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Origins: Cluck Old Hen

DigiTrad:
CLUCK OLD HEN


GUEST 02 Aug 03 - 01:00 AM
Joe Offer 02 Aug 03 - 01:10 AM
Joe Offer 02 Aug 03 - 01:31 AM
Sorcha 02 Aug 03 - 10:01 AM
GUEST,John Hardly 02 Aug 03 - 10:05 AM
Charley Noble 02 Aug 03 - 11:07 AM
Forsh 02 Aug 03 - 01:20 PM
Jeri 02 Aug 03 - 01:43 PM
GUEST,Q 02 Aug 03 - 01:43 PM
GUEST,Q 02 Aug 03 - 01:48 PM
GUEST,Q 03 Aug 03 - 12:56 PM
Stewie 03 Aug 03 - 10:31 PM
GUEST,Q 03 Aug 03 - 11:24 PM
Stewie 04 Aug 03 - 12:32 AM
masato sakurai 04 Aug 03 - 01:12 AM
GUEST,Q 04 Aug 03 - 01:34 PM
harpgirl 14 Mar 05 - 08:55 PM
John Hardly 14 Mar 05 - 09:05 PM
John Hardly 14 Mar 05 - 09:07 PM
masato sakurai 14 Mar 05 - 09:18 PM
harpgirl 15 Mar 05 - 07:37 AM
GUEST,guest 18 Oct 08 - 05:23 PM
GUEST,Murray on Saltspring 03 Dec 09 - 01:05 AM
PHJim 03 Dec 09 - 11:52 AM
Charley Noble 03 Dec 09 - 09:19 PM
GUEST,Bryce 05 Dec 09 - 12:18 AM
GUEST,olddude 10 Feb 12 - 03:56 PM
Charley Noble 10 Feb 12 - 08:39 PM
GUEST,leeneia 11 Feb 12 - 01:11 PM
GUEST,Mr. Trashcan Bass 25 Aug 12 - 01:35 PM
Jim Dixon 23 Mar 17 - 10:39 PM
Joe Offer 23 May 21 - 06:57 PM
cnd 23 May 21 - 10:25 PM
cnd 23 May 21 - 10:27 PM
cnd 23 May 21 - 10:28 PM
cnd 23 May 21 - 10:29 PM
cnd 19 Feb 22 - 06:08 PM
cnd 25 Apr 22 - 08:46 PM
gillymor 25 Apr 22 - 10:01 PM
Stringsinger 26 Apr 22 - 10:01 AM
Lighter 26 Apr 22 - 10:36 AM
cnd 26 Apr 22 - 12:07 PM
Lighter 26 Apr 22 - 06:27 PM
cnd 27 Apr 22 - 10:48 PM
cnd 27 Apr 22 - 11:17 PM
Lighter 29 Apr 22 - 02:27 PM
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Subject: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Aug 03 - 01:00 AM

Does anyone know some more than the usual lyric for Cluck ol Hen?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Aug 03 - 01:10 AM

Well, the lyrics we have in the Digital Tradition are here (click). Keep checking here in this thread, and see what else people can dig up.
-Joe Offer-
Here's the entry from the Traditional Ballad Index:

Cluck Old Hen

DESCRIPTION: "Cluck old hen, cluck and squall, you ain't laid an egg since way last fall." The exploits (?) of the hen are listed: "She laid eggs for the railroadmen." "The old hen cackled, cackled in the lot. Next time she cackled, she cackled in the pot"
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1923 (recording, Fiddlin' John Carson)
KEYWORDS: bird humorous nonballad chickens
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MW,SE)
REFERENCES (6 citations):
Warner-TraditionalAmericanFolkSongsFromAnneAndFrankWarnerColl 120, "Cluck Old Hen" (1 text, 1 tune)
Peters-FolkSongsOutOfWisconsin, p. 268, "My Old Hen's a Good Old Hen" (1 short text, 1 tune, probably this)
Jones-MinstrelOfTheAppalachians-Bascom-Lamar-Lunsford, p. 244, "Cluck, Old Hen" (1 tune)
McNeil-SouthernMountainFolksong, pp. 146-149, "Cluck Old Hen" (1 text, 1 tune)
DT, CLUCKHEN*
ADDITIONAL: James P. Leary, Compiler and Annotator, _Wisconsin Folklore_ University of Wisconsin Press, 2009, article "Kentucky Folksong in Northern Wisconsin" by Asher E. Treat, p. 249, "My Old Hen's a Good Old Hen" (1 short text, 1 tune, sung by Pearl Jacobs Borusky)

