Does Anyone Know the Song Tamale Joe?

Donna Lane wrote asking about a song from her childhood:

There is a song my grade school teacher taught me that I have taught my children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and their kids.  I would love to have the music to it and the entire lyrics.  The song is Tamale Joe.

It goes:

Tamale Joe he is the man in town, who makes his living just by going round. And selling from a pushcart all day long, to people who will buy and listen to his song.

It then has a round:

Hot Tamales sure are tasty, always made of finest pasty, so delicious and nutritious, you will like them, so buy them now.  Highly seasoned, that’s the reason, appetizing, tantalizing, buy them on the corner of the street, WHAT A TREAT!

The other singer sings: 

T A M A L E S, T A M A L E S, only 10 cents, buy them now, T A M A L E S, T A M A L E S, Tamale Joe sells ’em on the corner of the street.


I have been looking for the lyrics and music for this old favorite for years and cannot locate.  I assume my teacher either passed the song down or found it in a children’s folk song book.  Some of my best songs were from those years.   

I hope you can help me with this one. 

Donna Lane 

If anyone can help with this song, please comment below.

Thanks in advance!

Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Thursday, June 30th, 2011 at 12:04 pm and is filed under American Kids Songs, Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, England, English, Languages, Questions, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

35 Responses to “Does Anyone Know the Song Tamale Joe?”

  1. Jan Richards Says:

    Tamales hot tamales 10 cents is not too many for to eat

    Tamales hot tamales Tamale Joe sells em on the corner of the street

    What a treat!

    I went to elem school in Akron Ohio in the 1950’s where I learned this song.

  2. DarcyO Says:

    I just Googled Tamale Joe and found your blog post. I learned the song in junior high.

    Second verse:
    When Joe he crossed the sea from Trinidad
    An old four-string guitar was all he had
    But he could sing Calypso just the same
    And twasn’t very long
    He made himself a name


    His cart is white and oh so very neat
    Its little bells a’tinkle down the street
    And always in the steam pot on the top
    Tamale Joe will have tamales nice and hot

    We learned it in three or four parts. I can remember the chorus in two of them; the words were different.

    Hot tamales, hot tamales
    Ten cents is not too many for to buy
    Hot tamales, hot tamales
    Tamale Joe sells them on the corner of the street
    What a treat

    Tamales, tamales only ten cents
    Buy them now
    Tamales, tamales
    Tamale Joe sells them on the corner of the street
    What a treat

  3. Mitzi Says:

    The bass chorus line went something like this:

    Hot tamales sure are tasty
    Always made from finest pastry
    So delicious and nutritious
    You will like them so buy them now
    Highly seasoned that’s the reason
    Satisfying, tantalizing…(I’m not sure on these two words)
    Buy them on the corner of the street
    What a treat!

    I have a large family and have wanted my kids to learn this song for fun! They refuse! LOL I used to sing this song in junior high choir in the late 70s. I LOVED IT! It was one of our choir’s favorites. I would also like to find the music for it, but haven’t had any luck in my searches. Let me know if anyone finds it!

  4. Greg Wilson Says:

    We performed that song in 1969 in Washington, DC as part of All Choral Music Festival. We didn’t do the second verse.

    The song is an ethnic mess! Tamales are traditional Mexican food; Trinidad & Calypso go together, so does the quatro or four-string tenor guitar; the music’s almost a cha-cha-cha, as I remember it. And tamales aren’t made with “finest pastry”, are they?

    These things have been on my mind since sixth grade, when we learned and sang it. I still sing it occasionally. Maybe I’ll figure out the chords and post a YouTube of it! Thanks for the lyrics, y’all!

  5. Lisa Says:

    Thanks for writing Greg. Please share your youtube with us if you make one!

  6. robert Says:

    to Greg — I, too, sang in the DC All-City Choral Music Festival at Canstitution Hall in 1969. YEA! I still know someone who has the record that was made from that recording. “Tamale Joe” is still in my bones…

  7. LeVon Gaither Says:

    To Greg and to Robert…I was also a member of the DC Youth Chorale that performed at the Constitution Hall in 1969. We practiced at a Jr. High School that was just off of South Dakota Avenue…in that area. Mr. Owens was one of our Music Directors back then.

    I also played in the DC Youth Orchestra at the Constitution Hall as well. We practiced at Calvin Coolidge High School in NW, DC.

    My! It’s a small world, isn’t it? :)

  8. LeVon Gaither Says:

    To Greg and to Robert…remember this song? This was another song that we sang…”The Ash Grove”

    and there was another one that went: “Haste! Haste! Shepherds neighbors, pipes and tabors are tuning the strings…Come now leave your labor, dance to the sound of spring…Fair maids smile…hands clasp hands…hearts are beating in tune, in tune with May, then COME, COME, COME!!! COME SHEPHERDS ALL!!! Good friends and neighbors leave your labors, pipes and tabors are tuning the strings…
    Trip so neatly, smile so sweetly, down the meadow and back again…

    I know the words may be kinda screwed up, but if you sang it, I’m certain that it possibly rings a bell or makes sense? LOL!!! :)


  9. dju joao Says:

    Does anybody know where one can get a copy of the recording made at Constitution hall?

