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Army Cadences

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Army Cadences

I spent six years in the Army, from September 1985 to September 1991. I was never a fast nor a very strong runner, so I began calling cadences for the unit to improve my stamina and determination. I also called marching cadences when called upon to do so. Here are some of the cadences, both marching and running, that I called.

— Steve

 

Jody

"Jody" and its variations are so popular, going back to at least the Second World War, that cadences are often called "jodies." Many cadences, like "Mama, Mama," follow the simple "jody" rhythm, and all can be used as both running and marching cadences.

Ain't no use in lookin' back,
Jody's got your Cadillac.
Ain't no use in lookin' back,
Jody's got your Cadillac.

Ain't no use in lookin' blue,
Jody's got your girlfriend, too.
Ain't no use in lookin' blue,
Jody's got your girlfriend, too.

Ain't no use in feeling sad,
Jody's got the job you had.
Ain't no use in feeling sad,
Jody's got the job you had.

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Pebbles and Bam-Bam

This is a running cadence taught to me in Germany, about 1987. Like all running cadences, the runners simply repeat each line after the cadence caller sings it. Both the content and the melody, however, are highly unusual. The rhythm, of course, is not, and this song could be made to fit any standard "jody" with no trouble.

Wing-dang wing-dang wing-dang-do
Come on First Sergeant, sing along, too;
Wing-dang wing-dang wing-dang dee
Come on ev'rybody sing along with me . . .

Pebbles and Bam-Bam on a Friday night,
Y' know they tried to get to Heaven on a paper kite.
Lightning struck, and down they fell,
Y'know instead of gettin' to Heaven they went to Hell.

Dino the dog was on the bone,
While Fred and Barney rocked the microphone.

Betty didn't know it, but she heard the shout,
It was Mr. Slate a-cussin' Wilma out.

Fred didn't know exactly what to do,
He shouted "Yabba-dabba-dabba-dabba-doo!"

He shouted "Yabba-dabba-dabba-dabba-doo!"

You caught me walkin' when I shoulda been runnin',
Caught me runnin' when I shoulda been walkin',
Caught me shirkin' when I shoulda been workin',
Caught me workin' when I shoulda been shirkin'.

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Captain Jack

This simple marching song has the added utility of being so basic; creative cadence callers could add any verses that fit. Like most marching cadences, marchers simply repeated the line right after the cadence caller sang it.

Hey, hey Captain Jack
Meet me down by the railroad shack,
With that switchblade in your hand,
I'm gonna be a cuttin' man,
The best I can,
All night long.

Chorus
So re-up, you're crazy,
Re-up, you're lazy.
Who says you're lazy?
I say you're crazy!

Hey, hey Captain Jack
Meet me down by the railroad shack,
With that bottle in your hand,
I'm gonna be a drinkin' man,
The best I can,
All night long.

Chorus

Hey, hey Captain Jack
Meet me down by the railroad shack,
With that rifle in your hand,
I'm gonna be a shootin' man,
The best I can,
All night long.

Chorus

Hey, hey Captain Jack
Meet me down by the railroad shack,
With that woman in your hand,
I'm gonna be a lovin' man,
The best I can,
All night long.

Chorus

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Airborne Ranger

Variations of this running cadence abound. Lyrics are easily mixed and matched, or created on the spot. The drop zone is the designated landing spot for airborne soldiers parachuting into enemy territory.

Variation One
I wanna be an Airborne Ranger,
Live the life of sex and danger,
I wanna go to Vietnam,
I wanna kill some Charlie Cong.

Variation Two
I wanna be an Airborne Ranger,
Live the life of sex and danger,
I wanna go to Vietnam,
Kill some commies for my mom.

Variation Three
I wanna be an Airborne Ranger,
I wanna live a life of danger,
I wanna die in the old drop zone,
Box me up and ship me home.

Variation Four

I wanna be a Chairborne Ranger,
Live the life of paper and danger.

Variation Five
I wanna be a Chairborne Ranger,
Live the life of paper pushin' danger,
Keep me out of the drop zone,
I just wanna go back home.