ST Wa120 (Full)
Roud #4235
RECORDINGS:
Clarence Ashley & Tex Isley, "Cluck Old Hen" (on Ashley01)
Clarence Ashley, Clint Howard & Doc Watson, "Cluck Old Hen" [instrumental version] (WatsonAshley01)
Banjo Bill Cornett, "Cluck Old Hen" (on MMOK, MMOKCD)
[G. B.] Grayson & [Henry] Whitter, "Cluck Old Hen" (Gennett 6656/Champion 15629, 1928)
Al Hopkins & his Buckle Busters, "Cluck Old Hen" ((Brunswick 175, 1927; on CrowTold02; Vocalion 5179 [as the Hill Billies], 1927; on LostProv)
Vester Jones, "Cluck Old Hen" (on GraysonCarroll1)
Fiddlin' Powers & Family, "Cluck Old Hen" (Edison 52083, 1927; rec. 1925) (CYL: Edison [BA] 5246 [as, "Cluck, Old Hen"], c. 1926)
Wade Ward, "Cluck Old Hen" [instrumental] (on LomaxCD1702)
Wade Ward & Bogtrotters, "Cluck Old Hen" (on Holcomb-Ward1) (AFS, 1937; on WWard1)

CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Hen Cackle" (lyrics)
cf. "Henhouse Door (Who Broke the Lock?)" (floating verses)
cf. "Higgledy Piggledy, My Black Hen" (floating verses)
File: Wa120

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2021 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle


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Subject: ADD Version: Cluck Old Hen (Proffitt/Warner)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Aug 03 - 01:31 AM

Here's the version from Traditional American Folk Songs from the Anne & Frank Warner Collection. The Warners collected it from Frank Proffitt in 1941. Sandy Paton recorded Proffitt singing this song in 1962, and the lyrics are almost the same [Folk-Legacy Records #FSA-1, Frank Proffitt of Reese, North Carolina (click for sample)]

CLUCK OLD HEN

CHORUS
Cluck old hen, cluck and squall
You ain't laid an egg since away last fall
Cluck old hen, cluck and sing
You ain't laid an egg since away last sprong spring

I have got
A good old hen
She lays eggs
For railroad men
CHORUS

My old hen
She won't do
She lays eggs
And taters too
CHORUS

The old hen cackled
Cackled in the lot
Next time she cackled
She cackled in the pot
CHORUS

one more verse the Warners got from Tom P. Smith of West Virginia:
    The old hen she cackled
    She cackled in the morn
    She cackled for the rooster
    To come get his pecker warm
Click here to search JC's ABC Tune Finder for this tune.


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Subject: Lyr Add: CLUCK OLD HEN
From: Sorcha
Date: 02 Aug 03 - 10:01 AM

Looks like most of them are close to same:



My old hen's a good old hen
She lays eggs for the railroad men
Sometimes 8 and sometimes ten
That's enough for the railroad men

   Cluck old hen cluck and sing
   You ain't laid an egg since late last spring
   Cluck old hen cluck and squall
   Ain't laid an egg since late last fall

Cluck old hen cluck when I tell you
Cluck old hen or I'm gonna sell you
Last time she cackled cackled in the lot
Next time she cackles cackle in the pot

My old hen she's a good old hen
She lays eggs for the railroad men
Sometimes 1 sometimes two
Sometimes enough for the whole damn crew

(http://bluegrasslyrics.com/all_song.cfm-recordID=sp265.htm)

Cluck old hen, cluck and sing
Ain't laid an egg since 'way last spring

Cluck old hen, cluck and squall
Ain't laid an egg since 'way last fall

My old hen's a good old hen
She lays eggs for the railroad men

Sometimes one, sometimes two
Sometimes enough for the whole damn crew

Sometimes nine, sometimes ten
That's enough eggs for the railroad men

My old hen, she won't do
She lays eggs and taters too

The old hen she's raised on a farm
Now she's in the new ground diggin' up corn

The first time she cackled, she cackled a lot
Next time she cackled, cackled in the pot

