Don’t Tell Aunt Rhody

As I practice, beginner ditties are coming back to me.  The past two days I’ve remembered and been picking out a simple tune from one of my first music books back in elementary school – those books always featured a lot of folk music, and the one I thought I remembered was “Go Tell Aunt Rhoda.”  We played a simple melody line, and I thought I remembered the lyrics too:

Go tell Aunt Rhoda…
Go tell Aunt Rhoda…
Go tell Aunt Rhoda…
The old grey goose is dead.

Except I decided to look it up, and it turns out I had forgotten Auntie’s name.  The woman with the dead goose is actually named Rhody.  Don’t tell her I had her name stashed incorrectly in my synapses all these years.

To be honest, I’m tickled by little failures of memory like that.  The failures are important – they help us remember to take care whenever we’re too sure of something.  Certainty is often as malleable as putty.

Apparently, “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” originated in early 19th century America or even earlier, and was likely a feature of “play parties,” gatherings in Puritan communities where the music consisted of simple lyrical tunes accompanied only by hand clapping – instrumentation was frowned upon.  Additionally, there are verses to the song, which reveal a mourning gander and goslings scratching for their own food, motherless.  The verses also tell us that the old grey goose’s demise will provide Aunt Rhody with feathers for her bed, so she’s probably not too torn up about the loss.  I never knew about all those verses.


Thanks to the folks at for providing the background information and embed link, and to Matthew Sabatella and the Rambling String Band for sharing their performance.

Thanks for reading.


One comment

  1. […] in the month I wrote a post about re-discovering an old song from my first go-round with the violin back in elementary school […]

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