John Blunt


Jon simply attributes this as “From Carthy. I like the gentle humour of this. As I’ve said before I’m not desperately keen on ‘funny’ songs, but this seems to me more like an Aesop’s fable.”

It certainly has a folklore tale element to it as Martin Carthy’s notes reprinted at Mainly Norfolk allude to. The tale of the argument and refusing to speak is very old and can be traced back to antiquity with the simple moral lesson found is Aesop and so forth. This song as one of the Child collection (#275), is probably of Scottish origin and probably itself very old, but there do seem to be several variations, some undoubtedly English. You may like to try this Mudcat thread too, although it’s mostly about the abiding chauvinism of folk songs, with bad wives more common than bad husbands. I’m sure that’s true, but neither party takes any credit out of this, jolly as it may be.



30 Responses to “John Blunt”

  1. Shelley says:

    Oh thank you! I heard Maddy Prior sing this many years ago and haven’t heard it since. I wondered what it was called!

  2. Reinhard says:

    On Maddy Prior and June Tabor’s album it is called “The Barring of the Door”.

  3. Shelley says:

    Ah, that’s more famililar – thank you! Another for my infinite list I think!

  4. Diana says:

    A most amusing song! Very nicely sung as well.

    Reynard I have been wading through your prolific list of songs gradually, but can’t find any trace of ” Little Boxes” which I believe Pete Seeger sang. I just wondered why.

  5. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Diana: I found a Wikilink about ‘Little Boxes,’ a song I loved when younger. I remember it being sung by a woman, so perhaps that was Malvina Reynolds who wrote it in 1962, with Pete Seeger having a hit with it in 1963. I was 9 or 10 then! What a giveaway!

    Thank you, Skyman, for ‘moderating’ my comments under ‘Palaces of Gold.’ Hope I gave you time to get your coat off & that you had a lovely Easter break.

  6. Jane Ramsden says:

    Since we’re on a humorous song today, and this site is all about creativity and not being all the same, let’s have the lady herself singing her own (definitely not ticky-tacky) song!

  7. Simon says:

    Right… I’m back.

    It’s taken me a while to pick through all the comments and Jane you are now reinstated. I was at the folks’ and computerless as a result. (First time around I had to take a laptop and mobile dongle to stay in the loop, but thought I could leave you to it for the repeat run.) That spam filter is getting a bit greedy, but as I’ve said before it’s better there than not. Diana I’m now not sure what happened to your comment. I’ve either moderated it without thinking or it’s lost in the real spam and there’s tons of that, far too much in fact, so if it hasn’t reappeared try again and I’ll pay attention this time.

    I’ve come back to find a copy of the reworked, forthcoming Tarras CD on my desk, which is a very good thing indeed. More on this on the other blog later, but it’s fab. Furthermore I’ve just been presented with a copy of Fay’s CD, which is gorgeous to behold and sorts out this evening’s musical entertainment. Do you want me to settle the Henry question, or is the suspense preferable?? The answer surprised me.

    As a final treat for the afternoon, we’ve just been listening to some rough mixes for the new Bellowhead CD. Played on the office stereo, with all the ambient noise is not the best introduction, so I’ll reframe from comment until much closer to release. I know from experience that the final mixes will knock anything else into a cocked hat anyway and then there’s seeing them do it all live. But recording is well advanced and seems to be going very well indeed.

  8. Diana says:

    Thanks Simon but you did notice that my comment was on Propermusic, under Dave Brubeck, which I have done again. Sofi passed my comment on Kenton. Still trawling around your other site – lots to see.

    Looking forward to Bellowhead in November and new CD, and tomorrow off to Sheffield to see Spiers and Boden.

  9. Reynard says:

    Yes please, Simon, do answer The Unsolved Puzzle of the Man with No Face and tell me that it isn’t my long lost ancestor Henry Fox, 1st Baron Holland!

    Diana, the songs you find on my website are usually those sung by the artists I cover and that i can refer to from their albums. I just noted that I do have Kate and Anne McGarrigle singing Little Boxes on “If I Had a Song… – The Songs of Pete Seeger Vol. 2” so I might add it at some time.

  10. Simon says:

    Sounds good Diana, they are always excellent and after all the brouhaha of Bellowhead it’s good to catch them in stripped down mode. Their 10th anniversary show was one of my highlights of last year, with a stellar guest list… Jon and Squeezy just have such chemistry

    I’ve taken my eye off the ball gig-wise and have managed to miss Great Lake Swimmers. It’s tonight, so in theory I could go, but I’m not really up for it, especially as it’s at Cargo, which isn’t one of my favourite places to say the very least. I’ll add that to Deep Dark Woods in the probably really should have been there stakes. Maybe I’ll just play the CDs instead.

  11. Diana says:

    Thanks Reynard I will resume my travelling around your list of songs and go under M.
    I was a little taken back by seeing Pete Townsend of “The Who” on your list (like them)
    but think it was something to do with Sandy Denny if I recall correctly.

  12. Diana says:

    Yes Simon really looking forward to seeing and hearing them – saw them at Leeds (could it be a year ago) when I got a signed CD ( it was the last night of their 10year anniversary tour). A great CD.

  13. Diana says:

    Jane thank you for your links – have played both songs but prefer Pete’s version. For some unknown reason it has been running through my brain the last couple of days – don’t know what prompted it. Nice to hear it again

    I have just picked my horse for the Grand National (the only time I have a bet I add) and I did won last year so it is on the same horse. Does ligtning ever strike twice in the same place I wonder!

  14. Diana says:

    God my spelling has gone to pot. Should be “I did win” and lightning. I think I should have my specs on.

  15. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Skyman: Yes, please settle the Henry puzzle for us! Don’t tell us it’s that ‘Mend it, dear Henry’ song or ‘Hen(e)ry the Eighth, I am, I am!’ or that would be a surprise!

