The original version contains an introductory verse that leads up to the main part of the song, as a young man tells of his date with a young woman, in which they go to an amusement park and find time to "spark" while riding the malfunctioning carousel. Although there are no verified connections, the tune closely resembles the traditional fiddle tune "Chinese Breakdown." (http://www.lyon.edu/wolfcollection/songs/joneschinese1257.html)
An adapted instrumental version of the song's main tune became the staple opening and closing credits theme for the Looney Tunes series, most memorably featuring Porky Pig stuttering "Th-th-that's all, folks!" over the tune at each cartoon's end. A different vocal version, sung by Daffy Duck (voice of Mel Blanc), was heard in Daffy Duck and Egghead, a 1938 entry in the Merrie Melodies series, a sister series to the Looney Tunes. Daffy also sings the song in the 1948-animated 1950-released Looney Tunes short Boobs in the Woods.
In 1964, a more modern version of the theme was arranged by William Lava for use with an updated Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies opening sequences seen on 1960s shorts of the era.
The song was revived for the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, an animation/live-action blend based upon the cartoons of the 1940s. "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" is performed twice in the film, once by cartoon character Roger Rabbit (voice of Charles Fleischer) and later by his human partner Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins). An instrumental version also appears in Gremlins 2: The New Batch, which opens and closes with Looney Tunes cartoons characters interacting with each other, and at the end of Space Jam (1996) and Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003).
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, [The Grateful Dead] occasionally used this piece as filler material while one or several members of the band were tuning up.