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The Truth About "Puff"

Saturday, September 16, 2017

 © Gorbash - Flight of Dragons by Zoonar at Deiviant Art
Did you know that Puff the Magic Dragon was NOT about drugs? Someone asked me about that and I happen to have firsthand information on the origins of that much-maligned children's song. It turns out that There never was any other meaning than the obvious one. I can say that with certainty, because I met the Dragon's father (author of the song, Peter Yarrow) in person. Peter assured us that it was just a children's song. Jackie Paper represented the pages of a children's story, nothing more and the song was about the loss of childhood innocence.

We went to a Peter Paul and Mary concert in Fort Worth in the middle of the controversy. Peter added the following verse for that performance.

Together we can sing it
It's just a children's song

"And there never was any meaning other than the obvious one
and you can say you heard it from the dragon's father!"

Then they went  back to the chorus.

Everyone in the place just roared.

We took all three of our kids, to that concert where PP&M, Tom Paxton and Josh White all performed.  Sheila and I wanted to see PP&M just as much if not more than the kids did. The kids were raised on the Peter, Paul and Mary's children's songs and my goofy interpretations thereof, including Puff and The Boa Constrictor Song. We came early to the concert and were surprised to find Peter Yarrow out front greeting people as they came in.  He introduced himself very politely to my daughter who hugged him. He planted a kiss on her cheek. She was greatly impressed. 

Puff was written in 1958 when Yarrow was in school and before he even knew anything about marijuana. The story is really cool and can be found at this link (below). You should look it up. In any case, when the author, himself, tells me what the song means, I, for one, tend to believe him.
So you can mark Puff the Magic Dragon* "Safe" for summer camp and youth groups with confidence. You heard it from a man who heard it from Puff's daddy.

© 2016 by Tom King

*Peter does a more expanded version debunking the drug meaning mythology in this link from their 25th anniversary concert
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Playing Since: 1973
Experience Level: Novice

twayneking has made 10 recent additions to Banjo Hangout 

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Occupation: Freelance Writer, nonprofit consultant & grant writer

Gender: Male
Age: 63

My Instruments:
Squared Eel custom banjo, Goya classical guitar

Favorite Bands/Musicians:
Clancy Brothers, Earl Scruggs, Steve Martin, Connie Dover, Emmy Lou and anyone, Willie Nelson and anyone, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Gordon Lightfoot, Alison Kraus, Nickel Creek, Joe Bethancourt

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Created 6/26/2007
Last Visit 9/28/2017

I grew up in the small Seventh-day Adventist college town of Keene, Texas where I graduated in 1976 with a degree in English-Communications. I married a Scots-Irish-Indian woman from Monroe, Louisiana and raised three children and some cats and dogs, birds and fish. Iíve taught school, taught swimming, canoeing and sailing, knot tying, camping and astronomy for kids. Iíve water skied on canoe paddles, assorted bits of lumber and my elbows. I have a couple of canoes and a catamaran, 3 guitars, two banjos, a dulcimer, a mandolin, a fiddle, 2 recorders, a penny whistle, fife, a bag of harmonicas, a bodhrain, pair of bones and a jaw harp or two Ė all of which I play badly. Iíve helped start up 6 nonprofit organizations in 25 years and raised millions of dollars none of which ever managed to stick to my bank account. Iíve won awards for documentary screen-writing, published poetry and short stories and a book on how to organize a charity golf tournament. I was appointed to a two year term on the Public Transportation Advisory Committee for the Great State of Texas by the Governor and I work as an advocate for seniors, people with disabilities and low income families. Iím a Reagan conservative, which puzzles my fellow advocates, who think I should spontaneously combust from the sheer incongruity. On the other hand, Iíve taught them to speak Republican which has improved their rate of success with the state legislature. I am currently raising funds to expand Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge here in East Texas. My advocacy work includes childrenís issues, expanding public transportation, creating barrier free housing and promoting community wide accessibility standards that allow transportation challenged Texans to fully participate in their communities. I have three grandchildren, a son and daughter-in-law, my beautiful daughter and her new husband and we live on beautiful Lake Palestine near Tyler, Texas. My middle son, an amazing young man, passed away more than a year ago while finishing his senior year at UT Tyler. He was going to be a teacher. Since I wrote this, we moved away from the lake, lost almost everything and moved to Puyallup, Washington to live with my wife's sister and brother-in-law. In the midst of a recession and massive unemployment, it seemed to be the thing to do. We've cut our expenses drastically and I'm able to work on finishing up the books I have been working on.

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