Grandpa Was A Carpenter by John Prine

This is one of my favorite John Prine tunes, reminds me of my Grandfathers. And the very different world they raised my parents in. ~sekanblogger

Grandpa wore his suit to dinner
Nearly every day
No particular reason
He just dressed that way
Brown necktie and a matching vest
And both his wingtip shoes
He built a closet on our back porch
And put a penny in a burned out fuse.

Grandpa was a carpenter
He built houses stores and banks
Chain smoked Camel cigarettes
And hammered nails in planks
He was level on the level
And shaved even every door
And voted for Eisenhower
‘Cause Lincoln won the war.

Well, he used to sing me “Blood on the Saddle”
And rock me on his knee
And let me listen to radio
Before we got T.V.
Well, he’d drive to church on Sunday
And take me with him too!
Stained glass in every window
Hearing aids in every pew.


Now my grandma was a teacher
Went to school in Bowling Green
Traded in a milking cow
For a Singer sewing machine
She called her husband “Mister”
And walked real tall in pride
And used to buy me comic books
After grandpa died.

Final chorus
Grandpa was a carpenter
He built houses stores and banks
Chain smoked Camel cigarettes
And hammered nails in planks
He was level on the level
And shaved even every door
And voted for Eisenhower
‘Cause Lincoln won the war.


Filed under History, Lyrics, Music

14 responses to “Grandpa Was A Carpenter by John Prine

  1. prairiepond

    This is one of my very favorite Prine songs. I mean, they are all my favorites, but this is my favorite FAVORITE one. 🙂

  2. What are your favorite folk songs? Head over to the Folk Alley site and join the discussion. To get you started, here’s the master list:

    The 100 Essential Folk Songs

    1. “This Land Is Your Land” – Woody Guthrie

    2. “Blowin’ in the Wind” – Bob Dylan

    3. “City of New Orleans” – Steve Goodman

    4. “If I Had a Hammer” – Pete Seeger

    5. “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” – The Kingston Trio

    6. “Early Morning Rain” – Gordon Lightfoot

    7. “Suzanne” – Leonard Cohen

    8. “We Shall Overcome” – Pete Seeger

    9. “Four Strong Winds” – Ian and Sylvia

    10. “Last Thing on My Mind” – Tom Paxton

    11. “The Circle Game” – Joni Mitchell

    12. “Tom Dooley” – The Kingston Trio (Trad)

    13. “Both Sides Now” – Joni Mitchell

    14. “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” – Sandy Denny

    15. “Goodnight Irene” – The Weavers (Trad)

    16. “Universal Soldier” – Buffy Sainte-Marie

    17. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” – Bob Dylan

    18. “Diamonds and Rust” – Joan Baez

    19. “Sounds of Silence” – Simon & Garfunkel

    20. “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” – Gordon Lightfoot

    21. “Alice’s Restaurant” – Arlo Guthrie

    22. “Turn, Turn, Turn!” – The Byrds (Pete Seeger)

    23. “Puff the Magic Dragon” – Peter, Paul and Mary

    24. “Thirsty Boots” – Eric Anderson

    25. “There But for Fortune” – Phil Ochs

    26. “Across the Great Divide” – Kate Wolf

    27. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” – The Band (Robbie Robertson)

    28. “The Dutchman” – Steve Goodman

    29. “Matty Groves” – Fairport Convention (Trad)

    30. “Pastures of Plenty” – Woody Guthrie

    31. “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” – Gordon Lightfoot

    32. “Ramblin’ Boy” – Tom Paxton

    33. “Hello in There” – John Prine

    34. “The Mary Ellen Carter” – Stan Rogers

    35. “Scarborough Fair” – Martin Carthy (Trad)

    36. “Freight Train” – Elizabeth Cotton

    37. “Like a Rolling Stone” – Bob Dylan

    38. “Paradise” – John Prine

    39. “Northwest Passage” – Stan Rogers

    40. “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” – Eric Bogel

    41. “Changes” – Phil Ochs

    42. “Streets of London” – Ralph McTell

    43. “Gentle on My Mind” – John Hartford

    44. “Barbara Allen” – Shirley Collins (Trad)

    45. “Little Boxes” – Malvina Reynolds

    46. “The Water Is Wide” – Traditional

    47. “Blue Moon of Kentucky” – Bill Monroe

    48. “No Regrets” – Tom Rush

    49. “Amazing Grace” – Odetta (Trad)

    50. “Catch the Wind” – Donovan

    51. “If I Were a Carpenter” – Tim Hardin

    52. “Big Yellow Taxi” – Joni Mitchell

    53. “House of the Rising Sun” – Doc & Richard Watson (Trad)

