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Come and Be My Little Teddy Bear

[ Roud 19974 ; trad.]

Suffolk filler Harkie Nesling sang the music hall ditty Come and Be My Little Teddy Bear in Bedfield, Suffolk, to Keith Summers on 25 April 1971. This recording was included in 1978 op the Topic album of step dance and country music from Suffolk, The Earl Soham Slog, and in 2006 on the Veteran CD of traditional folk songs, music hall songs, and tunes from Suffolk, Good Hearted Fellows. Mike Yates commented in the latter’s notes:

The term ‘Teddy Bear’ was first coined sometime around November 1902, when American President Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt was hunting in Mississippi. He had failed to shoot anything, so friends captured a bear, which they tethered to a tree, and invited him to shoot it. Roosevelt’s reply: “Spare the bear. I will not shoot a tethered animal.” soon became common knowledge and later that month Clifford and Rose Michtom of Brooklyn produced a soft bear which they called ‘Teddy’. I would suspect that Harkie Nesling’s tune and short text probably date from the period 1902 up to the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, a time when Teddy Bears were very much in vogue and millions were sold in Europe and America. At least one other similar piece can be dated to 1907: this is Be My Little Teddy Bear by Vincent Bryan (best known for writing In the Sweet Bye and Bye) and Max Hoffman. Sadly, though, this is not the song that Harkie sings.

Andy Turner learned Come and Be My Little Teddy Bear from Harkie Nesling’s recording and sang it as the 27 July 2013 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.


Harkie Nesling sings Come and Be My Little Teddy Bear

Come and be my little teddy bear,
And I’ll fondle you all day.
Come and be my little teddy bear,
You’ve stolen my heart away.
I’ve got tired of all the other toys,
Of them I no longer care.
You’re the only one I’ve set my heart upon,
So be my little teddy bear.