Who wrote ‘Wheels on the Bus’ and what are the full lyrics?

2 August 2021, 12:46

The full history and lyrics of 'Wheels on the Bus'
The full history and lyrics of 'Wheels on the Bus'. Picture: Alamy

By Rosie Pentreath

We explore the history, origins and lyrics of the popular 1930s American folk song for children.

‘Wheels on the Bus’ is a popular nursery rhyme, telling of the various aspects of a bus trip.

From the ‘round and round’ turn of the wheels and ‘swish swish swish’ of the windscreen wipers, to the ‘beep beep beep’ of the horn, the song evokes for attentive children all the separate elements they may experience riding a bus through town.

There are dance moves kids can learn too.

But who wrote the popular rhyme, and what are the origins of the provokingly catchy song?

Join us as we take a ride through the song’s history…

Read more: The surprising musical origins of ‘Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall’

Who wrote ‘Wheels on the Bus’?

‘Wheels on the Bus’ is attributed to Verna Hills, and was published in 1939.

It is an American folk song for children, popular in America, Canada, the UK and Australia, designed to keep young ones amused on long bus rides.

It has a cheerful, rhythmic melody that’s repeated again and again, and used throughout several verses – the final of which sees parents saying “shh, shh, shh”. You’ve got to applaud the ingenuity of the device being utilised there... *chuckles*.

The melody is closely based on the similarly rhythmic and repetitive British children’s song, ‘Here we go Round the Mulberry Bush’.

What is the history of the popular children’s song?

The song was published in Milton Bradley’s volume 25 of primary school teachers’ magazine, American Childhood in 1939, attributed to Verna Hills of Boston, Massachusetts.

The song has remained popular and has been translated into several languages.

The words of ‘Wheels on the Bus’ have also been adapted into new musical versions – including by Canadian children’s entertainer Raffi, who set it to the tune of the traditional American song ‘Buffalo Gals’, and by Madonna impersonator Mad Donna, AKA Michelle Chappel, who sampled a Madonna song behind it to make a 2002 hit single.

Read more: ‘Old MacDonald Had a Farm’ in the style of Beethoven is a stroke of genius

What are the lyrics to ‘Wheels on the Bus’?

The wheels on the bus go round and round
Round and round
Round and round
The wheels on the bus go round and round
All ‘round the town

The wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish
Swish, swish, swish
Swish, swish, swish
The wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish
All ‘round the town

The driver on the bus goes ‘move on back’
Move on back
Move on back
The driver on the bus goes ‘move on back’
All ‘round the town

The people on the bus go up and down
Up and down
Up and down
The people on the bus go up and down
All ‘round the town

The horn on the bus goes beep, beep, beep
Beep, beep, beep
Beep, beep, beep
The horn on the bus goes beep, beep, beep
All ‘round the town

The baby on the bus goes 'whaa whaa whaa'
whaa whaa whaa
whaa whaa whaa
The baby on the bus goes ‘whaa whaa whaa’
All ‘round the town

The parents on the bus go ‘shh, shh, shh’
Shh, shh, shh
Shh, shh, shh
The parents on the bus go ‘shh, shh, shh’
All ‘round the town