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C-130

There are other versions of this venerable running cadence, but most mainly involve switching and substituting the words. The Marine Corps has a version called "The Old Standby." A C-130 (pronounced SEE ONE THIRTY) is a military troop transport plane. Airborne soldiers, on the command of the Jump Master, stand up, hook their parachute pull-cords to a cable overhead, and march to the jump door. On command they jump, whereupon their pull-cords are pulled by a lanyard attached to the aircraft four seconds later. If the pull-cord breaks without opening the main parachute, the soldier must pull the cord on the reserve parachute, worn on the soldier's side. The drop zone is the landing area. By "wings" the song means Airborne Wings, a medal worn by qualified Airborne soldiers. The "leaning rest" is the push-up position, a position soldiers find themselves in daily.

Variation One
C-130 rollin' down the strip,
Airborne daddy gonna take a little trip.
Mission top secret, destination unknown,
Don't really care if I ever come home.
Stand-up, hook-up, shuffle to the door,
Jump right out and count to four.
If my main don't open wide,
I've got a reserve by my side.
If that one should fail me too,
Look out below, I'm comin' through.
Don't leave me in the old drop zone,
Box me up and ship me home.
Tell my girl I done my best,
Pin my wings upon my chest.

Variation Two
C-130 rollin' down the strip,
Airborne Ranger gonna take a little trip.
Stand-up, hook-up, shuffle to the door,
Jump right out and count to four.
If my main don't open wide,
I've got another one by my side.
If that one don't open either,
I'll be first to see St. Peter.
If I die in the old drop zone,
Box me up and ship me home.
Pin my wings upon my chest,
Tell my mom I did my best.

Variation Three
C-130 rollin' down the strip,
Airborne daddy gonna take a little trip.
Stand-up, hook-up, shuffle to the door,
Jump right out and count to four.
If my main don't open wide,
I've got a reserve by my side.
If that one should fail me too,
Look out below, I'm comin' through.
If I die in the old drop zone,
Box me up and ship me home.
Pin my wings upon my chest,
Bury me in the leaning rest.

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Way Down in the Valley

We learned this song in 1985 from one of our AIT ( the Advanced Individual Training we get right after boot camp) drill sergeants. Companies in the Army are designated by letters, which are then pronounced according to the military phonetic alphabet.

Way down in the valley,
I heard a mighty noise,
It was the mighty mighty Charlie,
Using Alpha as a toy.
Ease out on the clutch,
Step hard upon the gas,
Move over awful Alpha,
Let the Mighty Charlie pass.

Way down in the valley,
I heard a mighty roar,
It was the mighty mighty Charlie,
A-kickin' down the door.
You put the pedal to the metal,
Yeah, you step hard on the gas,
Move over beat-up Bravo,
Or we'll kick your ate-up ass.

Way down in the valley,
I heard that noise again,
It was the mighty mighty Charlie,
Knocking Delta in the chin.
Ease out on the clutch,
Hit the gas once more,
Move over deadbeat Delta,
Or we'll knock you to the floor.

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The Army Colors

Variations of a song I remember from Basic Training.

The Army colors,
The colors are blue,
To show the world
That we are true.

The Army colors,
The colors are green,
To show the world
We're a fighting machine.

The Army colors,
The colors are red,
To show the world
The blood we've shed.

The Army colors,
The colors are black,
To show the world
That we're on the attack.

The Army colors,
The colors are white,
To show the world
That we can fight.

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Ol' King Cole

LT (pronounced EL TEE) is short for lieutenant, a group of officers notorious for their lack of common sense. Once, in Germany, for example, one of our office lieutenants, a newbie to our company with only two year's active duty experience, told our battalion sergeant major "At ease!" a command that basically means "Shut up, you're out of line." Granted, as an officer, a lieutenant does technically outrank a sergeant major, a non-commissioned rank, but . . . A battalion sergeant major is basically the executive assistant of a battalion commander, in this case a colonel who soooo outranks a lieutenant, who is barely in charge of his own sleeping bag. Not a smart move. "Give me ten," means "Get down and do ten push-ups as (a mild) punishment."

Ol' King Cole was a merry ol' soul
and a merry ol' soul was he, uh-huh.
He called for his pipe and he called for his bowl
and he called for his privates three, uh-huh.

Watcha got in that pipe? said the privates,
Merry men are we,
No you can't compare to the long long hair
of the hardcore infantry, uh-huh!

Ol' King Cole was a merry ol' soul
and a merry ol' soul was he, uh-huh.
He called for his pipe and he called for his bowl
and he called for his privates three, uh-huh.

We're gonna smoke that pipe, said the privates,
Merry men are we,
No you can't compare to the long long hair
of the hardcore infantry, uh-huh!

