Having suffered from it myself, I recognized this syndrome at once:
I’m reading Dustbury this morning which leads to What do you do with a drunken sailor? which I haven’t heard in a zillion years, which leads me to the Roud Folk Song Index, which leads to my making a list of all the tunes I recognize from the list in Wikipedia. The full list has a zillion entries, but the Wikipedia page only lists about 750. Most of them I have never heard of, but then I see one I had forgotten about, which leads to looking at the next page, which leads to another tune I had forgotten about, and so I ended up reading all the way to the end.
To encourage further exploration, here are factoids regarding a few of the songs he mentions:
- Olivia Newton-John recorded “Banks of the Ohio” back in 1971. It was a hit in Britain and Australia, but not in the States, even in Ohio. (On the other hand, her cover of Dylan’s “If Not For You” went over well Stateside.)
- Johnny and the Hurricanes reworked “Blue-Tail Fly” into the rockin’ “Beatnik Fly.”
- Speaking of the Blue-Tail Fly, Tom Lehrer used it to poke fun at “The Folk-Song Army,” who regard “innocuous” folk songs with scorn: “The folks who sing ’em have no social conscience / Why, they don’t even care if Jimmie crack corn.”
- “There Was a Crooked Man,” retitled “Don’t Let the Rain Come Down,” was a 1964 hit for the Serendipity Singers.
- Allan Sherman contributed this bit:
On top of old Smokey
All covered with hair
Of course I’m referring
To Smokey the Bear
It’s in the same medley as this classic.
- A record of “My Bonnie” was the first waxing involving the Beatles, though on that late-’61 disk they were serving as backup for singer Tony Sheridan. (The B-side: “The Saints,” as in “when The Saints go marching in.”) This wasn’t the first rock version, though: Duane Eddy twanged his way through something he called “Bonnie Came Back,” which charted in early 1960. That Sheridan/Beatles thing remained buried in the US until 1964, when suddenly anything the Beatles had had anything to do with became eminently salable.
Incidentally, the Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek” “a drunkard’s dream if I ever did see one” has no discernible connection to the old Appalachian folk number.