The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #354   Message #1497
Posted By:
20-Jan-97 - 05:08 PM
Thread Name: Origins: One Meatball - blues song
Subject: ADD: Lone Fish Ball^^^
From the lyrics presented, it seems clear that "One Meatball" is a variant of the much older "One Fish Ball." I list an older and a more recent version below. "The Lone Fish Ball" appears in a 1926 publication by Sigmund Spaeth ("Read 'Em and Weep, The Songs You Forgot To Remember"). He includes it in his chapter of songs from the Reconstruction Days, i.e. right after the Civil War. Spaeth claims the song was printed in a collection of college songs in 1868 ("Carmina Collegensia" ed. by H R Waite). The song was subtitled "Founded on a Boston Fact (in the chorus of which all assembled companies are expected to unite)." Spaeth says it was one of the earliest of group of community songs, with the leader doing the two-line phrase and then the crowd repeating it. The more recent version comes from the 1988 book "Joe Has A Head Like A Ping-Pong Ball" (a.k.a. "A Prairie Home Companion Folk Song Book") by Marcia & Jon Pankake. In this version, the poor soul cashes in his chips as well as his pence.

rich r

(Version from Sigmund Spaeth, 1926)

There was a man went up and down,
To seek a dinner thro' the town.

What wretch is he who wife forsakes,
Who best of jam and waffles makes!

He feels his cash to know his pence,
And finds he has but just six cents.

He finds at last a right cheap place,
And enters in with modest face.

The bill of fare he searches through,
To see what his six cents will do.

The cheapest viand of them all,
Is "Twelve and a half cents for two Fish-ball."

The waiter he to him doth call,
And gently whispers - "One Fish-ball."

The waiter roars it through the hall,
The guests they start at "One Fish-ball!"

The guest then says, quite ill at ease,
"A piece of bread, sir, if you please."

The waiter roars it through the hall,
"We don't give bread with one Fish-ball."

Who would have bread with his Fish-ball,
Must get it first, or not at all.

Who would Fish-ball with fixin's eat,
Must get some friend to stand a treat.