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The Two Brothers / Bohunkus and Josephus

[ Roud 6360 ; Mudcat 106810 ; trad.]

Mary and Nigel Hudleston: Songs of the Ridings

Mike Waterson sang the burlesque song The Two Brothers in 1977 on his eponymous LP, Mike Waterson. A.L. Lloyd commented in the sleeve notes:

This burlesque of a traditional song was a music hall success of the 1850s. It came to the surface again as a college boys’ song in America in the 1880s, with the brothers re-named as Bohunkus and Josephus. Frank Crumit gave it new life in the early 1930s. And here it is again, just to prove you can’t keep a damn-fool song down. This is another one that Mike got from Paul Graney.

Roy Harris sang The Two Brothers in 1997 at The White Lion folk club in Wherwell, Hampshire. A recording of this concert was released two years later on the CD Live at the Lion. Roy Harris commented in his liner notes:

Whenever I see Loch Ness on TV I think not of the monster, but of this song. That’s because ages ago Duncan MacClellan of the Inverness folk club sang it to me whilst giving me a drive around the famous beauty spot. I’ve sung it ever since. Duncan’s version came from a Scottish comedian called Donald Dallas. The great Frank Crumit, one of my heroes, sang a version he called Bohunkus.


Mike Waterson sings The Two Brothers

There was a farmer had two sons
And both these sons was brothers
And the one son’s name it were Adolphus John
And John Adolphus was the other

Now these two brothers had an hoss
And it were very thin
So they taken it to the River Went
And pushed the bugger in

Now these two brothers died they did
From eating fish and jelly
And Adolphus John he died on his back
And John Adolphus died on his belly


Thanks to Greer Gilman for the transcription of Mike Waterson’s singing.