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Origins: One Meatball - blues song

DigiTrad:
ONE MEATBALL
ONE MEATBALL (2)
THE LONE FISH BALL


Related threads:
Lyr Req: One Meat Ball / One Meatball (Josh White) (22)
Lyr Req: One Meat Ball (Burl Ives) (41)
'One Fish Ball' - Il Pescaballo: Opera in One Act (6)
Lyr Req: One Meatball / Lone Fish-Ball (21)
Lyr Req: One Meat Ball (answered)^^^ (2) (closed)


In Mudcat MIDIs:
The Lone Fish Ball


rgrimmer@phoenix.net 25 Dec 96 - 05:26 PM
Steve 01 Jan 97 - 04:24 PM
TGibson@MyMail.com 14 Jan 97 - 02:34 PM
14 Jan 97 - 04:28 PM
Ralph Butts 19 Jan 97 - 11:33 AM
Ralph Butts 20 Jan 97 - 02:47 PM
raredance@aol.com 20 Jan 97 - 05:08 PM
dick greenhaus 21 Jan 97 - 01:27 AM
Artie 18 Feb 97 - 10:03 PM
Q 06 Oct 04 - 11:26 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 06 Oct 04 - 11:49 PM
Tannywheeler 07 Oct 04 - 01:07 AM
GUEST,duckbaker@earthlink.net 17 Jun 06 - 07:24 AM
melodeonboy 17 Jun 06 - 07:10 PM
Nigel Parsons 18 Jun 06 - 02:53 PM
GUEST,van lingle 19 Jun 06 - 11:54 AM
Amos 19 Jun 06 - 06:42 PM
Big Bill Unpaid 10 Mar 08 - 08:23 AM
open mike 10 Mar 08 - 02:54 PM
GUEST,Chicken Charlie 10 Mar 08 - 06:32 PM
GUEST,Eeba 11 Jun 08 - 08:55 PM
T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird) 11 Jun 08 - 11:17 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 12 Jun 08 - 01:17 PM
GUEST,Gerry 29 Apr 09 - 12:36 AM
Bernard 29 Apr 09 - 09:11 AM
meself 29 Apr 09 - 10:55 AM
GUEST,Now more knowledgeble 03 Dec 10 - 10:49 AM
MGM·Lion 03 Dec 10 - 11:36 AM
GUEST,mgm 03 Dec 10 - 11:53 AM
Bettynh 03 Dec 10 - 02:36 PM
bobad 03 Dec 10 - 04:31 PM
olddude 03 Dec 10 - 05:21 PM
Janie 03 Dec 10 - 07:23 PM
GUEST,PAthena 05 Dec 10 - 10:39 AM
Mark Ross 05 Dec 10 - 07:13 PM
olddude 05 Dec 10 - 09:55 PM
Green Man 06 Dec 10 - 10:05 AM
GUEST,bobthedad 19 Jan 13 - 02:40 AM
cptsnapper 19 Jan 13 - 12:46 PM
Rusty Dobro 20 Jan 13 - 05:35 AM
Larry The Radio Guy 29 Jul 13 - 01:37 PM
Joe Offer 29 Jul 13 - 01:56 PM
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Subject: Lyrics request:
From: rgrimmer@phoenix.net
Date: 25 Dec 96 - 05:26 PM

Looking for information (lyrics - performances) of old blues song with line "One meatball". THANKS!


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Subject: RE: Lyrics request:
From: Steve
Date: 01 Jan 97 - 04:24 PM

Hi-

Josh White Jr. does a great rendition of this song on a live album. I'll try and find the record (in a box somewhere-we moved recently). and send you more info.

:-) Steve


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Subject: RE: Lyrics request:
From: TGibson@MyMail.com
Date: 14 Jan 97 - 02:34 PM

I remember a song with the line "Ya gets no bread with one meatball" but I don't remember any of the rest of the lyrics. Is this the one?


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Subject: RE: Lyrics request:
From:
Date: 14 Jan 97 - 04:28 PM

There was a song called "One Fishball": "You get no bread with one fishball." All I know about it is that there are some lines in _Bartlett's Familiar Quotations_ (but not the old edition on the Web).


