> Peter Bellamy > Songs > The German Musicianer

The German Musicianer

[ Roud 17774 ; Ballad Index K201 ; Mudcat 50735 ; trad.]

Peter Kennedy collected the bawdy song The Old German Musicianer from the singing of Harry Cox in Catfield, Norfolk in 1956. It was published in 1964/65 on Cox's Folk-Legacy/EFDSS LP Traditional English Love Songs, and was included in 1975 in Kennedy's book Folksongs of Britain and Ireland. The album's liner notes don't say anything about Cox's source but merely state on the Folkways album:

Along with the sexual implication of the song The Drummer Maid and of songs like The Nightingale in which soldiers take out their fiddles, the English folksinger kept himself up to date with the importation of the German pianoforte. In a version of The Banks of the Roses the young man takes out a “German flute and plays a charming tune”. As yet, no song had been collected about “an American organist”.

and on the DTS album's sleeve:

The various implications of this song are too obvious to require any explanation!

Peter Bellamy sang The German Musicianer unaccompanied in 1968 on his first solo LP, Mainly Norfolk. This recording was also included in his Free Reed anthology Wake the Vaulted Echoes. He also sang it on 17 November 1968 at the Young Tradition's concert at Oberlin College, Ohio, that was published in 2013 on their Fledg'ling CD Oberlin 1968. He commented in the original album's liner notes:

Of the many singers discovered by song collectors in my home country of Norfolk, Harry Cox and Sam Larner stand supreme, unrivalled not only for the quantity of their songs, but also the quality. Thus it is hardly surprising that six of the twelve songs which I have chosen to record have come from them. Both these singers had repertoires which covered the entire spectrum of English rural song, from the high Classic Ballad down (or up?) to outright bawdry.

The German Musicianer from Harry Cox and Butter & Cheese & All from Sam Larner are fine examples of the latter—both of them witty songs, revelling in double entendre—so much that I have known audiences totally failing to grasp the meaning of the Musicianer. You can work it out for yourself!

John Roberts and Tony Barrand sang The German Musicianer, “coming from Harry Cox”, live at Holstein's, North Lincoln, Chicago, on 5 and 6 November 1982. This recording was included in 2000 on the extended CD reissue of their 193 album, Live at Holsteins!.

Jon Boden sang The German Musicianer as the 4 February 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

In this video, David Savage sanf The German Musicianer at Black Fen Folk Club in April 2021:

A related song is The German Clockwinder or The German Clockmender (Roud 241); the latter one was sung by George Spicer on his 1975 Topic LP Blackberry Fold.

Lyrics

Harry Cox sings The Old German Musicianer

I'm a poor married man and I'm near broken-hearted.
My wife she has left me and she's gone away.
We had a misfortune, so she and I parted;
Now I'll tell you what happened to her the other day.
Women are weak; they should mind their possessions.
I think, now, with grief; mad me it will send,
For she's gone away with a German Musicianer
Who goes about crying, “Pianos to mend!”

Chorus:
Fol-the-rol, fol-the-rol, fol-the-rol laddie;
All sorts of tunes and things he could play.
“There's many a good tune played on an old fiddle,”
And this, to my wife, the old German did say.

It happened one day, this old German Musicianer
Came through our streets crying, “Pianos to mend!”
My wife's piano being out of condition,
Straightway the boy for the old German did send.
He knocked at the door and he said, most politely,
“I think, ma'am, it's here you are needing repairs.
Please, ma'am, I've called to mend your piano.“
“All right,” said my wife, “will you please walk upstairs?”

She took him upstairs, showed him her piano,
And with the old German seemed greatly amused.
And, when he had seen it, he said to my Hannah,
“I think, ma'am, your music's not very much use.”
He touched it, he handled it both over and under,
Sharp as a needle, as light as a cork.
With all sorts of tools he pulled it asunder
And rattled away with.his old tuning fork.

When I came home she told me the story
And said the old German had been there all day.
He'd worked very hard to mend her piano
And, do what she would, he'd not taken her pay.
I thought it was strange when she told me the story
And said the old German was ever so kind.
Would ever you believe that this old German sausage,
Before going away, left his trade-mark behind?

I swore and I tore at my darling wife, Hannah;
With grief and with rage I'm sure no one can tell.
I told her to hook it and take her piano,
And likewise to take the old German as well.
So, come all young married men, don't take too much spooning,
For all women want is to handle your pelf.
So, if ever your wife's piano want tuning,
Just take my tip. boys, and tune her yourself.

(Chorus)

(Title spoken at end)

Peter Bellamy sings The German Musicianer

I'm a young married man and I'm near broken-hearted
For my wife she has left me and she's gone away.
We had a misfortune and she and I parted;
I'll tell you what happened to her the other day.

Now women is weak, they should mind their possessions;
And the more I think on it, mad me it do send.
For she's run away with a German Musicianer
Who goes around crying, “Pianos to mend!”

Oh fol-the-rol, fol-the-rol, fol-the-rol, laddie
For all kinds of tunes and things he could play.
And there's many a good tune played on an old fiddle,
And this to my wife that old German did say.

Now it happened one morning this German Musicianer
Well he come through our streets crying, “Pianos to mend!”
And my wife's piano being out of condition,
Straightway the boy for that old German did send.

So he come to the door and he knocked most politely;
Said he, “Ma'am, it's here that you're needing repairs.”
She looked him well over and seem most delighted,
“All right,” says my wife, “Will you please come upstairs.”

So she took him upstairs and showed him her piano,
And with that old German seemed greatly amused.
But when he had seen it, he said to my Hannah,
“I think, ma'am, your music's not very much used.”

But he touched it, he handled it, over and under,
Both as sharp as a needle and light as a cork;
With all kinds of tools then he pulled it asunder
And he rattled away with his old tuning fork.

Now when I come home my wife told me the story
And she said that old German had been there all day;
And he'd tried very hard for to mend her piano
But do what she might wouldn't take any pay.

Well I thought it was strange when she told me the story
And I said that old German was ever so kind.
But would you believe that this old German sausage
Before going away left his trade-mark behind?

So I swore and I tore at my darling wife Hannah,
Both with rage and with pain I'm sure no one can tell.
And I told her to hook it and take her piano
And likewise to take that old German as well.

So it's come all you young men, pay heed to my story,
'Cause all women wants is to handle your pelf.
And if ever your wife's old piano wants tuning
Just take my advice, boys, and tune her yourself.