Pop Archives

Rolf Harris - Two Little Boys (1969)

(Theodore Morse - Edward Madden - Arr. Alan Braden)
#1 UK #2 Sydney #2 Melbourne #2 Brisbane #16 Adelaide #2 Perth

Single on Columbia by Australian singer, songwriter, artist and TV entertainer, long resident in the UK, initially famous for Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport.

Rolf Harris heard the song from Ted Egan, Australian singer and writer, who was appointed Administrator of the Northern Territory in 2003.

See this [archived] page for the lyrics and background to this recording.

Thanks to Terry Stacey & family for suggestion.

Hearts And Flowers - Two Little Boys (1968)

(Theodore Morse - Edward Madden)

On the Capitol album Of Horses, Kids and Forgotten Women, the second by Southern Californian folk-rock-country band formed by Larry Murray in the early 60s. By this time Hearts & Flowers’ line-up included Bernie Leadon, later with The Eagles.

References, further reading: 1. Hearts And Flowers biography by Steve Huey at All Music: one of the most eclectic groups on the Southern California folk-rock scene in the ’60s, skewing more to the folk side of the equation and often adding flourishes of psychedelia and, most importantly, bluegrass and country music. 2. BernieLeadonOnline.com. 3. Album review at the Rising Storm blog.

Version alert from Darryl Tannock.

The Brandywine Singers - Two Little Boys (1962)

(Theodore Morse - Edward Madden)
#26 Melbourne

US single on Joy, on W&G in Australia. Charted in Melbourne February-March 1964.

Folk group active 1962-1965, re-formed in 1992 (not to be confused with the Pennsylvanian choir formed 1993). Van Dyke Parks was a Brandywine Singer, briefly.

Further reading: 1. Brandywine Singers at All Music: one of the hottest acts on the college folk circuit ’62-’65. 2. Website of the Brandywine singers’ Shaw brothers [archived].

The Country Gentlemen - Two Little Boys (1962)

(Theodore Morse - Edward Madden)

On the Starday album Bluegrass at Carnegie Hall by “progressive bluegrass band” formed 1957 in Washington DC.

The Dixon Brothers - Two Little Boys (1937)

(Theodore Morse - Edward Madden)

78 rpm disc on Montgomery Ward by blues-influenced country-folk singers Dorsey & Howard Dixon. The guitar-playing Dixon Brothers were mill workers from South and North Carolina who appeared locally from 1932 then on radio and on numerous records from 1934 till the end of the 1930s. Dorsey, also the songwriter of the duo, later appeared at the Newport Folk Festival in 1961 and 1962.

Sources, essential reading: Eugene Chadbourne’s excellent biographies of The Dixon Brothers and Dorsey Dixon at AllMusic.

Further reading: Jane Keefer’s Folk Music Index has a discography of 48 recordings (it doesn’t include Two Little Boys).

Billy Murray - When We Were Two Little Boys (1903)

(Theodore Morse - Edward Madden)
Original version

Recording on Victor label. Billy Murray (1877-1954) was a prolific recording star who first recorded in 1897 and became (as Wikipedia’s entry puts it) probably the best selling recording artist of the first quarter of the 20th century.

See the Songwriters Hall of Fame for biographies and works of composer Theodore Morse (1873-1924) and lyricist Edward Madden (1878-1952).

Two Little Boys is often associated with the American Civil War of 1861-1865, although it wasn’t published until 1903 and the writers were both born in the 1870s.

Of course, it may well be set in the Civil War, but I can’t find any evidence of it being based on a song from the Civil War-era.

The FAQ page at Poetry and Music of the War Between the States is even stronger on this point: Whatever else can or can’t be said about the song, it’s fairly safe to assume that it did not originate during and was not written about the War Between the States.

‘Brett’ points out, though (via the Contact page), that the ranks so blue mentioned in Two Little Boys and the focus on horses both suggest a Civil War setting because blue uniforms (the Union army) and cavalry both figured prominently in that war.

The lyrics are probably vague enough on detail to be adaptable in people’s minds to different settings, however erroneously. Some have associated the song with World War I – even though that was 11 years after the song was published – or with the Boer War (1899-1902: close to the appearance of the song).

Scots entertainer Harry Lauder is mentioned in some places in connection with the Two Little Boys but I can find no evidence that he performed or recorded it: see my words at Wikipedia’s Talk for Two Little Boys (2023).

Thanks to Joop Jansen and honeydhont through The Originals Problemsolving Forum [now defunct], and to ‘Brett’.
Video alert from Terry, thanks again.