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.
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: LyricFind Songwriters: Tony White / Tony Joe White Polk Salad Annie lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC