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historical reference: Knee Deep in the Big Muddy

05 Nov 04 - 01:11 PM (#1317959)
Subject: Knee Deep in the Big Muddy
From: GUEST,2 Feathers

I need to learn the historical reference to Pete Seeger's "Knee Deep in the Big Muddy." I am being challenged as to its truth and veracity. Help!

05 Nov 04 - 01:23 PM (#1317975)
Subject: RE: Knee Deep in the Big Muddy
From: The Borchester Echo

The song by Pete Seeger is Waist Deep In The Big Muddy and there is a discussion thread here.

Lyrics are in the DT under Big Muddy.

05 Nov 04 - 02:22 PM (#1318059)
Subject: RE: Knee Deep in the Big Muddy
From: Big Mick

Glad you stopped by, 2feathers. At the top of the page you will see a box entitled "Lyrics and Knowledge Search". You will note two boxes checked. "DT" means it will search the Digital Tradition database for the lyrics. "Forum" means it will search the threads for discussions about the song. The search feature will uncover a wealth of data for you. If you search there and don't find what you are after, please feel free to initiate a thread. Why don't you consider becoming a member?

All the best,


05 Nov 04 - 03:39 PM (#1318134)
Subject: RE: Knee Deep in the Big Muddy
From: mg

As usual, I disagree. I think it is perfectly fine to start music threads asking the same question often. Different people can participate as they like, and sooner or later one can refer someone to previous threads or tell them how to find them. But like others have said, it is like telling someone in a bar we discussed that three months ago and here is a written transcript so if there is anything we didn't cover, feel free to ask that particular question. Those who are bored by answering questions repeatedly can just skip those threads. If bandwidth is a problem, there surely are other threads that could be sacrificed in their stead.

That all said, I know nothing about the song, other than I have heard it is about Korea. If I knew the answer, I would give it as often as I was comfortable giving it. Then I would stop and let others take over. mg

05 Nov 04 - 06:10 PM (#1318296)
Subject: RE: Knee Deep in the Big Muddy
From: Big Mick

Mary, I am not sure what is up lately, but there was nothing to disagree about. I didn't suggest that 2feathers not start a thread. I simply welcomed him/her, explained about the search feature which simply helps, and invited this person to join.

Take a breath. Sheesh.


05 Nov 04 - 06:36 PM (#1318317)
Subject: RE: Knee Deep in the Big Muddy
From: Jeri

Mick, 2feathers IS a member.

There is some discussion in the other thread that the song might have been based on a real incident - here - but I think it's more likely it's allegorical.

05 Nov 04 - 06:59 PM (#1318335)
Subject: RE: Knee Deep in the Big Muddy
From: PoppaGator

As I recall, there was a lot of hoo-hah in that previous thread about just which era, or more precisely which war, was being discussed in Pete's lyric.

There's an explicit reference in the lyric to a date in the 40s, which would be WWII, not Korea, but the song was written and sung in the Vietnam era. Along with several others who posted messages to this thread, I've always thought the song was a direct reference to the situation current at the time, with LBJ the actual person meant by the "big fool," but at least one of the correspondants was absolutely insistant that the song could not possibly have been about Vietnam. The argument back-and-forth on that issue got pretty repetitive, but a few interesting points were made for each of several viewpoints, so revisiting the above-referenced thread might be interesting to anyone who hasn't already seen it.

05 Nov 04 - 07:39 PM (#1318371)
Subject: RE: Knee Deep in the Big Muddy
From: Tansy

From that other's the probable answer to the original Poster's Question:

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Waist Deep in the Big Muddy (Pete Seeger)
From: Lighter - PM
Date: 27 Sep 04 - 09:54 PM

The song may have been partly inspired by a well publicized incident that occurred at the U.S. Marine Corps Parris Island Recruit Depot in 1956. Six trainees out of a platoon of 74 drowned as their drill instructor tried to lead them on a disciplinary march across Ribbon Creek.


Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Waist Deep in the Big Muddy (Pete Seeger)
From: Q - PM
Date: 27 Sep 04 - 11:31 PM

Pablo, who started this thread four years ago, and John Hardley, are understandably confused by the date 1942, but McGrath is right. Seeger wrote and copyrighted it in 1967; his subject Vietnam. Lighter is right about the event that probably inspired Seeger.

I "think" I remember an earlier, similar event about the time I entered the Army in 1942, but I may be confused about that. It was a long time ago.


Does that answer it?

05 Nov 04 - 07:40 PM (#1318373)
Subject: RE: Knee Deep in the Big Muddy
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

All of this gone over in thread 21640 (linked by Poppagator, above.

05 Nov 04 - 07:49 PM (#1318382)
Subject: RE: Knee Deep in the Big Muddy
From: Bill Hahn//\\

The long and short of it is that--given when it was written it was related to Viet Nam. Sadly, however, it still holds meaning today in Iraq and other places we might be or have been involved in.

I always wonder if Pete Seeger knew that his song would be an allegory for so many other sad events. Phil Ochs--one can pose the same query there. Or perhaps the better word is "topical".

A while back I played Big Muddy on my radio program (Traditions WFDU) in a set dealing with the current ---or then current (and still current) Iraq situation.

Interestingly, back in the late 60s I was at a concert where Pete Seeger sang that piece and people (including one of my (ex)friends) stormed out with pure hate and loathing toward Mr. Seeger on their lips. They never did get what he was saying I believe.

Bill Hahn

05 Nov 04 - 08:00 PM (#1318394)
Subject: RE: Knee Deep in the Big Muddy
From: Bill Hahn//\\

OH---it is Waist Deep In The Big Muddy. Lot worse.

Bill H

05 Nov 04 - 11:46 PM (#1318584)
Subject: RE: Knee Deep in the Big Muddy
From: 2feathers

Thaks, all. I AM a member. I WAS a member. My cookie expired. I could not remember the exact ID and kept putting in 2 feathers rather than 2feathers. Two months went by. then three. Finally, just by chance I tried again with no space and lo! and behold! eerything is all right.

I picked up the lyrics from Mudcat, but still needed he reference.

The reference came from an Amazon sale page with the book COURT-MARTIAL AT PARRIS ISLAND: THE RIBBON CREEK INCIDENT (GK HALL LARGE PRINT AMERICAN HISTORY SERIES) by John C. Sevens. It quotes an incident on April 8, 1956 in which a drill instructor Matthew MdKeon led Platoon 71 on a forced night march through the baclwaters of the Parris Island recruitt depot in an effort to restore flaggin discipline....etc., etc. 6 men drowned. the Staff Sergeant MKeon was court-martialed. The defense attorney was (!) EMILE ZOLA Berman.

There is another book, THE U.S. MARINE CORPS IN CRISIS: RIBBON CREEK AND RECRUIT TRAINING by Keith Fleming. It also goes into the incident in details along with political relations between Congress and the military, etc.

Again, thanks all you folk for leading me in the proper direction. I shall arrive at the next meeting with proper references in hand.

06 Nov 04 - 05:44 AM (#1318677)
Subject: RE: historical reference: Knee Deep in the Big Mud
From: Tansy

Has the ever been a movie based on the Ribbon Creek Incident? If not it'd make a good Miliatry drama - one with a real message about blind faith in your leadership. Very timely.