Can Anyone Help with the Tune to “When Billy Boy Was One”?

Bernard’s daughter used to sing the song below with an American friend of hers. Could anyone record the tune or point to an online recording? Thanks!

When Billy Boy was one, he learned to suck his thumb,
Thumb Billy, thumb Billy, half past one.

When Billy Boy was two, he learned to tie his shoe,
Shoe Billy, shoe Billy, half past two.

When Billy Boy was three, he learned to climb a tree,
Tree Billy, tree Billy, half past three.

When Billy Boy was four, he learned to close the door,
Door Billy, door Billy, half past four.

When Billy Boy was five, he learned to swim and dive,
Dive Billy, dive Billy, half past five.

When Billy Boy was six, he learned to pick up sticks,
Sticks Billy, sticks Billy, half past six.

When Billy Boy was seven, he learned to pray to heaven,
Heaven Billy, heaven Billy, half past seven.

When Billy Boy was eight, he learned to roller skate,
Skate Billy, skate Billy, half past eight.

When Billy Boy was nine, he learned to tell the time,
Time Billy, time Billy, half past nine.

When Billy Boy was ten, he learned to catch the hens,
Hens Billy, hens Billy, half past ten.

Please email me or comment below if you can help with the tune.

Thanks!

Mama Lisa

UPDATE: Curtis sent us a score which Monique kindly made a midi from – click the link to hear it. Many thanks to Curtis and Monique!

This article was posted on Sunday, February 13th, 2011 at 5:28 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, English, Hand Clapping Rhymes, Jump Rope Rhymes, Languages, Mama Lisa, Nursery Rhymes, Questions, United Kingdom, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

19 Responses to “Can Anyone Help with the Tune to “When Billy Boy Was One”?”

  1. Myra (Ruggeri) Dougherty Says:

    Hi!
    My Grand Parents were from Sicily, and I remember my Grandpop saying this little rhyme something about (in English) it would be “Pinch, Pinch the little grapes off the vine” Or something like that.
    Is there such a rhyme? Or was this just something my Grandpop made up??
    My sister and I can remember some of the words, but not all of them, and I wouldn’t even want to attempt spelling them!
    Anyone ever hear this one?

  2. Clare Says:

    I actually have heard this song before; I’ve played it with my sister. The words do appear to be accurate, except I believe you’ve left out one minor thing. Before the phrase “When Billy Boy…”, you are supposed to say, “‘Cross down’ when Billy Boy….” You say this because at the same time, you pat your shoulders, your lap, and your hands together (as in the first three notes of Miss Mary Mack.) But other than that, the song sounds fine. I don’t know how to send you the tune…sorry about that. Even so, I hope the best for you.

  3. Clare Says:

    I actually have heard this song before; I’ve played it with my sister. The words do appear to be accurate, except I believe you’ve left out one minor thing. Before the phrase “When Billy Boy…”, you are supposed to say, “‘Cross down’ when Billy Boy….” You say this because at the same time, you pat your shoulders, your lap, and your hands together (as in the first three notes of Miss Mary Mack.) But other than that, the song sounds fine. I don’t know how to send you the tune…sorry about that. Even so, I hope that you do get the right melody soon.

  4. bryanna Says:

    hi um my friends and we play this game and this is how we say:

    when billy was one, he learned to suck his thumb.
    thumb de-li-da-la thumb de-li-da-la.
    half past one cross down.

    when billy was two, he learned to tie his shoe.
    shoe de-li-da-la shoe de-li-da-la.
    half past two cross down.

    when billy was three, he learned to climb a tree.
    tree de-li-da-la tree de-li-da-la.
    half past three cross down.

    when billy was four, he learned to shut the door.
    door de-li-da-la door de-li-da-la.
    half past four cross down.

    when billy was five, he learned to swim and dive.
    dive de-li-da-la dive de-li-da-la.
    half past five cross down.

    when billy was six, he learned to pick up sticks.
    stick de-li-da-la stick de-li-da-la.
    half past six cross down.

    when billy was seven, he learned about heaven.
    heaven de-li-da-la heaven de-li-da-la.
    half past seven cross down.

    when billy was eight, he learned to skate.
    skate de-li-da-la skate de-li-da-la.
    half past eight cross down.

    when billy was nine, he learned to draw a line.
    line de-li-da-la line de-li-da-la.
    half past nine cross down.

    when billt was ten, he learned to do this again.
    again de-li-da-la again de-li-da-la.
    half past ten cross down.

    then we just repeat it all over it again.

  5. Lisa Says:

    That’s cool Bryanna!

  6. Lisa Says:

    I saw a first verse that went, “When Billy boy was zero he learned to be a hero.”

  7. Lisa Says:

    Genesha wrote, “Hi … when billy was 1 its he learned to run and jump and when he was nine he learned to sing so fine.”

