Little Brown Jug (song)

“Little Brown Jug” is a song written in 1869 by Joseph Winner, originally published credited to “Eastburn” (Winner’s middle name) by J.E. Winner in Philadelphia.

It was originally a drinking song. It remained well known as a folk song into the early 20th century. Like many songs which make reference to alcohol, it enjoyed new popularity during the Prohibition era. In 1939, bandleader Glenn Miller recorded and broadcast his swing instrumental arrangement of the tune with great success, and the number became one of the best known orchestrations of the American Big Band era.

In 1939, Glenn Miller and His Orchestra released a hit version of the song on RCA Bluebird, as an A side 78 single, B-10286-A, in a new arrangement by Bill Finegan backed with “Pavanne”. The recording was an early chart hit for Glenn Miller. The song was performed in Glenn Miller’s Carnegie Hall concert that year and became a staple of the Glenn Miller Orchestra repertoire and a classic of the Big Band era.

The song was featured in and was central to the plot of the 1953 Universal Pictures film biography The Glenn Miller Story starring James Stewart and June Allyson. The Universal International Orchestra under the direction of Joseph Gershenson released a recording of the song from The Glenn Miller Story soundtrack as a single backed with “A String of Pearls” on Decca Records in the U.S. and on Brunswick Records in the UK in 1954.

It was also sung by Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer and Harold “Slim” Switzer in an Our Gang (Little Rascals) short.

The song’s lyrics are about a man and his wife and their hard life due to alcoholism. The tone and tune, however, are bright and cheerful. The first verse of the song is:

My wife and I live all alone,
In a little log hut, we called our own
She loved gin, and I loved rum
I tell you what we’d lots of fun.
As a children’s song, the lyrics are often changed. Sometimes a verse is modified to fit the melody and rhythm of the tune.

In the 1948 Famous Studios Screen Song animated short titled “Little Brown Jug”, a “bouncing ball” cartoon, it is sung with the music credited to Winston Sharples and entirely new lyrics by Buddy Kaye.