Shortnin' Bread

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"Shortening bread" redirects here. This article is about the song. For the food, see shortbread.

"Shortnin' Bread" (also spelled "Shortenin' Bread," "Short'nin' Bread," or "Sho'tnin' Bread") (Roud 4209) is a song by James Whitcomb Riley.


"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.[1]

Titled "Shortened Bread", E.C. Perrow published the first folk version of this song in 1915, which he collected from East Tennessee in 1912.[2] 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

Shortening bread is a fried batter bread, the ingredients of which include corn meal, flour, hot water, eggs, baking powder, milk and shortening.[citation needed]

In popular culture[edit]




  • 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.


  1. ^ Eitel, The Complete Works of James Whitcomb Riley, p. 119.
  2. ^ Perrow, "Songs and Rhymes from the South," p. 142: "from Tennessee mountain whites, 1912".
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ "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. 
  5. ^ "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.

External links[edit]

  • A traditional version of lyrics and an MP3 clip are here [2].