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Subject: ADD: One Meatball^^^
From: Ralph Butts
Date: 19 Jan 97 - 11:33 AM

Here's the song as done by my father-in-law.
I can't vouch for the accuracy, but this is how he does it.
Each couplet is sung twice, sometimes preced by "oh, now, then, and, so, etc., at singer's discretion.
If I can find the real one, I'll post it, too.

....Tiger

--------------------

One Meatball

A man was walkin' down the street,
Lookin' for a place to eat (2x, etc).

He found himself a gorgeous place,
And entered in with gorgeous grace.

He took his purse his pocket hence,
But all he found was fifteen cents.

He scanned the menu through and through,
To see what fifteen cents could do.

The only thing that would do at all,
Was to buy just one, just one meatball.

He called the waiter down the hall,
And softly whispered "One meatball."

The waiter bellowed down the hall,
"The gentleman here wants one meatball."

The guests, they turned both one and all,
To see who wanted one meatball.

The wretched man grew ill at ease,
And softly whispered, "Bread, sir, please."

The waiter bellowed down the hall,
"You get no bread with one meatball."


^^^


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Subject: ADD: One Meatball^^^
From: Ralph Butts
Date: 20 Jan 97 - 02:47 PM

Found it - the real one. Much more like it!
...Tiger
-------------------------------

One Meatball - Josh White
 

A little man walked up and down,
He found an eating place in town,
He read the menu through and through,
To see what fifteen cents could do.

One meatball, one meatball,
He could afford but one meatball.

He told the waiter near at hand,
The simple dinner he had planned.
The guests were startled, one and all,
To hear that waiter loudly call, "What,

"One meatball, one meatball?
Hey, this here gent wants one meatball."

The little man felt ill at ease,
Said, "Some bread, sir, if you please."
The waiter hollered down the hall,
"You gets no bread with one meatball.

"One meatball, one meatball,
Well, you gets no bread with one meatball."

The little man felt very bad,
One meatball was all he had,
And in his dreams he hears that call,
"You gets no bread with one meatball.

"One meatball, one meatball,
Well, you gets no bread with one meatball."

^^^


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Subject: ADD: Lone Fish Ball^^^
From: raredance@aol.com
Date: 20 Jan 97 - 05:08 PM

From the lyrics presented, it seems clear that "One Meatball" is a variant of the much older "One Fish Ball." I list an older and a more recent version below. "The Lone Fish Ball" appears in a 1926 publication by Sigmund Spaeth ("Read 'Em and Weep, The Songs You Forgot To Remember"). He includes it in his chapter of songs from the Reconstruction Days, i.e. right after the Civil War. Spaeth claims the song was printed in a collection of college songs in 1868 ("Carmina Collegensia" ed. by H R Waite). The song was subtitled "Founded on a Boston Fact (in the chorus of which all assembled companies are expected to unite)." Spaeth says it was one of the earliest of group of community songs, with the leader doing the two-line phrase and then the crowd repeating it. The more recent version comes from the 1988 book "Joe Has A Head Like A Ping-Pong Ball" (a.k.a. "A Prairie Home Companion Folk Song Book") by Marcia & Jon Pankake. In this version, the poor soul cashes in his chips as well as his pence.

rich r

THE LONE FISH BALL
(Version from Sigmund Spaeth, 1926)

There was a man went up and down,
To seek a dinner thro' the town.

What wretch is he who wife forsakes,
Who best of jam and waffles makes!

He feels his cash to know his pence,
And finds he has but just six cents.

He finds at last a right cheap place,
And enters in with modest face.

The bill of fare he searches through,
To see what his six cents will do.

The cheapest viand of them all,
Is "Twelve and a half cents for two Fish-ball."

The waiter he to him doth call,
And gently whispers - "One Fish-ball."

The waiter roars it through the hall,
The guests they start at "One Fish-ball!"

The guest then says, quite ill at ease,
"A piece of bread, sir, if you please."

The waiter roars it through the hall,
"We don't give bread with one Fish-ball."

Who would have bread with his Fish-ball,
Must get it first, or not at all.

Who would Fish-ball with fixin's eat,
Must get some friend to stand a treat.


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Subject: RE: Lyrics request:
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 21 Jan 97 - 01:27 AM

Hi- A small note: One Fish Ball was sufficiently popular in the mid-to- late 1800s that a Harvard Professor (one Francis James Child, of Child Ballad fame) wrote a mock opera based on it, called Il Pescabello.


