Translate

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

References To "The FBI" In Children's Rhymes Before The "I Believe I Can Fly I Got Shot By The FBI" Parodies

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post documents various examples of American children's rhymes that include references to the FBI that were known before the children's parodies of R. Kelly's 1996 inspirational song "I Believe I Can Fly".

The oldest children's parody example of "I Believe I Can Fly" that I've collected (directly and via the internet) is from 1999. Here's that example:

I believe I can fly.
I got chased by the FBI. (or "I'm being chased by the FBI").
It's all because of those collards greens
that I ate with those chicken wings.
I believe I can fly.
See me running through that open door.
I believe I can fly.
I believe I can fly.
-African American boys & girls (ages 7-12), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, collected by Azizi Powell, 1999

In contrast, the earliest example that I've found online of a children's rhyme that mentions "the FBI" is from the mid to late 1940s. That example is given below as A #1.

Note that according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Bureau_of_Investigation, the United States government department that is now know as the FBI was created in July 26, 1908. However, that department wasn't named "Federal Bureau of Investigation" (FBI) until 1935 and therefore no children's rhymes with that acronym could have existed before 1935.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
-snip-
Click https://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/10/childrens-parodies-of-i-believe-i-can_2.html and https://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2017/06/were-african-americans-originally.html for pancocojams posts that include examples of "I Believe I Can Fly" parodies.

****
DISCLAIMER:
This post is not meant to be a comprehensive compilation of children's rhymes (songs) that include a reference to "the FBI". Please add to this compilation in the comment section below, especially if you know any children's rhymes that mention "the FBI" in other rhymes besides those given in this post. Don't forget to add demographic information (particularly decade and geographical location such as city & state). Thanks!

****
"THE FBI" MENTIONED IN THE CHILDREN'S RHYMES
These examples are given in rhyme sub-categories and are numbered within those categories. The examples within those sub-titles are given in no particular order.

When an entire long rhyme is given, the verse that includes "The FBI" is written in italics to highlight that particular verse.

These sub-categories are presented in order according to the number of examples with "the FBI" references that I have found (to date), with "the rhyme/song family" with the most examples given first.

A. I WOKE UP SUNDAY MORNING" RHYMES (also known as "Roaches and Bedbugs", "The Wiffer Woofer" and other titles)

From http://rolandanderson.se/bedbugs.php
Numbers #1 and #2 in this sub-category

Pancocojams Editor's Note:
I'm prefacing these two "The FBI" examples with the following excerpt from the book Bald Mountain Childhood by Roland Anderson:
"Centered around Mary Pawlak, this is an autobiographic, biographic and historical description of growing up in a Carpatho-Rusyn family on Bald Mountain near Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania during the 1920's and 30's.

[...]

Verses [of "Beetles And The Bedbugs"] similar to the ones that Mary recite occur in innumerable versions of folk songs popular during the early 1900's. A version that appears to be one of the oldest concerns the trepidations of a vagrant in New York City. That the song was also popular in the Wilkes-Barre and the surrounding Luzerne County area is attested to by the fact that there is a version of the New York City song that has been modified so that it refers to Luzerne County. The verses are included in the song "I don't want no more of this army life" which was popular during World War II. This comic description of army life was sung by Bugs Bunny in a Warner Brothers cartoon film during the war years. This version of the song is frequently resurrected when the United States engages in new conflicts. Additionally, the verses about the bedbugs playing baseball are quite popular and often occur in songs built up from bits and pieces taken from a number of sources. Below are a few of the folk songs in which contain verses similar to the one that Mary recalls."...

[Pancocojams Editor: I've numbered these selected examples from that book.]

"THE BEETLES AND THE BEDBUGS

1. This song version evidently comes from Oregon. The secret agent occurring in a verse in "Bedbugs and Skeeters" above, has here become a german and hints at a WWII origin

My mother was a German
My father was a spy
And if you don't believe me
Just call the FBI

Someone, likely wanting to keep the song up-to-date during the 1950's, replaced the German spy verse above with the following:

My mother is a Russian
my father is a spy
And if you don't believe me,
just ask the FBI"
-snip-
Roland Anderson indicates that the German spy verse is from the 1940s [World War II]

****
3. From https://kilowan.wordpress.com/2006/09/02/skeeters-and-the-bed-bugs/
{Comment] A fellow camper
September 12, 2006 at 11:04 am
How I learned it:

"I woke up Sunday morning
and looked up on the wall
the beatles and the bed bugs
were playing a game of ball

The score was seven-nothing
The beatles were ahead
The beatles hit a home run
and knocked me out of bed

I’m singing
eenie-meenie and a minie moe (oh oh oh)
catch a whipper-whopper by the toe (oh oh oh)
and if he hollers hollers hollers
let him go (oh oh oh)
eenie-meenie and a minie moe

I went downstairs to breakfast
I ordered ham and eggs
I ate so many eggs
The ham rolled down my legs!

