Merry Ditties

Merry Ditties coverMerry Ditties: Over 50 Lusty, Unexpurgated Songs and Ballads from Popular Tradition
Cazden, Ed.

Submitter: This book might have value somewhere, but it not at my public library. It hasn’t been checked out in our ILS ever. No idea how many circs it had before we automated in 1997.

Holly: I love the cover art! These are hilarious little bawdy songs from way back when, which definitely have value to music archives. It isn’t the worst thing for some public libraries, if it actually circulates and is in good shape. How likely is that, though, for a 61 year old book? Submitter’s library has zero circulations in 22 years, so I think it can move along.

Merry Ditties back cover

Lavender's Blue

Lavender's Blue lyrics


  1. This is awful interesting. Per, while composer and musicologist Norman Cazden was serving for 15 years as music director of Camp Woodland in the Catskills, he along with Herbert Haufrecht and Norman Studer helped to collect and transcribe hundreds of the region’s ballads and fiddle tunes.

    The House Un-American Activities Committee had Cazden investigated by the FBI, and in 1954 HUAC subpoenaed him. He declined to testify, citing the Fifth Amendment, and the University of Illinois fired him. Good to see that he was able to earn some money by tweaking public-domain songs. “Merry Ditties” is from the second half of his “Abelard Folk Song Book”.

    21st century investigating, however deep, finds that prolific illustrator (and also children’s book author) Abner Graboff did the illustrations. Peggy Seeger (Pete Seeger was her half-brother) has recorded Jackie Rover, an instructive ditty about one of Jackie’s ribbons coming untied. The book is still available, and surely handy for finding out answers to questions like who was with whom in “Seventeen Come Sunday”.

  2. If it was being discarded and not sold, I would take the cover off of it, at any cost! Even if I never figured out what Napoleon was singing, I’ll pretend it’s “They’re Coming to Take me Away” and laugh my @$$ off at the two on the right. Something about her profile makes me think it’s Lucy van Pelt grown up.

  3. Wow! I missed the Abner Graboff reference but he was quite the dude in the design world of the 1950s. We have several old LPs with his paper sculptures on the sleeves.

    An archaeologist I worked with for many years said that 90 % of the value of an object lies in the story behind it. This book has a great story. That doesn’t make it a good fit for a modern public library but it makes it very interesting for a variety of reasons.

  4. How funny — I just finished reading a historical romance book in which the heroine flirts with a man by singing him some of the lyrics from page 89 after he serenades her with the first, most famous lyric. (He’s delightfully appalled and fascinated to realize what a daring song it actually is.) I wonder if the author stumbled across a copy of this book?

  5. As a singer I’d have a use for this, but the best thing would be to scan every song into an archive that everyone can access since the songs aren’t under copyright anymore.

    1. Are they? The one displayed one has “new words and music” by the editor, and was published in 1958. Assuming it has a copyright notice, it might have expired in 1976 (1958 + 28) or it might have been renewed and would then be yet copyrighted. All this assumes I’m reading Hirtle’s chart properly.

  6. EEEEEEEWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!! What’s with verses 7 and 16 of that song??? I hope they weren’t singing about bestiality!

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