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Origins: The Rattin Family Murder Ballad

Related thread:
Lyr Req: The Ratten Murders (2) (closed)


In Mudcat MIDIs:
The Rattin Family (from Songs for Swinging Housemothers)


Charley Noble 14 Nov 04 - 12:20 PM
Joe Offer 14 Nov 04 - 12:35 PM
Charley Noble 14 Nov 04 - 02:17 PM
Joe Offer 14 Nov 04 - 09:56 PM
Lin in Kansas 15 Nov 04 - 12:16 AM
Dave Bryant 15 Nov 04 - 12:28 PM
Joe Offer 18 Nov 04 - 11:59 PM
GUEST, Paul Slade 17 Jul 13 - 09:42 AM
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Subject: ADD: The Rattin Family
From: Charley Noble
Date: 14 Nov 04 - 12:20 PM

Here's an old ballad to cheer you up, all blood and general mayhem. My mother and her Greenwich Village friends used to amuse themselves in the early 1930's be singing a version of it. It's probably from the Southern Appalachians or maybe older. It clearly was folk-processed by the college crowd in the version printed below, as collected by Dick and Beth Best. I've failed to find an earlier version in my search but maybe you can:

RATTIN FAMILY, THE

(Anon., in Dick & Beth Best's SONG FEST DELUXE, 1970 edition, pp. 66-67)

Home came old Pa Rattin,
A-drinkin' he had been,
He knocked upon the front door,
And bellowed, "Let me in!"

First came old Ma Rattin,
She came to let him in,
He stuck her with the bread knife,
And let the daylight in.

Then came Grandma Rattin,
A sittin' by the fire,
He snuck up close behind her,
And choked her with a wire.

Then came Grandpa Rattin,
Old and feeble and gray,
He put up an awful struggle,
Until his strength gave way.

Then came sister Rattin,
A-playin' with a doll,
He shot her in the temple,
Just to see which way she'd fall.

Then came Baby Rattin,
Asleep in her trundle bed,
He kicked her in the short ribs
Until the child was dead,
And spat terbaccer juice
All over her golden head.

Then came play-boy Rattin,
Drove up in his limousine,
He wrapped him in old newspapers,
And poured on gasoline,
And lit him with a blowtorch
Just to hear the old boy scream.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE RATTIN FAMILY
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 Nov 04 - 12:35 PM

Truly an inspiring song for a Sunday morning, Charley. It will help me deal with the church ladies.
The version in Songs for Swinging Housemothers (1961, 1963) is about the same, but I think it's worth posting. I'll post the tune after Mass.
-Joe Offer-

The Rattin Family

Home came old Pa Rattin,
And drinkin' he had been,
He pounded on the front door,
And bellowed, "Let me in!"

To the door came old Ma Rattin,
Come to let him in.
He stabbed her with a bread knife,
And let the daylight in.

Then came Grammaw Rattin,
Settin' by the fire,
He snuck up close behind her,
And choked her with a wire.

Then came Grampaw Rattin,
Feeble, old, and gray,
He put up an awful struggle,
Until his strength gave way.

Then came sister Rattin,
Cookin' her asparagus,
He grabbed her by the windpipe,
Tore out her esophagus.

Then came Suzy Rattin,
Playin' with her doll,
He shot her in the forehead,
Just to see which way she'd fall.

Then came baby Rattin,
Sleepin' in her bed,
He kicked her in the short ribs,
Till the pore little thing was dead,
Then he spit tobacco juice
All over her golden head.

Then came playboy Rattin,
Drove up In his limousine,
He wrapped him up in newspapers,
And poured on kerosene,
Then he lit him like a blowtorch
Just to hear the old boy scream.

Click to play


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Rattin Family Murder Ballad
From: Charley Noble
Date: 14 Nov 04 - 02:17 PM

Joe-

Thanks so much for the extra verse:

Then came sister Rattin,
Cookin' her asparagus,
He grabbed her by the windpipe,
Tore out her esophagus.

It will make my mother's day!

While I was growing up I heard snatches of this song from mother. I assumed it was about the first settlers who were buried in the pine grove by the lower back field on our family farm. They were the Radin family as I learned years later. Probably no relation.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Rattin Family Murder Ballad
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 Nov 04 - 09:56 PM

I posted the tune from Songs for Swinging Housemothers. the tune in the 1958 Song Fest is almost the same - except that the first note on the second and fourth lines goes down a third to "E".
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Rattin Family Murder Ballad
From: Lin in Kansas
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 12:16 AM

Okay--now you've got me curious. Who were the Rattin Family, and why did Pa Rattin (other than because he was drunk) feel compelled to murder them all?

Lin


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Rattin Family Murder Ballad
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 12:28 PM

In the last verse, does pa kill playboy or vice-versa ? The last line reference to "old boy" makes me wonder.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Rattin Family Murder Ballad
From: Joe Offer
Date: 18 Nov 04 - 11:59 PM

To keep things together, here's a version from a thread that I closed:

Thread #75677   Message #1331887
Posted By: GUEST,sspackma@yahoo.com
18-Nov-04 - 11:31 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Request: The Ratten Murders
Subject: Lyr Request: The Ratten Murders

Has anyone heard of this song? Here's what I can remember:

The first was mammy Ratten
She tried not to let him in
He [forgotten lyrics]
That's how the crime begin
That's how the crime begin

The next was granny Ratten
A settin' a 'fore the fire
He snuck on up behind her
And choked her with a wire
And choked her with a wire

The last was baby Ratten
All in his trundel bed
He stuck him in the short ribs
Until that child were dead
And he spat tabacie juice down on that golden head

Much appreciated for any help in solving my memory gap!


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Rattin Family Murder Ballad
From: GUEST, Paul Slade
Date: 17 Jul 13 - 09:42 AM

Carlyn Maw of Pasadena, California, wrote to me at PlanetSlade a few days ago to ask me if I knew anything about this ballad. Her name for it was The Ballad of the Rhetton Family, and she'd been taught it by her mother while living back in New York.

After a bit of research, I discovered the family's real name was Wratten, and that all six of them were murdered - in much the way the lyrics describe - near Washington, Indiana, back in 1893. I've written up the full story here.


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