Beans, Bacon and Gravy

In honor of Pete Seeger's ninety-fourth birthday I am playing this depression era song just as he did on American Industrial Ballads.

I learned to play from Pete's instruction book and record on my Silvertone banjo from Sears. So Pete's technique of up-picking and with little double-thumb accents was the first style I learned. He picked it up from old time players like Rufus Crisp and Uncle Dave Macon and then he added his own spices like that rocking strum he used to get us up on our feet and singing. This way of playing is no where as slick as the claw-hammer and bluegrass styles people favor these days but Pete used it to great effect and I hope I can do it justice.

"Beans, Bacon and Gravy" is one of the songs that Pete sang in his pre-Weavers days with the likes of Cisco Houston, Lee Hayes and the Almanac Singers. No one seems to know where the song came from. Pete said that lots of folks claimed authorship but he didn't say who. The tune is "Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane."

I was lucky enough to hear Pete in concert a couple of times. It can't be reproduced unless you are there with Pete. He could make a stone get up and dance and inspire even the grass to sing - like in the "Foolish Frog" song. I'm looking forward to the Pete Seeger centennial and I bet he'll be there with us.


I was born long ago, in 1894.
I've seen many a panic,I will own.
I've been hungry, I've been cold, And now I'm growing old,
But the worst I've seen was 1931.

Oh, those beans, bacon and gravy,
They almost drive me crazy,
I eat them till I see them in my dreams.
When I wake up each morning,
And another day is dawning,
I know I'll have another mess of beans.

We congregate each morning in the county barn at dawning,
And everyone is happy, so it seems.
But when our days work is done, we file in one by one,
And thank the Lord for one more mess of beans.

Oh those beans . . .

We have Hooverized on butter and for milk we've only water,
And I haven't seen a steak in many a day.
For pies and cakes and jellies we substitute sow bellies,
For which we work the county road each day.

Oh those beans . . .

If there ever comes a time, when I have more than a dime,
They will have to put me under lock and key.
For I've been broke so long, I can only sing the song,
Of the workers and their misery.

C standard