(http://www.travellersunion.org/music/cluckOldHen.html)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: GUEST,John Hardly
Date: 02 Aug 03 - 10:05 AM

...this addition:

Had an ol' hen, had a wooden leg
Best ol' hen that ever laid an egg
Laid more eggs than any hen around the farm
'nother nip o' whiskey won't do me any harm


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: Charley Noble
Date: 02 Aug 03 - 11:07 AM

Very nice, Joe:

"You ain't laid an egg since away last SPRONG"

Always needed a term for spings past.;~)

Spring has sprong,
And summer will soon be gong!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: Forsh
Date: 02 Aug 03 - 01:20 PM

Hey Charlie Noble, that's a bit like: The spring has sprung, the grass is green (Mmm) the bird is on the wing, but that's absurd, how can the bird be on the wing, when the wing is clearly on the bird?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: Jeri
Date: 02 Aug 03 - 01:43 PM

Forsh - doesn't fit the rhythm of the song. Try:

Green is the grass and sprung is the spring
All the little birds are on the wing

But I think that's just plain absurd
The bird ain't on the wing, the wing's on the bird

Cluck old hen, cluck and scratch
One of them eggs may someday hatch

A wooly chick had my old hen
Been foolin' around with the sheep again.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 02 Aug 03 - 01:43 PM

"Cluck Old Hen"
Fiddle with guitar accompaniment, audio, on American Memory.
Henry Reed, fiddle, Watha Reed, guitar. Glen Lyn, VA, 1966.

Musical Features
Key: A
Meter: 4/4
Strains: 2(high-low, 2-2)
Rendition: 1r-2r-1r-2r-1r-2r-1r-2r
Phase structure: AB QR (aba'c qrq'c)
Compass: 10

Notes: "Well-known tune and song through the Appalachian South, quite distinct from another barnyard evocation, "Cackling Hen," which is played in G. The song... consists of a series of playful verses. As an instrumental tune, it is popular on both fiddle and banjo. On the fiddle, one of the tune's special features is the "cluck" made by left-hand picking of the strings. In Henry Reed's second performance (AFS 13703b26) [the audio provided], the "cluck" is the open E-string, though other fiddlers use both the E and A-strings, or even the E, A, and D-strings. ....."


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 02 Aug 03 - 01:48 PM

Forgot to mention, the tune is in "Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier: The Henry Reed Collection (American Memory).


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Subject: Lyr Add: CLUCK OLD HEN
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 03 Aug 03 - 12:56 PM

There is a long entry, with lyrics, at Ceolas, The Fiddler's Companion (in combined article with "Cacklin' Hen," scroll down). Some stray verses:

CLUCK OLD HEN

Cluck old hen, cluck for your corn,
Cluck old hen, your winter's all gone.

I had a little hen, she had a wooden leg,
The best danged hen that ever laid eggs.

Lair more eggs than the hens around the barn,
Another little drink wouldn't do me no harm (Tommy Jarrell)

Cluck old hen, cluck all night,
Soon you will be Chicken Delight.

Possible, possible, my fat hen.
She lays eggs in the relative when.
She might lay eggs in the positive now,
If only she could postulate how.

Possible, probable, my black hen
She lays eggs in the relative when
She can't lay eggs in the positive now
For she's unable to postulate how (Spark gap Wonder Boys)

Cluck old hen, cluck I tell you,
Don't lay an egg, I'm a-gonna sell you (Joel Shimberg)

My old hen died, what'll I do,
Guess I'll have some chicken stew. (Neal Walters)

Cluck old hen, cluck I say,
The Dow-Jones average is down today.
Cluck old hen, cluck six-ten,
The Dow-Jones average is down again. (Neil Rossi)

The old hen she cackled,
She cackled in the morn;
She cackled for the rooster
To come get his pecker warm (Tom P. Smith, West VA.)

and others.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: Stewie
Date: 03 Aug 03 - 10:31 PM

In respect of the Traditional Ballad index entry that Joe posted above, there is no mention in Meade et alia or in Wiggins' discography in his Carson biography that Carson ever recorded 'Cluck Old Hen'. It seems the ballad index has confused it with Carson's 1923 recording of 'The Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster Is Going to Crow' which Meade et alia give under the discrete heading of the 'Cacklin' Hen' family. The earliest recording of 'Cluck Old Hen' was by Fiddlin' Powers and Family in 1927.