Ol' King Cole was a merry ol' soul
and a merry ol' soul was he, uh-huh.
He called for his pipe and he called for his bowl
and he called for his sergeants three, uh-huh.

Get down and give me ten, said the sergeants,
Merry men are we,
No you can't compare to the long long hair
of the hardcore infantry, uh-huh!

Ol' King Cole was a merry ol' soul
and a merry ol' soul was he, uh-huh.
He called for his pipe and he called for his bowl
and he called for his LTs three, uh-huh.

Help, I think we're lost! said the LTs,
Merry men are we,
No you can't compare to the long long hair
of the hardcore infantry, uh-huh!

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Humpty Dumpty

Like "Ol' King Cole," I never heard this marching cadence outside of AIT. Unlike most marching cadences, the cadence caller merely called an improvised prompt. The marchers, knowing the song, would respond with the lyrics in italics. Potentially, the song could go on for numerous repetitions, but three to five was typical.

Humpty Dumpty says:
Hump-ty Dump-ty dump.
Ev'rybody sing:
Hump-ty Dump-ty dump.
Get down and sing:
Hump-ty Dump-ty dump —

Ohhhohhhoh,
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
Hump-ty Dump-ty dump.

Humpty Dumpty humps it:
Hump-ty Dump-ty dump.
Ev'rybody humpin':
Hump-ty Dump-ty dump.
Gettin' too much humpin':
Hump-ty Dump-ty dump —

Ohhhohhhoh,
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
Hump-ty Dump-ty dump.

Do it one more time:
Hump-ty Dump-ty dump.
Time to do it now:
Hump-ty Dump-ty dump.
One last time we'll do it:
Hump-ty Dump-ty dump —

Ohhhohhhoh,
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
Hump-ty Dump-ty dump.

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My Girl

This peculiar cadence can be used both for marching and running, and apparently has roots in an older popular song called "That's Where My Money Goes (To Buy My Baby Clothes)." Due to the perverse nature of its rhythm, it is actually sung faster as a marching cadence than as a running cadence. I know nothing about music, so I can't explain why.

My girl's a pretty girl,
She's a New York City girl,
And I'd buy her anything,
To keep her in style.

She's got a long long nose,
Just like a garden hose,
And I'd buy her anything,
To keep her in style.

She's got black wavy hair,
Just like a grizzly bear,
And I'd buy her anything,
To keep her in style.

She's two great big hips,
Just like two battleships,
And I'd buy her anything,
To keep her in style.

She's got some great big legs,
Just like two whiskey kegs,
And I'd buy her anything,
To keep her in style.

She's got a big fat belly,
Shakes like a bowl of jelly,
And I'd buy her anything,
To keep her in style.

She's got some funny tits,
One stands up while the other sits,
And I'd buy her anything,
To keep her in style.

My girl's a pretty girl,
She's a New York City girl,
And I'd buy her anything,
To keep her in style.

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My Girl (Part Two)

This is merely a more sinister version of "My Girl." Often it's sang as a continuation of "My Girl," sometimes it's sang separately.

My girl's a vegetable,
She lives in a hospital,
But I'd buy her anything,
To keep her alive.

She's got no arms or legs,
Steel rods and wooden pegs,
But I'd buy her anything,
To keep her alive.

She's got her own TV,
They call it an EKG ,
But I'd buy her anything,
To keep her alive.

My girl is lot's of fun,
She's got an iron lung,
But I'd buy her anything,
To keep her alive.

One day I played a joke,
pulled the plug and watched her choke,
But I'd buy her anything,
To keep her alive.

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Mama, Mama

A melancholy marching song with a melancholy melody. As a marching song, the "chorus" is repeated at the cadence caller's discretion, usually between every other verse. With the chorus removed, it can become a running cadence.

Mama, Mama don't you see
What the Army's done to me?
Mama, Mama can't you see
What the Army's doing to me?

"Chorus"
Whohh ohh ohh ohh,
Whohh ohh ohho ohho,
Whohh ohh ohh ohh,
Whohh ohh ohho ohho.

They took away my faded jeans,
Now I'm wearing Army greens.
They took away my faded jeans,
Now I'm wearing Army greens.

They took away my Cadillac,
Now I'm humpin' with a pack.
They took away my Cadillac,
Now I'm humpin' with a pack.

Used to date a high school queen,
Now I'm marchin' lean and mean.
Used to date a high school queen,
Now I'm marchin' lean and mean.

