Pusha da truck John – Italian-American Folk Song

Richard wrote looking for help with an Italian-American song.  Here’s what he wrote:

My grandmother who came to the US at age 8 in 1903 knew this song. I can’t remember all of it and have sought anyone who ever heard of it.  Her version went something like this. (Sung with a strong broken Italian accent.)

Whata ya duna John?
(A different voice ‘John’ replies)
I pusha pusha da truck.
(First voice again.)
Where do you worka John?…a
(Second voice replies)
For da Delaware Lakawan….a
(That was a big Railroad.)

Then repeats.
An Whata you dunna John?
I pusha pusha da truck.
And for who do you pusha da truck?
For the Delaware Lackawan.
(Then a chorus sings opera style)
La la laah  la la la laahh
la la la la la laahh he pusha pusha the trucka for the Delaware Lackawan. 
(The last part the la lahs are sort of sung like an Italian opereta.
Then there’s a second verse.)

Ana where duyou worka Marie?
(Different voice answers.)
For da telephone company.
(First voice again)
Ana whata ya duna Marie?
(Marie replies)
I Plugga plugga da key.
(Inquisitors voice)
For who du you plugga da key?
(Replies)
For da Telephonea Company.
(Chorus sings)

Where does she worka Marie?
For da Telephone Company.
Whata doesa she dosa Marie?
She pluggs a pluggsa da key.
For who doed she plugga da key?
For da Telephone Company
La la laahh
La la la lah
La la la la la laahh
She plugga plugga da key for fa Telephone Company.

Theres one or two more verses which I can’t remember

Hope this gets through would like to hear from and collaborate with anyone who knows about this song.

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

Thanks!

Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Friday, July 22nd, 2011 at 3:26 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, English, Folk Songs, Italian, Italian American, Italy, Languages, Questions, 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.

31 Responses to “Pusha da truck John – Italian-American Folk Song”

  1. Louis Minigiello Says:

    Yes, I am 78 years old and very vividly remember hearing & singing that song. I was raised & lived in Jersy City, NJ

  2. Lisa Says:

    Do you remember any other verses Louis?

  3. Keith Says:

    I looked all over for the lyrics of this song. My mom and her mom used to sing this to me when I was a boy. We live in Philadelphia, original family from Allegheny ave. and my Mom’s side is from Napels if that helps…

  4. Michele Ferrantino Says:

    The song was composed by American-born Harry Warren (born Salvatore Guaragna) in 1926. I think this song ‘evolved’ into many differant verses, similar to the way “C’e la luna mezzo mare” evolved. The version I have is sung by Lou Monte. Hope this helps.

    Where do you work Marie
    ..in the telephone company
    And what do you do Marie?
    ..I push, I push, I push.
    And what do you push Marie, at the telephone company?
    ..I push-a, I push-a da plug, da plug, I push-a, I push-a da plug.
    (That’s nice)
    La la laah, lala lala laah
    La la laah, lala lala laah

    Where do you work-a Frank?
    ..I’m a-working in the bank
    And what do you do-a Frank?
    ..I take, I take, I take.
    And what do you take-a Frank, when you’re working in the bank?
    ..I take, I take-a da dough, da dough. I take, I take-a da dough.
    (Don’t let them catch you)
    La la laah, lala lala laah
    La la laah, lala lala laah

    What do you do Louise?
    ..I’m doing what I please.
    And what do you do Louise, when you’re doing what you please?
    ..I tease, I tease I tease.
    And who do you tease Louise when you’re doing what you please? Who do you tease Louise?
    ..I tease the heck, I make her a wreck, my sister’s got funny knees, knees, knees, knees. My sister’s got funny knees.
    (Oh, you frighten me)
    La la laah, lala lala laah
    La la laah, lala lala laah

  5. susan Says:

    It is the delaware lakawanna song so funny i eas looking it up because my memere -my grandmother-used to sing it all the time

  6. Boomba Says:

    A dj named greaseman used to play a recording of this song on his radio show

  7. Catherine Says:

    There was a kids record from the 60s that had that song on it. The album was called “puff and toot” and was released by Peter Pan records. That version has only the John verse, but it can perhaps give the writer’s name. When I was a kid, I had no idea that song was supposedly about Italians, nor that it was sort of derogatory.