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Subject: RE: Lyrics request:
From: Artie
Date: 18 Feb 97 - 10:03 PM

The best version of this tune I know is by Roy Book Binder, a pretty funky, current acoustic blues guy. Sorry -- I don't remember which of his albums One Meatball is on.


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Subject: RE: Lyrics request: One Meatball - blues song
From: Q
Date: 06 Oct 04 - 11:26 PM

"The Lone Fish Ball" in the DT is the same as lyrics in "The Academy Songbook," 1898, Charles H. Levermore, no. 54, with music, as printed in the abridged edition, pp. 112-113. Ginn & Co.

There is a second version in the same book, no. 55, p. 113, with music.

Lyr. Add: The Lone Fish Ball
Second version.

There was a man who went up and down, Bzt, Bzt, (whistled)
To seek a dinner through the town, Bzr, Bzt, (whistled)

What wretch is he who wife forsakes,
Sing Tiddy-i-um, sing Tiddy-i-o.

Remaining verses as version one.

Note: In this book, verses 11 and 12 are called the "Moral."


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Subject: RE: Lyrics request: One Meatball - blues song
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 06 Oct 04 - 11:49 PM

Another life-time ago...my brother played someting about:

Meatball Was a Racehorse

When I return a banjo - I will ask him - (but it certainly did not seem to be blues.)

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Lyrics request: One Meatball - blues song
From: Tannywheeler
Date: 07 Oct 04 - 01:07 AM

Stewball, Gargoyle. Or was he (or you) making a joke?   Tw


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: One Meatball - blues song
From: GUEST,duckbaker@earthlink.net
Date: 17 Jun 06 - 07:24 AM

In fact, the original version was directly associated with, "Il Pesceballo." I think folklorist BA Botkin pointed this out in one of his many collections. "One Meatball" may be the only well-known song in the folk tradition that was written by a Harvard professor. It's author was Martin Lane, and Botkin noted the irnoy of a man highly regarded as a great Latin scholar having all of his "serious" work forgotten and while this comic ditty is remembered (even if the authorship isn't). It eventually became a favorite in music halls, etc. but I don't know who might have recorded early versions of it before it got into Josh White's hands; in any case White is credited with having a million-seller with it in 1944, the same year that it was waxed by the Andrews Sisters (at the same seesion that produced thier hit version of "Rum and Coca-Cola"). From there it got into the repertoires of Dave Van Ronk and Ry Cooder. More recent versions like Bookbinder's (and this is the kind of song that Roy does really well by), all pretty much derive from these.

But when did it become "One Meatball?" Fishballs were regional New England fare so we can assume the change came as it became a more widely-known song, but it does seem likely that either a specific performer or publisher was responsible. Any information about the songs history between it's late-19th century NE incarnation and becoming a major hit 80 years later would certainly be welcome. Here's some stuff on the origins:

George Martin Lane (December 24, 1823 - June 30, 1897), American scholar, was born at Charlestown, Massachusetts.
He graduated in 1846 at Harvard, and in 1847-1851 studied at the universities of Berlin, Bonn, Heidelberg and Göttingen. In 1851 he received his doctor's degree at Göttingen for his dissertation Smyrnaeorum Res Gestae et Antiquitates, and on his return to America he was appointed University Professor of Latin in Harvard College.

From 1869 until 1894, when he resigned and became professor emeritus, he was Pope Professor of Latin in the same institution. His Latin Pronunciation, which led to the rejection of the English method of Latin pronunciation in the United States, was published in 1871.

His Latin Grammar, completed and published by Professor MH Morgan in the following year, is of high value. Lane's assistance in the preparation of Harper's Latin lexicons was also invaluable. English light verse he wrote with humour and fluency, and his song "Jonah and the Ballad of the Lone Fishball" were famous. (Wikipedia entry)

Pesceballo, pastiche opera

Classical Works
Il Pesceballo, pastiche opera

Date: 1862
Main Performer: Francis James Child
Genre: Opera
Review

Il Pesceballo is a nineteenth-century American pasticcio opera written by Francis James Child, a Harvard English professor and opera lover. The text was originally inspired by an incident which occurred to a colleague of his. One evening Martin Lane was trying to make his way to Cambridge, MA, from Boston. He discovered that he had only 25 cents, which was not enough for both supper and the fare need to get to Cambridge. As he was very tired and hungry, he stopped at a local diner and asked for half of a serving of macaroni. After he had recounted the story to his friends, he wrote a comic ballad, called the "Lay of the One Fishball." A fishball was a fried New England concoction made of potatoes and fish stock, and usually eaten for breakfast. The ballad became very popular with Harvard students, and inspired Child's opera.

Il Pesceballo is a literary spoof which makes use of some of grand opera's most popular arias. It was written in Italian, and the texts were meant to be sung to tunes by Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti, and others. It was first performed in a benefit concert for the Sanitary Commission, an organization that treated ill and wounded soldiers. In 1864, it was revived for several more benefit performances, this time to aid Unionists in East Tennessee. All the productions were amateur productions, for the humor of the opera is aimed at literati and intellectuals. ~ All Music Guide


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: One Meatball - blues song
From: melodeonboy
Date: 17 Jun 06 - 07:10 PM

Many, many years ago I played bass in a band that did this song. I distinctly remember the line "and no spaghetti" shouted out in the chorus after "one meat ball".


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: One Meatball - blues song
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 18 Jun 06 - 02:53 PM

Melodeonboy:
I remember it as "One meatball .... without the gravy!"


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: One Meatball - blues song
From: GUEST,van lingle
Date: 19 Jun 06 - 11:54 AM

Thanks for the post duckbaker. My dad recognised that song when I played it for him and he sang along but couldn't remember where he knew it from. Probably the Andrews Sisters. Good to see you here, from a long time fan.vl


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: One Meatball - blues song
From: Amos
Date: 19 Jun 06 - 06:42 PM

The little man walked up and down
To find an eating place in town
He looked the menu through and through
To see what fifteen cents could do!

One MEATbaaaaallll
One MEATbaaaaallll
He could afford but one meat ball.

The little man felt ill-at-ease,
He asked the waiter, "Bread, if you please."
The waiter's roard was heard down the hall:
"You GET no bread with one meat ball!"

One MEATbaaaaallll
One MEATbaaaaallll
He could afford but one meat ball.

(Sorry -- I don't remember any more than that. But it's been fifty years after all.)


A


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: One Meatball - blues song
From: Big Bill Unpaid
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 08:23 AM

At this point there are so many variants on the song (as happens in the folk process -- I know, by academic standards known authorship disqualifies a song as being "authentic" or folk, but I consider that academic nonsense) that all we know for sure are the skeletal remains of the original.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: One Meatball - blues song
From: open mike
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 02:54 PM

Dave Van Ronk was mentioned by Duck Baker on 17 Jun 06
I am surprised it took 10 years for his name to come up
in this thread! Dave, the late "Mayor of Macdougal Street."
has been teh one i think of when i hear this song.

There is a musical recipe book which Christine Lavin produced
named "One Meat Ball" it comes with a c.d. and is delicious!
http://www.appleseedrec.com/christinelavin/onemeatball/


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: One Meatball - blues song
From: GUEST,Chicken Charlie
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 06:32 PM

Yes, I second the notion that the Andrews Sisters did "One Meatball" on a 78 sometime in the WW II era. The "One Fishball" version is aka, I believe "A Boston Tragedy," and yes, I was surprised to learn that it dates to the late 1800s. So does "The Cat Came Back" (minus the A-bomb verse, of course) which I at first naively assumed was a sixties thing, recorded, I think, by Tim Morgan.

Chicken Charlie


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: One Meatball - blues song
From: GUEST,Eeba
Date: 11 Jun 08 - 08:55 PM

What about the last 2 verse?
I always thought there were 2 more:
    The little man then walked outside
    and shot himself until he died

    There is a moral to it all
    You get no bread with one meatball

maybe im just morbid...but thats how I learned it :P


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: One Meatball - blues song
From: T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)
Date: 11 Jun 08 - 11:17 PM

This is how we sang it in Upstate New York in the 1970s:

A little man came into town,
he wandered 'round and 'round and 'round.

He went into an eating place
and sat him down with modest grace.