Ain't no use in lookin' down,
Ain't no discharge on the ground.
Ain't no use in lookin' down,
Ain't no discharge on the ground.

Your left, your right, your left, your right,
Your left, your right, you're outta sight.
Your left, your right, your left, your right,
Your left, your right, you're dy-no-mite.

Mama, Mama doncha cry,
Your little boy ain't gonna die.
Mama, Mama doncha cry,
Your little boy's not gonna die.

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You Get a Line

As with "Humpty Dumpty," the marchers are required to know the song, for while the cadence caller must only call the prompts, the marchers must reply with the lyrics in italics. Another variation of this marching cadence changes the word "fishin'" to "crawdad."

Many Army traditions and practices, such as the large, greasy country breakfasts the mess halls serve up daily, have an unmistakable Southern flair; additionally, there is in the Army a much larger percentage of blacks than one finds in the general populace. This is only supposition, but call-and-reply work songs are known to have been a way black slaves and later black field workers in the South kept their minds off the endless drudgery of field work (as well as a way of throwing a few subtle jabs at those who kept them there.) Perhaps that is where we can find the origins of this type of marching song.

You get a line and I'll get a pole,
Honey, Honey,
You get a line and I'll get a pole,
Ba-abe, Ba-abe,
You get a line and I'll get a pole,
And we'll go down to the fishin' hole,
Honey, oh ple-ease be mine.
Go to your left, your right, your left,
Go to your left, your right, your left,
Hey!

Standin' tall and lookin' good,
Honey, Honey,
Standin' tall and lookin' good,
Ba-abe, Ba-abe,
Standin' tall and lookin' good,
We ought to march in Hollywood,
Honey, oh ple-ease be mine.
Go to your left, your right, your left,
Go to your left, your right, your left,
Hey!

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First Sergeant

A short song meant to get the unit's — and the Top Kick's — attention.

Running in the sun all covered with sweat,
First Sergeant's the meanest man I ever met.
He's got a face like a monkey and legs like a cat,
Never knew a man who could look like that.

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My Granny

"PT" means physical training. A "profile" is a medical profile, one that restricts a GI from performing certain activities until the condition has cleared up.

When my granny was ninety-one,
She did PT just for fun.
When my granny was ninety-two,
She did PT better than you.
When my granny was ninety-five,
She did PT to stay alive.
When my granny was ninety-six,
She did PT just for kicks.
When my granny was ninety-seven,
She up and died and went to heaven.
She met St. Peter at the Pearly Gates,
She said, "Gee, St. Peter, I hope I'm not late."
St. Peter said with a big ol' grin,
"Get down Granny and knock out ten."
Granny replied with a big old smile,
"Hell, no, St. Peter, I got a profile."

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Bodies, Bodies, Bodies

One of those running cadences we all liked to sing but didn't like to think about. The implications were too Orwellian... This goes to the tune of "Put Another Nickel In (In That Nickelodeon)."

Lock and load my M-16,
Show the world I'm lean and mean,
'Cause all I ever want to see
Are bodies, bodies, bodies.

Pulling out my K-Bar knife,
Set to take somebody's life,
'Cause all I ever want to see
Are bodies, bodies, bodies.

Throw another hand grenade,
Should have seen the mess I made,
'Cause all I ever want to see
Are bodies, bodies, bodies.

I'll kill anyone for you,
Anyone you tell me to,
'Cause all I ever want to see
Are bodies, bodies, bodies.

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You'll Feel Better

Despite its title, this is not a "feel good" marching cadence. I imagine songs like this would help reinforce the negative image of veterans as psycho postal workers waiting to happen, should it ever get out to the public. Oh, wait...

Left, right, oh left, right, oh left, right, KILL!
Left, right, oh left, right, oh left, right, KILL!

Burn the town and kill the people,
you'll feel better when you do.
Burn the town and kill the people,
you'll feel better when you do.

Let's go to the grocery store,
Where all the grannies shop,
Pull out our machetes
And begin to chop!

Left, right, oh left, right, oh left, right, KILL!
Left, right, oh left, right, oh left, right, KILL!

Burn the town and kill the people,
you'll feel better when you do.
Burn the town and kill the people,
you'll feel better when you do.

Let's go to the playground,
Where all the kiddies play,
Lock and load our M-16s
And begin to slay!

Left, right, oh left, right, oh left, right, KILL!
Left, right, oh left, right, oh left, right, KILL!

