What's your story of hearing, learning or playing Woman With A Chainsaw?

This song is fascinating because it has spread around the globe in the old-fashioned way, mostly from person-to-person...not through recorded media.
I learned this song in the early 80s. There's a bit of my story,  and how Elizabeth May got involved below. 

However, what's your story of this fabulous song?

To get the ball rolling, here's what composer Peter Krug has to say about this, from Mudcat.org:

"I wrote Chainsaw in the fall of 1976 while cutting firewood with a borrowed chainsaw and brooding over the prospect of being single and facing a cold, soggy winter. As I sawed away the two unrelated things merged into a song. I thought it'd be a fun little ditty to sing at parties, but it got away from me."

So, what's your tale?  Read and add to this discussion. 

11 comments

  • Alan Bates

    Alan Bates Salmon Arm, British Columbia, Canada

    Hey Remy - Thanks for promoting this song and setting up this site to collect stories about this great folk tune! I already have two versions of 'Chainsaw' posted on youtube - One with my kids years ago (sorry I can't sing very well) and a more recent version with my band 'The Headless DeadBeats' which fortunately includes some folk who can actually sing! (both of these are on your playlist - see jackthedogdog). I first learned the song while working as an apprentice guide at Strathcona Park Lodge Outdoor Education Centre on Vancouver Island in 1982. It was taught to me by a Quebecois woman named Lyse Clement who later worked for the CBC I think. She had learned it from another 'Strathie' that predated me, I can't remember his name. I adapted the Em-A in the verses to a little more bluesy walk-up with a pull off (it is a blues song after all!) After I was 'disLodged', I went to work several summers as a whitewater rafting guide in Lytton BC, as well as Europe and New Zealand. There was generally always a guitar around on any overnight raft trips, so.... along with pounding out some Bo Diddley rhythms, this song became a favourite and 'most requested' around the nightly campfires. Hence, it has been heard and appreciated all around the world (even before the internet), most people assuming it was a Canadian tune (Sorry Peter). A lot of other river guides and paddlers (who also played guitar) picked it up from me and thus it was passed on (this includes Robin Tivy who is also on your playlist). Friends have also used the tune and easily adaptable lyrics to create other fun versions (as did Sir Lixalot). Until I checked out your playlist, I hadn't realized Peter Krug had posted a video of himself performing the song. It was nice to see him playing the song the way it was originally intended! There have been some changes made along the grapevine for sure, but all in all it is remarkable how true to the original the song has remained. I'm sure if enough people who know the song posted their story on this site, we could almost trace the songs lineage over the past 40 years. A cool idea to pursue for what was a true folk song. I will pass on your link to others I know that may be interested.

    Hey Remy - Thanks for promoting this song and setting up this site to collect stories about this great folk tune!

    I already have two versions of 'Chainsaw' posted on youtube - One with my kids years ago (sorry I can't sing very well) and a more recent version with my band 'The Headless DeadBeats' which fortunately includes some folk who can actually sing! (both of these are on your playlist - see jackthedogdog).

    I first learned the song while working as an apprentice guide at Strathcona Park Lodge Outdoor Education Centre on Vancouver Island in 1982. It was taught to me by a Quebecois woman named Lyse Clement who later worked for the CBC I think. She had learned it from another 'Strathie' that predated me, I can't remember his name.

    I adapted the Em-A in the verses to a little more bluesy walk-up with a pull off (it is a blues song after all!)

    After I was 'disLodged', I went to work several summers as a whitewater rafting guide in Lytton BC, as well as Europe and New Zealand. There was generally always a guitar around on any overnight raft trips, so.... along with pounding out some Bo Diddley rhythms, this song became a favourite and 'most requested' around the nightly campfires. Hence, it has been heard and appreciated all around the world (even before the internet), most people assuming it was a Canadian tune (Sorry Peter). A lot of other river guides and paddlers (who also played guitar) picked it up from me and thus it was passed on (this includes Robin Tivy who is also on your playlist). Friends have also used the tune and easily adaptable lyrics to create other fun versions (as did Sir Lixalot).

    Until I checked out your playlist, I hadn't realized Peter Krug had posted a video of himself performing the song. It was nice to see him playing the song the way it was originally intended! There have been some changes made along the grapevine for sure, but all in all it is remarkable how true to the original the song has remained.

    I'm sure if enough people who know the song posted their story on this site, we could almost trace the songs lineage over the past 40 years. A cool idea to pursue for what was a true folk song. I will pass on your link to others I know that may be interested.

