Hey Betty Martin on Throwback Thursday

Member Val Smalkin submitted this lovely version of the old classic, Hey Betty Martin. It’s part of her recently released album, Love Bug!

Val Smalkin and Silly Goose

American history is always full of surprises. Here’s what Carl Sandburg had to say about the origins of “Hey Betty Martin Tiptoe” in his fabulous song resource The American Songbag (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1927)

In the early 1890’s, in the tank towns of the corn belt, few women bobbed their hair.  Often when a woman who had taken this liberty walked along Main Street on a night when there was to be a band concert on the public square, she was an object of special scrutiny. Young men would sing at her:

Chippy, get your hair cut, hair cut, hair cut,

Chippy, get your hair cut, hair cut short.

The tune went back to a ditty sung in the 1860’s during the War between the States, as follows:

Johnny, git your gun and your sword and your pistol

Johnny, git your gun and come with me.

The tune is at least as old as the War of 1812, when drummer boys beat it on their drums and sang words about”Hey Betty Martin Tiptoe.” We have that drummer’s melody and words from A. T. Vance, a Long Island, New York fisherman who was raised in Kansas, and whose great-grandfather was a drummer in the War of 1812. The tune is traditional in the Vance family and is executed with variation by Comfort Vance, A.T. The tempo, Wathall indicates, is allegretto scherzando, which in 1812 meant “Make it snappy,” or “Let’s go.”  (American Songbag, p. 179)

If my grandsons’ (Ages 6, 5, 5, 2, and 2) reactions to this song are any indication, it is still a favorite for the young set.

– Valerie Leonahrt Smalkin

For a lead sheet, click here: Hey Betty Martin Leadsheet 

For a lesson plan and other ideas, click here: Hey Betty Martin Lesson Plan



  1. Just FYI!! The release of Love Bug! date has been moved to September 30…after the Parents’ Choice awards are announced!!

  2. Love this song!! I often use it to teach piano and forte sections of music.

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