"One Meatball, (You Get No Bread With)" sung by The Andrews Sisters, Josh White, Roy Bookbinder, Dave Van Ronk 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 folks [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." NOTE: "One Meatball" is a variant of the much older "One Fish Ball." "The Lone Fish Ball" appears in a 1926 publication by Sigmund Spaeth (Read 'Em And Weep, The Song's 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" (aka A Prairie Home Companion Folk Song Book) by Marcia & Jon Pankake. In this version the poor sould cashes in his chips as well as his pence. 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. 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. Child, Francis James.: Il Pescaballo: Opera in One Act. Price: $54.00 Description: Title: Il Pescaballo: Opera in One Act. English Version by James Russell Lowell Place of Publication: Chicago: The Caxton Club Date of Publication: 1899 The Josh White Song Book. With music. Biography & song comment by Robert Shelton. (1963) In the "OMB" entry: This version was adapted and composed by Hy Zaret and Lou Singer in 1944, and thereafter Josh was the chief popularizer of the song. According to the folklorist Kenneth S. Goldstein, a Latin Professor at Harvard had written a ditty in 1850 called "The Lay of One Fishball." Twelve years later Francis James Child, the great authority on British ballads, composed a burlesque operetta in Italian on the song, called "Il Pesceballo." The "mock operetta" was translated into English by James Russell Lowell, the famous poet, and performed in Cambridge for the benefit of Union soldiers in the Civil War. The song and opera then dropped into obscurity, until 1944. Lax and Smith, in the _Great Song Thesaurus_ say the "The Lone Fish Ball" is credited to Richard Storrs Willis in 1855, but that it may well have been the work of a Harvard Latin Professor, George Martin Lane. As "One Meat Ball" it was rewritten by Louis Singer and Hy Zaret in 1945. . Botkin, in _A Treasury of New England Folklore_, says it was published first in 1857, although he doesn't know where. (This may have been the Willis version.) It was very popular, and two well known Harvard scholars wrote mock-heroic operas to its theme. Francis James Child did his opera in Italian, and called it "Il Pesceballo" and published in 1872; Botkin quotes the prose introduction, in Italian. James Russell Lowell's opera was in English, and Botkin quotes several sections. Sam Hinton La Jolla, CA The quoted Spaeth version is true to the original except tha before the penultmate verse, the word "MORAL" is printed. Supposedly based on the true story of a New York Professor who had been in the habit of deeply negotiating the number and price of a partial order of buckwheat cakes & is eventially 86'ed from his favorite eatery. Waite sent a survey to every US college for text & tunes of the songs sung currently sung by students. After two years of work, in 1868 he printed in 328 of the 1000 returns. These include songs of 21 colleges - all, Waite feels, of the US colleges that have any songs. (I think if today we sent a similar survey to _1000_ colleges, we'd be lucky to average one from each.) Most of the returns were class songs & most of them were eliminated, although he includes a few that seemed to be sustained in the colleges, a very few of which date as far back as the 1820's. These generally showed "some intrisic merit or cast some light on some peculiar College custom." For the others took care to "select those most valuable in reference to quality, permanency, and general interest." As one would expect, most of the songs borrowed existing, well-known tunes. Some commercial, some popular, some traditional, some sacred... anything handy and, supposedly, widely known to students: "Annie Laurie," "Mary Had a Little Lamb," "Villikins and Dinah," Derby Ram," "My Country, Tis of Thee," "Cannibal Islands," "Antioch," etc. One undated song from CCNY uses "The Lone Fish-Ball"!! The tune must have made the rounds quickly - it was collected in NY 10 years after arising in Boston. Some songs with fairly standard texts I recognize are: "I've a Jolly Sixpence," "The Mermaid," "King of the Cannibal Islands," (a "polite one, of course, Ed) "Goodnight Ladies," "Peter Grey," "Bingo," "Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes," "Lowlands" ("Sweet Trinity") "Landlord Fill Your Flowing Bowl" "Hamlet, Prince of Denmark." (An early parody, not the "Oor Hamlet" r.m.f's been threading) and a nice version of "Three Crows" intended to be lined out. It's clearly American, but not as crude as "Billy McGee McGaw." Three or four Childs. "The Lone Fish-Ball" Founded On A Boston Fact: (In the chorus of which all assembled companies are expected to unite.) by C:R. Storrs Willis As printed in _Carmina Collegensia - A Complete Collection of the songs of the American Colleges_, 1868, Oliver Ditson & Co., Boston For what it's worth, you're in good company. Back around 1981, I read in (of all places) the Americal Library Association's Journal of Intellectual Freedom that Michael Cooney got in trouble for his popular group participation song "You Can Plant a Watermelon Vine on Top of My Grave (and Let the Juice Seep Through)" because someone thought it advocated grave desecration. And when Tony Barrand, John Roberts et al first did their Noewll Sing We Clear pagent, a (secular) school district in Vermont wouldn't allow Bitter Withy in performance as it was sacreligeous.