  • Morris Lamrock

    Morris Lamrock Whitehorse

    Ah yes, The Strathcona Park Lodge, truly fertile ground for swapping stories, tall tales and bluesy ballads of lonely men seeking sustenance. I too must give credit to lovely Lyse for acquainting me with the profundity inherent in this searching song. Like you Alan, it has stuck with me, followed me around even and expressed itself in the most unusual of environments. For many years we travelled well together, finally finding a home and thus sending down roots in the Yukon, where I did indeed "find me a woman with a chainsaw". Low and behold the song had already migrated north. In fact I hold it solely responsible for fostering more than a few long lasting friendships and landing me a long term gig in the land of the midnight sun. (playing it was part of the job interview). So, delighted that Remy found another woman...... chainsaw equipped, with a penchant for politics; and that this piece of art continues to gather fine folks around itself (Alan B. and Susie R. to name just two).

    Ah yes, The Strathcona Park Lodge, truly fertile ground for swapping stories, tall tales and bluesy ballads of lonely men seeking sustenance. I too must give credit to lovely Lyse for acquainting me with the profundity inherent in this searching song.

    Like you Alan, it has stuck with me, followed me around even and expressed itself in the most unusual of environments. For many years we travelled well together, finally finding a home and thus sending down roots in the Yukon, where I did indeed "find me a woman with a chainsaw". Low and behold the song had already migrated north.

    In fact I hold it solely responsible for fostering more than a few long lasting friendships and landing me a long term gig in the land of the midnight sun. (playing it was part of the job interview). So, delighted that Remy found another woman...... chainsaw equipped, with a penchant for politics; and that this piece of art continues to gather fine folks around itself (Alan B. and Susie R. to name just two).

  • Remy Rodden

    Remy Rodden

    What follows are comments from Michael Hagen, sent to me in an email a few years back. We just reconnected and he gave me permission to post his notes here: ****I was searching the web for Peter Krug's song 'Looking for a Woman with a Chainsaw' to send to a woman friend going out today to cut her Christmas tree. Your version at the Yukon Arts Centre was the best out there BTW! I wanted to clarify a couple of the lyrics you had for this song. This song was on an LP that was produced by a local radio station called the Sounds of Sonoma. I played piano on a different song off the same album, but with the same group of musicians he used, friends of mine. No record player to re listen to it, but one of these days I'll digitize it. ON to the lyrics: I put an ad down at the Co-op, a notice on the stump, Corrected: "I put a sign up at the Co-op, and ad in the Stump" The Co-op in Gurneville CA had a large bulletin board outside-this is where locals would put posters, signs up. The Stump was a local newspaper out of Gurneville. In the 1880's most of the virgin redwood trees were cut down to build houses in San Francisco bay area. Gurneville in those days was called Stumptown. "With stereo and 4-wheel drive to pull us through the muck" OK, that's the cleaned up version! Originally he sang "Eleven pounds of Mendocino Thunder Fuck", obviously referring to the cash crop of N.Calif. This verse you don't have at all, taken in print from here http://www.wtv-zone.com/phyrst/audio/nfld/11/chainsaw.htm "Oh, you big city women in your Calvin Klein clothes, Ain't much good when the ground gets froze; I need a tough country mama, to help me chop my wood, And when I find her, I'm gonna treat her good." This is not correct either. As I recall he sang: "Oh you big city women in your I Magin clothes Are pretty useless when the ground is froze..." and: "A dozen cords of firewood sure would be nice" sung as: "A dozen cords of firewood would make it oh so nice" Most of the time he would sing that he's "Looking for a woman with a chainsaw". Now you have to understand that Peter was pretty loose with the words--maybe a bit to much MTF or something....:-) So, not all of this is Gospel. He would sing La Bamba -- like 20 verses of it in Spanish -- no one could understand what he was singing...because he made up his own version of Spanish!! Just fake it. Anyway, I saw him a couple years ago in downtown Cotati here in Sonoma County playing in a booth that was set up at a little farmers market. So he's still around somewhere. But pretty much doesn't gig anymore. Keep up your fine singing and all. I enjoy your style and voice. And since it's that time of year, have a Happy and Merry Everything!! Michael ****

    What follows are comments from Michael Hagen, sent to me in an email a few years back. We just reconnected and he gave me permission to post his notes here:

    ****I was searching the web for Peter Krug's song 'Looking for a Woman with a Chainsaw' to send to a woman friend going out today to cut her Christmas tree. Your version at the Yukon Arts Centre was the best out there BTW!

