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The little cow’s bell rang Ta-ra-ra, then the bigger cow’s bell clanged, Boom! de-ay. I said, ‘What is that tune they are playing?’ and we listened. It was as plain as could be, tones and time and all… — On the Way Home, diary entry dated August 29

Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay! (originally “Ta-ra-ra Boom-der-e”) was written by Henry J. Sayers and published in 1891 by Willis Woodward & Co. Though a pure American song, written by Sayers in Missouri, the song was introduced in London by the singer Lottie Collins. It was performed by her in New York in September 1892, and its popularity in the United States was born. Henry J. Sayers (1857-1934) was originally from Canada, and became a publicist and song writer in America. At the time of the publication of “Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay,” Sayers was press agent for a number of singing groups.

“Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay!” is mentioned twice in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s travel diary published as On the Way Home. In her introduction, Rose Wilder Lane wrote that the song “Dakota Land” was more popular in 1894 De Smet than “Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay!” In one of her diary entries, Laura wrote that cowbells heard on the journey rang with the exact tune of the chorus.


1. A bright and stylish girl you see,
Belle of good society;
Not too strict, but rather free,
Yet as right as right can be!
Never forward, never bold,–
Not too shy, and not too cold,
But the very thing, I’m told,
That in your arms you’d like to fold!

[chorus] Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay,
Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay,
Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay,
Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay,
Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay,
Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay,
Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay,
Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay!

2. I’m not extravagantly shy,
And when a nice young man is nigh,
For his heart I have a try–
And faint away with tearful cry!
When the good young man in haste,
Will support me round the waist;
I don’t come to, while thus a-miss,
Till from my lips he steals a kiss!–

3. I’m a timid flower of innocence–
Pa says that I have no sense,–
I’m one eternal big expense;
But men say I’m just immense!
Ere my verses I conclude,
I’d like it known and understood,
Though free as air, I’m never rude,–
I’m not too bad, and not too good!

[Extra verse 4.] You should see me out with Pa,
Prim, and most particular;
The young men say, “Ah, there you are!”
Then Pa says, “That’s peculiar!”
“It’s like their cheek!” I say, and so
Off again with Pa I go–
He’s quite satisfied- although,
When his back’s turned-, well, you know–

[Extra verse 5] When with swell I’m out to dine,
All my hunger I resign;-
Taste the food, and sip the wine–
No such daintiness as mine!
But when I am all alone,
For shortcomings I atone!-
No old frumps to stare like stone-
Chops and chicken on my own!

[Extra verse 6] Sometimes Pa says with a frown,
“Soon you’ll have to settle down-
Have to wear your wedding gown-
Be the strictest wife in town!”
Well it must come by and by-
When wed to keep quiet I’ll try;
But till then I shall not sigh,
I shall still go in for my—

(from On the Way Home)

Ta-ra-ra Boom de-ay!

CLICK HERE to listen.



Click on the above images to view a copy of original sheet music of “Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay!”    


“Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay! “ (OTWH, August 29)