The earliest printed reference given by Meade for 'Cluck Old Hen' is to Talley 'Negro Folk Rhymes' pp 50 and 93. Masato and/or Q may have access to this.

--Stewie.


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE OLD HEN CACKLED
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 03 Aug 03 - 11:24 PM

Ceolas lists "Cluck Old Hen" in the repertory of Fiddlin' Cowan Powers, recorded by Edison in 1925.

Talley, "Negro Folk Rhymes," expanded edition of 1992 (original 1922) has a rhyme called "The Old Hen Cackled," which belongs with Carson's recording of 1923 (see Stewie, above). #69, p. 44.
Can't find any rhymes suggestive of "Cluck Old Hen" in this edition of Talley. Meade probably referred to the first edition of 1933. Talley does not date or indicate sources for the rhymes; perhaps these data are in his manuscript notes.

THE OLD HEN CACKLED

The ole hen she cackled,
An' stayed down in de bo'n.
She git fat an' sassy
A-eatin' up de co'n.

De ole hen she cackled,
Git great long yaller laigs.
She swaller down de oats,
But I don't git no aigs.

De ole hen she cackled,
She cackled in the lot.
De nex' time she cackled.
She cackled in de pot.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: Stewie
Date: 04 Aug 03 - 12:32 AM

Thanks, Q. This is curious. The reference is definitely with 'Cluck Old Hen' - Macmillan 1922 edition, reissued by Kennikat Press 1968. The earliest printed reference in Meade for 'Cacklin' Hen' family, which includes 'Old Hen Cackled, is Emma Bell Miles 'The Spirit of the Mountains' James Pott & Co 1905, reprinted 1975 by Uni of Tennessee Press.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: masato sakurai
Date: 04 Aug 03 - 01:12 AM

My copy is also a much edited edition (1991) by Charles K. Wolfe. I've seen (but don't have) the Kennikat Press edition, which I believe is an unaltered facsimile of the 1922 original.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 04 Aug 03 - 01:34 PM

Sorry- date is 1922 for the original Talley, not 1933. My edition also is the Wolfe 1991 revision.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: harpgirl
Date: 14 Mar 05 - 08:55 PM

Help! I need a banjo tuning for "Cluck old Hen".


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: John Hardly
Date: 14 Mar 05 - 09:05 PM

however you tune for "A" modal.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: John Hardly
Date: 14 Mar 05 - 09:07 PM

eGDGCD capo 2


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: masato sakurai
Date: 14 Mar 05 - 09:18 PM

"Cluck Old Hen" (Key of A Dorian) tab is here (pdf).


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: harpgirl
Date: 15 Mar 05 - 07:37 AM

thanks, John, got it! Someone showed me Sunday at Willfest and I promptly forgot it!

I' mo not good at tab, masato but I'll look at this tonight. I play better by hear and eye on someone else...


love, harpgirl


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: GUEST,guest
Date: 18 Oct 08 - 05:23 PM

so this thread looks long dead, but in case anyone is reading, i got a version of this from dwight diller that i play on my long neck tuned aADAD.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: GUEST,Murray on Saltspring
Date: 03 Dec 09 - 01:05 AM

Yes, but have the origins been worked out yet?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: PHJim
Date: 03 Dec 09 - 11:52 AM

Bryan Bowers sings:

Cluck old hen, cluck when I tell yah
Cluck old hen or I'ma gonna sell yah.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: Charley Noble
Date: 03 Dec 09 - 09:19 PM

Nice that this old thread is clucking along.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: GUEST,Bryce
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 12:18 AM

Is the hen a prostitute who services rail workers at train stops? And is the guy who is singing the song her pimp?