    I wanted to clarify a couple of the lyrics you had for this song. This song was on an LP that was produced by a local radio station called the Sounds of Sonoma. I played piano on a different song off the same album, but with the same group of musicians he used, friends of mine. No record player to re listen to it, but one of these days I'll digitize it.

    ON to the lyrics:

    I put an ad down at the Co-op, a notice on the stump,

    Corrected:
    "I put a sign up at the Co-op, and ad in the Stump"

    The Co-op in Gurneville CA had a large bulletin board outside-this is where locals would put posters, signs up. The Stump was a local newspaper out of Gurneville. In the 1880's most of the virgin redwood trees were cut down to build houses in San Francisco bay area. Gurneville in those days was called Stumptown.

    "With stereo and 4-wheel drive to pull us through the muck"

    OK, that's the cleaned up version! Originally he sang "Eleven pounds of Mendocino Thunder Fuck", obviously referring to the cash crop of N.Calif.

    This verse you don't have at all, taken in print from here
    http://www.wtv-zone.com/phyrst/audio/nfld/11/chainsaw.htm

    "Oh, you big city women in your Calvin Klein clothes,
    Ain't much good when the ground gets froze;
    I need a tough country mama, to help me chop my wood,
    And when I find her, I'm gonna treat her good."

    This is not correct either. As I recall he sang:
    "Oh you big city women in your I Magin clothes
    Are pretty useless when the ground is froze..."

    and:
    "A dozen cords of firewood sure would be nice"
    sung as:
    "A dozen cords of firewood would make it oh so nice"

    Most of the time he would sing that he's "Looking for a woman with a chainsaw".

    Now you have to understand that Peter was pretty loose with the words--maybe a bit to much MTF or something....:-) So, not all of this is Gospel. He would sing La Bamba -- like 20 verses of it in Spanish -- no one could understand what he was singing...because he made up his own version of Spanish!! Just fake it.

    Anyway, I saw him a couple years ago in downtown Cotati here in Sonoma County playing in a booth that was set up at a little farmers market. So he's still around somewhere.

    But pretty much doesn't gig anymore.

    Keep up your fine singing and all. I enjoy your style and voice.

    And since it's that time of year, have a Happy and Merry Everything!!

    Michael ****

  • Remy Rodden

    Remy Rodden

    I learned "Woman With A Chainsaw" in 1983 as a university student in Kingston, Ontario from a woman who had worked at Strathcona Park Lodge (not Lyse Clement). The song was attributed to Faith Petric. Since then I've literally played the song on every continent, never questioning the authorship until I was getting serious about recording the tune. A bit of research in 2007 found a thread on Mudcatcafe.org which underscores the contributor's love for the tune and the mystery around its origins, and...Peter Krug confirmed (by himself) as the writer of this well-traveled tune. My day job is environmental education, and I've become known for this song at various professional gatherings over the years. One prominent colleague loved the song instantly, had me sing it in some supposedly serious meetings, and has been bringing songsheets and leading singalongs at conferences for the last 15 years!! Re: Elizabeth May's involvement. One summer a long while back I received an email from a colleague who had seen the Rick Mercer segment with Elizabeth, thought she would love the song, and supplied me with her email address. It took a while, but I finally sent a quick recording to her and she loved it! I've been planning this video for a long time, and connected with Elizabeth during her visit to Whitehorse with the Save Democracy From Politics tour in 2013. The footage you see in the video was filmed one Saturday morning at Baked Café , with the chainsaw subtly brought into the establishment in a large plastic bag.

    I learned "Woman With A Chainsaw" in 1983 as a university student in Kingston, Ontario from a woman who had worked at Strathcona Park Lodge (not Lyse Clement). The song was attributed to Faith Petric.

    Since then I've literally played the song on every continent, never questioning the authorship until I was getting serious about recording the tune. A bit of research in 2007 found a thread on Mudcatcafe.org which underscores the contributor's love for the tune and the mystery around its origins, and...Peter Krug confirmed (by himself) as the writer of this well-traveled tune.

    My day job is environmental education, and I've become known for this song at various professional gatherings over the years. One prominent colleague loved the song instantly, had me sing it in some supposedly serious meetings, and has been bringing songsheets and leading singalongs at conferences for the last 15 years!!

    Re: Elizabeth May's involvement. One summer a long while back I received an email from a colleague who had seen the Rick Mercer segment with Elizabeth, thought she would love the song, and supplied me with her email address. It took a while, but I finally sent a quick recording to her and she loved it!

    I've been planning this video for a long time, and connected with Elizabeth during her visit to Whitehorse with the Save Democracy From Politics tour in 2013. The footage you see in the video was filmed one Saturday morning at Baked Café , with the chainsaw subtly brought into the establishment in a large plastic bag.

