"Shortnin' Bread" is often thought of as a traditional plantation song. However the first version was written by white poet James Whitcomb Riley in 1900. His song was named "A Short'nin' Bread Song—Pieced Out", the chorus of which is:
- Fotch dat dough fum the kitchin-shed—
- Rake de coals out hot an' red—
- Putt on de oven an' putt on de led,—
- Mammy's gwineter cook som short'nin' bread.
Titled "Shortened Bread", E.C. Perrow published the first folk version of this song in 1915, which he collected from East Tennessee in 1912. The folk version of the song—as with Riley's— does not have any distinct theme, but consists of various floating lyrics, some relating to "shortnin' bread", some not. The traditional chorus associated with the folk song goes:
- Mammy's little baby loves short'nin', short'nin',
- Mammy's little baby loves short'nin' bread
In popular culture
- The tune for a significant portion of "The Happy Organ" bears a strong resemblance to the "Shortnin' Bread" tune (the portion under "put on the skillet, slip on the lid, mammy's gonna make us some shortnin' bread").
- On 14 October 1960, Paul Chaplain and his Emeralds' version became the first #1 record on the WLS Silver Dollar Survey.
- In the Elvis Presley song "Clambake," "Shortnin' Bread" is paraphrased as "Mama's little baby loves clambake clambake, mama's little baby loves clambake too."
- Allan Sherman did a parody of the song as "Mammy's Little Baby loves Matzoh Balls", as part of the medley of songs entitled "Schticks and Stones" taken from the album, My Son, the Folk Singer (1962)
- In 1963 Mississippi John Hurt recorded the song for Library of Congress Archive of American Folk Song in Washington D.C.. It is available on the album D.C. Blues: Library of Congress Recordings.
- The February 1969 hit "The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)" by The Banana Splits borrowed the same part of the "Shortnin' Bread" tune for the "Tra La La" chorus.
- The chorus to the song is used as a medley in the song "Pachuco Cadaver" on Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band
- The song was recorded by the American rock band The Beach Boys on their 1979 album L.A. (Light Album).
- Their songwriting leader Brian Wilson was reportedly obsessed with the song, leading to him recording more than a dozen versions of the tune over his entire recording career.
- A version of this song referring to rhubarb pie is used as the jingle of a fictional bakery in A Prairie Home Companion.
- The Kelly Family recorded the song for their 1981 album Wonderful World. Their live version is included on 1988 album Live. They re-recorded it for 2005 album Hope.
- The Cramps have also made a cover of this song in 1990, featured on the Stay Sick album.
- The 1994 song Deuces Are Wild by Aerosmith features the line "Mammy's little baby loves short'nin' bread" in the lyrics.
- The Ready Men recorded a garage rock cover of this song, which was featured on the Pebbles, Volume 4 compilation.
- A later version was recorded by the country rock band The Tractors, on their 1998 album Farmers in a Changing World. Their version reached #57 on the Hot Country Songs chart.
- In 2002, Laurie Berkner released this song in her album, Under a Shady Tree.
- Gid Tanner and the singer Lawrence Tibbett recorded popular versions of the song, as did Al Jolson and The Andrews Sisters. Another version was featured in the 1937 film Maytime, as sung by Nelson Eddy.
- Hap Palmer wrote a song "Sittin' in a High Chair" for "BabySong" while using the music to adapt it.
- Johnny Cash mentioned the line "Mama's little baby loves shortnin' bread" in the Mark O'Connor song "The Devil Comes Back To Georgia", a continuation of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" and a collaboration with Marty Stuart, Travis Tritt, and Charlie Daniels.
- A choral version of the song was performed by the Robert Mitchell Choir School of Hollywood in the Academy Award nominated short "Forty Boys and a Song" (1941).
- Nelson Eddy, as Willie the Operatic Whale, sings in the Disney animated feature Make Mine Music (1946).
- In the film Police Academy 4 (1987), the character Captain Harris is seen singing the song into his cane.
- In the movie Trainspotting (1996), Renton's friends and family sing the song in a celebration after he avoids being jailed.
- At the end of the credits in the movie Secret Window (2004), Johnny Depp is heard singing the song.
- Chris Rock sings this at a funeral in the comedy Death at a Funeral (2010).
- Donald Duck sings the song while making pancakes in the animated short Three for Breakfast (1948).
- In the Season 4 I Love Lucy episode "Ethel's Home Town", Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance) performs the song onstage.
- There is a scene in Here's Lucy where Uncle Harry (Gale Gordon) puts a tape recorder in front of Lucy's desk and she types his dications whenever he's not at work. But after Lucy (Lucille Ball) leaves, Uncle Harry goes over to her desk and sings the two verse of "Shortnin' Bread".
- In the Warner Bros. cartoon, Hare Tonic (1945), Elmer and Bugs take turns singing the song, replacing "shortnin' bread" with "wabbit stew".
- In 1984, the children's music trio Sharon, Lois & Bram performed this song in Season 1 of their hit TV Show Sharon, Lois & Bram's Elephant Show.
- In the 1985 Kidsongs video, "A Day at Old MacDonald's Farm", "Shortnin Bread" is sung in a different way pertaining to eating breakfast.
- In the Ren & Stimpy episode, "I Love Chicken", Ren Hoek sings the song whilst preparing a meal.
- At the end of a The Fresh Prince of Bel Air episode, Will is seen singing the song while scrubbing the floor with his cousin as the end credits roll.
- In the Drawn together episode, "Terms of Endearment", Foxxy Love sings the song while cooking, after a tumor has put pressure on "the part of her brain that controls negative stereotypical behavior".
- In October of 2013, during the Italian version of X Factor, "Shortnin' bread" was sung by Violetta Zironi, a girl who was then chosen to participate in the popular TV program.
- The most recent Lalaloopsy commercial, advertising the Lalaloopsy Babies, has a jingle that shares this tune.
- At the end of a trailer titled "Bad World" for the game Battlefield: Bad Company Haggard and Sweetwater sing the song.
- Eitel, The Complete Works of James Whitcomb Riley, p. 119.
- Perrow, "Songs and Rhymes from the South," p. 142: "from Tennessee mountain whites, 1912".
- John Broven (2009). Record makers and breakers: voices of the independent rock 'n' roll pioneers. University of Illinois Press. pp. 363ff. ISBN 0-252-03290-X.
- "Compare Dave 'Baby' Cortez' 'The Happy Organ' with James Whitcomb Riley's 'Shortnin Bread'". who sampled: Exploring the DNA of music. Retrieved 2014-10-18.
- "WLS Silver Dollar Survey, 14 October 1960". Retrieved 2011-10-17.
- Eitel, Edmund Henry (ed.) The Complete Works of James Whitcomb Riley, Vol 5. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrell Company (1913).
- Perrow, E.C. "Songs and Rhymes from the South." The Journal of American Folklore, 28:108 (April - Jun., 1915) 129-190.
- Waltz, Robert B; David G. Engle. "Shortenin' Bread". The Traditional Ballad Index: An Annotated Bibliography of the Folk Songs of the English-Speaking World. Hosted by California State University, Fresno, Folklore, 2007.
- A traditional version of lyrics and an MP3 clip are here .