"Turkey in the Straw" is a well-known American folk song dating from the early 19th century. The first part of the song's tune may be derived from the ballad "My Grandmother Lived on Yonder Little Green" which was derivative of the Irish ballad "The Old Rose Tree." Originally a tune for fiddle players, it was first popularized in the late 1820s and early 1830s by blackface performers, notably George Washington Dixon, Bob Farrell and George Nichols.
This version mentions tuckahoe (Peltandra virginica, also called green arrow arum), an edible wetland plant with long petioles:
One traditional version has a chorus with these lyrics:
Here, "Reubens" refers to farmers.
The Wiggles use these lyrics:
Another version is called "Natchez Under the Hill". The lyrics are thought to have been added to an earlier tune by Bob Farrell who first performed them in a blackface act on August 11, 1834.
Another one goes:
Harry C. Browne recorded a version in 1916 called "Nigger Love a Watermelon Ha! Ha! Ha!". This version relied heavily on the offensive and widespread coon stereotype.
In 1942, a soundie titled, "Turkey in the Straw" was created by Freddie Fisher and The Schnickelfritz Band. (Directed by Sam Coslow and Produced by Josef Berne).
There are two versions to the chorus that are sung. The first goes:
In Barney & Friends they used these lyrics:
Another song, "Zip Coon", sung to the same tune as "Turkey in the Straw", was popularized by Dixon and flourished during the Andrew Jackson administration. This version was first published between 1829 and 1834 in either New York or Baltimore. All of the above performers claimed to have written the song, and the dispute is not resolved. Ohio songwriter Daniel Decatur Emmett is sometimes erroneously credited as the song's author.
"Zip Coon" has a vocal range of an octave and a minor sixth. Both the verse and the chorus end on the tonic, and both begin a major third above the tonic. In the verse, the highest note is a fifth above the tonic and the lowest is a minor sixth below. In the chorus, the highest note is an octave above the last note, and the lowest is the last note itself. The song stays in key throughout.
The song gave rise to the blackface minstrel show character Zip Coon.
"Zip Coon" has many different lyrical versions. Thomas Birch published a version in 1834, while George Washington Dixon published a version called "Ole Zip Coon" with different lyrics circa 1835. Both Birch's and Dixon's versions keep the same chorus and the first four stanzas:
In subsequent stanzas, both lyricists talk about events in the life of Andrew Jackson, Birch of President Jackson's battle with the Second Bank of the United States and Dixon of General Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. When the Mexican–American War broke out, Dixon published a new version of "Zip Coon" with updated lyrics pertaining to the war: