Singer%20Charles%20Robinson%20(Fond%20du

Charles Robinson (left) sings for Helene Stratman-Thomas in 1941

Fond du Lac Jail

This song comes out of an old folk song tradition, an example of songs shared, learned and then adapted as people moved around a young America. There are variations of it for jails in places like Cryderville, Durant, Mount Holly, and Wise County—any town with a 2- or 3-syllable name and a pokey would do. I found “Fond du Lac Jail” as a two-verse fragment sung by lumberjack singer Charles Robinson and captured by music preservationist Helene Stratman-Thomas in 1941. Her notes on the recording read “Mr. Robinson said there should be about seven verses to the song.” I happen to have some experience making questionable decisions in Fondy, so I went ahead and wrote the rest of them. 

The Fond du Lac jail ain’t no jail at all

You stare at the ceiling, then stare at the wall

The jailer walks by like he’s deaf and he’s blind

I’m sure he’s delighted I’m losing my mind

There’s hard times in the Fond du Lac jail

There’s hard, hard times

 

In the morning they give you a dry loaf of bread

Hard as a stone, and as heavy as lead

Thrown from the ceiling down into your cell

Like something from Heaven dropped down into Hell

Hard times in the Fond du Lac jail

There’s hard, hard times

 

I’ll never again go to Finnegan’s Bar 

With the Cardinal boys and a new credit card

It was shot after shot after shot of the fog

The next thing I knew I was tied like a hog

There’s hard times in the Fond du Lac jail

There’s hard, hard times

 

The copper that got me, he roughed me up good

And tased me again, just so I understood         

The only good perp is a one seeing stars

And not terrorizing the Fond du Lac bars

There’s hard times in the Fond du Lac jail

There’s hard, hard times

 

This bed must be made out of old, rotten rugs

I wake in the morning, all covered with bugs

And the bugs will all swear that unless I get bail 

I’m bound to go lousy in Fond du Lac jail

There’s hard times in the Fond du Lac jail

There’s hard, hard times

 

It’s snowy and windy, or so I’ve been told

My Annie threw all my things out in the cold 

My mother said only, “I hope you had fun” 

The public defense said, “Good luck to you, son”  

There’s hard times in the Fond du Lac jail

There’s hard, hard times

 

 

© 2020 Chris Richards / White Mare Music (BMI)