  • Alice Fitzwater

    Alice Fitzwater Santa Rosa, CA

    Hi all: I used to perform this song many years ago ('79/early 80's) around Sonoma County with Peter Krug (the songwriter) in a band called the Transatlantic string band; also in Murphy's Law. Later recorded it on the Sonoma Soundtrack LP.

    Hi all: I used to perform this song many years ago ('79/early 80's) around Sonoma County with Peter Krug (the songwriter) in a band called the Transatlantic string band; also in Murphy's Law. Later recorded it on the Sonoma Soundtrack LP.

  • Alan Bates

    Alan Bates Salmon Arm

    So, I for years credited the song to 'Faith Petrie' - obviously from the same source at Strathcona as Remy (somehow the 'c' looked liked an 'e' on my copy). I always thought it was ironic that the song had been penned by a woman! I was teaching a band (Birchbark) here in Salmon Arm the song to perform at my wife's 40th birthday (2002), when a band member pointed out that the composer was probably 'Faith Petric', not 'Petrie'. He (the band member) was an American and was familiar with Faith's music. She apparently sang lots of funny, folksy songs and that seemed to fit the bill nicely. I got on the internet (early days then) but couldn't find any reference to the song in her repertoire of material. However, I eventually (2006) I stumbled on the 'mudcat' site and found the real composer to be Peter Krug. Sorry for all those years of incorrect credit! That's also when I first heard of the other verse (i.e. Calvin Cline/I Magin clothes). Apparently Faith did record a song of Peter's called Geritol Gypsy - likely another funny tune so there was a connection between the two. The Mudcat site also indicated that Peter had recorded a version of the song on a promotional CD for Sonoma County called Sonoma Soundtrack. Somebody eventually sent me that recording in response to my first youtube posting. After 28 years of playing the song, I finally heard the original! There is also a great recording of the song available by Motherlode - an all-woman group of talented musicians based out of Bellingham, WA. I wish I could remember the name of the guy at Strathcona who taught it to Lyse, I did meet him once. He is the key to following the trail of connections for the song pre-Strathcona!

    So, I for years credited the song to 'Faith Petrie' - obviously from the same source at Strathcona as Remy (somehow the 'c' looked liked an 'e' on my copy). I always thought it was ironic that the song had been penned by a woman! I was teaching a band (Birchbark) here in Salmon Arm the song to perform at my wife's 40th birthday (2002), when a band member pointed out that the composer was probably 'Faith Petric', not 'Petrie'. He (the band member) was an American and was familiar with Faith's music. She apparently sang lots of funny, folksy songs and that seemed to fit the bill nicely.

    I got on the internet (early days then) but couldn't find any reference to the song in her repertoire of material. However, I eventually (2006) I stumbled on the 'mudcat' site and found the real composer to be Peter Krug. Sorry for all those years of incorrect credit! That's also when I first heard of the other verse (i.e. Calvin Cline/I Magin clothes). Apparently Faith did record a song of Peter's called Geritol Gypsy - likely another funny tune so there was a connection between the two. The Mudcat site also indicated that Peter had recorded a version of the song on a promotional CD for Sonoma County called Sonoma Soundtrack. Somebody eventually sent me that recording in response to my first youtube posting. After 28 years of playing the song, I finally heard the original!

    There is also a great recording of the song available by Motherlode - an all-woman group of talented musicians based out of Bellingham, WA. I wish I could remember the name of the guy at Strathcona who taught it to Lyse, I did meet him once. He is the key to following the trail of connections for the song pre-Strathcona!

  • Remy Rodden

    Remy Rodden

    Faith Petric passed away in 2013 at the age of 98. I always pictured her as a young woman but obviously she was already almost 70 by the time I learned Woman With A Chainsaw. Obituary Incidentally, I visited Strathcona Park Lodge around 1985 or 1986 and did my first bar gig in the lounge at the lodge. Of course I sang the chainsaw song. I remember being without a harmonica holder and fashioning one out of some duct tape, some copper wire and a bucket handle. Actually used that for years after!

    Faith Petric passed away in 2013 at the age of 98. I always pictured her as a young woman but obviously she was already almost 70 by the time I learned Woman With A Chainsaw. Obituary

    Incidentally, I visited Strathcona Park Lodge around 1985 or 1986 and did my first bar gig in the lounge at the lodge. Of course I sang the chainsaw song. I remember being without a harmonica holder and fashioning one out of some duct tape, some copper wire and a bucket handle. Actually used that for years after!