I’m singing…

My mother was a German
My father was a spy
And if you don’t believe me
Just call the FBI

I’m singing…

I fell into the sewer
That’s where I plan to die
Some people call it murder
I call it sewer-cide

I’m singing…"

****
4. From http://maripai-songbook.tripod.com/songlyrics.html http://maripai-songbook.tripod.com/songlyrics.html
"I Woke Up Sunday Morning
I woke up Sunday morning, and looked upon the wall
The skeeters and the bedbugs were playing a game of ball
The score was three to nothing, the skeeters were ahead
The bedbugs hit a home run, and knocked me out of bed

Chorus:
I’m singing, eener meener and a miner mo
Catch a whipper whopper by the toe,
And if he hollers, hollers, hollers, don’t let him go
Im singing, eener meener and a miner mo

I went downstairs for breakfast, I ordered ham and eggs,
I ate so many pickles, the juice ran down my legs
My mother gave me a nickel, my father gave me a dime
My sister gave me a boyfriend, who kissed me all the time
My mom’s a secret agent, my father is a spy
And I’m the little big mouth, that told the FBI
"

****
5. From http://dragon.sleepdeprived.ca/songbook/songs5/S5_79.htm The Whipper Whopper Song (Eener Meener); contributed by Sue Moore
"I woke up Sunday morning,
I looked up on the wall,
The beetles and the bedbugs
Were playing a game of ball.

The score was 6 to nothing,
The beetles were ahead,
The bedbugs hit a homerun
And knocked me out of bed.
Chorus:

I'm singing - Eeny meeny and a miney mo, mo, mo, mo
Catch a Whipper Whopper by his toe,
And if he HOLLERS, HOLLERS, HOLLERS, let him go.
I'm singing - Eeny meeny and a miney mo, mo, mo, mo
I went downstairs for breakfast,
I ordered ham and eggs,
I ate so many eggs
The ham ran down my legs.

I went outside to play,
I looked up in the sky,
I saw a little bluebird,
It poo-pooed in my eye.

My mother is a butcher,
My dad's a side of beef
And I'm the little hot dog
That runs around the street.

My father is a crook,
My mother is a spy,
And I'm the little big-mouth
That told the FBI.


I fell into the sewer,
And this is where I'll die,
Some people call it suicide,
I call it sewer-cide.
-snip-
6. This verse is found in another example of this rhyme that was contributed by Aubrey:
"My mother is a banker,
My father is a spy,
And I'm the little big mouth,
Who told the FBI."

****
7. From http://playgroundjungle.com/2009/12/i-woke-up-saturday-morning.html I Woke Up Saturday Morning
Example posted by Paul Kyle:

I woke up Sunday Morning
I looked up on the wall
The beetles and the bedbugs
were playing a game of ball

The score was 6 to nothing
The beetles were ahead
The bedbugs hit a home run
and knocked me out of bed

I’m singin’, Eenie-Meenie and uh, Minie-Moe
Catch a tigger tiger, by his toe
If he hollers hollers, let him go
I’m singin’, Eenie-Meenie and uh, Minie-Moe

I went downstairs for breakfast
I ordered ham and eggs
I ate so many eggs
the ham rolled down my legs.

I’m singin’, Eenie-Meenie and a, Minie-Moe
Catch a tigger-tiger, by his toe
If he hollers-hollers, let him go
I’m singin’, Eenie-Meenie and a, Minie-Moe.

My father is a baker
my mother is a spy
and if you don’t believe me
go ask the FBI

-snip-
8. From the Comment section of that post:
Suzy January 18, 2010
"Well, I have heard this as "the cooties and the bedbugs".

[...]

My father is a commie
my mother is a spy
and I'm the little hotdog
that told the FBI
".

Midwest during the 1980's but I heard them from my dad who grew up in Iowa in the 50's and 60's.”

**
9. Patrick, July 13, 2016
"So many different versions. I lived in Kansas City, and a new neighbor from “who-knows-where” taught it this way (but my mother banned us from singing it any more.):

My mother was a commie
my father was a spy,
I’m the little “blankty-blank”
that told the FBI."

