Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Partial List Of African American "Call The Doctor" Songs & Rhymes

Edited by Azizi Powell

[Revised May 8, 2017]

This post lists the titles of from a number of African American songs & rhymes that includes lines that include or allude to having sent for or called for a doctor because of malnutrition, or because of a stomach ache not related to malnutrition, or because of an accident or an injury. These examples are given in those specific sub-categories along with excerpts of their verses and the publication date of that particular example.

Enter the song name in the pancocojams search engine to find the specific pancocojams post or posts about a particular song or rhyme in this list or click the tags underneath this post for additional pancocojams posts about this subject.

For the most part, I've retained the dialectic English that was used in some of these examples, although I strongly believe that those songs or rhymes shouldn't be sung that way now. However, I've substituted "the n word" for the referent for Black people that was fully spelled out in some of those examples.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to those unknown people who composed these songs. Thanks also to the collectors of this song, and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

DISCLAIMER: This doesn't purport to be a complete listing of all the songs in this category. Please suggest other titles in the comment section of this post.

By "African American" songs and rhymes, I mean those compositions that are particularly known to have been sung or chanted by African Americans, although non-African Americans may also have sung or chanted them.

I don't claim that all of the songs and rhymes in this list were originally composed by African Americans, or that all of the later versions of those songs and rhymes were composed by African Americans. To be clear, I recognize that some of the songs and rhymes that are featured in the 1922 book Negro Folk Rhymes by the African American collector Thomas W. Talley and the 1925 book On The Trail Of Negro Folk Rhymes by Anglo-American collector Dorothy Scarborough were originally composed by White people. Both of those collections document songs and rhymes that were sung or chanted by African Americans in their original form or in slightly or heavily revised forms. However, the source songs for those particular songs & rhymes may have been composed by Anglo-Americans. In the case of many 19th century black-faced minstrel songs, although those songs are credited to one or more White composers, it's sometimes difficult to tell if those named composers had originally lifted portions of those songs from Black persons, on or off the plantation.

These examples are presented in chronological order based on their publication dates, with the earliest known examples given first.

Example #1: Shortnin Bread
"Three lil [the n word plural]
lyin in bed
Two wus sick
An t'other 'most dead
Sent fo' de doctor
An' de doctor said
"Give dem [the n word plural]
Some short'nin' bread!"

Source of excerpt: Dorothy Scarborough, editor, On The Trail Of Negro Folk Songs, originally published in 1925

Example #2: Pork Chop Blues
"I went to the doctor, the doctor said, “Boy, what’s the matter with you?
That doctor looked around at me: I said “Doctor, what I need?”

The doctor shook his head and said
“You need the pork chop poultice an’ the stew an’
veg. in’ your stomach three times a day."

Source of excerpt: Sam Collins - "Pork Chop Blues" record, 1927

Example #3: Pork Chop Blues
"Doctor Haigh came into the front of my bus, an' set down on my wheel*
An' just about the time when mother walked in, this is what he said.
You need some pork chop poultice an' some pork n' beans, good greasy [in your] stomach three times a day"

Source of excerpt: The Two Charlies- "Pork Chop Blues" record, 1936

Example #1:
"Grandma Grandma sick in bed
Called the doctor and the doctor said
Get up Grandma! You ain't sick
All you need is a hickory stick"

Source: floating verse in various playground rhymes
In this rhyme the grandmother is being accused of faking her illness. Branches from hickory trees were often used to beat people. (From "Switches are most efficient (i.e., painful and durable) if made of a strong but flexible type of wood, such as hazel (also used for a very severe birch) or hickory; as the use of their names for disciplinary implements.")

Later versions of this rhyme substitute "peppermint stick" for "hickory stick".

This example may also belong in the List #1 (Malnutrition) category.

Example #2:
"Mama mama, I'm so sick
Call the doctor quick quick quick
Doctor, doctor will I die?
Count to five and you'll be alive
I said, a-one, a-two, a-three, a-four, a-five
I'm alive!

Source: playground rhyme: "I Met My Boyfriend At The Candy Store"
I disagree with those who think that this rhyme means or implies that the girl was pregnant. Instead, I believe that the girl stomach hurt because she ate too much candy and other sweets.

My mother called the doctor, the doctor said .
Oo, ouch. I got a pain in my side. -
Oo, ouch. I got a pain in my head- -
ouch. I got a pain in my stomach. -
To the front, to the back to the see-saw side

Source: singing game "Zoodio"

Note: Not all versions of "Here We Go Zoodio" (also known as "Zudie-o", "Zudio", "Zodiac") contain a "call the doctor" or "ooh ah I got a pain in my side etc." verse. And some other examples of "Zoodio" have the doctor complaining about his (or her) body pains. It seems to me that it would the person who called the doctor-in this case-"mama" who would be complaining to the doctor about her pains and not the doctor describing his pains.

Example #1:
Dey sent fer de Doctah
An' de Doctah he come.
He come in a hurry,
He come in a run.
He come wid his instriments
Right in his han',
To progue an' find
Dat forty-fō', Man!

Source of excerpt: Song entitled "Forty Four" in Thomas W. Talley's Negro Folk Rhymes originally published in 1922.

Example #2:
"Miss Lucy called the doctor.
Miss Lucy called the nurse.
Miss Lucy called the lady
with the alligator purse."

Source: playground rhyme "Miss Lucy* Had A Baby"
*(or some other female name)
I believe that "Miss Lucy Had A Baby" rhymes refer to the formal and informal health care people sought to to treat Diptheria (i.e. note the reference in many of those rhymes to "bubble in his throat".) Click for my comments about that theory.

However, since the doctor was ostensibly called because the baby tried to eat the bathtub, this example could also be placed in sub-category #3.

Example #2:
"Mama mama, I'm so sick
Call the doctor quick quick quick
Doctor, doctor will I die?
Count to five and you'll be alive
I said, a-one, a-two, a-three, a-four, a-five
I'm alive!

Source: playground rhyme: "I Met My Boyfriend At The Candy Store" [The girl ate too much candy]
I disagree with those who think that this rhyme means or implies that the girl was pregnant. Instead, I believe that the girl stomach hurt because she ate too much candy and other sweets.

Editorial Comment:
The children's chant "Five Little Monkeys" (jumping on the bed) might be included in Category #3 as the doctor was called because the monkeys fell off the bed. However, I don't believe that "Five Little Monkeys" is particularly known to be sung or performed by African Americans. But early versions of the chant that is now known as "Five Little Monkeys" used the "n word" plural or "darkies" as referents for Black people instead of the word "monkey". And "monkey" itself is a word which has also been used in the past and the present as an offensive referent for Black people.

Click for a post on "The Racist Roots Of "Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed".

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitors' comments are welcome.


  1. Just so you all know my mom wrote the original, and she isn't racist at all. It was 10 little monkeys and the doctor part doesn't exist, it was added by another author. She wrote it as an assignment in an early education class when she was in college to become a preschool teacher. I still have the book she wrote and illustrated by hand for her assignment. People need to just calm down and stop making themselves the target of racism that doesn't exist. I am not saying there isn't racism, not in the slightest. What I am saying is don't go creating it if you don't need to and don't want to become or be the victim of it. If it isn't there why victimize yourself. Focus on where it actually is and make a change there. Not where it isn't. Stop wasting precious time when you could be making a difference.

    1. Greetings, Unknown.

      I think that you are referring to my editorial comment about "The Five Little Monkeys" (jumping in the bed) song or chant.

      I respect what you wrote, but I stand by what I wrote.

      Best wishes.