Burn the town and kill the people,
you'll feel better when you do.
Burn the town and kill the people,
you'll feel better when you do.

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In the Day Room

This marching cadence is sung to an old song by the Kinks. What is odd about it is that only the cadence caller sings; the marchers remain silent. A day room is a company or barracks recreation room.

I said, "Girl I want to be with you, in the day room,
Oh, yeah, and all through the night."
So, one by one, we were having some fun, in the day room,
Oh, yeah, and all through the night.
Two by two, we were doing the do, in the day room,
Oh, yeah, and all through the night.
Three by three, we were makin' whoopee, in the day room,
Oh, yeah, and all through the night.
Four by four, we did it some more, in the day room,
Oh, yeah, and all through the night.
Five by five, we were comin' alive, in the day room,
Oh, yeah, and all through the night.
Six by six, we were gettin' our kicks, in the day room,
Oh, yeah, and all through the night.
Seven by seven, we were goin' to Heaven, in the day room,
Oh, yeah, and all through the night.
Eight by eight, it was feeling so great, in the day room,
Oh, yeah, and all through the night.
Nine by nine, drivin' it down the line, in the day room,
Oh, yeah, and all through the night.
Ten by ten, we had to do it again, in the day room,
Oh, yeah, and all through the night.
Oh, yeah, and all through the night.
Oh, yeah, and all through the night.

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I Got a Girl

"I Got a Girl," with its nearly infinite variations, is probably just as old as "Jody," and can also be used for both running and marching

I got a girl in New York City,
She's got great big saggy titties.
I got a girl in ol' Chi-town,
She makes her living by going down.
I got a girl in New Orlean'
She's so fat it'll make you scream.
I got a girl in ol' Sioux Falls,
For a buck she'll suck your balls.
I got a girl from ol' town Sodom,
She strikes matches on her bottom.
I got a girl, yessirree,
She's my source of misery.

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Tiny Bubbles

The GI's sad little tribute to Don Ho.

Tiny bubbles
In my wine
Make me happy,
Make me feel fine.

Your left, your left,
Your left, right, left,
Your left, your left,
Your military left.

Tiny bubbles
In my beer
Make me happy
And full of cheer.

Your left, your left,
Your left, right, left,
Your left, your left,
Your military left.

Tiny bubbles
In my whiskey
Made me lonely,
Make me feel frisky.

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Ft. Benning

Ft. Benning, Georgia, is home to the Airborne training school. This cadence is a somber marching tune, and must be known by the marchers. The marchers all echo the first part, as usual, but the chorus, not sung by the cadence caller, is split between the two halves of the marching formation, with the left and the right side taking different parts, the right just overlapping the final syllable the left sings, much like a round, I suppose. The effect, with practice, sounds quite good.

I was born in Ft. Benning, Georgia,
The land that time forgot.
The mud was eighteen inches deep,
And the sun was blazing hot.

left side: Stand up, hook up, shuffle to the door.
right side: Airbo-or-or-or-orne!
left side: Stand-up, hook-up, shuffle to the door.
right side: Ranger, Ranger, Ranger, Ranger.

They put me in the leaning rest,
They put some inches on my chest,
They said they'd make a man of me,
If I lived the life of danger.

left side: Stand up, hook up, shuffle to the door.
right side: Airbo-or-or-or-orne!
left side: Stand-up, hook-up, shuffle to the door.
right side: Ranger, Ranger, Ranger, Ranger.

I hear the choppers coming,
They're coming overhead,
They're coming for the wounded,
They're coming for the dead.

left side: Stand up, hook up, shuffle to the door.
right side: Airbo-or-or-or-orne!
left side: Stand-up, hook-up, shuffle to the door.
right side: Ranger, Ranger, Ranger, Ranger.

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Far Away

This marching cadence, in all its variations, was a favorite of several cadence callers I knew over the years. As far as I can determine, it began as a popular song also, and may go back to at least the nineteenth century. A version of it was featured in one of the great John Wayne movies, John Ford's She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.

Around her hair, she wore a yellow ribbon,
She wore it in the springtime and the merry month of May.
And if you asked her why the heck she wore it,
She wore it for her soldier stationed far, far away.
Far away!
Oh, far away!
She wore it for her soldier stationed far, far away.

Around her neck, she wore a silver locket,
She wore it in the springtime and the merry month of May.
And if you asked her why the heck she wore it,
She wore it for her soldier stationed far, far away.
Far away!
Oh, far away!
She wore it for her soldier stationed far, far away.

