We Three Kings

There are reports of this one working its way from the playground to the classroom as an anti-smoking lesson:

We three kings of oil and tar
tried to smoke a smelly cigar
it was loaded, it exploded
now we are orbiting mars

Dates to at least the early 1950s – if anything, I’d say this is heard more often than the source, “We Three Kings of Orient Are.”

In the 1970s, Iona Opie picked up this version, which actually has the chorus, in the UK:

We three kings of Leicester Square
selling ladies underwear
how fantastic, no elastic
not very safe to wear
O, star of wonder, star of light
the royal knickers caught alight
how fantastic, no elastic
guide me to the traffic lights

I’d be interested to see if this one made it to the States.

LOTS of variations – add the ones you sang in the comments!

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24 Comments

  1. Baby Manatee

    We three kings of orient are
    Trying to smoke a rubber cigar
    It was loaded it exploded……
    …we two kings of orient are…

    Heard it about 10 years ago from my friend, Jackie, she grew up in Cleavland, OH

    Reply
  2. Paul

    My parents moved from London area to Canada, and I can remember my mother singing this when we were kids, a slight variation of what you have posted:

    We three kings of Butternut Square
    Selling ladies' underwear
    They're fantastic, no elastic
    Why don't you buy a pair?

    Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, 1970s

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    We three kings of orient are
    One in a taxi, one in a car
    One on a scooter, blowing his hooter
    Smoking a pink/big cigar

    North West England early 2000's

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    We three kings of orient are
    One in a taxi, one in a car
    One on a scooter, blowing his hooter
    Smoking a big cigar

    South Africa (1970s)

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    I can only remember parodies of We Three Kings that were two lines long…

    We three kings of Orient are
    tried to smoke a rubber cigar

    and

    We three kings of Orient are
    tried to play a steel guitar

    (Minnesota 2000s)

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    Redondo Beach CA 1967
    We three kings of orient are
    tried to light a rubber cigar
    It was loaded, it exploded
    All the way up to the moon

    Reply
  7. Anonymous

    we three kings of orient are
    selling ladies panties and bras
    no elastic so fantastic
    25 cents a pair

    (Zimbabwe1980s)

    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    We three kings of Leicester Square
    Selling knickers two pence a pair
    They're fantastic, no elastic
    Buy your granny a pair!

    (South Africa in the early 1990s, but learned out of an imported UK joke book. It wasn't one I ever heard fom my friends)

    Reply
  9. Anonymous

    Los Angeles 50's – 60's

    We three kings of orient are
    Dared to smoke a rubber cigar
    It was loaded,
    It exploded
    Now there are only two

    Etc

    Reply
  10. Anonymous

    We three kings of Orient are
    Tried to smoke a rubber cigar
    It was loaded, we exploded
    Spreading ash afar.

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    We three kings of Orient are
    Smoking on a rubber cigar.
    It was loaded and exploded,
    Now we three kings are no more.

    One of my favorites as a child in late '80s Oregon; although I first heard it from my father who was born in Pittsburgh in 1950, so I'm assuming he'd have heard it there in the '50s or '60s.

    Reply
  12. Shadow

    In Australia in the 90s the version I heard was

    We three kings of Leicester Square
    Selling Grandma's underwear
    So fantastic, no elastic
    Only a penny a pair.

    This means that either it predates 14th February 1966 when we changed from pounds etc to dollars and cents, or it was imported from the UK/US and never got changed, regardless of when it arrived.

    Australia has a particularly unique relationship with Christmas songs, as obviously it is summer, and so much of the lyrics and sentiments make no sense. This has given rise to a rich parody culture and so we had for example "Rusty Holden Ute" to the tune of "Jingle Bells" or a song called "Six White Boomers" where Santa had to change his reindeer for kangaroos, and take off his stuffy jacket and thick boots when he got here!

    Reply
  13. John Hanson

    60's version in Northern Michigan:

    We three kings of oil and tar
    Smoking on a rubber cigar
    it was loaded it exploaded
    now we are no more…
    OOOH sounds of thunder
    Flash of light
    Blown to bits this star lit night.

    Reply
  14. John Hanson

    And thats as far as my grade school friends and I could get before the Music teacher kicked us out of class :)

    Reply
  15. Anna Murakami

    We three kings of oil and tar
    Tried to smoke a rubber cigar
    It was loaded. It exploded.
    That was the end of the kings.

    Reply
  16. Howard Barnes

    I remember singing this in school playground in mid 1950's in London.

    Reply
  17. Howard Barnes

    I remember singing this in school playground in mid 1950's in London.

    Reply
  18. Kirkepiscatoid

    Northeast Missouri, mid 1960's:

    We three kings of orient are,
    Tryin' to smoke a rubber cigar.
    It was loaded and it exploded
    That's how we got this far.

    Reply
  19. Ariadne S.

    I heard it from my father whose Jamaican:

    We three kings of curry and rye,
    Tried to smoke a rotten cigar.
    One on a bicycle, two on a tricycle,
    Three on a donkey cart.

    Reply
  20. alice cullen

    we 3 kings are all wearing bras
    we have dead bodies in the backs of our cars
    more in the basement please don’t look
    because it’s really dark

    Reply
  21. HotWax93

    We three kings of Orient are,
    Smoking on a rubber cigar,
    It was loaded and exploded,
    Now we see only stars.

    Reply
  22. Yuuki

    We three kings of Orient are
    On our way to a concert
    Madison Square Garden, Radio City
    We’re seeing Ringo Starr

    My mom made that up in 2001-2004

    Reply
  23. A. MacHugh

    We three kings of orient far
    Tried to smoke a rubber cigar
    It was loaded, it exploded
    BOOM! Went the rubber cigar.

    Reply
  24. A. MacHugh

    And then it goes….

    We two kings of orient far
    Tried to smoke a rubber cigar
    It was loaded, it exploded
    BOOM! Went the rubber cigar.

    I the king of orient far
    Tried to smoke a rubber cigar
    It was loaded, it exploded
    BOOM! Went the rubber cigar.

    And then there wasn’t any more signing because all the kings died. I would think that the second two would have learned their lesson… But I guess they weren’t the brightest. :-)

    Reply

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