  8. patty Says:

    I used to sing a similar one when I was in elementary school but it went like this: (not sure about the spelling on the second line of each verse)

    When Billy boy was cero, he learned to be a hero
    so herioca, herioca, half past cero.

    When Billy Boy was one, he learned to suck his thumb,
    So thumbioca, thumbioca, half past one.

    When Billy Boy was two, he learned to tie his shoes,
    so shoe-ioca, shoe-ioca, half past two.

    When Billy Boy was three, he learned to climb a tree,
    So treeioca, treeioca, half past three.

    When Billy Boy was four, he learned to shut the door,
    so doorioca, doorioca, half past four.

    When Billy Boy was five, he learned to swim and dive,
    so diveioca, diveioca, half past five.

    When Billy Boy was six, he learned to pick up sticks,
    so stickioca, stickioca, half past six.

    When Billy Boy was seven, he learned to climb to heaven,
    so heavy-oca, heavy-oca, half past seven.

    When Billy Boy was eight, he learned to shut the gate,
    so gate-ioca, gate-ioca, half past eight.

    When Billy Boy was nine, he learned to stand in line,
    so lineioca, lineioca, half past nine.

    When Billy Boy was ten, he learned to feed the hens,
    so henioca, henioca, half past ten.

  9. Gary Says:

    We played this game back in the 1960’s. But instead of saying “thumb de-li-da-la” or “thumbioca”, we said: “thumb billy-ona”. This was in the south central Pennsylvania area of the US

  10. Jeanne Wardwell Says:

    I remember this; in fact remembering it was what brought me to this site. The nonsense syllables for us were “thumb-deola,” “shoe-deola,” etc. This was in central Connecticut.

    The tune is what started me remembering it in the first place. The first couple lines were the same as the Looney Tunes theme, “The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down.”

  11. Coolness Says:

    Hey, a long time ago when I was in school, our rhymes we’re like this.

    When billy boy was one, he learned to jump and run.
    Cross down. Billy boy.
    When billy boy was two, he learned to tie his shoe.
    Cross down. Billy boy.
    When billy boy was three, he learned to climb a tree.
    Cross down. Billy boy.
    When billy boy was four, he learned to close the door.
    Cross down. Billy boy.
    When billy boy was five, he learned to swim and dive.
    Cross down. Billy boy.
    When billy boy was six, he learned how to pick up sticks.
    Cross down. Billy boy.
    When billy boy was seven, he learned to look up to heaven.
    Cross down. Billy boy.
    When billy boy was eight, he learned to roller skate.
    Cross down. Billy boy.
    When billy boy was nine, he learned to sing so fine.
    Cross down. Billy boy.
    When billy boy was ten, he learned to feed the hens.
    Cross down. Billy boy.
    When billy boy was eleven, he learned to count to seven.

    Is this strange? We learned this in Music at Middle School.

  12. Jen Says:

    We used to play this game in grammar school in the 60’s in Southern California. The lyrics were similar on each line except we used to say “olioca” twice, then “half past (whatever number was next)” then “cross-down” and then start the next line. For instance:

    When Billy Boy was one, he learned to suck his thumb,
    Olioca, Olioca, half past one, cross-down,
    When Billy Boy was two, he learned to tie his shoe,
    Olioca, Olioca, half past two, cross-down,
    and so on…

    I don’t know, it’s just the way I learned it from other kids. I like everyone else’s version too. I love the internet enabling us to look up these old games and songs!

  13. Lisa Says:

    That’s cool Jen!

    I saw a similar version that had it as:

    “When Billy was one, he learned to jump and run.
    Run Olly Olly, Run Olly, Olly. Half past one. Cross Down.”

  14. Lisa Says:

    Tammy wrote:

    My mom taught me this one..

    When Barney the bear was one he learned to play the drum,
    Barney over in the clover half past one…

    Words are the same and this song is driving me nuts.

    Have a good evening..

  15. Miriam McLatchey Says:

    Hi!

    I know a slightly different version of this song… we have the words and audio at https://mysongfile.com/songs/when_billy_was_one

    The print music and audio are free for this song, but to access the print music you need to register and log in (which is also free).

    Happy singing!

  16. Lisa Says:

    Jerry wrote, “Billy Boy was sung to the tune of ‘The Merry Go Round Broke Down’ (Looney Toons theme).”

  17. Lisa Says:

    I found this rendition:

  18. Ashwini Says:

    When billy boy was zero
    He learned to be a hero
    Hero billy hero billy half past one

  19. Jakki Says:

    I learned this when I was little, in the late 1950s and early 60s, in Providence RI. The last line in our version used the word “olina”. For example, with one and thumb, we’d say “Thumbolina, thumbolina, half past one-one-one.”

    It sort of makes sense with Thumbolina, because of the song about the little dancer with that name. But when you get Shoebolina, and Treebolina, it just seems weird!

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