****
10. From http://www.allthelyrics.com/lyrics/childrens_songs/eenie_meenie-lyrics-1138582.html
"I woke up Sunday morning
And looked up on the wall
The cooties and the bedbugs
Were having a game of ball.

The score was six-to-nothing,
The cooties were ahead.
The cooties hit a home run
And knocked me out of bed!

[Chorus]

I'm singin
Eenie meenie and a-miny-mo
Boom boom boom
Catch a whifferwhaffer by the toe
Boom boom boom
And if he holler hollers let him go
Boom boom boom
Eenie-meenie and a-miny-mo

My father gave me a nickel
My mother gave me a dime
My sister has a boyfriend
Who looks like Frankenstein

[Chorus]

My father is a lawyer,
My mother is a spy
Me and my big mouth
I told thee FBI!


[Chorus]

I went downstairs for breakfast
I ordered ham and eggs
I ate so many eggs
That the yolk ran down my leg

[Chorus]

I went into the sewer
And that is how I died
They didn't call it murder
They called it "sewer-side!"

submitted by guest"

****
11. [with note] From http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=312
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Roaches and Bedbugs?
From: GUEST,cosmos42
Date: 21 Aug 15 - 10:15 PM

"May I repeat that you people are amazing?

I have a list of songs which I need to add to my songbook, some of which I don't have the words for. Guess what song I added to that list yesterday.

Catch A Wiffer Woffer!

It's now stuck in my head, but it's worth it.

Another verse which we used:

My mother is an Indian
My father is a spy
And if you don't believe me
I'll call the FBI"

****
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Roaches and Bedbugs?
From: GUEST,cosmos42
Date: 21 Aug 15 - 10:26 PM

"And, skimming other internet songbooks, it seems like most peoples' mothers were something that made more sense than "an Indian" - a German, a Russian, or even a banker or martian."

****
B. "MISS SUSIE HAD A STEAMBOAT" ("MISS LUCY HAD A STEAMBOAT") RHYMES
#1. From http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=90418
Subject: RE: Folklore: Lady's alligator purse? Her own thread
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Feb 11 - 01:54 PM

Kids Dont jump rope to this song im in the fourth grade and we just sing it we dont do any movements to the song
Miss Suzie had a steam boat
The Steamboat had a bell
Mrs.Suzie went to heaven
The steamboat went to

Hello Operator
Give me number 9
if you disconnect me
I'll kick you from

Behind the refrigerator
there was a piece of glass
Miss Suzie sat upon it
And broke her little

Ask me no more questions
ill tell you no more lies
The boys are in the bathroom
Zipping down their

Flies are in the meadow
Bees are in the grass
The boys and girls
Are kissing in the

D-A-R-K D-A-R-K
Darker than the ocean
Darker than the sea
Darker than the black boy
That's chasing after me

Dark is like a movie
A movie is like a show
A show is like a T.V. set
And that is all I...

Know my dad is a robber
I know my mom is a spy
I know that I'm the little brat that
Told the F.B.I.


My mom gave me a nickel
My dad gave me a dime
My sis' gave me a girlfriend
And I know she's is witch

she made me wash the dishes
she made me wash the floor
she made me wash her underwear
So I kicked her out the door

I kicked her over London
I kicked her over France
I kicked her to Hawaii
Where she did the Hoola Dance!

-snip-
I reformatted this example to separate its strung together verses.
-snip-
[#2 & #3] Two similar versions of this rhyme, but with the first line "Mrs. Lucy Had A Steamboat" and "Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat" can be found at http://bussongs.com/songs/miss-lucy-had-a-steam-boat.php. One of those versions has "the FBI" verse as exactly given above, and one has that verse without the "I know" preface to those lines.

Note: Neither of those "bussong"s versions have the "black boy chasing after me" verse.