  10. Debbie J Says:

    This song has stuck with me since high school choir days, 1969. I finally googled it to find out the words I’d forgotten and found you all. So disappointing that there’s not much on the internet about it, not even a recording on u-tube. Maybe one of you who remembers how it all went could sing it and post it for the rest of us??

  11. Jessie Says:

    I can’t believe I found commrades in song! This is one of those crazy tunes that I haven’t been able to shake since the 1950’s in Ontario, Canada! The people here have come up with many more lyrics than I ever remember our music teacher giving us. I think she mainy used it as a “tuning” exercise:
    Hot tamales sure are tasty.
    Always made from finest pastry
    You can find them on the corner of the street.
    Does anyone remember a “girlie” game played with a long elastic called a Yokus rope? The object was to get your legs tangled up and then free by the time the lyrics were sung:
    Yokus in a kysa, yoke a daw dee day, tang tang soba, saw doo, saw day!

  12. Lisa Says:

    Hi Jessie – We have a whole blog thread about Yoki and the Kaiser with lots of comments by people writing in and a song page on it here. Enjoy! -Mama Lisa

  13. Vanessa (Brown) Jones Says:

    I learned the song in 5th grade and was actually a part of a larger musical production of young people from elementary and junior high schools in the District of Columbia – who sang the song as part of a collection of songs we sang that were translated into an album. It’s funny that I came across this posting – as I am really looking for that album now. Recorded in 1968-69; at a large hall – maybe DAR Constitution, Kennedy Center or maybe a high school. The song Tamale Joe is such an upbeat song – and it still rings in my spirit. Oh, how I want to find that album!

  14. Vanessa (Brown) Jones Says:

    OMG – after reading all of the posts – I did not the first time – you are the folk I’ve been looking for. Where can I get a copy of that recording as I was a part of the DC All City Choral Musical Festival and represented Langdon Elementary School. I was in the 5th grade and in the past 3 days I have reached out to the Library of Congress, Summer Musuem, the DC Public School System and about five minutes ago – the principal from Langdon responded back to me that they would look to see if they could locate the album. I now have more details to share with the Library of Congress too. The ‘Tamale Joe’ and ‘Haste Haste’ Song has been in my spirit for decades – no joke.

  15. Teresa Millward Says:

    I am desperately looking for the words to haste haste shepherds and neighbours. My mum has just died and we used to sing it when I was a little girl. I can remember a fair bit but probably have got some of it wrong over the years,
    If anyone has it I would love to know.

  16. LeVon Gaither Says:

    Hey Teresa! Are you on Facebook? I’m listed as LAntoinette Gaither…I was in the DC Youth Chorale from JC Nalle Elementary School and also from Kelly Miller Jr. High.

    I still know all of the words to he song that begins “Haste! Haste!” I’ll copy and paste them in another posting shortly to come, okay? It’s amazing to see how many of us still remember those days. They were wonderful accomplishments and experiences while we were all young.

  17. Vanessa Jones Says:

    Hi Levon. Do you have a copy of the album from 1968 at Constitution Hall? Do you know where I might find one? I have inquired many places including DC Public School system; my elementary school – Langdon; the Sumner libraray, MLK, Constitution Hall, Washington Post etc. The post sent me an article covering the event in 1968. I even reached out to Tony Perkins at Fox 5 news. He did respond and wished me well in my search and gave me two other organizations related to copyrighting – no luck yet.

  18. Linda Vazquez Says:

    Tamales, Hot Tamales, Tamale Joe sells them on the corner of the street,
    What a treat, Can’t be beat.

    My teacher in 1956 taught us this tune. I can still sing it!
    Happy Cinco de Mayo!

  19. Lisa Says:

    That’s great Linda! Would you like to sing it for us? :) -Mama Lisa

  20. Gretchen Lynch Says:

    We sang this all the time at Camp Aloha in VT when I was a kid… I’m pretty sure my grandmother who was the music director there for many years brought it with her, but long before 1969…. she worked there in the early 60s, I believe. They are still singing it now!

  21. Harriet B. Says:

    I sang this song in the Washington D.C. All-City Chorus in 1967! What a joy to see so many others with the same memory of music in the schools!

  22. neil mathews Says:

    Feb 2013 post – lyrics …. Haste Haste sheperds and neighbours shadows are falling music is calling, come now leaving your labours, dance on the green till the close of the day (chorus).. pipes and tabours are calling the tune so come come come, good sheperds all, skip so neatly smile so sweetly down the meadow and back again. Now choose queen of the may, deck her in hawthorn gay, then chose …..gallant like crown for our king, so , haste haste etc.

    Any good ? Not heard of nor seen the song since I was 5 (50 years ago) – live in the UK and do a lot on the folk scene…and play this on the accordeon- noce chord sets !

