Little Red Wagon Painted Blue

January 19, 2010 at 9:50 PM Leave a comment

Little red wagon painted blue. Did you ever wonder about this lyric from Skip to My Lou? I have. I have even done some research, but the most satisfactory explanation comes from Shira, who guessed the wagon might be blue with a red handle. Maybe it’s an in-joke about the blue wagon that was once red that everyone calls the little red wagon, which is different from the little red wagon that’s actually still red. Or maybe not.

Skip to My Lou was a dance on the American frontier, kind of like duck, duck, goose, except with partners. Which explains the verses “Lost my partner, what’ll I do?’ and “I’ll get another one prettier’n you.” (Lou means sweatheart, I learned thanks to mamalisa.)

But what about the many other lyrics, like “Flies in the buttermilk, shoo fly shoo” that seem to come out of left field? It turns out there’s a tradition with this song to come up with your own verses. For a complex but interesting explanation of the hows and whys, see this. Picture the parties in the prairie, the song’s already gone on for twenty minutes, everyone is out of breath, spinning around, and all poor Jacob can think to sing about is the wagon parked in the corner of the barn. No one would let him live that one down and the nonsense lyric becomes a permanent part of the song.

Can you come up with a good lyric?


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