  8. Julie Says:

    I grew up in Geneva (Fingerlakes) NY, and we sang this song in elementary school, late 50s early 6os. It was in our song book for music class. I think I knew it was referring to Italians (I am Italian-American and could recognize the accent!) but didn’t know how much of a put-down it was until I’m now reading all the verses — wow.

  9. MC Abbey Says:

    Music By: Harry Warren, Lyrics By:Mortimer Weinberg,Charlie Marks and Ernie Krickett. (1926)
    Recorded by:
    Fred Waring;s Pennsylvanians on ViS 20378A.Poley McClintock on vocal.Dec.8th-1926

  10. michael Says:

    Like Catherine, I had the Puff-and-Toot album growing up as a kid – played it on one of those plastic record players with a handle that opened up like a lunchbox… :)

    There was only one verse on it, the John one, and it was a little different than the lyrics in the original post at the top…but I remember it pretty vividly…

    Where do-you work-a John?
    On the Delaware Lakawan-a (never knew what the heck they were saying!)
    What do you do-a John?
    I push, ‘n I push, ‘n I push-a!
    What do you push-a John?
    I push, ‘n I push-a da truck-a!
    Where do you push-a da truck-a?
    On da Delaware Lak-awan-awan-awan-awan (each awan goes up)
    The Delaware Lak-awaaan…
    (Italian music I can hum before starting the verse over again)

  11. michael Says:

    Found the link to the album and the song on Youtube!
    This was (apparently) the 1950’s version of the album (I was young, had no idea how old the album was!) It is definitely the same album cover that I remember…
    Here’s the link:
    http://youtu.be/tFa4QvBU4n8

  12. Edvige Says:

    In Detroit, the years when our main entertainment was sitting around the dining room table, my father and uncle would be coaxed to sing this song for us kids. John, however, did not work on the Delaware Lackawanna but on the Henryee Fordaa Lineaa. There were many versus as John was not thrilled with his bosses at the Ford Motor Company. Great stuff sung with a real Italian accent!

  13. Big Charlie Says:

    Michael’s version (5/22/14)is the one I remember. I’m amazed to find it on line. It looks like everything is.

  14. Alvin Weinerman Says:

    You all have great memories. I remember verseslike…for the name JOE,
    “for the city I shovel the snow…I pusha da shovel”
    GUS, “The flibbety, jibbety bus…I pusha da clutch”

    The version I remember sounded like Mickey Katz, but I can’t find any proof.
    There was always some Italian talk between verses.
    alvin

  15. Alvin Weinerman Says:

    Looking back, I remember the song started like this…”Longa time ago, Johna anna Joe, come a from sunny Italy to try to make a dough. Joe is go away, John a he stay, wenna dey meet the other day here’s wadda dey got to say…..”. The verses are John, Joe, Marie, and Gus.
    Alvin

  16. Tom Barrows Says:

    My father used to sing that all the time when I was a boy. There are about 7 or 8 versions on YouTube from old recordings of the time. Seemed to be quite popular! Here’s a link to one of them:
    https://youtu.be/58VA2VJ8eCM

  17. Dom Reale Says:

    My Mom used to sing this (along with many other songs). It started out:

    Long time ago Johna meta Joe, he came from sunny Italy to trya to makea the dough. Joe go away, Johna hesa stay…

  18. Chuck McBuck Says:

    My father, who is from Sandusky, Ohio, used to sing this song when we were riding around in our 1950 Chevrolet. When he said push da push da, he would hit the gas pedal and since we had a clutch, the car would lurch forward a little bit and give us a bumpy ride. Thanks for the memories.
    Chuck
    Columbus, OH-IO

  19. Jimmy M Says:

    my father who would be 73 now used to sing it to me. I remember

    Hey Joe, whatta ya do?

