Why do most US Americans know the jew’s harp?

Because they are all familiar with the tune Turkey in the Straw. A song dating from early 19th century, played in many variations, often with jew’s harp.

Turkey in de straw, turkey in de hay
Turkey in de straw, turkey in de hay
Roll ’em up an’ twist ’em up a high tuc-ka-haw
An’ twist ’em up a tune called Turkey in the Straw

turkey-in-the-straw-1a turkey-in-the-straw-1 turkey-in-the-straw-2
 turkey-in-the-straw-3 turkey-in-the-straw-4 turkey-in-the-straw-5

turkey-in-the-straw-6 turkey-in-the-straw-7 turkey-in-the-straw-8

Up and to 20th century American culture

  • Turkey in the Straw was Billy the Kid’s favourite song.
  • According to survivors, Turkey in the Straw was among songs played by the band of the RMS Titanic at one point during the sinking on April 14 and April 15, 1912.
  • In 1928, the song was used as the base melody in the famous early Mickey Mouse cartoon Steamboat Willie. The rendering of the tune in the cartoon is noted for being one of the first instances of successful synchronization in animated films.
  • The song was used again in the 1935 cartoon The Band Concert.
  • The melody is quoted in Charles Ives’ Second Symphony.
  • The melody is played by many ice cream trucks.
  • In 1942 Raymond Chandler’s novel The High Window, the protagonist recounts ‘The Good Humor man went by in his little blue and white wagon, playing Turkey in the Straw on his music box’.
  • The instrumental Hoedown from Emerson Lake and Palmer’s album Trilogy quotes the melody.
  • And much more .