Toronto Mike

Stewball Was a Racehorse

When Peter Gross dropped by the other day to kick out the horse racing jams, one of the songs we played was Stewball. I wasn't familiar with Stewball, but I did some digging and learned this folk song has quite the history.

Firstly, Stewball was an actual horse, an 18th-century British racehorse, to be precise. This song apparently goes back to the 18th-century, but the first recording I could find is from 1940 and by Lead Belly.

This 1944 version by Woody Guthrie cowboys it up a bit.

Here's the hit version, by Peter, Paul & Mary in 1963. It reached the top 40 in the USA.

Every time I hear that Peter, Paul & Mary version, I wonder how it influenced John Lennon when he wrote Happy Xmas (War Is Over). When I was reacting live with Peter, I broke into Happy Xmas because the melodies are so similar. In the spirt of Peter Gross, I'm calling this one a Rip-Off!

Peter's favourite version of Stewball, and the one we played on episode 1205, was by The Hollies, released in 1966.

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