - 08:41 PM

"I was taught to hambone by friends who worked as "delivery boys" for a small neighborhood grocery store in Chattanooga, where you could telephone in your grocery list and have the goods delivered to your back door. The verses floated in from many other songs, I'm sure. A couple that I recall were "Hambone, Hambone, where ya been? Around the world and I a-goin' again. What you gonna do when you get back? I'm gonna take a little walk down the railroad track." Back in the 'fifties, Bo Diddely put the hambone rhythm to the guitar, replaced the name Hambone with his own name, and became a rock & roll icon."

Subject: RE: Origins: Hambone
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 08 Mar 12 - 05:18 PM

"Hambone, as a term, was applied to itinerant, unpaid actors in the 1890s (quote from 1895 in Lighter*).

Application of the term to juba patting or juba dancers (body music)seems to be fairly recent; the earliest quote* in 1921.

Articles on the net and in literature put the term as equivalent to juba patting, and then mention the antiquity of body music, but use of the term for the action-song has not been traced back before the quotes in Lighter.
There seems to have been a transference of the term from the itinerant actor to juba patting or body music, perhaps in the 1930s.

*Lighter, Historical Dictionary of American Slang

Song Example #3

Hambone! Hambone! [title]

Hambone, hambone
Where you been?
Round the world and I'm going again
What you gonna do when you come back?
Take a little walk by the railroad track

Hambone, hambone
Have you heard?
Papa's gonna buy me a mocking bird
And if that mocking bird don't sing
Papa's gonna buy me a diamond ring
And if that diamond ring don't shine
Papa's gonna take it to the five and dime

Song Example #4


(Red Saunders / Leon Washington)

[as sung by Bill Haley]

Hambone! Hambone!

Hambone, hambone
where you been?
Round the world and I�m going again
What you gonna do when you come back?
Take a little walk by the railroad track

Hambone, hambone
Have you heard?
Papa�s gonna buy me a mocking bird
And if that mocking bird don�t sing
Papa�s gonna buy me a diamond ring
And if that diamond ring don�t shine
Papa�s gonna take it to the five and dime

Hambone, hambone
Where you been?
Round the world and I�m going again
I just skinned an alley cat
To make my wife a Sunday hat
Took the hide right off a goat
To make my wife a Sunday coat

Hambone, hambone
Where�s your wife
Out to the kitchen, cooking beans and rice
Hambone (2x)

Hambone, hambone
Trying to eat
Ketchup on his elbow, pickle on his feet
Bread in the basket
Chicken in the stew
Supper on the fire for me and you

Look at him holler, look at him moan
That hambone just can�t hambone
Hambone (2x)
The "skinned the cat/to make a Sunday hat" verse is from the "Juba This And Juba That" song. That song is included in Thomas W. Talley's now classic book Negro Folk Rhymes: Wise And Unwise. In the notes for that book, Talley wrote that "skinning the cat" was a dance step.

Showcase Video #2

Hambonin' Nebo; Hambone

NeBo411, Published on Dec 4, 2007

NeBo performs the artistic, thigh-slapping artform called Hambone.
Song Example #5

HAMBONE (a contemporary version with spoken word additions)

Now what you are about to see
is a little bit of lost history.
A little bit of lost history.
But I�m glad
Somebody showed me.
Whether one or two or all alone
Everybody can enjoy
a little hambone.
Hambone, hambone what is that?
Hambone is more than a hit or a pat.
Hambone is more than a rhyme.
Hambone is more than a notion.
To get into hambone
you gotta show emotion.
So look up!
Listen here!
Hambone�s about to bring you some cheer. Hah!

[Begins hambone patting and after several pats with no words, continue pattin while saying these lines]

Hambone, hambone have you heard?
Mama�s gonna buy me a mockin� bird.
If that mockin� bird don�t sing
Mama�s gonna buy me a diamond ring.
If that diamond ring don�t shine
Mama�s gonna buy me a fishing line.
If that fishing line should break
Mama�s gonna throw it in the lake.
If that water splash on me
Mama�s gonna beat my b.u.t.

[Stops hambone pattin and without any break flows into the next line]

Tea is what I like to drink
When I know I need to think.
When I like a little song
I like to do the -Hambone. Hah!

[Begins hambone pattin� again then after several pats says]

Break it down! Hah! Hah!

[Does mouth pop]

*Transcription from the YouTube video by Azizi Powell, 8/17/2010.

Showcase Video #3
Hambone by Adrian elementary school

keith feagin Published on Mar 20, 2015

ham bone, ham bone, have you heard?
This is a "Mockingbird" version of the "Hambone" song.

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