The Ice Cream Truck Song

The Ice Cream Truck Song

It’s a hot afternoon here in the Northern US and I can hear the weird dopplered music that announces the approach of the ice cream truck. A calliope sounding track blasts from loudspeakers to create an appropriately circus-like atmosphere, children come running and line up with crumpled dollar bills clenched in their hands.

The tune is invariably “Turkey in the Straw”. When a guitar-player friend and I ripped it out one evening for his three young daughters, they were amazed that we knew “the ice-cream truck song”.

Low ITM content here, I know. But I find it interesting how vestiges of folk culture persist in odd corners, especially here in the States.

Recently though, the truck in my neighborhood has changed its tune, the driver probably driven to the brink of madness by the incessant loopiness of “Turkey”. I don’t recognize the new tune but I swear it sounds a lot like “The Wild Rover”.

My question is, is this a world-wide phenomena, the wandering, neighborhood ice-cream truck? What tunes does it play in other parts of the world?

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Down here in Alabama it plays The Entertainer. Much harder to pick out! Do they have icecream trucks in Ireland? Is that a silly question?

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Over here, they’re painted red and and the music sounds like a loud siren. I tried to stop one once but it wouldn’t slow down. "Didn’t want your bloody ice cream, anyway", I cried!

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LOL. Brilliant : - )

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In our part of Texas it plays a very strange version of Turkey in the Straw or She’ll be Coming ‘Round the Mountain. Every few moments the music stops and the truck yells, "HELLO!!!" I guess it’s supposed to sound friendly, but it mostly just scares the kids away, as it’s very loud and high pitched.

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We heard one last week in Dorset playing Jingle Bells - a bit early we thought!!

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It’s a long time since I’ve heard one but I seem to remember it was The Trumpet Hornpipe in South Wales.

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I heard a story about the ice cream truck song at the Rocky Mountain Ragtime Festival last weekend. Ed Berlin, a ragtime historian, got a call from a young reporter who wanted some background on ragtime. She asked him what ratime is. He asked if she’d seen the movie The Sting, and said yes. He told her the theme song, The Entertainer, was ragtime. She didn’t remember the theme song. So he played a little of it over the phone to her, and she exclaimed, "Oh, the ice cream truck song." He explained that it was written by Scott Joplin in 1902. She said she didn’t know they had ice cream trucks in 1902.

Ahem. Reminds me of one of the times I knew I was getting old. A student of mine said she didn’t know Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings. Oh well.

cj

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Our ice cream ‘van’, or the ‘poke van’ as it was known when I was growing up in Belfast, plays nothing more cultured than The Teddy Bears’ Picnic.

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My neighborhood truck here in California plays "Little Brown Jug" — always seemed like a strange choice to me…

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In my town, it’s "Pop Goes the Weasel". and it sounds like it’s being played on Northumbrian smallpipes. Some evening I’m going to get my set out and play that tune just to see how many kids come out for ice cream.

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The "A" part to "Turkey in the Straw" is what I mostly hear from the trucks around my home but the truck in the area where I work plays plays "Polly Wally Doodle". A bizarre choice given the 2nd verse of many of the minstrel versions and the neighborhood where I work being a somewhat blighted section of the Chicago south side.

Oh well, I guess most people only remember the expugated Julie Andrews rendition.

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Er, "Polly Wolly Doodle"

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an acquaintance told me that her mother said that when the truck payed music it meant that they were OUT of ice cream and don’t bother going outside.

…cruel! ;-\

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LOL - nice, very nice. I’m trying to remember — besides the others, I’ve heard "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window" and, once, "Dixie". I wonder, does someone make money doing the music for ice cream trucks? Can you choose from a library of the things?

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haha here in my town they play "the entertainer" i really didn’t know that they played more then that…wow!

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Ha, Mike, that’s funny!

Well, our ice cream trucks play a tune that I think is called "playmate". A traditional clapping song that goes "hey hey hey playmate, come out and play with me, will bring our dollies three, and have a family…" etc. (Lyrics compliments of Zina… no, I didn’t know them) ;-)

And I thought all ice cream trucks everywhere played the same tune!

I also found a couple of interesting links. Here’s a blog that has recordings of a few different ones, including one that says "Hello"

http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2005/06/bust_a_gut.html

And if you’re REALLY into it, $60 can buy you everything you need to make your car play ice cream truck music, including 9 animal sounds, and 50 tunes. (Just search for "ice cream truck music" on eBay) :D

Pete

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Back in the ‘Pool in the early 60s they used to play the rondo from Rite of Spring.

