Monday, 9 February 2009

Story Songs #8 - Two Little Boys

#8 in an occasional series - more story songs on How Marvellous...

You know the one - "Two little boys had two little toys, each had a wooden horse...".

Most people of a certain age in the UK, will know it as a 1969/1970 Rolf Harris hit, successfully covered in 1980 by Splodgenessabounds. What I didn't know, was that Kenny Rogers & The First Edition did a version on their '71 album - Transition, or that the song was written, twice... over one hundred years ago.

This tune first surfaced in 1903, and was a popular recording by Billy Murray. Edward Madden wrote the lyrics, Theodore Morse - the music. Within a few years, Madden had re-written the song with new music by his wife, Dolly Jordon, and now a naval theme, rather than soldiering - "Two Little Sailor Boys" - Byron G. Harlan and Frank C. Stanley recorded it, both well known at the time.

The Dixon Brothers did well with the original version in the late '30s; the Brandywine Singers had a minor hit with it in Australia during 1964, which might be the beginnings of Rolf Harris getting to hear the song.

Madden & Morse wrote a whole bunch of popular songs together, but you'll likely know two that Madden wrote the lyrics for with different partners - Moonlight Bay ("We were sailing along, on Moonlight Bay...") and By The Light of the Silvery Moon.

Two Little Boys continued to be a popular choice with the public - Hartlepool United fans reached #24 in the UK with their 'football-chant' version, Rolf Harris re-recorded it in 2008, and even Sinead O'Connor has been known to perform the song live.

Two Little Boys - Rolf Harris (1969)

Two Little Boys - Sinead O'Connor (live -2005)

When We Were Two Little Boys - Billy Murray (1903)

Two Little Sailor Boys - Byron G. Harlan and Frank C. Stanley (1906)

Tow Little Boys - The Dixon Brothers (1937)

Two Little Boys - Splodgenessabounds (1980)

Two Little Boys - The Brandywine Singers (30s excerpt)

Two Little Boys - Kenny Rogers & The First Edition (1971)

***edit*** After dozens (well, one) of you pointed out that Billy Connolly's alternate version was missing... here it is.
Two Little Boys in Blue - Billy Connolly
Thanks Andrew

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