-Bryce


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Subject: Cluck old hen (1927) Hillbilles
From: GUEST,olddude
Date: 10 Feb 12 - 03:56 PM

Priceless
cluck old hen


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Subject: RE: Cluck old hen (1927) Hillbilles
From: Charley Noble
Date: 10 Feb 12 - 08:39 PM

olddude-

That link's certainly a breath of fresh air.

Believe it or not, we've been using "Cluck Ol' Hen" as a break in the middle of a sea shanty.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Cluck old hen (1927) Hillbilles
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 11 Feb 12 - 01:11 PM

thanks for the link


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: GUEST,Mr. Trashcan Bass
Date: 25 Aug 12 - 01:35 PM

@Bryce that would be the implication. Here's my take on it.

My old hen cluck and squall, ain't laid eggs since late last fall.
My old hen cluck and sing, still no eggs by the spring.

Then the rail men came to town, she started laying them eggs down.
First came two then came four, railroad men still wanted more.

When the train rolled away, that old hen she wouldn't lay.
When she heard the train roll in, she started layin' them eggs again.

She layed eight then layed ten, that was enough for the railroad men.
Soon as the rail men left our town, she stopped layin' them eggs down.

That old hen wouldn't lay for me, I tried being sweet and I tried being mean.
That old hen liked sweaty men, that's the only time she'd lay again.

That old hen liked sweaty men, that's the only time she'd lay again.
She clucked in the yard and she clucked in the lot, next time she clucked she was in the pot.


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE OLD HEN CACKLED AND THE ROOSTER'S...
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 23 Mar 17 - 10:39 PM

THE OLD HEN CACKLED AND THE ROOSTER'S GOING TO CROW
As recorded by Fiddlin' John Carson, 1923,

The old hen cackled, everybody knows.
The old hen cackled and the rooster's gonna crow.

Old shanghai way over the hill now!

Poor old banty in the back yard!

The old hen cackled, cackled mighty loud,
Laid a little egg, walked mighty proud.

The old hen cackled, cackled in the lot.
The last time she cackled, cackled in the pot.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 May 21 - 06:57 PM

Are the DT lyrics OK? The verses don't seem to fit together very well. Seems to me that each verse should consist of two complementary couplets.

CLUCK OLD HEN

Cluck old hen, cluck and sing
Ain't laid an egg since 'way last spring.

Cluck old hen, cluck and squall
Ain't laid an egg since 'way last fall.

My old hen's a good old hen
She lays eggs for the railroad men.

Sometimes one, sometimes two
Sometimes enough for the whole damn crew.

Sometimes nine, sometimes ten
That's enough eggs for the railroad men.

My old hen, she won't do
She lays eggs and taters too.

The old hen she's raised on a farm
Now she's in the new ground diggin' up corn.

The first time she cackled, she cackled a lot
Next time she cackled, cackled in the pot.

Recorded by Tom Ashley, Frank Profitt
Note: one of the standard fiddle virtuoso pieces: chicken
imitations were highly appreciated. RG

@animal @bird @chicken @fiddle
filename[ CLUCKHEN


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: cnd
Date: 23 May 21 - 10:25 PM

Ricky Skaggs regularly performs this song, often to close shows. I happened to record the show of his I went to; I'll post his lyrics in a following message. All the lyrical versions of the song I have are done in stanzas of 4 lines each, more like the lyrics way up towards the top.

I have 5 recordings of this song in my collection. Two are instrumental:
- The Roan Mountain Hilltoppers, Roan Mountain Hilltoppers, Cloudlands 001 (circa 1975)
- Kyle Creed and Fred Cockerham, Clawhammer Banjo: Old Time Banjo And Fiddle Tunes (VARIOUS ARTISTS), County Records 701, 1965

There is a different instrumental song titled "Cluck Old Hen" recorded by Ed Weaver & Pug Allen on Appalachia - The Old Traditions: Blue Ridge Mountain Music From Virginia & North Carolina Volume 1 (Home-Made Music HMM 001, 1982). There are apparently some versions with lyrics, and the tune is 'similar', but not very. Read more here


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: cnd
Date: 23 May 21 - 10:27 PM

As performed by Ricky Skaggs, recorded live in Charlotte, NC in 2016

Well I had an old chicken, she wouldn't lay an egg
So I run hot water up and down her leg
Well, the little chicken hollered, the little chicken begged
That danged old chicken laid a hard-boiled egg