  • Nancy

    Nancy Seattle

    I heard it sung by a group of women folksingers in Seattle in the 1980's. I think they were the Streethearts. They were feminists and at least some of them were lesbians, and I assumed it was a lesbian song.

    I heard it sung by a group of women folksingers in Seattle in the 1980's. I think they were the Streethearts. They were feminists and at least some of them were lesbians, and I assumed it was a lesbian song.

  • Maylorie Townsend

    Maylorie Townsend Portland, Oregon

    I remember when My Dad, Peter Krug, wrote this song, I was 8 years old. Every summer when he would come to visit or when I would go visit him in Geurneville, I would always get my song time, where I would make my preferred playlist. He would also play for me and my brothers, and for my friends when they would come over. Of all his original songs, this song was always on the top of my list, along with Bullethole Blues, It's a Miracle, and Chicken On The Highway. I remember when I was in high school in the early 1980s, Woman With A Chainsaw became very popular among lesbian folk singers when the band Motherlode first toured playing it, although they did not record it until their Live and Laughing album in 1999. We went to see them play at the Old Wife's Tale restaurant, in Portland, back in I believe it would have been 1983. They did a great job performing the song and at the end they gave credit to my father who was in the audience. After that time the song spread throughout the lesbian community. Since we are a very liberal-minded family we thought it was so exciting that it was being re-branded as a lesbian song. My father was actually quite proud of that. As I can see from this site, and from everyone's stories, this song has spread throughout many communities, all over North America. Thank you for your stories. We, his family and friends, have all been very sad since he passed away 11/23/16. The memorial will be on January 29, 2017 from 12:00 noon to 6:00 p.m., at the Muir Woods Park Community Clubhouse, at 40 Ridge Ave, Mill Valley. Ca. Please bring any or all of the following: something for the potluck, musical contributions and/or Peter stories (or stories about his music) that we can record. Thank you again for keeping the history of his original musical creations alive with your stories!

    I remember when My Dad, Peter Krug, wrote this song, I was 8 years old. Every summer when he would come to visit or when I would go visit him in Geurneville, I would always get my song time, where I would make my preferred playlist. He would also play for me and my brothers, and for my friends when they would come over. Of all his original songs, this song was always on the top of my list, along with Bullethole Blues, It's a Miracle, and Chicken On The Highway.

    I remember when I was in high school in the early 1980s, Woman With A Chainsaw became very popular among lesbian folk singers when the band Motherlode first toured playing it, although they did not record it until their Live and Laughing album in 1999.

    We went to see them play at the Old Wife's Tale restaurant, in Portland, back in I believe it would have been 1983. They did a great job performing the song and at the end they gave credit to my father who was in the audience. After that time the song spread throughout the lesbian community. Since we are a very liberal-minded family we thought it was so exciting that it was being re-branded as a lesbian song. My father was actually quite proud of that.

    As I can see from this site, and from everyone's stories, this song has spread throughout many communities, all over North America. Thank you for your stories.

    We, his family and friends, have all been very sad since he passed away 11/23/16. The memorial will be on January 29, 2017 from 12:00 noon to 6:00 p.m., at the Muir Woods Park Community Clubhouse, at 40 Ridge Ave, Mill Valley. Ca. Please bring any or all of the following:
    something for the potluck, musical contributions and/or Peter stories (or stories about his music) that we can record.

    Thank you again for keeping the history of his original musical creations alive with your stories!

  • Remy Rodden

    Remy Rodden

    Maylorie, so sorry to hear of your father's passing. He sure has left a fine legacy with some really great songs. We will be at the memorial in spirit, and will always think of Peter when we sing the chainsaw song!

    Maylorie, so sorry to hear of your father's passing. He sure has left a fine legacy with some really great songs.
    We will be at the memorial in spirit, and will always think of Peter when we sing the chainsaw song!

  • John Kidder

    John Kidder Ashcroft, BC

    Well, late to this party, for sure. I am a collector and singer of odd funny songs (so say my friends) and this one would have fit the bill precisely. But, NOW I am engaged to marry Elizabeth herself, and she sent me a link to Peter on Youtube. Wonderful. It's especially good, because I was getting awfully tired of being solely responsible for the firewood here.

    Well, late to this party, for sure. I am a collector and singer of odd funny songs (so say my friends) and this one would have fit the bill precisely.

    But, NOW I am engaged to marry Elizabeth herself, and she sent me a link to Peter on Youtube. Wonderful.

    It's especially good, because I was getting awfully tired of being solely responsible for the firewood here.

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