He searched his pockets through and through
and found he had just fifteen cents.

He searched the menu through and through
to see what fifteen cents would do.

Alas, the only thing at all
for fifteen cents was one fish ball.

He called the waiter to his side
and in him this he did confide.

The waiter bellowed down the hall
"This gentleman here wants one fish ball!"

The little man coughed, and then he wheezed,
"A little bread, sir, if you please?"

The waiter bellowed down the hall,
"You get no bread with one fish ball!"

The little man coughed, and then he sighed,
walked out into the street and died.

The moral of this story, all:
You get no bread with one fish ball.

T.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: One Meatball - blues song
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 12 Jun 08 - 01:17 PM

I had a recording of Josh White's version for many years. I think the reason for his success with it was twofold - his singular style and talent, along with the timing. The story of a gent down on his luck, spending what little he had on the only thing he could afford, resonated with depression era people. It may have started life as a comic ditty, but got more serious in that context.


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Subject: Origins: One Meat Ball
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 29 Apr 09 - 12:36 AM

Article on this at http://harvardmagazine.com/2009/05/song-hard-times

I know there are already threads on this song, but the search features seem to be on vacation, so please forgive my starting a new one.
    I moved you here, to one of our oldest threads. I also copy-pasted the text from the link you supplied-Joe Offer-

Harvard Magazine, May/June 2009

Song for Hard Times

by Primus V

“You gets no bread with one meat ball.” In 1944 Hy Zaret and Lou Singer, of Tin Pan Alley, dusted off a largely forgotten old song, modernized its diction, changed the melody from bouncy to bluesy, and brought forth “One Meat Ball,” a ballad about an underfunded diner and an intimidating waiter. Go to www.rhapsody.com/josh-white/josh-white-vol-5-1944 to hear singer Josh White tell the story:

A little man walked up and
   down,
He found an eating place in town,
He read the menu through and through,
To see what fifteen cents could do.

One meat ball, one meat ball,
He could afford but one meat ball.

He told the waiter near at hand,
The simple dinner he had planned.
The guests were startled, one and all,
To hear that waiter loudly call, “What,

“One meat ball, one meat ball?
Hey, this here gent wants one
    meat ball.”

The little man felt ill at ease,
Said, “Some bread, sir, if you please.”
The waiter hollered down the hall,
“You gets no bread with one meat ball.

“One meat ball, one meat ball,
Well, you gets no bread with one
    meat ball.”

The little man felt very bad,
One meat ball was all he had,
And in his dreams he hears that call,
“You gets no bread with one meat ball.

“One meat ball, one meat ball,
Well, you gets no bread with one
    meat ball.”

In a later recording, White adds “and no spaghetti” after the first “meat ball” in the last chorus, and many people know the song that way. “‘One Meat Ball’ was Josh’s biggest hit by far,” according to his biographer Elijah Wald, “and among the most popular songs of the 1940s folk revival.” The Andrews Sisters cut a hit 78 of it, with “Rum and Coca-Cola.” Even Bing Crosby sang it. But who knew that “One Meat Ball” got its start at Harvard?

George Martin Lane (1823-1897) was a member of the jolliest social clubs as a student at Harvard, yet managed his A.B. in 1846. He studied in Germany with no lingering pedantic effect, earning a Ph.D. from the University of Göttingen, and became professor of Latin at Harvard in 1851. He penned “The Lone Fish-Ball,” first published in 1855, while he was living at “Clover Den,” bachelor digs at what is now 29 Follen Street in Cambridge. Though a fish ball was a New England delicacy made of fish stock and potatoes fried and usually consumed at breakfast, “The Lone Fish-Ball” is identical to “One Meat Ball” in its existential argument.

“Many fables about the origin of this song have been told…,” Lane’s colleague Professor Morris H. Morgan later wrote, “but I know from Professor Lane’s lips that it was based upon an adventure of his own. Arriving in Boston one day after a journey, he found himself hungry and with only 25 cents in his pocket. Half that sum he had to reserve to pay his carfare to Cambridge. With the rest he entered a restaurant, ‘with modest face,’ and ordered a half portion of macaroni. What followed is described, doubtless with humorous exaggeration, in the ballad itself.”

