Crawdad Song — lyric (Woody Guthrie version)


Crawdad Song (traditional) aka “The Crawdad Song,” “Crawdad Hole,” “Crawdad,” “You Get a Line and I’ll Get a Pole,” etc.


See the related Songbook pages:


Woodie Guthrie — from Muleskinner Blues: The Asch Recordings Vol. 2 (1), (2), recorded in New York, NY, between 1944 and 1947

Woody Guthrie-This Machine Kills Fascists-1musicians for the sessions:

  • Woody Guthrie (vocals, guitar, mandolin, fiddle)
  • Cisco Houston (vocals, guitar)
  • Butch Hawes (guitar)
  • Bess Lomax Hawes (mandolin, background vocals)
  • Pete Seeger (banjo)
  • Sonny Terry (harmonica)

The lyric of the fifth section of the song in this recording refers to the blues and folk musician Sonny Terry in each of its five lines. Terry contributes the harmonica playing and some of his trademark whoops.



lyric transcribed by Jim Radcliff (doc) on 30 November 2013, revised 14 July 2014

You get a line, I’ll get a pole, honey
You get a line, I’ll get a pole, babe
You get a line, I’ll get a pole
We’ll go down to the crawdad hole
Honey babe of mine

Hurry up, babe, you slept too late, honey
Hurry up, babe, you slept too late, babe
Hurry up, honey, you slept too late
Crawdad man done passed your gate
Honey baby mine

Sell your crawdads three for a dime, honey
Sell your crawdads three for a dime, babe
Sell your crawdads three for a dime
Your crawdads ain’t good as mine
Honey babe of mine

What’re ya gonna do when the lake goes dry, honey
What’re ya gonna do when the lake goes dry, babe
What’re ya gonna do when the lake goes dry
Sit on the bank, watch the crawdads die
Honey babe of mine

Now, if you want to hear Sonny Terry play, honey
You want to hear Sonny Terry play, babe
You want to hear Sonny Terry play
Sonny and I gonna take it away
Honey(Play right on, Sonny)

Hurry up, babe, you slept too late, baby
Hurry up, babe, you slept too late, babe
Hurry up, babe, you slept too late
Crawdad man done passed your gate
Honey babe of mine

I heard the duck say to the drake, honey
I heard the duck say to the drake, babe
Heard the duck say to the drake
Ain’t no crawdads in this lake
Honey babe of mine

There’s a little bitty sailor nine days old, honey
Little bitty baby nine days old, sweet thing
Little bitty baby nine days old,
Stuck his finger in the crawdad hole
Hey, hey hey hey


The obvious, though generally unacknowledged, connection of “Crawdad Song” and other related American folk songs to the much earlier British folk song “Frog Went a-Courtin’” is explored in the page “You’ve Been a Good Old Wagon But You’ve Done Broke Down.” I originally considered titling the page “You’ve been a good old froggie, but they done turned your wagon into a crawdad, sugar babe.” The 1940s Asch recordings of “Crawdad Song” and “Froggie Went a-Courtin’” by Woody Guthrie sound like recordings of essentially the same song, the principle difference, apart from the dissimilar lyrics, lying in tempo.

To illustrate, try playing the following recording of “Froggie Went a-Courtin'” while singing the words of “Crawdad Song” provided above.

Froggie Went a-Courtin’ (traditional)

Woody Guthrie — from Buffalo Skinners: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 4 (1), (2), recorded in New York, NY, between 1944 and 1949

musicians for the sessions (from

  • Woody Guthrie (vocals, guitar, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica)
  • Cisco Houston (vocals, guitar)
  • Bess Lomax Hawes (mandolin)
  • Sonny Terry (harmonica)
  • Leadbelly (vocals, guitar) on “Stewball” (Version 2)



(below) More evidence that we have here essentially the same song with two different lyrics

Doc Watson — “Froggie Went a Courtin’” and “Crawdad Song,” from the live album Songs For Little Pickers, released in 1990



4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: You get a line and I’ll get pole, honey | Songbook
  2. doc
    Oct 31, 2017 @ 23:53:19

    The Ballad of John Henry (traditional) — Woody Guthrie, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee — from the 1946 short film To Hear Your Banjo Play



  3. doc
    Jun 29, 2018 @ 13:43:59

    Henry Whitter

    The Old Time Fox Chase

    Henry Whitter — recorded on 10 December 1923; issued in 1924 on OKeh 40029, c/w “Lost Train Blues”


    Henry Whitter’s Fox Chase (alternate title, “Fox Chase”)

    Henry Whitter — According to the Discography of American Historical Recording, Victor matrix BVE-39758 (take 2) — recorded on 2 August 1927 in Bristol, TN — was issued on the following singles: Victor 20878, Bluebird B-5259, Electradisk 2139, Montgomery Ward M-4475, and Sunrise S-3342. I don’t know if this order represents the chronological order in which they were released, but the releases seem to have taken place during various years including 1927, 1929, and (in the case of Montgomery Ward M-4475) 1932-1934.

    Victor 20878, featuring “Henry Whitter’s Fox Chase” c/w “Rain Crow Bill,” was released in December 1927. Montgomery Ward M-4475 (seen in the second video below) released c.1932-1934, is essentially a reissue of Victor 20878, as it features the same two sides.



    Fox Chase no. 2

    On 1 October 1929 Henry Whitter recorded “Fox Chase no. 2,” Victor matrix BVE-5625, in Memphis, Tennessee. The recording was issued on several singles, including the following: Victor V-40292, Bluebird B-5259, Electradisk 2139, and Sunrise S-3342. Bluebird B-5259 features “Henry Whitter’s Fox Chase” (2 August 1927 recording) as the A-side, and “Fox Chase no. 2” (recorded on 1 October 1929) as the B-side. However, the usually reliable 78 rpm record discography site the Online Discographical Project ( evidently confuses the recording dates of the two sides of Bluebird B-5259, here, where it erroneously assigns the 1 October 1929 recording date not only to the B-side of the single, but also to the A-side. This error is duplicated in the Henry Whitter discography by Henry König. The same two sides are also found on Electradisk 2139 and Sunrise S-3342.

    I haven’t yet found the Henry Whitter recording of “Fox Chase no. 2.”

    DeFord Bailey

    Fox Chase

    DeFord Bailey (as De Ford Bailey) — recorded on 19 April 1927; issued on Vocalion 5190, b/w “Old Hen Cackle”


    Sonny Terry

    From the Sonny Terry (Saunders Terrell) bio by Peter Stone and Ellen Harold, published at the Association for Cultural Equity website (

    Blind Boy Fuller was a protégé of local record store manager, talent scout, and producer James Baxter Long, under whose tutelage he made records for the ARC, Vocalion, and later Okeh-Columbia labels, with [Sonny] Terry as accompanist and occasionally lead musician. In 1937 Fuller and Terry traveled to New York to record for Vocalion. The next year, John Hammond of Columbia Records contacted Long about visiting Durham to book Fuller for his upcoming Spirituals to Swing Concert at Carnegie Hall, in which he intended to present “Negro music from its raw beginnings to the latest jazz.” Hammond arrived in Durham accompanied by future Columbia Records president Goddard Lieberson, only to find that Fuller was in jail for shooting his wife. However, Hammond recalled, “next door lived a blind harmonica player named Sonny Terry, and, as soon as we heard him play and shout his unique song, we decided he was a far superior performer. He definitely should be brought to New York for the concert” (quoted in Bruce Bastin’s Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition in the Southeast [1989], p. 266). Thus Terry became the first artist to be signed up for the legendary event. It is just possible, Bastin speculates, that had Fuller not been in jail, Hammond and Lieberson might never have met Sonny Terry.

    At Carnegie Hall Terry performed “Fox Chase” and “Mountain Blues” (harmonica solos), and “New John Henry” (backed by Bull City Red on washboard). The next day (December 24, 1938) Alan Lomax recorded him at Havers Studio in New York City for the Library of Congress performing “Fox Chase” (AFS 2490-A), “A New Careless Love” (2491-A), “Louise” (2492-A), “The Freight Train” (2492-B), “Meet Me At the Railroad and Bring My Shoes and Clothes” (2493-A), and “Lost John” (2493-B, 2494-A, and 2494-B). Two days later he made his first solo commercial recording, “Train Whistle Blues” and “New Love Blues,” which was issued in Columbia’s classical series.

    Fox Chase

    Sonny Terry recording (by Alan Lomax) on 24 December 1938 at Havers Studio, New York City — identifies the recording as “2490-A, Library of Congresss, (Archive of American Folk Song) AAFS-19,” which is the same recording referred to in the bio above, recorded one day after the 1938 Spirituals to Swing Concert at Carnegie Hall.


    Sony Terry solo, date unknown


    Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee — recorded in 1958 in London; released in 1990 on the album The 1958 London Sessions


    Lost John

    Sonny Terry and Woody Guthrie, c. 1940s?


    Chasing the Fox

    Sonny Terry — from the 1972 album Wizard of the Harmonica



  4. doc
    Jun 29, 2018 @ 21:20:16



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