How Could Red Riding Hood?

The soundtrack for Christmas in our house has mostly been provided by Janet Klein and the Parlor Boys, singing rare, wonderful and often saucy songs from the twenties and thirties.
I first discovered Janet Klein when I was trying to find out about a song that my mother used to sing a snatch of:

How could Red Riding Hood
Have been so very good
And still keep the wolf from the door?

I discovered that words and music were by A.P. Randolph, and it was a hit in 1926, though banned on the radio because of its suggestive lyrics.  My mother was born in 1908, so in 1926 she’d have been eighteen, and just discovering independence as an office worker in London. A song like this must have seemed the last word in naughtiness.

Janet Klein and her boys have recorded this and other pieces on their Living in Sin CD – highly recommended to those with a taste for twenties popular culture.

You can even see her on YouTube, singing the song with Ian Whitcomb:

Here are the full lyrics:

When we were young, but old enough for us to understand
We all believed in fairies, and the folks in fairy land
But the modern child is runnin’ wild
He wants to know too much
He’s never understood
About Red Riding Hood

How could Little Red Riding Hood
Have been so very good
And still keep the wolf from the door ?
Job ? Father ? Mother ? No ! She had none
So where in the world did the money come from ?
I need to ask it :
Who filled her basket ?
The story books never tell
They say that she found a wolf in Granny’s bed
With a great big sun bonnet pulled over his head
But sometimes I wonder what she found instead
How could Little Red Riding Hood
Have been so very very good
And still kept the wolf from the door ?

How could Red Riding Hood
Have been so very good
And still keep the wolf from the door ?
Why was she dressed up in her bright flaming red
Unless she expected to knock someone dead ?
Why did she ramble ?
She knew it was a gamble
She was out in the woods for no good
They say she was a maid most discrete
And there’s no doubt about it, she must have been sweet
But you know and I know that even sweet girls must eat
How could Little Red Riding Hood
Have been so very good
And still keep the wolf from the door ?

I ask you, how could Little Red Riding Hood
Have been so very good
And still keep the wolf from the door ?
I’ve heard of many strange things in New York
But who ever heard of a wolf that could talk ?
I hate to doubt it
But there’s something about it
That sounds mighty funny to me.
I don’t believe that any one of those fairy tales is true
– You don’t ?
– No, I don’t believe ’em. D’you believe ’em ?
– I believe all fairy tales
– Then I’d like to ask you :
Who was the father of all the little children of the woman that
lived in the shoe ?
Jack the giant killer !
Say, how could Little Red Riding Hood
Have been so very good
And still keep the wolf from the door ?


  1. Posted December 29, 2009 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    I was happy to get mentioned in your piece about Janet Klein and Red Riding Hood. If you enjoy her music– and I do as I play in her band and write some of the songs–then I think you’ll enjoy my many CDs. You can find them all at my website or on i-tunes and you can watch me on YouTube under my name. I’ve also written lots of books on popular music and culture. Check out my Literary Corner( an article about World War One songs) and also my wikipedia entry.
    And: Happy New ear!
    Ianb W

    • Posted December 29, 2009 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      Ian –
      I do indeed know your books (a while back I was very impressed by your Irving Berlin and Ragtime America). I hadn’t come across your Literary Corner website, though, ( and would strongly recommend all my readers to look at Over There, the essay on Tin Pan Alley’s response to the Great War. I liked your account of meeting Chesney Allen, too. One of the happy memories of my childhood is being taken to see the Crazy Gang in These Foolish Kings at the Victoria Palace. The show included their version of the Pyramus and Thisbe play from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Bud played Pyramus and ‘Monsewer’ Eddie Gray was Thisbe. I thought it the funniest thing I had ever seen in my life.

      • Posted December 30, 2009 at 12:46 am | Permalink

        Hello there George!
        So glad you’ve read one of my books. I think you’d enjoy the latest, “Letters From Lotusland–An Englishman In Exile”–it’s available from And you should listen via i-tunes to my recording of a droll World War One Tin Pan Alley song called “The War In Snider’s Grocery Store” It’s on the companion CD to my Irving Berlin book–called Ian Whitcomb’s Ragtime America. And don’t forget my internet radio show at All the shows are available via podcasts. Lots of our kind of music!
        Where do you live in England.

  2. Posted December 31, 2009 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    I’m a bit North of Oxford. A venue near here that might find an audience for your kind of music is The Stables at Wavendon, near Milton Keynes.

  3. amanda
    Posted June 29, 2012 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    My mom used to get really mad at my granny when we kids (all in our 50’s noe)
    were little because granny would rock us to sleep singing the
    “dirty red riding hood song”. never once did i ever imagine i could find
    the actual lyrics to it – all i could remember of it was “how could redriding
    hood have been so very good?” and to have the history of this song is
    almost priceless to me! thsnkyou & God bless you!

  4. barry sutton
    Posted June 14, 2019 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    love your work ian,but i was wondering if you knew an old song thatsays”who puts the pins in all the new shirts,you know the ones you never find,in like to tell you more about me but you can tell im not the braggin kind.” ive looked everywhere for the chords and lyrics,but i cant find them anywhere.i,d hoped you may know keep swinging.BAz.

    • Posted June 16, 2019 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      I think I may have heard this song many years ago – but who sang it, or in what context, I cannot remember. Sorry.

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