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Never. Did it cause a riot? :)

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OK, after that, of course I had to go looking for the "real" lyrics. I think we sang a slightly different one — but there was a whole sequence of the clapping game that you did with a partner. (This was the second favorite one at our school — the roller coaster one was first!)

Hey, hey, oh playmate,
Come out and play with me.
You’ll bring your dollies three,
Climb up my apple tree.
Cry down my rain barrel,
Slide down my cellar door.
And we’ll be jolly friends
Forever more.

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Did the ebay search. Wow, Reverend. I have GOT to get me one of those… :D

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Zina, is the playmate song done to the melody of "Redwing"? It seems familiar…

Try this link, it’s about 5 down.

http://www.blaikiewell.com/midi.html

Demonic rendition.

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last ice cream van around these parts played the "match of the day" theme tune- not at all ITM influenced!

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HAHAHA! Yow. :-D

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When I was a small child, the ice-cream man rang a bell that he held out of the window. Then the business changed and the new van played ‘Greensleeves’ [#994 in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland]. This was in the western suburbs of Sydney. Recently, during a holiday up the coast, we heard the sound of a bell clanging around the streets. It turned out to be the local ice-cream man … in the middle of winter!

:-) P.

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Ah. Won’t You Be My Playmate found in the on-line Lester S Levy collection at Johns Hopkins. "Music by Victor Herbert. Book by Harry B Smith. Founded in the cartoons of Windsor McKay, copyright 1908." It was in a musical production of "Little Nemo" - a cartoon character. I knew I’d heard it before :>D

cj

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Okay, this is simply too funny and coincidental. We were discussing this very subject at Fergie’s tonight and trying desperately to plunk this out. I waited until about 10:30, when my local ice cream man (known affectionately in my ‘hood as "Mister Cracky") drove down my street, and the following is the result:

http://thesession.org/tunes/4801

A tune for the ages, sez I…

DK

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Fidkid, this is hilarious —- because the ice cream truck in my neighborhood DOES play Redwing! We realized it one day when we both caught ourselves singing "Union Maid". We stopped, and discovered that we were hearing the tune, faint and far away, emanating from the ice cream truck.

Which means somebody in this burg has some musical taste, at least. ;-)

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http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2005/06/bust_a_gut.html

First off, "Beware of the Blog," best site title I’ve heard in ages.
"Ghetto Ice Cream Truck Song"? I’m cuing this up as I type, what the hell will it be? Something from P-Funk?
I’ll I’ve ever heard of the accursed things has been Turkey in the Straw and the Entertainer. Why does the idea of rigging your car up to play Ice Cream Truck Music make me bust a gut? I’d buy some Good Humour from one of those boys to ask them if they’d really like to cue up N.I.B. for a change.
"Mr. Softee," that’s an August Darnell song. Hmm…

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Never heard the ‘Trumpet’ Ian, but the one round my part of Cardiff does ‘There’ll be a Welcome in the Hillside’. It would sound great if it was a recording of a Male Voice Choir rather than the pinkety-plonk monotone.

Martin

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Darin, that’s just sick and wrong. :)

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I don’t know if the ice cream truck song in Sweden has a name, we usually call it "the ice cream truck song". ;-)

There was a composer here who wrote a piece for ice cream trucks, actually. He had them play their songs while he conducted them… I think he also wrote a piece for mobile phones… Weird…

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In Edinburgh the Ice Cream Van used to play "Popeye the Sailor Man". At about 200 Db. Then if anyone complained, they pretended to only speak Italian. (If it works, don’t fix it…) So now someone’s going to say that Popeye the Sailor Man is really a corruption of some O’Neill tune, and somebody else is going to tell us that us that it’s not really Irish at all… oops, my crystal ball has clouded over..

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Longtime lurker here, but I feel compelled to post because coincidentally enough I recently had an article about the history and development of ice cream truck music published in this arts magazine called "Esopus" (http://www.esopusmag.com/; if you’re interested in finding it where you live, there’s a "where to get it" page as well: http://www.esopusmag.com/where.html). Basically, I got tired of reading the same annual articles about this music, so I did some research and wrote my own.

