Friday, September 1, 2017

Selected Examples Of The Hand Clap Rhyme "Miss Sue From Alabama" (1965-1990s)

Edited by Azizi Powell

[Update January 18, 2019]

This is Part I of a two part pancocojams series on the hand clap rhyme "Miss Sue From Alabama".

Part I provides my brief editorial comments about why I believe "Miss Sue From Alabama" with originated as an African American rhyme.

Part I of this pancocojams series also presents selected examples of "Miss Sue From Alabama" regardless of their titles* from 1965-1999. These examples probably include (accidental) folk processed* versions as well as purposely changed versions of that rhyme and may also include verses from another stand alone hand clap (or jump rope) rhyme.

Click for Part II of this series. Part II of this pancocojams series presents selected examples of "Miss Sue From Alabama" hand clap rhymes regardless of their titles that are dated from 2000 on as well as examples from the "Miss Sue From Alabama" rhyme family (regardless of their titles) that have no demographic information about their dates, but which I believe are later versions.

The tune of the sound file embedded in Part I and the video embedded in Part II are the same. However, compare the how different many of the words of these later examples are from the earlier examples of these rhymes that are featured in Part I. The examples that are featured in Part II also include (accidental) folk processed versions or purposely changed versions of that rhyme. Furthermore, it appears to me that more post 1990s examples of "Miss Sue From Alabama" include that rhyme's verses in combination with verses from other stand alone hand clap rhymes.

Instead of the referent "Miss Sue", a number of examples in the "Miss Sue From Alabama" family of hand clap rhymes include titles (first lines) such as "E.T.", "My soup", and "Mazoo".

DISCLAIMER: This series isn't meant to be a comprehensive compilation of all of the numerous versions of rhymes in the "Miss Sue From Alabama" rhyme family.

Click for a 2013 pancocojams post on "Folk Processing The Children's Rhyme "Miss Sue From Alabama" for my theories about the meanings of the referent "Scooby Doo" and the phrase take a smooth shot" in some examples of "Miss Sue From Alabama"

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, and recreational purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who contributed examples to this post and all those who are otherwise quoted in this post. Thanks also to those who are featured in the embedded video in this post, and thanks to the publisher of that video.

I believe that the hand clap rhyme "Miss Sue From Alabama" probably originated with African Americans because of these characteristics in the early examples that I have found:
1. the examples' textual structure, and the African American American Vernacular English (grammar & words/phrases) that are found in these examples.

2. the percussive hand clapping performance activity that accompanies the performance of these rhymes is also associated with African Americans.

3. the fact that most of the earliest examples of "Miss Sue From Alabama" that I've collected are attributed to African Americans.

4. anecdotal comments from some contributors* suggests that this rhyme is very well known among African American girls (after a certain time period).

For instance, this comment: "I lived in Indiana my whole life although I changed schools alot, and this song ["Miss Sue From Alabama"] seemed to be known by every other African American child I met."

The example that accompanies this comment is given as Version #4 in Part II of this pancocojams series.

**I'm an African American female who performed partner hand clap routines in the 1950s (in Atlantic City, New Jersey). However, I have no recollection of any version of "Miss Sue From Alabama".
UPDATE January 18, 2019: Click
for three citations of recorded folk songs (rhymes) entitled "Miss Sue From Alabama" that were included in Archive of Folk Song (U.S.), United States. Work Projects Administration (Washington, D.C.)
Library of Congress, Music Division
, 1942. One of these citations directly refers to the race of the children singing that song (rhyme)
"Sung by eight Negro girls Kirby industrial school, Atmore, Ala; John A Lomax, 1934."
This is the earliest date mentioned of those three citations. The other two citations are from 1939.

I haven't found the text (words) to those 1934 and 1939 versions of "Miss Sue From Alabama".
" "Miss Sue From Alabama" is a song sung by African American children in the South at the turn of the 20th century. The children would then dance with each other. Miss Sue was, in African American folklore, a prostitute that lured White men to bed and then manipulated them into doing favors for the Black men on the plantation. She was somewhat of a spy an undercover agent that worked in behalf of Black men.[citation needed]

The song was recorded in 1934 and 1939.[1]"
I doubt those descriptions of this rhyme's text are correct based on historical facts if nothing else.

These rhymes are given in relative chronological order based on the demographic information that is given with the contributor's comments or with the example itself.

Brief editorial comments are included after some of these examples.

Numbers are assigned for referencing purposes.

