I was pillaging through my stacks of books at home when I found a neat little collection of folk songs edited by Tom Glazer. It’s got all the classics – “Crawdad” (which I know as “Froggy Went a-Courting” and also (because of a 1940s MGM cartoon) as “Crambone,” as well as “Barbara Allen,” and “Shenandoah” – as well as some I’d never heard of, like “The Dodger” (with lyrics like “The lover is a dodger / he’ll hug you and he’ll kiss you / but look out girls, he’s a-telling you a lie”).

These are great tunes, simple and straightforward. Some are no doubt European (as “I Know Where I’m Going,” which I only knew before as the Scottish-flavored theme song of a movie of the same name starring Deborah Kerr and Roger Livesey); others are more Americanish (is that a word? If not, it is now), as in “The Midnight Special.” And there are some others, weirdly cheerful, that might have come from anywhere, like “The Sow’s Got The Measles (And She Died Last Spring).”

But, best of all, this book has an appendix called “The Beginner Folk-Guitarist.”

If you are as old as me, you will remember that there was a time in the late 1950s / early 1960s during which folk songs and folk singing were Hot Stuff. Groups like the Kingston Trio were all over the radio, singing sweet harmony to the accompaniment of acoustic guitars. Everyone played and sang in those days. A lot of early rock-and-roll singers and guitarists came out of that era. (Donovan, anyone?)

But I never learned to play the guitar.

Tom Glazer, in fifteen short pages, makes it look easy. He gives you the fingering for sixteen chords, and describes three ways to strum. And that’s it.

Me for that!

I just saw a commercial for the Guitar Center in which they show a $29 ukulele, and similarly low-priced acoustic guitars. Can you imagine how very irritating I might become if I could strum a few silly chords?

Let’s go for it.

All together now:



Oh, Froggy went a-courtin’, and he did ride, crambone . . . .


About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

11 Responses to Guitar

  1. Froggy went a courting is a song that often gets stuck in my head for hours, usually when I see a frog in the garden. I only know the first verse so it goes round and round. It’s a work of genius.

    Just read Donovan’s autobiography and just got Sunshine Superman from Netflix. How I loved him when I was 14!

  2. As is often quoted, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be married?” I’d say this adaptation is apt: Do you want to play guitar, or do you want to be married? (Tell Bill I’m trying to help him out here!).

  3. starproms says:

    With a previous husband and three sons all in bands, I’ve seen a few guitars over the years! Over here in England most people learned on ‘Bert Weedons ”Play in a Day” ‘ guitar book. Still one of the best, I think.

  4. Alice Sylvia says:

    I love that you’re strumming along on your ukelele! My favorite ukulele song: Joe Brown performing his cover of the song “I’ll See You In My Dreams” on ukelele to close the Concert for George.

  5. Alice Sylvia says:

    If you haven’t heard Jake Shimabukuro on the ukulele, check him out. Sweet.

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