Fond du Lac Jail

from Wisconsin River by Chris Richards

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about

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 for jails in places like Cryderville, Durant, Mount Holly, Durham, 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.

lyrics

(Traditional, with additional lyrics by Chris Richards)


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)

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from Wisconsin River, released April 22, 2021

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Chris Richards Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Chris Richards is a critically acclaimed songwriter and recording artist from Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

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