Around her leg, she wore a purple garter,
[etc.]

On her night stand, she kept a soldier's portrait,
[etc.]

Around the block, she pushed a baby carriage,
[etc.]

Behind the door, her daddy kept a shotgun
He kept it in the springtime and the merry month of May.
And if you asked him why the heck he kept it,
He kept it so her soldier would stay far, far away.
Far away!
Oh, far away!
He kept it so her soldier would stay far, far away.

So in her drawer, she kept a pink vibrator,
She kept it in the springtime and the merry month of May.
And if you asked her why the heck she kept it,
She kept it 'cause her soldier was so far, far away.
Far away!
Oh, far away!
She kept it 'cause her soldier was so far, far away.

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Roll Me Over

I believe this marching cadence is probably derived from a very similar English drinking song, although the lyrics appear to have been altered considerably. The chorus is generally repeated after every third verse, and again after the tenth.

Chorus
Roll me over,
In the clover,
Roll me over, roll me over, do it again, do it again.

Well, I gave her inch one,
She said, "Baby, this is fun,
Put your belly next to mine,
Drive it on down the line."

So, I gave her inch two,
She said, "Baby, this won't do,
Put your belly next to mine,
Drive it on down the line."

Then, I gave her inch three,
And she said to me with glee,
[etc.]

Well, I gave her inch four,
She said, "Baby, gimme more,
[etc.]

So, I gave her inch five,
She began to come alive,
[etc.]

Well, I gave her inch six,
Just so we could get our kicks,
[etc]

Well, I gave her inch seven,
She said, "Baby, this is Heaven,
[etc.]

Well, I gave her inch eight,
She said, "Baby, I can't wait,
[etc.]

Well, I gave her inch nine,
She said, "Baby, that's just fine,
[etc.]

Well, I gave her inch ten,
She said, "Now let's do it all again,
Put your belly next to mine,
Drive it on down the line."

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In the Army

This marching tune is unusual in that the marchers do not echo the cadence caller, and only sing the chorus. A version of this was featured in the TV show M*A*S*H.

Oh, the coffee in the Army,
They say it's mighty fine,
It looks like muddy water
And tastes like turpentine.

Chorus
Oh, no! Don't want no more of Army life,
Gee, Mom, I wanna go home!

Oh the food in the Army,
They say it's mighty fine,
A chicken got off the table
And started marking time.

Chorus

And the biscuits in the Army,
They say they're mighty fine,
One jumped off the mess tray
And killed a friend of mine.

Chorus

The women in the army,
They say they're mighty fine,
They look like Phyllis Diller
And march like Frankenstein.

Final Chorus
Oh, no! Don't want no more of Army life,
Gee, Mom, I wanna go,
But they won't let me go,
Gee, Mom, I wanna go home!

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I Wish All the Ladies . . .

This marching song I remember from basic training only. Like most cadences that were derogatory to women, they became "illegal" in the mid- 1980s or thereabouts. Many, however, continued to be sung (or else I would have never learned them!). The drug reference in the chorus may have turned some soldiers off as well. Regarding the chorus, the words "Barbara Rheba" are merely a guess. I could never discern them clearly, even in basic training, and for all I know, they may just be nonsense syllables that sound like "babba reeba."

Update: It was recently suggested to me that perhaps the words I've tentatively interpreted as "Barbara Rheba" might actually be "by the river." Given the context, this makes pretty good sense ("Take a toke by the river."), but it is only a guess. If anyone knows with certainty, please contact me.

I wish all the ladies
Were pies on a shelf,
And I was the baker,
I'd eat them all myself.

I wish all the ladies
Were bats in a steeple,
And I was the king bat,
There'd be more bats than people.

I wish all the ladies
Were bells in the tower,
And I was the bellboy,
I'd bang 'em by the hour.

I wish all the ladies
Were bricks in a pile,
And I was the mason,
I'd lay them all in style.

I wish all the ladies
Were holes in the road,
And I was the dump truck,
I'd fill them with my load.

Chorus
Say, hey, Barbara Rheba,
Get down Barbara Rheba,
Say, hey, Barbara Rheba,
Take a toke, Barbara Rheba.

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Nineteen-Hundred and Sixty-Five

The tune of this marching cadence is identical to that of "Mama, Mama," and as such, they are very often sung together. Verses are easily rearranged, and new ones just as easily added.

