Friday Five: Rodents

Juli Thanki | July 23rd, 2010

Thursday was, according to the fine folks over at National Geographic, Rat Catcher’s Day. It’s a day for celebrating the Pied Piper myth, but if you have a local vermin catcher you want to belatedly show some love to, it would probably be appreciated. Anyway, since the whole “luring children to their deaths” thing is a little macabre even for a Friday Five, today we’ll be focusing mostly on the rat part of the myth. Enjoy the following five songs about those little critters.

  • Signs Along The Road5. “Mice on the Stove” – Steve Smith, Chris Sanders & Hard Road

    Rats, mice…they are both gross crawly rodents you don’t want in your house. This jazz-tinged instrumental, though, can stick around. Steve Smith’s delicately picked mandolin replicates the pitter patter of teeny mouse footsteps, and he and Sanders are expertly backed by the none-too-shabby Hard Road (Bill Evans, Aaron McCloskey, Megan Lynch, and Bill Amatneek).

  • Real Time4. “The Second Mouse” – Tim O’Brien & Darrell Scott

    Four and a half minutes of picking and kazooing followed by ten seconds of advice: “It’s the early bird that catches the worm/But it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese.” See, sometimes procrastination is a good thing—Tim and Darrell wouldn’t steer you wrong.

  • Happy3. “Ben” – Robbie Fulks

    This is perhaps the saddest song about the friendship between a young boy and a murderous rat ever written. On his album of Michael Jackson songs, Happy, Fulks takes “Ben,” the theme song from the 1972 movie of the same name, and turns it into a country weeper with some heartrending pedal steel.

  • Downtown Church2. “I Smell a Rat” – Patty Griffin

    Griffin’s take on this blues song comes from her newest album, Downtown Church. I think my favorite version was recorded by Big Mama Thornton, but Griffin’s is damn good, too.

  • How Can A Broke Man Be Happy?1. “Intoxicated Rat” – The Dixon Brothers

    Piedmont millworkers Dorsey and Howard Dixon recorded this song (penned by Dorsey, who also wrote “I Didn’t Hear Anybody Pray,” aka “Wreck on the Highway”) in the mid-’30s. Turns out that, much like humans, rats like to run their mouths when they get liquored up, too. Wackiness ensues. “Intoxicated Rat” has also been recorded by Doc Watson and Red Sovine.

  1. Paul W Dennis
    July 23, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    There really haven’t been all that many songs about rodents in country music.

    “The Intoxicated Rat” certainly tops the list. My favorite version of the song was by Jimmie Dale & His Western Trailsmen, although folksinger Cisco Houston did a good version as did bluegrass legend Hylo Brown

  2. Thomas
    July 23, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    …dogs in movies, rodents in country songs – same thing, just stay away from it if you’re serious about your career. this series must be country music’s equivalent to gary larson’s “the far side”. most entertaining, miss thanki.

  3. Jon
    July 23, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    What, no Bob Wills “Big Beaver?!”

  4. luckyoldsun
    July 23, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Shenandoah/Marty Raybon had a great song called, “Ghost In This House,” where I believe he also likens himself to a mouse.

  5. luckyoldsun
    July 23, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Ray Stevens had a whole lot of songs about squirels, as the attached link hilariously notes.

  6. Rick
    July 23, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    I see an ad for Terminix on the left side of this page which could not be more appropriate! Can I hire them to go to Washington DC to exterminate the entire liberal, elitist ruling class that infests that city and does great harm to the rest of the country? Hmm…

  7. Saving Country Music
    July 24, 2010 at 12:26 am

    Another good one is ‘Muskrat Candlelight’ by Willis Alan Ramsey, later covered as ‘Muskrat Love’ by America and others.

  8. ACcountryFan
    July 24, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    Technically, though, Ray Stevens only had one song about squirrels but it’s become a popular myth that he’s recorded a lot more when in reality he hasn’t. That song was titled “Mississippi Squirrel Revival”. Snakes aren’t rodents but he recorded a song once called “The Ballad of Cactus Pete and Lefty”…Lefty being a sidewinder. He mentions hamsters in another song called “Old Hippie Class Reunion”. A few of his recordings feature nothing but chicken clucks as well billing himself as the Henhouse Five Plus Too. The word “too” instead of “two” was intentionally used on the recording.

  9. luckyoldsun
    July 25, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    I’m sure you’re right. And I believe that Webb Pierce had only two songs about drinking: “There Stands the Glass” and “Honky Tonk Song.”

  10. Paul W Dennis
    July 25, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    I think you’re right about Webb Pierce, at least as far as singles go (a few album cuts touched upon the topic) but when you’ve recorded the greatest drinking song of all time in “There Stands The Glass”, how many more such songs do you need

    I don’t suppose that Red Simpson’s “Beaver On My Lap And A Bear On My Tail” is really about rodents

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