NOTE: The earliest example that I've collected of "Miss Sue From Alabama" is from 1965. However, I don't mean to imply that there were no examples of that rhyme before that date.


Miss Sue
Miss Sue
Miss Sue from Alabama

Someone is in your garden
Miss Sue
Miss Sue
Someone is in your garden
Miss Sue from Alabama

Show me what you can do
Miss Sue
Miss Sue
Show me what you can do
Miss sue from Alabama

Is this the way you do
Miss Sue
Miss Sue
Is this the way you do
Miss Sue from Alabama

Hey Hey
A doobie-do-wah
Your mama's broke
And your papa's broke
Turn to the east
Turn to the west
Turn to the very one you love the best
Milk in the pitcher
The butter's in the bowl
Can't catch a sweetheart
To save your soul

I think this is the way we sang this game in Northern Mississippi cira 1965.
-GUEST,nanasallthat, 11 Dec 07,
Subject: RE: Folklore: Do kids still do clapping rhymes?
This contributor didn't include any racial demographic information. However, the textual structure and vernacular language of this example is clearly of African American origin,.

Also, note that the certain verses (particularly the lines "turn to the east/turn to the west/turn to the very one you love best" are still recited in 2019 in certain playground rhymes. That same verse can be found in other African American folk rhymes such some in Thomas W. Talley's 1922 book Negro Folk Rhymes: Wise And Otherwise.
The scatting phrase "a doobie-do-wah" is probably the folk processed source of the name of the cartoon character "Scooby Doo" that is found in some versions of this "Miss Sue From Alabama" rhymes.

Miss Sue, Miss Sue
Miss Sue from Alabama
Hey you Scooby -doo
Now let me see you smoothing
Now let me see you smoothing
-from Yo Mama!: New Raps, Toasts, Dozens, Jokes, and Children's Rhymes from Urban Black America, edited by Onwuchekwa Jemie, (Temple University Press, 2003, page 99)
Here's an excerpt from a summary of this book that is found on
"Collected primarily in metropolitan New York and Philadelphia during the classic era of black street poetry (i.e., during the late 1960s and early 1970s) these raps, signifyings, toasts, boasts, jokes and children's rhymes will delight general readers as well as scholars. [These texts range] from the simple rhymes that accompany children's games to verbally inventive insults and the epic exploits of traditional characters like Shine and Stagger Lee"..."
Read my comments after Version #2 for the probable meaning of "now let me see you smoothing".

mmm-Miss Sue (clap clap clap)
Miss Sue (clap clap clap)
Miss Sue from Alabama
Now let’s have a party.
Chicka boom chicka boom
chicka boom boom boom
Now let’s have a tic tac toe
Ah tic ah tac ah tic tac toe
My mother’s in the kitchen peelin white potatoes
My father’s in the alley drinkin lemonade-o
Brother in the clink waitin for the clock to go
boom tic tock boom tick a wally wally (7x)
boom tic tock

Miss Sue (clap clap clap)
Miss Sue (clap clap clap)
Miss Sue from Alabama
She ma *
My mother had a baby
My father called it crazy
But, if it’s a girl
I’ll give it a curl
And If it’s a boy
I’ll give it a toy.
Wrap it up in toilet paper
Send it down the elevator
First floor ¬ Stop!
(Think it over)
Second floor -Stop!
(Think it over)
Third floor, you better not stop
'Cause S.T.O.P spells stop.
-Songs for Children from New York City [1976]
Transcribed by Azizi Powell from the sound file published on YouTube.
*"She ma" seemed like it was an utterance that the girls chanting this rhyme caught and then moved on to the "My mother had a baby" verses. "Mother had a baby" is a stand alone jump rope (hand clap) rhyme (a rhyme that can be chanted by itself).

SHOWCASE SOUND FILE: Miss Sue From Alabama; Miss Sue From Alabama

Various Artists - Topic, Published on May 30, 2015

Songs for Children from New York City [1976]

Provided to YouTube by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

℗ 2004 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings / 1978 Folkways Records

Miss Sue
Miss Sue from Alabama
Hey you,
scooby do
your Mama's got the measles
Your papa's got the flu
magic measles
magic flu
Take an a b c d e f g
Take an h i j k l.m.n.o.p.
Take a smooth shot
Take a smooth shot
and now freeze.
-Eleanor Fulton, Pat Smith, editors Let's Slice The Ice, (Magnamusic-Baton, 1978; St. Louis, Missouri; p. 16)
UPDATE: January 19, 2019:
I now think that the words "take a smooth shot" originated from "take a flu shot" [an immunization to prevent against getting influenza [disease]. That said, "take a smooth shot" may still have the meaning "to do something difficult with finesse" that I guessed was the meaning when I first published this post.]
-end of 1/19/2019 Update]

In this example & in other examples of "Miss Sue From Alabama" playground rhymes, the word "smooth" is an adjective whose 1970s slang meaning is "doing something difficult without effort, with finesse." The word "smooth" was often used this way when someone performed a difficult action in a way that made that action seemed easy.

