Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

Grandma’s Feather Bed, a Singable Picture Book

Posted on: May 6, 2012

I’m gonna admit something (gulp)…I love some songs better than others.  And I really love, “Grandma’s Feather Bed.”  It brings me back and gives me joy and is so much fun to sing!

Grandma’s Feather Bed is also an all-time top blockbuster favorite of kids in classrooms in libraries.  It is one of the top most requested songs and whenever I pull it out of the SING bag, the kids give a big cheer.  The tongue twister chorus is fun for them to learn.  We talk about what the words mean (like how “forty l’even” just means “lots and lots”) and after about 4 repetitions of hearing the song with me the Kindergartners start singing along with the chorus.  Even after a long summer, the kids in higher grades who have sung with me before can join right in.  That’s what it is all about.  To sing a joyous song together, having that common musical thread, unites the groups and makes people very happy.  This song has brought me a lot of joy, but it has brought joy, too, to hundreds of children who sing it with me.

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Grandma’s Feather Bed (John Denver’s)

Words and Music by Jim Connor
Adapted and Illustrated by Christopher Canyon
Famously Performed and Recorded by John Denver

One of the last pages of the book contains the story of how this song came to be written by Jim Connor (a great banjo player and friend of John Denver’s) and  why the song meant so much and spoke so clearly to John Denver.  It should be said that both men had cherished memories of childhoods spent in the company of their grandparents.

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Well, the muppets came through for me, yet again:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2nHGlE06y0

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Link to Muppet Wiki about the video:
http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Grandma’s_Feather_Bed

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Here’s another good one:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tn4yA6F4LhQ

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Jim Connor sings his song:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCrfp9-mdJI
This includes lyrics not recorded by John Denver

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Website for songwriter Jim Connor:
http://www.jimconnormusic.com/

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I love this link, to see the handwritten lyrics for, “Grandma’s Feather Bed,”
http://www.jimconnormusic.com/index_htm_files/The%20Lyrics.jpg

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Publisher’s webpage for the picture book:
http://www.dawnpub.com/our-books/grandmas-feather-bed/
Features links to see full two page spreads of the adorable illustrations.

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GRANDMA’S FEATHER BED
Words and Music by Jim Connor 

When I was a little bitty boy just up off the floor
We used to go out to Grandma’s house every month end or so
Have chicken pie and country ham, homemade butter on the bread
But the best darn thing about Grandma’s house was a great big feather bed

It was nine feet high and six feet wide, soft as a downy chick
It was made from the feathers of forty-‘leven geese, took a whole bolt of cloth for the tick
It’d hold eight kids and four hound dogs and a piggy we stole from the shed
Didn’t get much sleep but we had a lot of fun on Grandma’s feather bed

After supper we’d sit around the fire, the old folks would spit and chew
Pa would talk about the farm and the war, Granny’d sing a ballad or two
And I’d sit and listen and watch the fire till the cobwebs filled my head
Next thing I’d know I’d wake up in the mornin’ in the middle of the old feather bed

It was nine feet high and six feet wide, soft as a downy chick
It was made from the feathers of forty-‘leven geese, took a whole bolt of cloth for the tick
It’d hold eight kids and four hound dogs and a piggy we stole from the shed
Didn’t get much sleep but we had a lot of fun on Grandma’s feather bed

Well I love my Ma, I love my Pa, I Love Granny and Grandpa too
I’ve been fishing with my uncle, wrestled my cousin, I even kissed Aunt Lou. Eeewwww!
But if I ever had to make a choice, I guess it ought to be said…
I’d trade ‘em all plus the gal down the road for Grandma’s feather bed
Yes I’d trade ‘em all, plus the gal down the road…

It was nine feet high and six feet wide, soft as a downy chick
It was made from the feathers of forty-‘leven geese, took a whole bolt of cloth for the tick
It’d hold eight kids and four hound dogs and a piggy we stole from the shed
Didn’t get much sleep but we had a lot of fun on Grandma’s feather bed

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For singing along, I can suggest this “tribute” instrumental:

http://www.amazon.com/Grandmas-Feather-Bed/dp/B001ANLL1I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336253291&sr=8-1

This instrumental fits perfectly with the book.  There is an instrumental break after the second chorus, but you can just sing that chorus a second time through and march right along with the song and the book.

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My Song Craft Worksheet is part of my performance preparation process,


 Emily’s Song Craft Worksheet

Because the first section of the Song Craft Worksheet involves background research on the song, I’ll share the answers with you so you can know about the song, too.  The more about the song you know (both concrete facts and less tangible artistic choices), the more “authority,” and heart and soul you can put into the singing and sharing of the song with others.  If you are interested in improving your artistic abilities for singing songs in any capacity, just simply filling out the Song Craft Worksheet is a great place to start!

1 Q: Who wrote the words?
1 A:  Jim Connor

2Q: Who wrote the music?
2A: Jim Connor

3Q: When was the song written?
3A: 1964

4Q: At what point in the lyricists’ and composer’s career was the song written?
4A: Towards the beginning

5Q: What is the song from?
5A:

6Q: If from a show, what character sang it?
6A: N/A, but the song was famously recorded and performed by John Denver

7Q: If from a show, from what situation does the song arise? Why does the character sing the song? What function does the song/character play in the story?
7A: N/A, but Jim Connor was inspired to write the song by his loving childhood memories of time with his grandparents

8Q: What other contextual elements of the song are significant?
8A:

9Q: Was the song written for a particular singer? Why?
9A:

10Q: If not from a show, why did the songwriter write the song?
10A:

11Q: What do you feel the lyricist is trying to say?
11A:

12Q: Does the song tell a story or just express feelings or ideas?
12A:

13Q: Who else has recorded this song:
13A:

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Addendum 1/26/2013

No doubt about it, Grandma’s Feather Bed, is an all-time Sing Books blockbuster favorite.  All kids of every age ask for it.  But, why not?  It’s funny, fun, has a great beat, a loving subject, and a challenging-tongue-twisting chorus that is fun to hear, figure out and master.

I’m quite delighted for the chance to share GRANDMA’S FEATHER BED at a cabaret/concert in a couple of days and in the course of a doing a little extra research on the song, just to find out if anything new has popped up about the song in cyberspace, I ran across this adorable animated video, illustrating GRANDMA’S FEATHER BED (with soundtrack sung by the great John Denver),


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtKWdyGevmw

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Addendum April 2014

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12995310474_3f9c715ec6_o
SING BOOKS WITH EMILY at Reading: A Family Affair 2014

I’m singing Grandma’s Feather Bed 

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Related Posts

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JOHN DENVER
The Singable Picture Books of John Denver
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/the-singable-picture-books-of-john-denver/

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MUPPETS
ILLUSTRATED SONGS OF THE MUPPETS
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/illustrated-songs-of-the-muppets/

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1 Response to "Grandma’s Feather Bed, a Singable Picture Book"

[…] Another fun intergenerational singable book is “Grandma’s Feather Bed” […]

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