Song Lyric Sunday – “Polk Salad Annie”

This week Jim Adams has prompted us with choosing song titles starting with a “P” or a “G” for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday. This week I chose “Polk Salad Annie”.

“Polk Salad Annie was written & performed by Tony Joe White aka Swamp Fox in 1968. White grew up listening to country music and Cajun music of Louisiana. After hearing Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe”, White wrote what he knew and he knew about pokeweed. The song was recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and was his first single. The song refers to a poor Southern girl and her preparation of an unfamiliar dish called Poke Sallet. In the song, Annie knows how to properly cook the plant.

White was born in Oak Grove, Louisiana in 1943. Oak Grove is just west of the Mississippi River where pokeweed or “poke” grows wild and where the alligators live in moss-covered swamps. His folks would make poke sallet which is said to taste like spinach. “Sallet” is an old English word meaning “cooked greens”, not to be mistaken for “salad”. The record companies labeled the song “salad” but the pokeweed eaten raw can be deadly. The leaves must be boiled in water three times to cook out their toxins.

For White, the single peaked at #8 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and #10 on the RPM Magazine Hot Singles chart in Canada.

In 1970, Elvis Presley made “Polk Salad Annie” a main staple to his live stage performances for the next 7 years. He recorded it and it became the only version of “Polk Salad Annie” to chart in the UK and Ireland. The song was issued on 6 of Elvis’ albums.

“Polk Salad Annie” was on the original motion picture soundtrack of the 2019 film Ford v Ferrari starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale. A movie based on the true story of Henry Ford II, Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles to build a racecar in 90 days that would compete and beat Ferrari at 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. There was no video available of the song being played during the scene so I give you a trailer from the movie with the remix of “Polk Salad Annie” by James Burton.

Burton’s recording of “Polk Salad Annie” was recorded in March, 1971 at A&M Records and put on his album “The Guitar Sounds of James Burton”. It was produced by Elvis’ producer, Felton Jarvis. The album was produced after Elvis became ill with eye issues to which Elvis had to cancel his own sessions with Burton on guitar. To fill the empty studio space, Burton recorded his album that features “Polk Salad Annie”. In the soundtrack remix for Ford v Ferrari, titled Le Mans ’66 in the UK and other overseas territories, you can hear Felton Jarvis’ count-in that precedes the recording.

Ford v Ferrari is rated PG-13.

“”Polk Salad Annie”

If some of ya'll never been down south too much
I'm gonna tell you a little bit about this
So that you'll understand what I'm talkin' about
Down there we have a plant that grows out in the woods
And in the fields looks somethin' like a turnip green
And everybody calls it polk salad, polk salad
Used to know a girl lived down there
And she'd go out in the evenings and pick her a mess of it
Carry it home and cook it for supper
'Cause thats about all they had to eat, but they did all right
Down in Louisiana, where the alligators grow so mean
There lived a girl, that I swear to the world
Made the alligators look tame
Polk salad Annie, polk salad Annie
Everybody said it was a shame
Cause her momma was a workin' on the chain gang
(A mean vicious woman)
Everyday ?for supper time, she'd go down by the truck patch
And pick her a mess of polk salad, and carry it home in a tow sack
Polk salad Annie, the gators got your granny
Everybody says it was a shame
Cause her momma was a workin' on the chain gang
(A wretched, spiteful, straight-razor totin' woman
Lord have Mercy, pick a mess of it)
Her daddy was lazy and no count, claimed he had a bad back
All her brothers were fit for was stealin' watermelons
Out of my truck patch
Polk salad Annie, the gators got your granny
Everybody said it was a shame
Cause her momma was a workin' on the chain gang
(Sock a little polk salad to me, you know I need me a mess of it)
Source:Β LyricFind
Songwriters: Tony White / Tony Joe White
Polk Salad Annie lyrics Β© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Pokeweed Bush in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. It grows all over the United States.

22 Comments on “Song Lyric Sunday – “Polk Salad Annie”

  1. Great music Lisa. I read that pokeweed is poisonous and that eating just 10 berries can be toxic to an adult. I liked both the Tony Joe White and the Elvis versions of this song. Elvis put a lot of energy into singing this. Thanks for sharing this gem today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jim! It is very poisonous. The leaves are the least toxic part of the plant. The roots have the most toxins. Elvis really put himself out there on it for sure. πŸ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A friend of mine cooked this stuff all the time. The trick is you have to cook it down 3 times, drain, and then cook a 4th time, or you go into convulsions, froth at the mouth, and then die. At the time, that seemed to be alright, and yes it tasted like spinach, but it was the early 70s, so there wasn’t much we didn’t ingest or smoke and death was not a daily worry. I saw Tony Joe at the Texas International Pop Festival, August 69. His set included Poke Salad Annie and some other swamp related tuneage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting how we survived the invisibility of our youth when so many did not. Interesting that you saw him in August 1969. That was the month and year my sister was born in Bridgeport, Texas. I was only 4. LOL! πŸ™‚ Native Texan here.


  3. I always thought part of these lyrics defined great country music songs “Everybody said it was a shame Cause her momma was a workin’ on the chain gang”

    Great post


  4. Great choice, Lisa. I love Tony Joe White’s version best. We loved the movie Ford Vs. Ferrari although it was not completely accurate. It was the last movie we saw before the pandemic

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Maggie. We love the movie too. We didn’t get a chance to see it in the theater but watched it a couple of months ago with no commercials and our own surround sound. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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