Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Newly Discovered History of Amish Rock and Roll

Not too long ago, my friend Carrie Newcomer and I were on tour together (well, actually, we appeared at one place together). While together, we put our heads together and discovered that we had both been working on the same research project -- the heretofore little known phenomenon of Amish rock and roll.

Now many people know Carrie as an outstanding singer/songwriter and me as a passable writer. But they don't know that we both PhD's in music ethnology from the Berlin Conservatory of Music (online, distance learning division) located in Berlin, North Dakota. And we have a special interest in historic peace church music (Quaker -- very, very, very quiet with few lyrics, for example).

The Amish are, of course, are loosely affiliated with the historic peace churches. And so we began looking into their music -- especially the music of the youth. What we found astounded us. That is that the Amish have had an amazing influence on American Rock and Roll.

Most of us know the Amish as a rather closed (to put it mildly) sect of pious buggy-driving believers and eschew electricity. They live in a strict society, under tight control of their family and close-knit community. But then there's "rumspringa." When they turn 16, Amish teenagers are allowed the freedom to explore the customs of the outside "English" world before deciding whether to join the Amish church for life or leave the community altogether.

During this period, many of their youth have formed clandestine rock and roll bands and have rocked forth with a wide range of songs. Many of these songs were discovered by "the English," given slightly different lyrical phrasing, and been recorded by rock and roll stars as diverse as "The Beach Boys," "The Doors," The Rolling Stones," and more.

While the reader may find that hard to believe, Carrie and I (prior to publishing our findings in a scholarly journal) are herewith listing some of our findings -- and inviting others to contribute songs they may have discovered in their listening.

"Amish Girls"
Well Mennonite girls are hip
I really dig those caps they wear
And der English girls with no caps at all
They knock me out with that short hair.

I wish they all could be Amish
I wish they all could be Amish
I wish they all could be Amish girls.
Music & Lyrics by Brian Yoder and Karl Bontrager

"Born to be Mild"
Get your buggy runnin'
Head out on the two lane
Lookin' for some rumspringa
And not dressin' up so plain

Born to be mild
Born to be mild
Music & Lyrics by Mars Miller

"Raise my Barn"
Come on baby, raise my barn
Come on baby, raise my barn
Try to get the haymow higher!
Music & Lyrics by Jim Graber, Robbie Yoder, John Miller, and Ray Bontrager

"Stotzfus Action"
I can't get no Stoltzfus action
I can't get no Stotlzfus action
'cause i try and i try and i try and i try
I can't get no, i can't get no
Music & Lyrics by Mick Stoltzfus and Keith Stoltzfus

Those are our samples. Please send your suggestions to us c/o this blog or our website


PS Check out the Amish Outlaws (that's where the picture came from)


Anonymous said...

I should see if I can resurrect the "Stud Muffins of Central Philly" website from the dawn of the internet (circa 1996 or so?). It had links to "our related sites" Mennonite Men of Might and Brethren Beefcakes. The usually trust has a 2001 version but it stripped it of the images which unfortunately strips it of its content. Alas!

Brent Bill said...

Ah, we could have a whole cavalcade of peace church silliness up there.

Jim M. said...

The first song sounds like one from the "Electric Amish", a parody group I hear on the Bob and Tom comedy radio program.

Brent Bill said...

I'm aware of the Electric Amish, but really don't know their music (or lyrics). Gee, maybe we could collaborate and I'd finally get song-writing royalties (none of my other silliness ever was recorded).

Robin M. said...

I want to see a YouTube clip...

Haven Kimmel said...

Mr. Bill, this reads so much like something that would turn up on my blog that I became confused and began to wonder if I'd thought of it. Like you know how people who take Ambien begin eating in the night -- bags of flour and bitter chocolate and whatnot -- and have no memory of it? But that wouldn't explain it, as I don't take Ambien. And my baking flour seems untouched. My only option is to accept that I didn't think of this first, and I really need to work on my game. I'm going for the Hittites.

Brent Bill said...

Ms Kimmel -- ah, the Hittites. Aren't they the "liberal" Quakers who followed Elias Hitts and broke off from the Hydrox Quakers in 1827?

I'm afraid I can't blame Ambien or any other recreational drug for this ... out of my own little warped mind.

Game on!