CHORUS:
Well, cluck old hen, cluck and squall
Ain't laid an egg since 'way last fall.
Cluck old hen, cluck and sing
You ain't laid an egg since a-way last spring

Our old hen's a good old hen
She lays eggs for the railroad men
Sometimes one, sometimes two
Sometimes enough for the whole dang crew

CHORUS


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: cnd
Date: 23 May 21 - 10:28 PM

Straight Furrows, Straight Furrows In Uneven Ground, Hoehandle Records 001, 1980

Learned from Vester Jones, southwestern Virginia

My old hen she's a good old hen
She lays eggs for the railroad men
Sometimes one sometimes two
Sometimes enough for the whole damn crew

CHORUS:
Cluck old hen you cluck and squall
Ain't laid an egg since way last fall
Cluck old hen you cluck and sing
Ain't laid a egg since way last spring

My old hen she cackled in the lot
Next time she cackled she cackled in the pot
My old hen she cackled in the yard
Next time she cackled she cackled in the lard

CHORUS


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: cnd
Date: 23 May 21 - 10:29 PM

The Hill Billies, Vocalion 5179, Recorded May 13th, 1927

Cluck old hen, cluck and sing
Ain't laid an egg since a-way last spring
Cluck old hen you cluck and squall
Ain't laid an egg since way last fall

My old hen's a good old hen
She lays eggs for the railroad men
Sometimes eight, sometimes ten
That's enough eggs for the railroad men

The old hen cackled, she ris and flew
Well, up comes the rooster and he went along, too
The old hen cackled, she cackled in the lot
Next time she cackled she cackled in the pot

My old hen, she's mighty fine
Every time she cackles, the eggs do fine
I take the eggs to the store
Trade them for snuff and ?never lost more?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Cluck Old Hen
From: cnd
Date: 19 Feb 22 - 06:08 PM

From Tommy Jarrell, Kyle Creed, Paul Sutphin & Mac Snow, Recorded 1972 by Ray Alden and Dave Spilkia in Toast, NC. From Blue Ridge Mountain Holiday - The Breaking Up Christmas Story, County Records - CO-CD-2722, track 13. Vocals by Tommy Jarrell

Cluck old hen, cluck I said
Cluck old hen, your winter's all dead

Cluck old hen, cluck in the lot
The next time you cluck you'll cook in the pot

My old hen's a good ole hen
She lays eggs for the railroad men
Sometimes one, sometimes two
Sometimes enough for the whole dang crew

I had a little hen, she had a wooden leg
The best danged hen that ever laid eggs
Laid more eggs than the hens around the barn
Another little drink wouldn't do me no harm


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Subject: RE: Origins: Cluck Old Hen
From: cnd
Date: 25 Apr 22 - 08:46 PM

From Larry Sigmon & Barbara Poole, Unique Sound Of The Mountains Volume 5: Cricket On The Hearth (2004)

Well I had an old hen, a good old hen
She laid eggs for the railroad men
Sometimes eight and sometimes ten
That's enough for the railroad men

Now, cluck old hen, cluck, something's wrong
Cluck old hen, where your chicken's all gone?
Cluck old hen, cluck and squall
You ain't laid a egg since a-way last fall

Well, the first time she cackled, she cackled in the pot
The next time she cackled, well, she cackled a lot

My old hen, she won't do
She lays eggs and taters too

Now, cluck old hen, cluck, something's wrong
Cluck old hen, where your chicken's all gone?
Cluck old hen, cluck and squall
You ain't laid a egg since a-way last fall

I had a little hen, she had a wooden leg
The best danged hen that ever laid a egg
Lair more eggs than the hens around the farm
Another little drink wouldn't do a-no harm

Now, cluck old hen, cluck, something's wrong
Cluck old hen, where your chicken's all gone?
Cluck old hen, cluck and squall
You ain't laid a egg since a-way last fall

Now, cluck old hen, cluck, something's wrong
Cluck old hen, where your chicken's all gone?
Cluck old hen, cluck and squall
You ain't laid a egg since a-way last fall


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Subject: RE: Origins: Cluck Old Hen
From: gillymor
Date: 25 Apr 22 - 10:01 PM

Dubl Handy does an interesting version, complete with clucking.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Cluck Old Hen
From: Stringsinger
Date: 26 Apr 22 - 10:01 AM

Does anyone hear the sound of a uke or tenor guitar in the Hillbillie's recording?
North Georgia mountain groups often used tenor banjo in addition to fiddle. The banjo may have been tuned plectrum style CGBD like a five-string without the fifth string.