Anyhow, as far as I know there are two companies in the US that make chime boxes. One is called "Nichols Electronics" and they’re the oldest at this point. The other is called "Magic Box" (if I’m remembering correctly) and they’re newer. Nichols makes a variety of boxes, the top of the line having 32 songs on it. The Magic Box boxes run on a replaceable chip system (although I’ve never actually seen one in person) and the number of switchable songs is more limited. The list of available tunes the two manufacturers offer runs into the 60s or 70s. Most boxes have more than one tune on it, but most times a driver picks a tune and sticks with it. Nichols, by the way, exports boxes all around the world. I am also aware of a chime box manufacturer in England, but don’t really know anything about it.

You all may be interested to know that the Mister Softee song (in fact entitled "Mister Softee (Jingles and Chimes)) has lyrics. Mister Softee itself gets lots of requests for it, so they posted the sheet music on their site, which you can find here:
http://www.mistersoftee.com/music.asp

Here’s what I find fascinating: in ex-British colonies (Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Ireland, bla bla bla) I have heard more people tell me that their parents used to tell them that when the truck was playing music it meant that it was out of ice cream. I don’t come across this story as often with Americans…

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Whatever the ice-cream van plays, I bet it goes at a ……..lick!

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That’s really cool, Upsetter. I’ll have to get a copy of Esopus, I supose! Now, if only I could get the Mr. Softee lyrics translated into Irish…

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It was always "Greensleeves" in Australia as far as I ever heard.

And, no, it didn’t mean they were out of ice-cream!

Geoff, stop waffling. Just try to avoid the cones.

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This is what I love about the Session…the creamy meltdown of vanilla slog into a puddle of sugar, all to the soundtrack of syrupy tunes…

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Darin, I think I’ve got the same ice cream truck down in my ‘hood. I’ll have to scratch out (or pluck out!) the abc’s on your tune to tell for sure, but I’m pretty sure the truck in my neighborhood plays a slide as well.

The last time I was in England (Cornwall, anyway) the ice cream truck there played Greensleeves.

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There used to be three or four "poke" vans (as strawberrycream has it) in my neighbourhood in Belfast. I remember Greensleeves, the Teddy Bears Picnic and the theme from Dr Zhivago, of all things.

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A previous post from cj mentioned: "Won’t You Be My Playmate found in the on-line Lester S Levy collection at Johns Hopkins. "Music by Victor Herbert. "
Having grown up playing cornet and trumpet in bands, I remember that Victor Herbert was born in Dublin, and was one of the many Irishmen that came to America and played/composed brass band music.
So we have tied this rather interesting subject back into Irish music!!!!!!!

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When I lived in Taiwan 10 years ago, the GARBAGE trucks played "Love Me Tender."
Really.

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When I was a kid in Kenilworth England the ice cream van used to play Mendelssohn’s Spring Song!

BTW Trumpet Hornpipe is better known as the Captain Pugwash theme I think.

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i seem to remember "mr whippy" playing either the theme from love story or the theme from the incredible hulk!! i always get the two of them mixed up.

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Well, now that I’m paying attention to it, today I heard an ice cream truck playing something different (Pop Goes the Weasel). I guess I was so conditioned at a young age to expect that the trucks all used the same tune that I must have never associated other tunes being played with ice cream. Weird.

Pete

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I’ve heard "Turkey" and "Weasel" quite a bit :A part only, never the B. Out here on the lone Prairie it’s "Fur Elise",

When I lived in Yokohama, the garbage trucks played the most beautiful music, big sustained chords. Sounded like an electric koto.

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Its…
Ci Ci my playmate
come out and play with me
you’ll bring your dollies three
climb up our apple tree
slide down the rainbow
right to our cellar door
and we’ll be jolly friends
forever more,
*pause*
more
*pause*
shut the door.

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I love that JCB video, Conan! :) Maple, I’d completely forgot about the more-slap-more-slap-shut the door part! We didn’t do the rainbow bit, though. Funny how these things take on a life of their own. Just like tunes. :)

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The tunes are played on a swiss wind up musical movement in a box with a magnetic pickup and played into an amp and out of a grapian horn mounted under the ice cream van pointing at the road.