“The Lone Fish-Ball” was a hit among Harvard undergraduates and remained at the top of their charts for decades. (The house on Follen Street entered Cambridge history as a center of hospitality, wrote Eliot professor of Greek William Watson Goodwin, where “the famous ‘Roman Banquet’ was given….”)

During the Civil War, several of Lane’s professorial colleagues turned his song into a fundraiser for Union soldiers. Folklorist Francis James Child ’46, LL.D. ’84, worked it up into a mock Italian operetta, Il Pesceballo, which was performed in Cambridge and Boston, setting the songs of his characters to a pastiche of melodies lifted from grand opera, beginning with a chorus sung to the tune of “La dolce aurora” from Rossini’s Moses in Egypt and ending with the air to “Vieni!” from Donizetti’s La Favorita. Composer John Knowles Paine arranged the recitatives and poet James Russell Lowell ’38, LL.B. ’40, LL.D. ’84, provided a suitably absurd translation of Child’s libretto into English.

When Lane retired in 1894, as Pope professor of the Latin language and literature emeritus, Harvard gave him an honorary degree and also a pension—the first ever bestowed by the University on a faculty member. The unexpected cash, Lane declared, relieved him from all pecuniary cares for the rest of his life.


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Subject: RE: Origins: One Meatball - blues song
From: Bernard
Date: 29 Apr 09 - 09:11 AM

I wonder if the originator of the song ever dreamed how much debate it would generate?!


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Subject: RE: Origins: One Meatball - blues song
From: meself
Date: 29 Apr 09 - 10:55 AM

Probably.

____________

I like this: '"The Lone Fish-Ball" is identical to "One Meat Ball" in its existential argument.'

---------------------

"All the productions were amateur productions, for the humor of the opera is aimed at literati and intellectuals. "

Are we to take it then that "literati and intellectuals" are unlikely to part with the coin for a professional production? Cheap b*stards!


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Subject: RE: Origins: One Meatball - blues song
From: GUEST,Now more knowledgeble
Date: 03 Dec 10 - 10:49 AM

I am truly impressed with this thread. I mentioned the song to my wife last night since there was one meatball left after dinner. She had never heard of the song and I couldn't tell her much about it. Discovering this thread has given me quite an education. Thanks to all of the contributers, especially Primus V.


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Subject: RE: Origins: One Meatball - blues song
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 03 Dec 10 - 11:36 AM

=======
<<<>>Chicken Charlie, 10 Mar 08
=====

Indeed ~ I owned that record. 'Rum & Coca Cola' was the flip-side.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Origins: One Meatball - blues song
From: GUEST,mgm
Date: 03 Dec 10 - 11:53 AM

=======
'Yes, I second the notion that the Andrews Sisters did "One Meatball" on a 78 sometime in the WW II era' .
Chicken Charlie, 10 Mar 08
=====

Indeed ~ I owned that record. 'Rum & Coca Cola' was the flip-side.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Origins: One Meatball - blues song
From: Bettynh
Date: 03 Dec 10 - 02:36 PM

one meatball list


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Subject: RE: Origins: One Meatball - blues song
From: bobad
Date: 03 Dec 10 - 04:31 PM

This from the liner notes accompanying the 2004 CD of Dave Van Ronk's last live performance "...and the tin pan bended, and the story ended."

One Meatball

Like everyone else, Dave got this from Josh White. The history he gives in his introduction, while not entirely accurate, is no weirder than the truth. The song began as a satire on medieval minstrel balladry, "The Lay of the Lone Fish Ball," apparently written by a Harvard Latin professor, George Martin Lane, in the 1850s (though its first publication, in 1855, is credited to a Richard Storrs Willis). It became a popular ditty among the college crowd, and sometime in the next decade or two, Francis James Child and James Russell Lowell took it upon themselves to dress it in fancy clothing, Child producing the one-act Italian opera, Il Pesceballo, with an English translation by Lowell. (Both texts were published by the Caxton Club, Chicago, in 1899.) I can find no evidence that Longfellow was involved, but it is possible that the others were just too drunk to remember him. As "The Lone Fish Ball," the song appeared in Sigmund Spaeth's Read 'Em And Weep: The Songs You forgot to Remember (1926), and it was in that form that it was heard at a party in the early 1940s by the Tin Pan Alley songwriters Hy Zaret (who later wrote the lyric to "Unchained Melody") and Lou Singer. They transformed it into "One Meatball," and it was simultaneously introduced at the two Cafe Society nightclubs: Josh sang it at the Greenwich Village room, and the comedian Jimmy Savo did it uptown. Josh's version was his biggest hit, shortly covered by the Andrews Sisters, and so on down to Dave.