The tune uses the gDBCD on the banjo but the guitar player may be playing on open G chord with a major third(B) along with the suspended C on the banjo. There is a definite flatted 3rd (Bb) in the banjo. This gives the flavor of blues or African-American scale patterns.

Much of Appalachian music emanates from the African-American culture via the Minstrel Show and crossover of black blues artists to the Southern mountains. The North Carolina Chocolate Drops show a significant and elegant relationship between the two musical cultures


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Subject: RE: Origins: Cluck Old Hen
From: Lighter
Date: 26 Apr 22 - 10:36 AM

The earliest reference to "Cluck Old Hen" I'm aware of is in Shearin & "A Syllabus of Kentucky Folk-Songs" (1911). It leads the list of "paralipomena" (i.e., supplemental stuff). Only the title is mentioned.

It doesn't seem to appear again until May 7, 1922, in a feature article in the N.O. Times-Picayune about music in the Kentucky Appalachians mentioning "such tunes as 'Git Along Down Town,' 'Black-eyed Susie,' 'Hook and Line,' 'Cluck Old Hen,' and, strangely enough, 'I'm Going to Boston.'"

Though they usually included banjo tunes as well, none of the numerous programs of "old fiddlers'contests" printed in U.S. newspapers between ca1895 and 1930 seems to list it.

The tune is so simple and so natural to the banjo in sawmill tuning that it's hard to believe it isn't consideraby older than 1911.

At least in Kentucky.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Cluck Old Hen
From: cnd
Date: 26 Apr 22 - 12:07 PM

Stringsinger, you have a good ear! Tony Russell in "Country Music Records: A Discography, 1921-1942" (2004) reports both a banjo (Jack Reedy) and a uke (John Hopkins). Unfortunately I don't think I could help you much beyond that, other than to say that banjos in particular were tied to African American performers or blackface/minstrel musicians (who often learned them from Africans) more than most other traditional American instruments.

Lighter, Mike Yates of MusTrad found a version dated 1886 (link). I can't access any online editions of his text but can work towards using one at my local library in the coming days to transcribe and/or verify.

I've found just a stanza in the March 6th, 1907 Morristown (TN) Gazette (link, as follows:
I don't know if this is poetry or not, but it's truth:

 Cluck, old hen, and lay me an egg--
  Come, lay me an egg each day;
 I'll never starve, I'll never beg,
 But I'll keep that wolf away.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Cluck Old Hen
From: Lighter
Date: 26 Apr 22 - 06:27 PM

I'd be interested in seeing the details of Yates's reference. The book he cites wasn't published till 1926.

And as a "folklore" bonus:

In 1976 a fellow grad student (from Knoxville, Tenn.) told me that the hen who "lays eggs for the railway men" wasn't a hen and "wasn't laying eggs."

She couldn't understand how I could think otherwise.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Cluck Old Hen
From: cnd
Date: 27 Apr 22 - 10:48 PM

Personally, I'd never thought about it that way, but I can definitely see where she's coming from!

Below is the text which Mike Yates references. Personally, I don't think it's quite right to say the text here is per se Cluck Old Hen; it seems to me more either an antecedent or a partial fragment. It does share a number of verses which are often combined to make the chorus, but doesn't have the titular "Cluck Old Hen" lines that you'd expect to see. I think this is a case of some floating verses being shared. It to me bares some resemblance even to the family of lyrics related to Rise When the Rooster Crows -- the ones about the ducks chewing tobacco and the rooster keeping time (see here or here for example).

I'll include a few relevant excerpts from the text. It's worth noting that the date is approximate and, from the notes of other songs in the chapter, seems to be recalled from Gates's memory rather than written.

