Up on Cripple Creek

Having suffered from it myself, I recognized this syndrome at once:

I’m reading Dustbury this morning which leads to What do you do with a drunken sailor? which I haven’t heard in a zillion years, which leads me to the Roud Folk Song Index, which leads to my making a list of all the tunes I recognize from the list in Wikipedia. The full list has a zillion entries, but the Wikipedia page only lists about 750. Most of them I have never heard of, but then I see one I had forgotten about, which leads to looking at the next page, which leads to another tune I had forgotten about, and so I ended up reading all the way to the end.

To encourage further exploration, here are factoids regarding a few of the songs he mentions:

  • Olivia Newton-John recorded “Banks of the Ohio” back in 1971. It was a hit in Britain and Australia, but not in the States, even in Ohio. (On the other hand, her cover of Dylan’s “If Not For You” went over well Stateside.)
  • Johnny and the Hurricanes reworked “Blue-Tail Fly” into the rockin’ “Beatnik Fly.”
  • Speaking of the Blue-Tail Fly, Tom Lehrer used it to poke fun at “The Folk-Song Army,” who regard “innocuous” folk songs with scorn: “The folks who sing ’em have no social conscience / Why, they don’t even care if Jimmie crack corn.”
  • “There Was a Crooked Man,” retitled “Don’t Let the Rain Come Down,” was a 1964 hit for the Serendipity Singers.
  • Allan Sherman contributed this bit:

    On top of old Smokey
    All covered with hair
    Of course I’m referring
    To Smokey the Bear

    It’s in the same medley as this classic.

  • A record of “My Bonnie” was the first waxing involving the Beatles, though on that late-’61 disk they were serving as backup for singer Tony Sheridan. (The B-side: “The Saints,” as in “when The Saints go marching in.”) This wasn’t the first rock version, though: Duane Eddy twanged his way through something he called “Bonnie Came Back,” which charted in early 1960. That Sheridan/Beatles thing remained buried in the US until 1964, when suddenly anything the Beatles had had anything to do with became eminently salable.

Incidentally, the Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek” — “a drunkard’s dream if I ever did see one” — has no discernible connection to the old Appalachian folk number.


  1. Dan Collins »

    4 November 2011 · 11:29 am

    I’d have to say of The Band, that they created a retro-folk music that never was, but should have been.

  2. CGHill »

    4 November 2011 · 11:40 am

    That’s a good way of putting it. The Band was pure Americana, despite being mostly Canadian; however, roots off center are roots just the same.

  3. canadienne »

    4 November 2011 · 4:26 pm

    Most of The Band started out with Ronnie Hawkins, though.

  4. CGHill »

    4 November 2011 · 4:29 pm

    Well, he did organize them (except for Robbie Robertson) into a band before they were The Band. Then again, the Hawk, while he was born in Arkansas, was better-known in and around Toronto.

  5. Roger Green »

    4 November 2011 · 8:35 pm

    I hated the fact that, on the Beatles Anthology 1, there’s talking in the intro to My Bonnie. i mean, why?

  6. CGHill »

    4 November 2011 · 9:14 pm

    Probably because the video version contains the same yakking.

  7. canadienne »

    5 November 2011 · 3:25 pm

    It’s interesting, the influence The Hawk had on Canadian music and bands. Probably his influence has a lot to do with, as you said, The Band was “pure Americana.” But he’s a Canadian now (albeit one who doesn’t say “oot and aboot” like the rest of us are reputed to) and even has a star on the Canadian Walk of Fame.

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