Nineteen-hundred and sixty-five,
Vietcong they came alive.
Nineteen-hundred and sixty-five,
Vietcong they came alive.

Got a letter in the mail,
Go to war or go to jail.
Got a letter in the mail,
Go to war or go to jail.

It was from my Uncle Sam,
Said I had to go to 'Nam.
It was from my Uncle Sam,
Said I had to go to 'Nam.

Cut off all my long long hair,
Used to be it was down to there.
Cut off all my long long hair,
Used to be it was down to there.

Took away my Levi jeans,
Now I'm wearin' Army green.
Took away my Levi jeans,
Now I'm wearin' Army green.

Issued me an M-16,
Now I'm marchin' lean and mean.
Issued me an M-16,
Now I'm marchin' lean and mean.

Issued me a hand grenade,
Shoulda seen the mess I made.
Issued me a hand grenade,
Shoulda seen the mess I made.

If I die in the combat zone,
Box me up and ship me home.
If I die in the combat zone,
box me up and ship me home.

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Hey, Nonny, Nonny

This is largely a more upbeat version of "Mama, Mama," with an added chorus. The "nonny, nonny" is occasionally substituted with other nonsense words like "lah-di dah-di" or "lawdy, lawdy." I remember this one from basic training.

Chorus
Hey, nonny, nonny,
Hey, nonny, nonny no.
Hey, nonny, nonny,
Hey, nonny, nonny no.

Nine to the front and six to the rear,
That's the way we're marchin' here.
Nine to the front and six to the rear,
That's the way we're marchin' here.

Chorus

Ain't no need for lookin' down,
Ain't no discharge on the ground.
Ain't no need for lookin' down,
Ain't no discharge on the ground.

Chorus

Standin' tall and lookin' good,
We oughta march in Hollywood.
Standin' tall and lookin' good,
We oughta march in Hollywood.

Chorus

Your left, your right, your left, your right,
Your left, your right, you're outta sight.
Your left, your right, your left, your right,
Your left, your right, you're dy-no-mite.

Chorus

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Ft. Jackson

I went through basic training at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. This marching cadence, an apparent knock-off of "Ft. Benning," but the chorus is completely different. This one is only sung at Ft. Jackson, as far as I know, but I'm sure any other base's name could easily be substituted. The cadence caller calls the first part alone, then the marchers respond with the chorus (in italics).

I was born at Ft. Jackson,
The land that time forgot.
The mud was eighteen inches deep,
And the sun was blazing hot

At Ft. Jackso-o-o-o-on,
Ft. Jackso-o-o-o-on,
Late at night when you're sleeping
There's a drill sergeant creeping
All arou-ou-ou-ound,

At Ft. Jackson.

They put me in the leaning rest,
They put some inches on my chest,
They said they'd make a man of me,
If I lived the life of danger.

At Ft. Jackso-o-o-o-on,
Ft. Jackso-o-o-o-on,
Late at night when you're sleeping
There's a drill sergeant creeping
All arou-ou-ou-ound,

At Ft. Jackson.

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When You Left

A simple marching cadence. The caller calls the first line, the marchers respond after each with "You're right," which, of course, comes when the right foot hits the ground.

Your mama was home when you left.
You're right!
Your daddy was home when you left.
You're right!
Your sister was home when you left.
You're right!
Your brother was home when you left.
You're right!
Your uncle was home when you left.
You're right!
Your auntie was home when you left.
You're right!
Your grandma was home when you left.
You're right!
Your grandpa was home when you left.
You're right!
Your girlfriend was home when you left.
You're right!
Your doggie was home when you left.
You're right!
Your mama, your daddy, your girlfriend, your doggie,
They all were home when you left.
You're right!
So you were a fool to have left.
You're right!

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The Prettiest Girl

For this marching cadence, which I learned at Ft. Jackson, the marchers echo the caller line by line after the first six lines of each verse, then the italicized portion is sung by the marchers only, with a handclap where indicated.

The prettiest girl
I ever saw
Was drinkin' bourbon
Through a straw.
The prettiest girl
I ever saw
Was drinkin' bourbon (clap) through a straw.

I picked her up
I laid her down
Her long blonde hair
Laid all around.
I picked her up
I laid her down
Her long blonde hair laid (CLAP) all around.

When I met her
I was young and free
But now she's havin'
My baby.
When I met her
I was young and free
But now she's havin' (CLAP) my baby.