Source - Rainbow In the Morning, ed. J. Frank Dobie: "South Texas Negro Work Songs" by Gates Thomas (1926, re. 1965) pp. 157, 159-160:
After each song, I have put a date indicating approximately when I found it. I have indicated whether I know or conjecture of each song's history or regional meaning, with such references to analogues or cognates as I have had time to work up. Both notes and cross-references are incomplete. Titles of the anthologies consulted are as follow:

J. H. Cox: Folk-Songs of the South, Harvard Press, 1925.
John A. Lomax: Cowboy Songs, Macmillan (Rev. Ed.), 1916.
R. E. Kennedy: Mellows, A. & C. Boni, 1925.
Odum, H. W., and Johnson, G. B.: The Negro and His Songs, University of North Carolina Press, 1925.
Dorothy Scarborough: On the Trail of Negro Folk-Songs, Harvard Press, 1925.
T. W. Talley: Negro Folk Rhymes, Macmillan, 1922.

...

(2) THE OLD HEN CACKLE

The old hen she cackle, she cackle in the corn;
The next time she cackle, she cackle in the barn.

Chorus:
Well, the old hen she cackle, she sholy gwain to lay.

The old hen she cackle, she cackle in the loft;
The next time she cackle, she cackle further off.

Chorus:
Well, the old hen she cackle, she sholy must-a laid.

The old hen she cackle, she cackle in the lot;
Well, the next time she cackle, she'll cackle in the pot.

Chorus:
The old hen she cackle, well, she sholy ought to lay.

--- 1886

No. 2 is one of the liveliest dance tunes on the list, working into the organic melody of the hen cackling. For analogues, see Talley, 50, 93.
Also worth noting is that a song of the same name ("Old Hen Cackled") appeared in a 1915 list of violin tunes, The Berea Tune Lists: An Archival Resource for the Study of Social Music in Eastern Kentucky and East Tennessee in 1915


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Subject: RE: Origins: Cluck Old Hen
From: cnd
Date: 27 Apr 22 - 11:17 PM

I've also transcribe the related lines from Talley referenced above, though I'm not certain they're related.

Source - T. W. Talley, "Negro Folk Rhymes" (1922), pp. 50-51 (link)
THE OLD HEN CACKLED

De ole hen cackled,
An' stayed down in de bo'n.
She git fat an' sassy,
A-eatin' up de co'n.

De ole hen she cackled,
Git great long yaller laigs.
She swaller down de oats,
But I don't git no aigs.

De ole hen she cackled,
She cackled in de lot,
De nex' time she cackled,
She cackled in de pot.

I fail to see the relation to any of the songs on page 93: link


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Subject: RE: Origins: Cluck Old Hen
From: Lighter
Date: 29 Apr 22 - 02:27 PM

Thanks for digging this out, Carter! It's very enlightening.

Here's a current banjo performance of "Cackling Hen":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFRcld549pA

I first heard the tune when I was trying to learn old-time banjo 50 years ago. At that time I could already play "Cluck, Old Hen," and the tunes seemed quite different. Now I hear a slight similarity only, at least in the Gibson-Hicks version. IIRC - and maybe I don't - the "Cackling Hen" tune was played in ordinary G tuning. I never tried to learn it.

Aside from minstrel material, names of banjo tunes before the "hillbilly era" are even harder to find than fiddle-tune titles. And there are no nineteenth-century tune transcriptions - again except for the minstrels.

I find several refs. to “Old Hen Cackled” from around 1900, which suggests that a tune by that name was already widely distributed in the South and was assumed to be old:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (March 5, 1899), p. 25: “ ‘BLACKVILLE’ BALL AT LITTLE ROCK, ARK. …He will open this grand affair with one of those old reel dances of the year 1700, entitled:

                           The old hen cackled,
                           But the rooster laid an egg!”

“The Old Hen Cackled” is mentioned in the Marion (Ala.) standard (July 5, 1900) as an “old-time tune,” and the Sequachee (Tenn.) Valley News (Apr. 15, 1909) quotes a whole stanza as a throwaway one-liner:

“The old hen cackled, and she cackled in the lot, but the next time she cackled she cackled in the pot.”

In Jounal of American Folklore (1913), E. C. Perrow printed a text with the "...rooster laid an egg" business as a refrain. His source had learned it from "Mississippi negroes" in 1909.


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