    54. “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” – The Weavers

    55. “Tangled Up in Blue” – Bob Dylan

    56. “The Boxer” – Simon and Garfunkel

    57. “Someday Soon” – Ian and Sylvia

    58. “Miles” – Peter, Paul and Mary

    59. “Masters of War” – Bob Dylan

    60. “Wildwood Flower” – Carter Family

    61. “Can the Circle Be Unbroken” – Carter Family

    62. “Can’t Help but Wonder Where I’m Bound” – Tom Paxton

    63. “Teach Your Children” – Crosby, Stills Nash & Young

    64. “Deportee” – Woody Guthrie

    65. “Tecumseh Valley” – Townes Van Zandt

    66. “Mr. Bojangles” – Jerry Jeff Walker

    67. “Cold Missouri Waters” – James Keeleghan

    68. “The Crucifixion” – Phil Ochs

    69. “Angel from Montgomery” – John Prine

    70. “Christmas in the Trenches” – John McCutcheon

    71. “John Henry” – Traditional

    72. “Pack Up Your Sorrows” – Richard and Mimi Farina

    73. “Dirty Old Town” – Ewan MacColl

    74. “Caledonia” – Dougie MacLean

    75. “Gentle Arms of Eden” – Dave Carter

    76. “My Back Pages” – Bob Dylan

    77. “Arrow” – Cheryl Wheeler

    78. “Hallelujah” – Leonard Cohen

    79. “Eve of Destruction” – Barry McGuire

    80. “Man of Constant Sorrow” – Ralph Stanley (Trad)

    81. “Shady Grove” – Traditional

    82. “Pancho and Lefty” – Townes Van Zandt

    83. “Old Man” – Neil Young

    84. “Mr. Tambourine Man” – Bob Dylan

    85. “American Tune” – Paul Simon

    86. “At Seventeen” – Janis Ian

    87. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” – Simon & Garfunkel

    88. “Road” – Nick Drake

    89. “Tam Lin” – Fairport Convention (Trad)

    90. “Ashokan Farewell” – Jay Ungar and Molly Mason

    91. “Desolation Row” – Bob Dylan

    92. “Love Is Our Cross to Bear” – John Gorka

    93. “Hobo’s Lullaby” – Woody Guthrie

    94. “Urge for Going” – Tom Rush

    95. “Return of the Grievous Angel” – Gram Parsons

    96. “Chilly Winds” – The Kingston Trio

    97. “Fountain of Sorrow” – Jackson Browne

    98. “The Times They Are A-Changin'” – Bob Dylan

    99. “Our Town” – Iris Dement

    100. “Leaving on a Jet Plane” – John Denver

  3. “Good night Irene” was written by Leadbelly – whose real last name was Ledbetter. He got the heavier nickname while in prison.

    Do any of you know if Ken Keasey’s book title, _Sometimes a Great Notion_, derives from “Good night Irene”?

    The lyric in question: “Sometimes I have a great notion to jump in the river and drown”.

  4. Man, I always loved “The Band”. Many years ago saw them at the Cotillion. Shook Levon Helmes’ hand and talked quite a while to Rick Danko, the Bass player.

  5. That was a great post Linda! What a trip down memory lane. But, before I start sounding like Bad Biker (just kidding, dude) I’ll stop. When I was at the Walnut Valley Bluegrass festival in ’81, I heard a unknown band do a Reggae version of this song:

    47. “Blue Moon of Kentucky” – Bill Monroe

    It was great!

    Prairie Pond, did you ever hear the Bonner brothers band do their song, “Ronnie Raggae” in honor of Ronald Reagan? It was hysterical.

    When I lived in Hays, a mutual friend used to tell the Bonner Brothers (not the name of the band) that they should promote themselves by the name of “Free Beer” – I always thought that might get folk in the door, but getting them out could get real ugly.

  6. “The times they are a-changin'” – at 98???! Give me a break!

  7. One last late night post. My guitar teacher died in an bus accident on his way to a concert last weekend. He was buried Wednesday and I did not know about the funeral.

    I have really struggled with the idea about who is supposed to live and who is not. It has been a very depressing time, to say the least.

    • I’m sorry too, Iggy. Harder to wrap your mind around a loss when it’s unexpected and you don’t even find out in time to talk it over with others mourning the person.

  8. prairiepond

    Iggy, I’m sorry. A music teacher is a very personal friend, and it’s a very personal relationship. I’m so sorry you didnt know about the funeral.

    As you remind me often, it’s not a just world. I see that more and more and it depresses me too.

    The assassination of Dr. Tiller has affected me deeply, and I didnt even know the guy. I just think he’s a real hero for anyone who loves civil rights and the constitution.

    His death brought home again that it is not a just world.

    And never will be.

  9. prairiepond

    The Bonner Brothers?

    Chuck Bonner? I do know him and his wife Barb. I think they are artists and give guided tours out here for fossil hunters.

    Perhaps the Bonner Brothers were after my time…

    • Chuck’s brother Dana and he had a band from about ’80 onward. Yes Chuck and Barb own a business where people use them to hunt fossils. Chuck’s dad (I am sure he is gone now) used to collect the really impressive marine life fossils in Western KS and send them to Japanese collectors. Back in the day, the dad owned a movie theater in Healy, KS. The dad was a big bud with Sternberg and is featured in the Museum’s literature. Orville, the oldest son in the family, was a guiding hand in the paleontology dept. at KU for several years.

  10. Thanks for the condolences, Pond and fnord. I can make a donation for his daughter and that will help some, I hope.

    My teacher died at a good time for him. The last few years he was making a reasonable living making music. He was buying a house in Riverside. His significant other seemed to be okay and not crazy.

    Things are not fair and it’s stuff like this that drives that home.