There is now a CD is being sold online via the company that helped me produced it.

http://www.inventron.co.uk

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Hey i was wondering if anyone has the GOOD QUALITY VERSION of ’ ghetto ice cream truck’ theme, the one that says ‘hello’ before the music starts, i’ve got the one from that ‘beware of the blog’ place, but has anyone got any better version, i want to use it as my ringtone :D. ( Not Midi either =P ) thanks~

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I just jumped in to look at the posts earlier and haven’t been following it till one day I thought I heard the ice cream truck song out back but then realized it was some construction vehicle beeping far off in the distance. I was excited as I haven’t seen one in years. Made me feel like a kid again if only for a second.

So the song that I thought I might be hearing got stuck in my head for the rest of the day and I had to figure out what the tune was. I’m in Texas - USA, and that song playing is none other than Red Wing. A link to the midi and the sheet music can be found here.

http://www.users.csbsju.edu/~eknuth/mandotab/redwing.html

I hear other songs here often, most notably the Entertainer. But that one song Red Wing is the one I remember most as it is a tune I rarely hear anywhere else. I also noticed someone on Ebay selling a The Nichol’s Digital II, said to be the most popular music box used by vendors. Well, here’s the 8-song songlist for those interested as listed by the seller. I hope those who find that ice cream truck music elusive can use this to help them figure out what that song was that was playing.

The Entertainer, Turkey in the Straw, Little Brown Jug, Sailing Sailing, Camptown Races, Redwing, Brahm’s Lullaby, and La Cucaracha.

Cheers.
-D

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Last summer, I was in Tacoma, WA, and on more than one occasion heard the ice cream truck playing a positively wretched, sped-up, midi-esque version of _Greensleeves_. Couldn’t eat ice cream for a week after that.

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I am currently researching Ice Cream Chimes for a promotional DVD that my company is making for a British Ice Cream VAn manufacturer. I have logged about 34 tunes in the UK that
are supplied as chimes for Ice Cream Vans / trucks.
The company in the UK manufacture a very smart V8 Chevy Van
with Yankee Doodle as one of the chimes!

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I would like to know which song it is they are playing on the Ice Cream Truck in South Africa, I desperately want it as a ringtone but it doesn’t seem like it is any of the ones mentioned in the forum yet. Someone said it’s Turkey in a Straw but it doesn’t seem like it to me.

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I looked for this tune on the Internet several years ago, but I found absolutely nothing. However, earlier today I finally found something else that I have been looking for for many years, so I thought I’d try looking for the Good Humour theme again. Unfortunately, I find that there was never any such thing. I had somehow assumed that there was only one tune, but now I find that the list of tunes that were used is endless. All I can say is that the tune that the Good Humour trucks played in my neighborhood in Southern California in the early ’50s was unique. It must have been written especiallhy for Good Humour because I’ve never heard it elsewhere, Another thing I learned tonight is that the Good Humour company exists outside of America, which caught me by surprise. The other thing that I learned—I think—is that the Good Humour companhy still exists. I had thought that it might have gone out of existence because the drivers kept getting murdered where I came from. Perhaps you’ve heard of Compton, California. Well, I might be misremembering, but it seems to me that Good Humour drivers were geting murdered every few months, and certainly several, times a year. I had just assumed that it might have been become known as such a dangerous occupation that no one wanted to take the routes anymore.

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I remember a polka-esque tune played by the ice cream van in a village near Durham (UK) round 1980. I might put it in the Tunes database - I’d be curious to know what it’s called, if someone recognises it.

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This has been driving me nuts but I finally found it by going on ebay. Some sadist sells ice cream truck songs. Ours is "Music Box Dancer" it is the not so good humor man. We also used to get a local called Mr. Cool that played "The Entertainer" Either one makes our dog go insane. The guys are smart enough to bring dog biscuits with them.

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I don’t know if anyone is checking this discussion anymore, but I need to know what ice cream van songs are played in/around Dublin (present day). A local theatre company is producing a play called Shining City by Conor McPherson, and the director wants a realistic ice cream van tune as a sound effect. I’m trying to track down some sort of soundbyte I can pass on to him. It sounds like Teddy Bears Picnic or Greensleaves might be the answer—can anyone out there confirm this for me?

Thanks so much!

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"Here’s what I find fascinating: in ex-British colonies (Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Ireland, bla bla bla) I have heard more people tell me that their parents used to tell them that when the truck was playing music it meant that it was out of ice cream. I don’t come across this story as often with Americans…"

America is an ex-British colony