Ya Got Trouble

"Ya Got Trouble" is a song by Meredith Willson from the 1957 Broadway musical The Music Man, and its 1962 filmed version. It is one of the most popular and recognizable songs in the musical, and Robert Preston's performance in the film is admired. Willson considered eliminating a long piece of dialogue from his draft of The Music Man about the serious trouble facing River City parents. Willson realized it sounded like a lyric and transformed it into "Ya Got Trouble".[1]

"Ya Got Trouble"
from the album The Music Man
Released1957 (1957)
GenreMusical theatre
Songwriter(s)Meredith Willson


A smooth-talking, yet corrupt, traveling salesman takes up the occupation of a musical-instrument dealer and tries to convince the citizens of River City, Iowa, to fund his idea for a boys' marching band by playing on their fears of youth corruption, represented by a new pocket pool table in the local billiard hall. The song is his slippery slope argument of what could happen should the citizens fail to recognize the danger and not follow his suggestion for a more wholesome activity. The song contains many types of invalid argumentation ("trouble starts with t, which rhymes with p, which stands for pool").

Title variations

The song is sometimes listed as "(Ya Got) Trouble".[2] The original Broadway cast album lists the song title as "Trouble", both on the record jacket and label. "You Got Trouble" is a common misspelling of the song title.

Notable covers

A fully arranged cover of the song appears on the 1967 eponymous debut album of the sunshine pop band Spanky and Our Gang.

A bar of the song's main chorus is featured in a mid-1970s episode of the children's TV series "The Electric Company." The song was part of a skit featuring an irritable police commissioner (Jim Boyd) and several of his inept recruits (Morgan Freeman, Luis Avalos and Skip Hinnant).

American humorist, satirist, and advertising innovator Stan Freberg covered the song for Capitol Records in 1958.[3] Though Freberg often directly parodied songs (or "kidded" them, in his phrase), his recording of "Ya Got Trouble" was a straightforward recording of the song, arranged and conducted by his longtime collaborator Billy May. Freberg wrote that the subtle parody in the recording lay in the fact that it was recorded in an empty concert hall, as were many Broadway soundtrack albums, with the characteristic echo of such large empty space. Also, during the 2010 Writers Guild Awards, Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy, did a parody of the song entitled "Ya Got Trouble" but it was about unscripted shows. MacFarlane also sang the song in his second BBC Proms appearance with The John Wilson Orchestra, "Prom 59: The Broadway Sound", on August 27, 2012.

In an episode of the 1980s TV series Fame, Morgan Stevens, in character as David Reardon, performed the selection with the assistances of some of the regular cast.

In an episode of the TV series The Simpsons, Marge vs. the Monorail, a fast-talking salesman named Lyle Lanley convinces the townspeople to buy a city monorail with a parody of this song.

When hosting the 58th Primetime Emmy Awards, Conan O'Brien sang a parody of the song about how NBC's ratings were starting to slip at the time.

In a 2016 episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, "Josh and I Work on a Case," the eponymous character Rebecca cajoles the tenants of an apartment complex to sue their landlord in a parody of this song entitled "Cold Showers Lead to Crack".


  1. Bloom, Ken and Vlastnik, Frank. Broadway Musicals: The 101 Greatest Shows of all Time, pp. 215-16. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, New York, 2004. ISBN 1-57912-390-2
  2. Hischak, T.S. (2008). The Oxford Companion to the American Musical: Theatre, Film, and Television. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 515. ISBN 9780195335330. Retrieved 2015-06-19.
  3. Evanier, Mark. "Stan Freberg Discography". Retrieved 2012-09-04.
  • The American Musical and the Formation of National Identity, Raymond Knapp. Princeton University Press, 2005
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