The line "Now let me see you smoothing" in the example given as Version #2 above, the word "smoothing" probably carries the same vernacular meaning of doing something difficult with finesse.

"Take a smooth shirt" is just one folk processed example of "take a smooth shot" that is found in multiple versions of "Miss Sue From Alabama" (or other titles).

Miss Sue, (clap, clap)
Miss Sue (clap, clap)
Miss Sue from Alabama,
Let's make a movie,
Sittin' in a rocker,
Eatin' Betty Crocker,
Hey wise girl,
Whatcha gonna do,
When your mama's at work,
Baby's got the flu,
Daddy's got the chicken pox,
And so do you?
Take an a b c d e f g,
Take an h i j k l m n o p,
Take a booty shot,
take a booty shot,
-from "Children's Rhymes From the Eighties
during the 80s."

Miss Sue (Clap Clap)
Miss Sue from Alabama
She's havin a party
Chica Boom Chica Boom Chich Boom Boom Boom
Mama got the measels
Daddy got the flu
I ain't lyin
Neither are you
Just sittin in the field pealing white potatas
Sittin in the hall drinkin achahol
Got to drunk I fell out
How many hours was I knocked out
-from "Children's Rhymes From the Eighties
This entire example was written in upper case letters, and was also written in paragraph form. I changed those features in order to conform to the other examples on this page.s

ET FROM OUTER SPACE (Version #7 of "Miss Sue From Alabama")
ET from outer space.
He has an ugly face.
Sittin in a rocket
eatin very tocket
watchin the clock go
Tick tock
tick tock shawally wally
You betta get your black hands offa me
You gotta smoooth cho
You gotta smoooth cho
You gotta smooth, smooth, smooth, smooth, smooth.
Now Freeze!
(alternative last line: My mama said "Black eye peas").
-Kiera, African American girl, 8 years old, (Pleasantville, New Jersey) and Kion, African American male, 6 years old, (Pleasantville, New Jersey), 11/8/2008
Kiara & Kion are my great niece & great nephew. (Their mother, Kiemon, told me that she recited this same rhyme when she was a child in the 1980s).

The "ET" in the rhyme is the lead character from the hit 1982 American science fiction movie, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Click for more information about this movie. I'm not sure why that character and his ugly face replaced the standard "Miss Sue from Alabama" lines in some versions of this rhyme.
Italics added to highlight this note.

Click for a pancoocjams post about the line "Get your black hands off of me."

MISS MOO (Version #8 of "Miss Sue From Alabama")
Miss Moo
Miss Moo, Miss Moo, Miss Moo from out of space,
Rocking in a rocking chair
Eating candy floss
Watching the clock go tick tock tick tock bananarama
Tick tock tick tock bananarama
Watching the stars jump out of me
Moonshine moonshine moonshine FREEZE! Vashti (talk) 01:42, 5 January 2017 (UTC)
- Vashti, (southeast Wales, UK version circa 1986, sung to music); January 2017; (talk page)
Here's a note about this example from the editors of this Wikipedia talk page:
"This one is interesting, it has the same hand movements as the Midwest version above, and "Bananarama" is clearly a British 80s adaptation of "banana-wana", but it also has the moonshine part from the Appalachian version listed here."
Those examples that are referenced in that note don't include any demographic information about when they were performed.

Hi there. I'm from Mississippi and was in elementary school in the late 80's through early 90's. the version of "Miss Sue" I remember was not listed here. I thought I'd help you out. Last time I heard it, I think it had varied ever so slightly from when I was in school, but this is how I remember it:

Miss Sue (clap clap clap)
Miss Sue (clap clap clap)
Miss Sue from Alabama Sittin' in a rocker
eatin' betty crocker
watchin' that clock go
tick-tock, tick-tock-banana-nana
tick-tock, tick-tock banana-nana
ABCDEFG-wash those stains right out'a my knees
(as fast as you can) 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10!