    @ Diana: I know exactly why the ticky-tacky song is running round your head! – because there is currently an advert on tv employing this song. Can’t think what it is for though. The one I like is the boppy energy company orange flame that dances to ‘Electric Dreams’ amongst other things… only I don’t know why he is orange when they bill their energy as blue!

    Ref Grand National, you’ll be on Ballabriggs then? But you may well be in with a chance. Think Red Rum… or a host of other horses if we’re talking a place. Red Rum may have won 3x and placed a further 2x but, amazingly, that’s not the record for a place. A horse called Manifesto placed 6x around 1900, but only won 2 of those times. You could always back each way! Don’t think I’ve picked the winner since they voided the race in 1993. (We was robbed!) I am too wimpy these days to watch it, tho I sometimes still have a bet.

  16. Jane Ramsden says:

    Good to have ye back, Skyman! Only I’ve had to look up who the bands are you mention!

    Here’s a link to Canadian indie quintet Deep Dark Woods on MySpace with sample music:

    And Great Lake Swimmers, also a Canadian quintet, here:

    “Music is interesting because it brings people together, and the more that I do this the more I realize the importance to that.” Tony Dekker, Great Lake Swimmers.

    Wouldn’t argue with that!

  17. Muzza (N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    Wow…… many CDs…so little time.
    I have a mountain of CDs and I have one playing each night as I go to sleep…and I manage to hear three lines of the first track.
    Do other folk have a specific time slot to sit down (for an hour,perhaps)) to listen to one of their CDs…or are the CDs just filed away on a shelf (in little boxes)once they have had the initial play?…..and now we have Youtube to watch as well!
    According to statistics ref life expectancy..I have a lot of listening to do in the next five years!

  18. Muzza (N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    Wow my lovelies…… many Folk CDs…so little time.
    I have a mountain of CDs and I have one playing each night as I go to sleep…and I manage to hear three lines of the first track.
    Do other folk have a specific time slot to sit down (for an hour,perhaps)) to listen to one of their CDs…or are the CDs just filed away on a shelf (in little boxes)once they have had the initial play?…..and now we have Jane’s Youtube stuff to watch as well!
    According to statistics ref life expectancy..I have a lot of listening to do in the next five years!

  19. Peter Walsh says:

    Double Muzza.. wow! It happens to us all; I usually wake up at 3 in the morn, with Perky the cat yelling for attention, to find my late night CD has finished playing its 20 or so tracks and I didn’t hear the end of the first!

  20. Diana says:

    Double Muzza – what a treat, you can’t have too much of a good thing can you? I tend to listen to music when I awaken early, and listen still in bed via my headphones. In the car on longer trips and always when IRONING. Know lots of you don’t do this.

  21. Diana says:

    Jane I like the EDF little orange bopper as well, but can’t call the ticky-tacky one to mind but you are properly right as to why I have in stuck in my head. I shall now pay more attention to the adverts.

  22. Diana says:

    Jane I meant to say but submitted too soon, I cannot watch the Grand National either – like a lot of others I suspect, the jumps are so high and always a horse or jockey gets hurt (more concerned about the horse – the jockey chooses to do this) so just wait for the result a little later.

  23. Simon says:

    Thanks for those links Jane, both bands new albums are excellent. Deep Dark Woods’ The Place I Left Behind might be a bit sombre for some, but folkies should find some natural empathy in the lyrics and melodies that definitely borrow, or if you’d rather build, on the tradition. Great Lake Swimmers’ New Wild Everywhere is just lovely and their best so far, although if you fancy getting lost for half an hour or so, have a look at this lot, which is their last album Lost Channels revisited and played and recorded live. It was released on CD as The Legion Sessions. I know I’m waffling way off topic here, but once the Genie is out of the bottle…

  24. Muzza (N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    @AdminSimon……..when will I ever learn!!!!!!!!!
    I must never again click on AdSi’s notes that casually say:-
    ‘half an hour or so’ or ‘have a look at this lot’
    aaaaarrrrgggghhhhhhh (oh how I long for a power cut!)

  25. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Simon: On first listen (couple of tracks only), I preferred Deep Dark Woods to Great Lake Swimmers, but I am going to follow your link… later, given Muzza (aka JB Esq’s) comment above!

    @ Diana: I’m with yer on the finding out the winner at the end! I’ll note the ticky-tacky advert next time it comes on.

    I listen to music CDs mainly in the car. If I listen in bed at night, I invariably fall asleep. Likewise with the talking books, and I always wake up right at the end! Then I listen again and blow me, if I don’t always fall asleep in the same place… and wake up at the end! No wonder it takes me an age to get through all the wonderful music Pierre supplies me with!

    Double Muzza? And already such a handful, SINGly… hahahahahahahahaha!

  26. web resouce says:

    web resouce…

    […]John Blunt « A Folk Song A Day[…]…

  27. Muzza (N.W.Surrey-UK) says:

    Why, oh Why, oh Why, did the ‘Carthy version’ miss out this significant verse?

    They came straightway to John Blunt’s house
    And quickly opened the door o,
    And the devil of a word the old couple said
    For fear who should bar the door o.

  28. Muzza (N.W.Surrey-UK) says:

    If John Blunt had been a singleton (like wot a load of us are) there would have been no folk song ’cause he’d have to get up and bar the bally door hissen!….as it was he seemed bent on spoiling the only ‘action’ his poor wife had had in ages…what a selfish fellow.

  29. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Just to say…hallo everybody…I’m still checking each day….hope some of you are still out there and keeping well!

  30. OldMuzza(NW Surrey UK) says:

    Hey…..hello everybody
    glory be ….I made it to 2024…raising a glass to you all!

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