folk ballad

The Three Butchers (ballad)

"The Three Butchers", "Bold Johnson", "Dixon and Johnson" or "Johnson-Jinkson" (Roud # 17; Laws L4) is a traditional English folk ballad telling the story of how two or three butchers defeat seven or more robbers. There are a large number of versions of the song going by a variety of different titles.


Two or three butchers, variously name Johnson, Dixon, Jinkson, Jackson, Dickie amongst others, are travelling on horseback when they see a naked woman tied up by the side of the road. They give her a coat and put her on one of their horses but it turns out that she is the bait for a band of robbers and she gives the signal that the trap has worked. The brigands spring out of their hiding place and set on her would-be rescuers. One of the butchers wants to run away but the other elects to fight and proceeds to kill all but one of the highwaymen, who runs away.


Originally printed as a broadside in England in the 17th century by Paul Burges, the ballad made its way to America where it was collected by Randolph in Ozark Folksongs amongst others. It was recorded by Charles Todd and Robert Sonkin for the Library of Congress.


  • Pete Seeger recorded the song on his album American Ballads (1957)
  • Peggy Seeger included it on her album Folksongs and Ballads (1958)


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