I never got the last part...sometimes the rule was you had to stay still while you counted, and sometimes it was to count the fastest. The most distinct difference I remember is that there were always three claps after "Miss Sue." I hope that was helpful.
-Allison {Mississippi; late 1980s, early 1990s}; 2/28/2007 []

"grind gremlin said:
“Miss Sue, Miss Sue,
Miss Sue from Alabama.
She's sittin in the kitchen, doin a bit of knitting,
watching the clock going
tic, toc, tic, toc bananarama
tic, toc, tic, toc bananarama
ABCDEFG, wash those cobwebs off my knee,
Awooshka, Awooshka, turn around and freeze.

[also includes an example of "C C my playmate"]"

We had versions of these two as well. They seem to have come from the U.S.

Ours went something like this:

Mayzoo, Mayzoo,
Mayzoo from Alabama,
Sittin' in her rockin' chair
Doin' a bit of knittin'
Watchin' the clock go
Tick tock, tick tock shawala wala,
Tick tock, tick tock shawala wala,
wipe those cobwebs of my knee,
With a woochacha, woochacha
A woochacha, woochacha
Turn around, tip the ground and freeze!

[includes an example of "Sisi my playmate"],


We would have played these games around 1993 - 1999.
School-yard Rhymes. [from the United Kingdom ?], 26-Oct-2014

E.T. FROM OUTER SPACE (Version #12)
E.T from outer space he has an ugly face, sitting in the rocker, eating betty crocker, watching the clock go tick tock, tick tock shawawa(sp)(x2), a-b-c-d-e-f-g betta get your mama off of me, betta get your mama off of me musha, musha, musha, freeze.
-IHEARTWRITING,, August 3, 2008 "I Heart The 90s”
"Get your mama off of me (also given as "get your grandma off of me") is a Dozens type sexual put down as it infers that the mother (or grandmother) of the person referred to as "your" has trying to have sex with the person who is chanting this rhyme.

This concludes Part I of this two part series on selected examples of "Miss Sue From Alabama" (and other titles).

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. As this pancocojams series demonstrated, I'm most interested in examining how versions of rhymes change over time from the earliest known examples of that particular rhyme. But just because a version differs partly or significantly from earliest known examples, doesn't mean that example is "wrong".

    I believe that there aren't really any right or wrong versions of any particular children's rhymes (except when a version completely differs from examples of that particular rhyme in textual structure, text (words), and tune.

    1. Some people may think that it shouldn't matter whether "Miss Sue From Alabama" or any other folk composition is of African American origin.

      However, I went to school in the 1950s and vividly remember a White teacher in elementary school telling her classroom of Black students (including me) that Black people never created anything.

      Obviously, that was totally wrong, but it had a tremendous impact on my (and I'm sure) other students' self-esteem and group esteem.

      So even though there are many more important things that Black people (including African Americans) have created, as "Miss Sue From Alabama" and many other children's rhymes travel throughout the world and are adapted by non-Black children, I want to do my part in making sure that we (Black people) are acknowledged as the admittedly usually unknown composers of these rhymes.

    2. Both "Scooby-doo" and "ET" can serve as time markers in "Miss Sue From Alabama" hand clap rhymes (and in other children's rhymes) since the rhymes that include those fictitious characters can't be older than the dates that those characters first appeared on television or in the movies.

  2. This was how I knew it growing up in Utah as you clapped it out with a friend:

    Mazoo from Alabama
    Sittin' in a rocker
    Eatin' Betty Crocker
    Listen to the clock go
    Tick Tock
    Tick Tock Banana-Rock
    Tick Tock
    Tick Tock Banana-Rock
    Wipe that blue stuff off of me
    Mushka Mushka Mushka

    And then you froze and had a staring contest

    1. Hello, burgundtblake.

      Thanks for sharing your version of a "Miss Sue from Alabama" rhyme, along with where you performed it.

      Reading that (and re-reading this post) motivated me to try to find more information online about this rhyme family. As a result, I found out that the earliest documented version of this rhyme was in 1934. (!)

      "Miss Sue From Alabama" appears to be one of the contemporary playground rhymes with the most variants.

      I'm working on one or possibly two new pancocojams posts about this rhyme. I'll add their links here.

      Thanks again.

    2. burgundtblake, here's a link for Part I of a three part pancocojams series on the Textual Diversity Of Miss Sue From Alabama Rhymes:

      I gave you a shout out in the intro to that post and I'll repeat that hat tip for the other two posts in that series.