The Cat Came Back


page originally published on 14 October 2011; latest edit: 9 April 2020


See also:

The Cat Came Back (Harry S. Miller) — published in 1893

Wikipedia says:

The song is humorous in nature, telling a silly tale about “ole Mister Johnson” who had an “ole yaller cat” that he did not want, and when he tried to get rid of the cat, the cat kept coming back:

But the cat came back, he couldn’t stay no long-er,
Yes the cat came back de very next day,
the cat came back—thought she were a goner,
But the cat came back for it wouldn’t stay away.

In Miller’s original, the cat finally died when an organ grinder came around one day and:

De cat look’d around awhile an’ kinder raised her head
When he played Ta-rah-dah-boom-da-rah, an’ de cat dropped dead.

Even then the cat’s ghost came back.

The first commercial recording of the song was ca. 1894 for the Columbia Phonograph Company, Washington D.C., performed by Charles Marsh.[2] “The Cat Came Back” was later recorded by Fiddlin’ John Carson (OKeh catalog #40119) in April 1924.


The song “And the Cat Came Back,” recorded by Fiddlin’ Doc Roberts (as himself and under various pseudonyms) and others, seems to be an unrelated traditional.*


Fiddlin’ John Carson — recorded in April 1924; issued on OKeh 40119, c/w “I Got Mine”


Riley Puckett — recorded on 29 September 1937 in New York, NY (Decca matrix 62632) and issued on the single Decca 5442, as the B-side of “Short Life of Trouble”


Cisco Houston — The recording appears on the album The Folkway Years: 1944-1961 (Smithsonian Folkways), but I haven’t yet been able to date it with more precision.



Doc and Chickie Williams — date unknown

Doc Williams died on Monday, 31 January 2011, at the age of 96. Obituaries indicate that a recording of “The Cat Came Back” by Doc Williams sold more than a million records on a Toronto label.

Excerpts from an obit by John Raby,  for The Associated Press, dated Monday, 7 February 2011:

In the years before World War II, his Wheeling, W.Va.-based radio show built him a following in Maine, Vermont and the Canadian provinces – places where he later toured, and where some fans still tap in time to songs from his band, the Border Riders.

“I don’t know if the state of West Virginia had a better ambassador than Doc Williams,” Country Music Hall of Famer Bill Anderson told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “You thought of Doc Williams, you thought of Wheeling, you thought of the Jamboree,” Anderson said, referring to Jamboree USA, one of radio station WWVA’s most popular programs.


Merle Travis — probably from the album Unreleased Radio Transcriptions 1944-1949, released in 1991 (a,b) or 1992


Yodeling Slim Clark — Continental Records 45rpm issue; recording date unknown — possibly a non-US issue of the c. 1950 US release Continental 8063, c/w “The Swiss Yodelers”


Sonny James — issued in September 1956 on the single Capitol F3542, as the B-side of “Hello Old Broken Heart” (See the page The Cat Came Back – selected 1960s recordings for additional recordings of the song by Sonny James.)


1960s recordings are featured on a separate page:


ZOOM, original cast — from season 1 (1972) of the educational TV show ZOOM, produced by WGBH-TV in Boston and aired on PBS; possibly from the 9 January 1972 series premiere

See also (on Songbook):

ZOOM links:

original/season 1 cast members:



(below) alternate version, evidently from a later season 1 (1972) episode, featuring “other ways of getting rid of the invincible cat” that had been sent in by Zoom viewers who had seen the above version


Doc Watson — date unknown


Canadian children’s entertainer Fred Penner with a chorus of children. In live performances, Penner likes to combine The Cat Came Back with Hit the Road Jack, sometimes referencing other songs which feature the same chord progression, as he mentions during the live performance in the second video below.

date unknown


(below) live performance, date unknown; uploaded on 28 February 2009


Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet — (instrumental) from Music For Pets, 1991


(below) brief sample

Laurie Berkner –– recording date unknown.  A recording of “The Cat Came Back” was included on Berkner’s debut album, Whaddaya Think of That? (1997, cassette only release). I don’t know if this is that track.


Macabre Minstrels — from their 2004 album Morbid Campfire Songs


Le matou revient (French lyrics by Steve Waring)

Steve Waring — released on the 1970 album Les Grenouilles, (France) Le Chant Du Monde LDX 74393, an album that was evidently repressed in the same year under the title Steve Waring, (France) Le Chant Du Monde LDX 74393, G.U. LDX 7 4393

Excerpt from a Steve Waring biography by Jason Birchmeier (Rovi), found at

Stylistically rooted in American folk music, children’s music performer Steve Waring is a French singer, songwriter, and banjoist with a deep catalog that spans several decades. Born in 1943 in France, he made his recording debut in 1966. During the 1970s he released a variety of albums on the label Le Chant du Monde that found him exploring traditional American folk music. For instance, the album Les Grenouilles (1975) features French-language adaptations of songs by Tom Paxton and Woody Guthrie alongside original material such as “Les Grenouilles” and “Le Matou Reviente [sic],” all of which is performed by a band comprised musically of banjo, guitar, Celtic flute, harp, Jew’s harp, and spoons. In later years, Waring established himself as a popular performer of children’s music.