And so I joined
This old army
'Cause from her dad
I had to flee.
And so I joined
This old army
'Cause from her dad I (CLAP) had to flee.

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The Yellow Bird

Our drill sergeants sang this cadence exactly the same as, and often together with, "The Prettiest Girl." The sudden, inexplicable violence of the song says a great deal, I think, about the military mind-set.

A yellow bird,
With a yellow bill,
Was sitting on
My window sill.
A yellow bird,
With a yellow bill,
Was sitting on my (CLAP) window sill.

I lured him in
With a crust of bread
And then I smashed
His fucking head.
I lured him in
With a crust of bread
And then I smashed his (CLAP) fucking head.

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Running Through the Jungle

As you might guess, communism was perceived by the military, and thus by soldiers, as the greatest threat to the United States, even after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I wonder, now that we are at peace with the old Soviet bloc nations, if "commies" now play such a large role in today's cadences. The M-16 has been the GI's rifle, with modifications, since the Vietnam War. "K-Bar" is the brand name for the GI's knife of choice. They were once issued, but now the Army feels the bayonet is adequate; GIs now must purchase their own. By the way, "GI" is slang, going back to at least the Second World War, meaning "Government Issued." Both a soldier and his equipment are GI. I don't think the military holds any special grudge against alligators.

Version One
Running through the jungle in the middle of the night,
Charlie Rock soldier lookin' for a fight.
M-16 and a K-Bar knife,
Ready to take another dirty commie's life.
He's got hand grenades and a bayonet too,
Look out commies, he's a-comin' after you.

Version Two
Running through the jungle just the other day,
A mean old alligator got in my way.
I said, "Alligator, alligator, you got to move,
There ain't enough room for me and you."
Alligator said with a big old smile,
"Hey, I'm not an alligator, I'm a crocodile."

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Miscellaneous Lyrics

These lyrics aren't songs as such. Rather, they are odds and ends that are sometimes strung together with other cadences, or with each other, to make songs. Very often they are used as interlinking passages or bridges while the cadence caller gets his mind together and prepares the next full-length cadence. All are running cadences; a few are easily converted to marching cadences.

Rock me, rock me, rock — rock steady.
Roll me, roll me, roll — roll ready.
Rock me, rock me, rock — rock steady.
Roll me, roll me, roll — roll ready.

One — two, three, four, five,
Charlie Rock don't take no jive!
Six — seven, eight, nine, ten,
Back it up, let's do it again!

If I had a low IQ,
I could be an LT too!

I don't know but I've been told,
Eskimo pussy's mighty cold.

I don't know but I heard rumors,
My first sergeant's wearing bloomers.

First Sergeant, First Sergeant can't you see,
All this running is a-killin' me!

MP, MP can’t you see,
You can’t spell wimp without MP!

One, two, three, four, hey!
Somebody, anybody start a war, hey!

One, two, three and a quarter,
I've got a date with the colonel's daughter.

When that left foot strikes the ground,
I wanna hear that Charlie rock sound!
[runners start a complicated clapping rhythm]

GI beans and GI gravy,
Gee, I wish I'd joined the Navy.

Look up ahead and what do I see?
Another bunch of commies runnin' 'way from me.

Fe-ee, fi-i, fo-o, fum
I smell the blood of some commie scum.
Be he alive or be he dead,
I'll pay him back for the blood he's shed.

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Sha-Na-Na-Na

"Sha-Na-Na-Na" was mainly wishful thinking on our parts. I only heard it once, sung by one of our drill sergeants on the last day of AIT as we each prepared to go to our first duty stations, but understandably under the circumstances, it stuck in my memory amazingly well. It seemed a fitting close to this little collection.

Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na,
Hey-ey-ey, goodbye!
Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na,
Hey-ey-ey, goodbye!
No more drill sergeant, no more drill sergeant,
Hey-ey-ey, goodbye!
No more PT, no more PT,
Hey-ey-ey, goodbye!
No more AIT, no more AIT,
Hey-ey-ey, goodbye!
No more running, no more running,
Hey-ey-ey, goodbye!
No more marching, no more marching,
Hey-ey-ey, goodbye!
No more cadence calling, no more cadence calling,
Hey-ey-ey, goodbye!
Say goodbye to me, say goodbye to you,
Hey-ey-ey, goodbye!

Sha-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na,
Hey-ey-ey, goodbye!

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