55: Mississippi Squirrel Revival

55: Mississippi Squirrel Revival

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

Mississippi Squirrel Revival

Story by Buddy Kalb

Song written by Buddy and Carlene Kalb

Recorded by Ray Stevens

Wendy Bagwell and the Sunliters was a gospel group that I used to listen to. They played churches a lot and did comedy, too. Wendy used to tell a story about a blind man who came to church with a seeing-eye dog. One day, the dog got after a cat in the church and it caused a lot of mayhem. I first heard Wendy tell that story one night on the radio when I was driving to Florida with my family. It was early in the morning, and they were all asleep, and I just thought it was hilarious. It’s a funny concept — something gets loose in church and it’s happening on the left side and the people on the right side of the church don’t know what it is, and they misinterpret it. So that’s where the idea for “Mississippi Squirrel Revival” got started.

I kept that in my mind for a while, and later I began working on the song. Back in those days, I had a habit of putting in references to people and places I knew in a song. I actually had a friend named Harv Newlin, who lived in Kansas City. And I had some friends who lived in Pascagoula, too, so that — and the fact that it was the only word I could find that rhymed with hallelujah — made me put them in the song. My wife is down as a co-writer, because I used to bounce ideas off her all the time and she would give me feedback on the songs I was writing.

I did have a background in things charismatic, so I sort of knew of what I spoke. I’ve never really belonged to many mainline denominations. Everybody always thinks the song says “the First Baptist Church” of Pascagoula, but it’s “the First Self-Righteous Church.”

I was writing for Ray’s publishing company and some others as well when I came up with this idea and I thought I would write this for him. He was doing some Barry Manilow-ish stuff and I kept telling him he needed to give the people what they wanted, which was more comedy. So one day, he got frustrated with me and said, ‘Well, then why don’t you write me some comedy?” So I decided I would give the squirrel song a shot, and it worked out pretty well for us. Since then, Ray has recorded over 100 of my songs.

Mississippi Squirrel Revival

Well, when I was a kid I’d take a trip every summer down to Mississippi

To visit my granny in her ante-bellum world

I’d run barefooted all day long, climbin’ trees, free as a song

And one day I happened to catch myself a squirrel.

I stuffed him down in an old shoe box, punched a couple of holes in the top

And when Sunday came I snuck him into church

I was sittin’ way back in the very last pew showin’ him to my good buddy Hugh

When that squirrel got loose and went totally berserk

What happened next is hard to tell

Some thought it was heaven others thought it was hell

But the fact that something was among us was plain to see

As the choir sang “I Surrender All” the squirrel ran up Harv Newlan’s coveralls

Harv leaped to his feet and said, “Somethin’s got a hold on me! Yeow!”

CHORUS:

The day the squirrel went berserk

In the First Self-Righteous Church

In the sleepy little town of Pascagoula

It was a fight for survival that broke out in revival

They were jumpin’ pews and shoutin’ Hallelujah!

Harv hit the aisles dancin’ and screamin’

Some thought he had religion others thought he had a demon

And Harv thought he had a weed eater loose in his Fruit-Of-The-Looms

He fell to his knees to plead and beg and the squirrel ran out of his britches leg

Unobserved to the other side of the room

All the way down to the amen pew where sat Sister Bertha better-than-you

Who’d been watchin’ all the commotion with sadistic glee

But you should’ve seen the look in her eyes

When that squirrel jumped her garters and crossed her thighs

She jumped to her feet and said “Lord have mercy on me”

As the squirrel made laps inside her dress

She began to cry and then to confess to sins that would make a sailor blush with shame

She told of gossip and church dissension but the thing that got the most attention

Was when she talked about her love life, and then she started naming names

CHORUS

Well seven deacons and the pastor got saved,

Twenty-five thousand dollars was raised and fifty volunteered

For missions in the Congo on the spot

Even without an invitation there were at least five hundred rededications

And we all got baptized, whether we needed it or not

Now you’ve heard the Bible story I guess

How he parted the waters for Moses to pass

Oh the miracles God has wrought in this old world

But the one I’ll remember ’til my dyin’ day

Is how he put that church back on the narrow way

With a half-crazed, Mississippi squirrel

CHORUS

More stories from our partners