  23. Antoinette Says:

    Hello Everyone!
    I sang in the All City Choral Music Festival in 1969 also! I was a 6th grader at Woodridge Elementary School. On Thanksgiving day, my brother was telling my children about the concert and the thrill of coming home and reliving the concert listening to the LP. He was younger than me, but he has vivid memories of that concert. To be honest, I remember it like it was yesterday. The excitement was unbearable! My mother has gone on a hunt to find the LP. If I find it. I will let you know and get everyone a copy. Keep your fingers crossed, my Mom is usually pretty good at tracking things down. Enjoy your holiday and be blessed!

  24. margaret Dunn Says:

    Haste, haste shepherds and neighbours shadows are falling music is calling, come now leaving your labours, dance on the green till the close of the day.
    Fair maids smile at our greeting, hands clasp hands in a meeting, hearts are joyously beating in tune with the music of May.
    So come, come, come. Come shepherds all. Good friends and neighbours leave your labours, pipes and tabours are tuning the strain. So trip so neatly, smile so sweetly, down the meadow and back again. Trip so neatly, smile so sweetly, down the meadow and back again.
    Now choose the Queen of the May, deck her in hawthorn gay, then lead forth in the ring a gallant lad crowned as our king.
    So haste, haste etc.

  25. Jenny Chisholm Says:

    I could just about sing it or hum it right through, but it echoes from my youth. It doesn’t come from one of Edward German’s musicals/light operas, does it???

  26. Cheryl Clark Says:

    I also lived in Akron, OH during the 50s and sang the song with the lyrics Jan Richard cited. Started out with: Tamale Joe, he come from Mexico….

  27. Amanda Says:

    I know this is an old thread – but yes, Jenny, Shepherds and Neighbours is one of Edward German’s dances from Henry VIII. I played it in an orchestra recently and remembered most but not all of the words from a vocal duet arrangement I sang at school, and have just searched to try and find the rest – so thank you!

  28. Lili Says:

    Found your post. I just remember the first verse. Learned it in. Elementary school in the 50s in West Virginia. Sing it all the time to pep me up and also taught it
    To my kids and granddaughter. Love it

  29. Mac Mastroni Says:

    I remember Tamale Joe from elementary school as well. I attended Phoebe Hearst Elementary school in NW Washington DC. Was way back in the late 60’s. I used to have the album but haven’t thought of it in years. My ex probably threw it out. Glad to see others that were at the same event so many years ago!!

  30. James Morgan Says:

    I, too, sang in the District of Columbia All City Choir as well as the D.C. Youth Chorale. I went on to sing professionally. I was attempting to find the Tamale Joe song and the Haste, Haste song tonight and came across the above comments and as delighted to know that folk continue to have fond memories of the days singing in the city choirs. We will continue to search for the music to these songs. I believe I know someone who may still have a copy of the recording that was made of that particular year at Constitution Hall.

    J.P. Morgan

  31. David Says:

    Is the music not on YouTube or streaming services or record stores??

  32. Katrina Robinson Says:

    I just ran across your post as I was searching for this song, because my music teacher at Burrville Elementary School, on Division Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20019 taught me song when I sung in the Glee Club and the musicians were the people who played the music to our songs as they were learning how to operate the instruments. Our version went like this:

    Tamale Joe he is a man in town who makes his living by going around, and selling from a pushcart all day long to people who would buy and listen to his songs.

    Chorus: Tamale! (second group comes in Tamale) Hot Tamale 10 cents is not too many for to eat (repeat)

    Tamale Joe sales them onnnn (drag the word on with a high pitch) the corner of the street “What a Treat!.

    We sung for school events and acted out the song with someone having a pushcart and a large straw Mexican hat on walking on stage in front of us. Oh such good memories just by telling the story.

    And then we learned “Jingle Jingle Johnny” – Jingle Jingle Johnny has a bell; why he always plays it I can’t tell; Jingle Jingle Johnny plays so well; that’s is why he always plaays hisss beeell.

    I was recently singing these songs to one of my grandchildren and I wonder if anybody else had learned these songs and it brought back memories.

    Then I was a Campfire Girl (mid 60’s) and song the Campfire song to recruit others to join and later I joined the Church Choirs, but had to give that up once a cyst was discovered on my Thyroid.

  33. KAREN HOUSER Says:

    I represented a school in Ward 8/DRAPER ELEMENTARY. this song has been in my soul ever since our Spanish Teacher taught it to us along with our Music Teacher. It was the beginning of my chorale music career. Of course they put all of the short folk in the front!!!

  34. Beth Says:

    This was such a neat thread to find! I grew up on the Texas gulf coast and we sang Tamale Joe for All-State Choir in 8th grade, I think. Maybe 9th? And that was way after a lot of other people here sang it. We sang it in the 1980s…. It must have already been becoming an antiquity. I’ve remembered the main melody all these years, but as soon as I read the words to the bass part, it all came back in a flood ….. I SO wish we could find sheet music to this song.

  35. james siena Says:

    I HAVE TWO RECORDS. I was in the chorus in ‘68 and ‘69, and before I wrote this post I played the record from’69 and it’s in good condition. Happy to make digital copies for anyone who wants one. Write to me on! Would love to reconnect with my chorus friends from long ago; it was a treasured time, it was a terrible time; but I must say the music we made under the direction of Milton Lespere was very, very beautiful. Listening a few minutes ago brought tears to my eyes.

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