Many of the Copper Family’s songs are much loved and widely sung – national treasures, you might say. This is not one of those, but there was a time when I would be called upon to sing it at least once a year. I learned it from the Copper Family 4 LP set A Song for every Season, and from Bob Copper’s book Early to rise.
This was a popular song of the mid-19th century; presumably it had its origins in the Music Halls–the tune is very much of that type. There are several broadside copies at the Bodleian Library Broadside Collection:
Suit of Corderoy Printed between 1846 and 1854 by E.M.A. Hodges, (from Pitt’s), wholesale toy warehouse, 31 Dudley street [S]even Dials.
The suit of corduroy Printed between 1860 and 1883 by H. Disley, 57, High-street, St. Giles, London. W.C.
Suit of corduroy Printed by Bebbington, J.O. Oldham-road, Manchester.
Suit of corduroy! Printed and Sold between 1849 and 1862 at Such’s Song Mart, 123, Union Street, Boro’ S.E.
There is also a mostly illegible Glasgow edition, which specifies the tune as that of Four and Nine.
Some of the above are in Standard English, others are written in the “Stage Cockney” of the day. There isn’t a great deal of variation in the texts, though locations and the name of the tailors vary. Evidently, the song made it to the USA as well; there is a songsheet at the “America Singing” Collection:
The Suit of Corduroys H. De Marsan, Publisher, 60 Chatham Street, N. Y. [no date.] Again, much the same, but with the incontinence episode omitted, perhaps for the benefit of tender American sensibilities!
I have followed John Copper’s lead on the 1970s recording and inserted an additional raspberry into the last line of the song. As John so eloquently put it
Well, hardly worth paying a man for one raspberry