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parody of “Widow’s Plea For Her Son”

In 19th century america there were a lot of grotesquely sentimental songs about motherhood, like for example Mother would comfort me or Just think of your mother. This was back before American women got the vote; the idea seemed to be something about empowerment of women short of actually empowering women.

A “Widow’s Plea For Her Son” is an 1893 tear jerker by a guy named Lewis Hall. It’s a weepy story about how your mom is awesome even when you’re a creep.

Specifically, it’s a moment of courtroom drama. There’s a young man in court about to get sentenced for embezzlement when his mother gives an impassioned speech to the jury about how she’s his mother and also she’s a widow. The song is the speech.

Don’t send my boy to prison
For that would drive me mad.
Remember I’m a widow
And I’m pleading for my lad

This was a trailblazing early use of the wookie defense.

Here is the cover page for the sheet music:

cover art for sheet music to Widow's Plea For Her Son by Lewis Hall

Here is a lyric sheet published in 1893 to encourage people to buy the sheet music:

lyrics for Widow's Plea For Her Son

There needs to be an MP3 too, but that’s not so easy, because there are no recordings of this until the late 1920s, and by then musical styles had changed a lot.

But there is an MP3 which is damn close to that — a recording of an answer song which is probably so close to the original that you can get a good sense of how the original went. This answer song is a 1904 parody sung by a guy named Will F. Denny, over on archive.org. The story in the parody is about a father pleading to the court to haul his rotten brat of a child away to jail for life instead of just ten years, which is funny with a 1904 sort of wickedness.

One morning in the courthouse a boy stood up for trial
His father stood beside him on his face there was a smile
The old man told the jury “That one’s not my only son.
But I have got three more like him and I’ll bring them one by one

This boy was born on Sunday and I tell you he’s a beaut.
He’ll take anything that isn’t nailed and never tells the truth.”
The boy took out a cigarette and the jury near fell dead.
When he struck his father for a match the old man loudly said:

“Remember I’m his father and his mother is my wife
Don’t let him off with ten years but send him off for life
And when he’s tired of living just keep him there for fun
There’s noone more could be dead sure than a father on his son.”

Now the boy spoke to his honor and he said “Dear Judge You See,
Just let my father here go home and bring the other three.
The other ones are crooked why they can’t lay straight in bed.
They peel the whiskers off your chin and they put hair on your head.”

The jury men all faded and the boy called out for beer.
The judge he stood upon his head and the wind blew through his ear.
And now there’s 13 funerals for the jury men are dead.
And the judge of ??? before he died he said

My boy you are a daisy, through others ? be done.
No matter who your father was you are your mother’s son.
And as the old judge neared the end before he met his death
He shook his head and softly said with his last dying breath.

My boy you are a daisy through others don’t be done
No matter who your father was you are your mother’s son.
And if ever you get married just have one boy for fun.
And if he’s a sport don’t go to court but kill the son of a gun.

That’s my own transcription. I couldn’t figure out what he was saying in the parts where I wrote ‘?’. If you want to give the line that starts “my boy you are a daisy” a shot, grab this here MP3 fragment and tell me what you’re hearing.

And while we’re dealing with MP3 fragments, here are a few to close things out. Maybe they’ll be handy for ringtones, maybe they’ll inspire some ultra retro wax cylinder remixing:

10 replies on “parody of “Widow’s Plea For Her Son””

Just listened to your MP3 fragment and to me the missing word is ‘don’t’.

My boy you are a daisy through others don’t be done

I haven’t tried listening to any of your recordings so I don’t know what is correct but the way my dad used to sing this line was with the word “steal,” not peel.

They peel the whiskers off your chin and they put hair on your head.”

I think this part:

And the judge of ??? before he died he said

says “And the judge lived 20 minutes then before he died he said” because my dad used to sing it “And the judge live 20 minutes more, before he died he said”

I’m Rita’s sister and I remember our Dad singing “They’ll steal the whiskers off your chin” and the in the 5th I remember our Dad singing “The jury men all fainted as the boy called out for beer”. I also heard a few things a little differently. In the 3rd paragraph I heard “but send him UP for life”. Thanks for the great memories!

Thanks, Terry.

So incorporating all of your comments there are no ? markers left. Here is the final version.

One morning in the courthouse a boy stood up for trial
His father stood beside him on his face there was a smile
The old man told the jury "That one's not my only son.
But I have got three more like him and I'll bring them one by one

This boy was born on Sunday and I tell you he's a beaut.
He'll take anything that isn't nailed and never tells the truth."
The boy took out a cigarette and the jury near fell dead.
When he struck his father for a match the old man loudly said:

"Remember I'm his father and his mother is my wife
Don't let him off with ten years but send him up for life
And when he's tired of living just keep him there for fun
There's noone more could be dead sure than a father on his son."

Now the boy spoke to his honor and he said "Dear Judge You See, 
Just let my father here go home and bring the other three.
The other ones are crooked why they can't lay straight in bed.
They steal the whiskers off your chin and they put hair on your head."

The jury men all fainted as the boy called out for beer.
The judge he stood upon his head and the wind blew through his ear.
And now there's 13 funerals for the jury men are dead.
And the judge lived 20 minutes then before he died he said

My boy you are a daisy, through others don't be done.
No matter who your father was you are your mother's son.
And as the old judge neared the end before he met his death
He shook his head and softly said with his last dying breath.

My boy you are a daisy through others don't be done
No matter who your father was you are your mother's son.
And if ever you get married just have one boy for fun.
And if he's a sport don't go to court but kill the son of a gun.

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