* All recordings of the “old time fiddle” style tune “And the Cat Came Back” (aka “And the Cat Came Back the Very Next Day”) that I’ve come across in video libraries are instrumentals that are typically performed by either a solo fiddler, guitarist, or banjoist, or by a string band containing at least one fiddler. A fiddle solo accompanied by one guitar is common, as are performances by string bands containing four, five, or more instruments. Most versions of “And the Cat Came Back” that I’ve heard sound similar, and the tune’s melody sounds nothing like that of Henry S. Miller’s “The Cat Came Back.” Not to these ears anyway. I’m no authority, and haven’t consulted any experts in determining that, in my opinion the two are probably entirely different songs, with different histories. While it is possible that the Harry S. Miller song “The Cat Came Back” provided the inspiration for “And the Cat Came Back,” and I imagine that sections of the latter could function as releases or interludes if inserted into arrangements of the former, I’ve yet to hear a single performance or recording in which the two are combined in any way.

The following contribute to the confusion regarding the two songs:


  • Some recordings of the fiddle tune are titled “And the Cat Came Back the Very Next Day,” which is also a line in the lyric of the Miller song.
  • Some recordings of the fiddle tune are titled “The Cat Came Back,” the same as the original title of the Miller song.


  • According to Wikipedia, Miller’s song has “entered the folk tradition and been recorded under variations of the title — “But the Cat Came Back,” “And the Cat Came Back,” etc.” It may have entered the folk  tradition, but that doesn’t mean that it’s related to the Fiddlin’ Doc Roberts song.
  • Wikipedia claims, probably incorrectly, that Fiddlin’ Doc Roberts recorded the Miller song.


Selected recordings of  “And the Cat Came Back,” aka “And the Cat Came Back the Very Next Day”:

  • Fiddlin’ Doc Roberts — recorded by Fiddlin’ Doc Roberts (f) and Edgar Boaz (g) as “And the Cat Came Back the Very Next Day,” on 13 November 1925; issued on Gennet 3235, c/w “Billy in the Low Ground”
  • Fiddlin’ Doc Roberts (as “Fiddlin’ Jim Burke”), accompanied by John Booker** on guitar — recorded at Gennett Recording Studio on 27 August 1927; mx# G13055 (aka 13055), issued on Silvertone 8179, c/w “Virginia Hills Mountaineers” — Country Music Records: A Discography, 1921-1942, p. 753, indicates that this recording was released under several pseudonyms (Fiddlin’ Jim Burke, Jim Burke, Fiddlin’ Frank Nelson, Fiddlin’ Bob White, and Bob White), and on numerous label/catalog number combinations.
  • Fiddlin’ Doc Roberts (as Fiddlin’ Frank Nelson) — issued as the B-side of “Buck Creek Gal” on Challenge 307 — Some sites give the title of the A-side as “Mock Creek Gal,” though the title on the label below (left) is clearly “Buck Creek Gal.” Country Music Records: A Discography, 1921-1942, p. 753, identifies the B-side, titled “And the Cat Came Back,” as Gennett mx# 13055, which was recorded at Gennett Recording Studio on 27 August 1927 — see the “Fiddlin’ Jim Burke” release of the same matrix number above — and identifies the performer credit “Fiddlin’ Frank Nelson” as another pseudonym of Fiddlin’ Doc Roberts.


  • Camp Canada Old Time Jam, Clifftop 2012; featuring the following musicians: Scott Prouty – fiddle, Frank Evans – banjo, Conny Nowe – guitar, Pam Gawn – fiddle, Heather Coiner – banjo, Dara Weiss – guitar
  • Wednesday Night Old Time Jam at the Trolley Stop, Dayton OH USA, June 2012, with Rick Good, Ben Cooper, Sharon Leahy, Dan Gellert, Mary, Rick Donahoe, Lynn, Big Ben, Doug, Ryan and others
  • Eric Cowles — published on 5 January 2013
  • Bob White – old time jam at BUW, 2013; published on 6 March 2013
  • Lonnie Osborne (fiddle) and Chris Grigsby (guitar) — published on 8 August 2013
  • Saluda Grade String Band — 27 June 2014, at the Saluda Grade Café, in Saluda, NC
    • Alan Dillman and Breccia Wilson – fiddles
      Tom Heck – banjo
      Todd Neel – guitar
      Becky Osteen – bass


** Prague Frank’s “Fiddlin'” Doc Roberts page gives the name of the accompanying guitarist for the 27 August 1927 Doc Roberts recording session at Gennett Recording Studio that produced “And the Cat Came Back” (Gennett matrix G13055) as “John Booker,” while Country Music Records: A Discography, 1921-1942, p. 753, indicates that the accompanying guitarist was “Joe Booker.”

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