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Subject: RE: Origins: One Meatball - blues song
From: olddude
Date: 03 Dec 10 - 05:21 PM

Dave Van Ronk does a great job with this song


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Subject: RE: Origins: One Meatball - blues song
From: Janie
Date: 03 Dec 10 - 07:23 PM

Van Ronk is the the only version I've ever heard. Like so many of these informative threads, now I gotta go on a search to hear other versions.

Thanks ya'll!


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Subject: RE: Origins: One Meatball - blues song
From: GUEST,PAthena
Date: 05 Dec 10 - 10:39 AM

I remember the song as "One meatball - and no potatoes".


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Subject: RE: Origins: One Meatball - blues song
From: Mark Ross
Date: 05 Dec 10 - 07:13 PM

Here's Josh;



Josh White One Meatball



Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Origins: One Meatball - blues song
From: olddude
Date: 05 Dec 10 - 09:55 PM

Dave Van Ronk


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Subject: RE: Origins: One Meatball - blues song
From: Green Man
Date: 06 Dec 10 - 10:05 AM

Ry Cooder recorded this and I think its on 'Into the purple valley'

Could be wrong about the album.


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Subject: RE: Origins: One Meatball - blues song
From: GUEST,bobthedad
Date: 19 Jan 13 - 02:40 AM

When I was a teenager back in the 50's I read a book on Norse Mythology titled "Tales of Odin". The only thing I remember about the book was a bit about a man who came to some place to eat. I don't remember if he was underfunded, or any other reason, but he only ordered one fish ball. As plain as day, like it was yesterday, I remember the description of the line boomed out by the waiter. It went, 'And the waiter roared it though the hall, "You get no bread with one fish ball!".' It was then that I connected the story with the song I remembered from ten years before.

I guess that makes the origin even farther back in time.


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Subject: RE: Origins: One Meatball - blues song
From: cptsnapper
Date: 19 Jan 13 - 12:46 PM

The much missed Diz Disley used to sing it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: One Meatball - blues song
From: Rusty Dobro
Date: 20 Jan 13 - 05:35 AM

My father had the Josh White version (on the album 'Josh comes a'visiting', I think). When I sing it, a UK audience invariably responds, 'without the gravy!'.


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Subject: RE: BS: Reinforcing respectful 'boundaries'
From: Larry The Radio Guy
Date: 29 Jul 13 - 01:37 PM

JOe, this is from Bonn's English Music Site. (aka 3Song Bonn).   I don't know if this is true or if he's just making it up....couldn't find any other references to this.

"One Meatball" was another favorite of Dave Van Ronk. He thought it was an old blues song learned from Josh White, and in his own words, "damned near played it to death" before returning it to the shelf 20 years ago. It is an unusual Blues with mixed emotions. Sadness for the poor man with only 15 Cents in his pocket for a meatball who gets yelled at in the restaurant for audaciously requesting bread to accompany it – but happiness in that it makes for a perfect singalong with its three word refrain and black humor! The true origins of this song are actually not in the black African-American blues, but in one evening in the middle of the 19th century in Cambridge, Massachusetts.   A sophisticated dinner party where a group of literary luminaries from Harvard, etc. James Russell Lowell and Francis James Child and perhaps Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, sang a song under the influence of alcohol, about a lonely fish ball with the title "Il Pescabello" parodying part of an Italian operetta.


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Subject: RE: Origins: One Meatball - blues song
From: Joe Offer
Date: 29 Jul 13 - 01:56 PM

Hi, Larry -

Hope you don't mind that I moved you here. I had thought that "The Lone Fish Ball" was written by Francis James Child himself, but the information above attributes it to Harvard University Latin Professor George Martin Lane. Child later included it in an 1863 operetta titled Il Pesceballo.
Don't know if that's all the godshonesttruth, but it's a darn good story.

-Joe-


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