****
#4. [Added June 23, 2017]

"hey i remember this version of ms suzy:

Ms. Suzy had a steamboat,
the steamboat had a bell toot toot,
the steamboat went to heaven
ms. suzy went to
hello operator,
plase give me number nine,
and if you disconnect me,
ill chop of your
behind the 'fridgarator,
their lay a piece of glass,
ms. suzy sat apon it
and broke her little
ask me no more questions,
tell me no more lies
the boys are in the bathroom
zipping up their
flys are in the meadows
the bees are in their hives,
ms suzy and her boyfriend
are kissing in the
D-A-R-K D-A-R-K dark dark
dark as in the movies
the movies like a show,
the show is like a tv screen
and that is all i know
i know my ma,
i know i know my pa,
i know i know my sister
with the 40 acre bra.
My mom gave me a penny,
my dad gave me a dime,
my sister gave me a boyfriend,
who kissed me all the time.
He made me wash the dishes,
he made me scrub the floor,
he made me clean his underwear
so i kicked him out the door.
I kicked him over london
i kicked him over france,
i kicked him over china,
and stole his underpants.
Brocolli makes you smell good,
carrots help you say,
bananas make you constipate
and water makes you pee.
My mother is a burglar,
my father is a spy,
and im the little bugger,
that told the F.B.I.

Hello operator
please give me number 10,
and if you disconnect me,
ill sing this song again!!"
-posted by megan at March 28, 2006, http://blog.oftheoctopuses.com/000518.php [retrieved by Azizi Powell, 2006; website no longer available]
-snip-
I reformatted this example from essay format to enhance its readability.

****
C. "FBI" MENTIONED IN OTHER RHYMES
(besides those given above, including "I Believe I Can Fly" parodies)
#1. From http://mudcat.org/jumprope/jumprope_display.cfm?rhyme_number=69
"Don't say 'ain't'.
Your mother will faint.
Your father will fall
In a bucket of paint.
Your sister will cry.
Your brother will die.
Your dog will call the FBI.

Source: Hastings (1990)"

****
#2. From http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=110403

Subject: RE: Law Officers in Songs &Children's Rhymes
From: Cool Beans
Date: 19 Apr 08 - 09:49 AM

My country tis of thee
Sweet land of Gernmany
My name is Fritz.
My father was a spy
Caught by the FBI
Tomorrow he will die.
My name is Fritz.

(Learned in the 1950s when I was a little kid.)

****
Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

4 comments:

  1. From around 1985-to around 2006, I directly collected children's rhymes (hand clap rhymes, jump rope rhymes, singing games, cheers, chants, & parodies such as "I Believe I Can Fly") from (mostly) African American children, teens, and adults in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area.

    For what it's worth, during those face to face collection years and subsequently, I've never heard, observed, or directly collected any of the rhymes/songs that are featured in this pancocojams post-with the exception of "I Believe I Can Fly" parodies that are featured in this post.

    I also don't recall any of these rhymes/songs from my childhood or teen years in Atlantic City, N. Jersey (late 1940s to mid 1960s).

    ReplyDelete
  2. I believe that children often recite recreational rhymes from rote memory, paying little if no attention to the overall meaning of the rhyme or of specific verses within those rhymes. However, that's not always true. Sometimes children are very aware of the words that they sing/recite- including taboo and otherwise socially inappropriate language and risque references in recreational rhymes and songs.

    I've chosen not to analyze the "FBI" verses in these children's rhymes. However, I am interested in reading other folk's opinions about those rhymes.

    As an African American, I'm more interested in the verse in the "Miss Susie Had A Steamboat" example (given as B #1) above that refers to a Black boy.

    I've come across a number of online examples of English language children's rhymes from the United Kingdom, the United States, South Africa and elsewhere that include the "n word" either fully spelled out or incompletely spelled as I just did or "n**" or n# etc. [Among the children's rhymes that include the "n word" are some examples of "Eenie Meenie Miney Mo" and some examples of "Not Last Night But The Night Before").

    I've previously published this pancocojams post that documents the racial terms such as "black boy" in contemporary American children's rhymes: https://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/01/racialized-versions-of-i-like-coffee-i.html Racialized Versions Of "I Like Coffee I Like Tea".

    I plan to publish at least one other pancocojams post on children's rhymes that include the referent "Black boy" and "Black girl". The links or links to those posts will be added here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here's a link to the pancocojams post entitled "Selected Examples Of Referents For Black People In Children's Rhymes"

      https://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2017/06/selected-examples-of-referents-for.html

      Delete
  3. I just happened upon children's rhyme about the CIA (although it's not about the FBI, I think it's close enough to be added to this discussion thread)

    Kate, 4/6/00
    "... I think those are the last two lines to the version I learned in elementary school:
    Ta Ra Ra Boom Dee Ay
    We are the CIA
    While you're standing there
    We'll take your underwear."
    https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.tv.dark_shadows/nXirYD45eY0 Just what is "Ta Ra Ra BOOM dee-ay" anyway?

    ReplyDelete