Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

Billy Boy, in Singable Picture Books

Posted on: April 30, 2013

My friend Doug told me about another song that mentions pie: BILLY BOY

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billy boy richard chase glen rounds
Billy Boy
Traditional Words and Music
Verses Selected by Richard Chase
Illustrated by Glen Rounds

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Billy Boy is featured on pgs. 10-11 of:

A Treasury of Children’s Songs: Forty Favorites to Sing and Play
Illustrated with Art from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City
Music Arranged and Edited by Dan Fox

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Billy Boy is featured on p. 42-43 of:

Jim Along, Josie

A Collection of Folk Songs and Singing Games for Young Children
Compiled by Nancy & John Langstaff
Illustrated by Jan Pienkowski

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I like Jan Pietkowski’s silhouette illustration for Billy Boy from “Jim Along Josie”

Billy Boy Jan Pienkowski - Copy

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Interesting exceprt from website regarding Richard Chase’s book for the song (his own selection of lyrics), found here:
http://www2.ferrum.edu/applit/bibs/Folkbib.htm#CF

Chase, Richard. Billy Boy. Illus. Glen Rounds. San Carlos, Calif.: Golden Gate Junior Books, 1966. A picture book adaptation of the folk song about Billy reporting to his mother on the qualities of the wife he has just found. Music is given at the end. Chase observed in letters and lectures that this song is said to be “a parody of an old miserable murder ballad” from England, “Lord Randall” (see a version in AppLit at this link). Chase sang verses he collected from children that are not in print, such as “She can wear a wedding gown/But she wears it upside down./She can fix a wedding cake/That will give you the belly ache” (from audio cassette of a 1975 visit to a class). In a letter dated 4/25/68, Chase wrote, “I got $400 royalties from that disgraceful ‘hillbilly’ Billy Boy,” and as others have noted, Chase did not like the illustrations published with his song. (Letter and cassette are in Richard Chase Papers 1928-1988, W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection, Appalachian State University.) Other versions of lyrics to this song are available at The Bluegrass Messengers Fiddle and Instrumental Tunes. Only positive attributes of the young woman are described in the Appalachian version in Kidd, Ronald (comp.), On Top of Old Smoky–see Appalachian Folktale Collections. 

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I like how the introductions to Richard Chase’s selected verses of Billy Boy (illustrated by Glen Rounds) talks about the song as being subject to The Folks Process.  Richard Chase does not call the changing of the song by people who sing it over time, “The Folk Process,” I got the name for that idea from Peter Yarrow.  I also like that Richard Chase ends the  introduction with, “…Billy always has his cherry pie.”

Here is Billy Boy, mostly as folks sing it in the southern Appalachian mountains.  That is why our pictures show Billy as a mountain boy.

Billy Boy is an “old” song.  It has been loved and laughed at and sung for more than 200 years.  Wherever English is spoken, country folk and city folk, kids and grown-ups have known and sung the story the song tells.  From New England to the southern mountains to California children know about Billy.

There are many versions of Billy Boy.  The selection of verses here is my own, collected from many sources, oral and printed, over the past thirty years.  You make know some verses not included in this book.  But that makes it all the more fun, for many a child or adult who sings the song adds or changes something until, in a way, it becomes a “new” song.  Billy Boy has even been sung as a sea chanty!

Some learned people say that the song is a parody of the old tragic ballad, Lord Randall.  If so, then it has changed a lot!  But one thing about Billy Boy – wherever it goes, Bill always has his cherry pie.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKRJuLHU3Qo

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Billy Boy wiki
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Boy

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These lyrics match the ones sung in the video above:

BILLY BOY
Traditional Words and Tune

Oh, where have you been,
Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Oh, where have you been,
Charming Billy?
I have been to seek a wife,
She’s the joy of my life,
She’s a young thing
And cannot leave her mother.

Did she ask you to come in,
Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Did she ask you to come in,
Charming Billy?
Yes, she asked me to come in,
There’s a dimple in her chin.
She’s a young thing
And cannot leave her mother.

Can she make a cherry pie,
Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Can she make a cherry pie,
Charming Billy?
She can make a cherry pie,
Quick as a cat can wink an eye,
She’s a young thing
And cannot leave her mother.

How old is she,
Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
How old is she,
Charming Billy?
Three times six and four times seven,
Twenty-eight and eleven,
She’s a young thing
And cannot leave her mother.

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PIE
Pie, Pie, Pie! A Celebration of Pie in my Hoosier Family Heritage and in Singable Picture Books
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/pie-pie-pie-a-celebration-of-pie-in-my-hoosier-family-heritage-and-in-singable-picture-books/

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