Song Lyric Sunday – Polk Salad Annie

This week’s genre is Swamp Rock. As soon as I saw this I knew what song I would choose. Check out Jim’s post for more details on this week’s SLS topic.

“Polk Salad Annie” was written and sung by Louisiana born Tony Joe White, nicknamed “Swamp Fox”. The song was recorded in Nashville in 1968 and released the following year. It reached #8 on Billlboard’s Hot 100. It reached #10 in Canada.

The song is about a poor southern woman who gathers the leaves from pokeweed for cooking. Pokeweed is a toxic plant, but is often eaten in many southern cultures. The song title refers to polk salad, but in actuality the name is polk sallet, meaning a warm salad.

According to an interview given to Songfacts, when Tony Joe White toured in the 60s, many people thought the reference to Polk Salad was marijuana and would often leave bags of marijuana in his tent or dressing room.

More after the lyrics:

Polk Salad Annie
Lyrics from

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 that’s 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, take 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)

This is an actual dish still eaten in southern Appalachia and most likely in Louisiana as well. Pokeweed leaves are gathered in the spring when there are less toxins.  As the plant matures and berries form, it becomes extremely poisonous. The leaves are parboiled, drained, parboiled and drained again, and parboiled a third time before eating to release the toxins from the plant. They are often scrambled with eggs, served with pinto beans, or eaten as a warm sauteed green, often with vinegar.

Poke Sallett is a ‘transition’ or ‘survival’ vegetable. It is an early spring vegetable prized after long winters of little or no vegetables. It is still foraged today and has become a prized dish in many upscale restaurants.

Elvis started performing this song in concert in 1970. It was recorded as part of his live album On Stage and was released as a single in 1973.

I am also including Elvis’ version which I feel is a poor imitation of the original recording.


Prize – SoCS

Candy coated popcorn
Peanuts and a prize
That’s what you get in Cracker Jacks.

That’s where my mind went. I once had a book of all the Cracker Jack prizes issued over the years. Mine favorites were by far the tattoos.

Have a fun-filled Saturday. We are off to see family today and celebrate hubby’s birthday!