    I push a push a truck, and where do ya push a truck….. on the delaware waka waka one …. or something like that. My old man was from Jersey City NJ and his parents came from italy

  20. John Says:

    I used to sing it growing up in NY in the 1940s. Here’s a link:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=AWoTHDmCTuI

  21. Patrick costello Says:

    My grandfather born in u.s. Frankfort n.y. 1889, my father his son would sing this occasionally. Grandfather was 1st Generation born in u.s. married Giffune. It is not a derogatory song, any slanted verses were made up, to my knowledge. Weird AL “Yankoverse” would have have a ball with it though. Only verse I remember is where work/push John Delaware lackawan…

  22. mike porras Says:

    I remember another verse of this song :

    “where a you work a Pop .. in the biggest barber shop”

    and the main structure of the song goes on.

    Regards

  23. Fannie Says:

    Along with some of the other answers, I remember,

    “Where do you work-a Joe?”
    “I work for the B & O”
    Whaddaya do- Joe?
    I push, I push I push.

    Whaddaya push-a, Joe
    When you work for the B&O?
    Whaddya push-a Joe?
    I Push, a-push a cart

  24. J T Stipo Says:

    Grandmother was off of the boat from Italy in 1906sh.
    She grew up in Jersey City and sang us this song.
    Except our John pusha da broom.

  25. Bill Says:

    The name of the song is ( Where do you work a John). You can go on YouTube and type in the title and a few versions of 78 records from the 1920’s will show and you can listetn to them. My aunt used to sing this song.

  26. Salch Says:

    I remember this as a Polish song. I’m third generation, and a lot of my great uncles worked the railroad in western NY. The verse ended with, I pusha pusha a truck, and a round of good laughs. A great heritage no matter where it came from

  27. Gabe C Says:

    (Shortened lyrics) Where do you worka Pat. The city laundromat. I push the money in the slot.

    Where so you worka Mack. The good old race track. I push the keys down.

    Where do you worka Paul. At the company down the hall. I push the mop.

  28. Elsa Says:

    I am British and live in the UK. I married an Irish man in 1984 and he sings this song all the time when we are in the car going somewhere. He only knows the first line though, but he sings it as Gillawear Lackawanna. (he always gets the lyrics wrong in songs) His father an Irish American, spent his entire working life in the US while his wife and family remained in Ireland. My husband, youngest of 9 siblings, was born when his father had retired and stayed permanently in Ireland in the late 50’s early 60’s. This explains how he would know the song to sing it to my husband when he was a boy. His father was born in 1901 in the US. I Googled (good old Google) the lyrics and found the song. It brought tears to my husbands eyes. His father died in 1988 so it holds many fond memories for him.

  29. Andy Says:

    I looked this up on the internet….My family owned a factory on Torresdale Ave. in Philadelphia, 1920-1970. Obviously there was every ethnicity in Philly working there. There was a man, Ernie Degitano, Italian, who they used to call “Dig a Hole” because nobody could say his name correctly.

    I remember my Grandfather who could be a cut up, get up on a table in his stocking feet at brunch one day and sing the song.

  30. Lisa Says:

    Great story Andy! Thanks for sharing.

  31. David Says:

    I am a Harry Warren collector/specialist and this is a very familiar song, of course. The short title is “Where Do You Work-a, John?” Subtitles are “The Delaware-Lackawan Song” and “Push-a, Push-a, Push.” It was published in three editions (sheet music) between late 1926 and early 1927, the first with an odd patter section that was essentially very similar to the original verse of the song, but very extended and with a ton of lyrics, and the chorus is a bit shorter! The second edition, usually with Ernie Krickett or Fred Waring pictured on the cover, features a bunch of additional lyrics attributed to Krickett, including an Italian-esque one. The patter is omitted entirely in the second edition of this song, and the chorus ends in a rather banal and extended “Ah, ah, ah; Ah, ah, ah; Ah, ah, ah…etc.” A third edition is a literal Italian-(American) version, with many sets of Italian lyrics attributed to Frank Amodio. Its title is “Addo Fatiche Giuvá.” The song was also published in the United Kingdom in 1927 (as version 1), with many different sets of lyrics to fit the obviously very different locale; the UK lyrics are not credited to a specific writer. I have a 10-page document of only official lyrics for this song.

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