Old Joe Clark


Jon simply calls this, “An American old-timey song learnt on FSC. It’s probably a bit hackneyed in old-timey circles but its ubiquity is understandable.” I’ll simply direct you here as it’s all you’ll ever need to know about the song and much more. I must say I was expecting some fiddle here given the songs heritage, but it stands up well in its unadorned state.

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17 Responses to “Old Joe Clark”

  1. Reinhard says:

    Nice weird lyrics; and nobody gets seduced, abandoned or killed – are you sure this is a folk song? 😉

  2. SRD says:

    Interesting treatment. I remember it from ‘Singing Together’ although whether from my own schooldays or those of my younger siblings I don’t recall. It was one of the songs we would sing when gathered round Mother at the piano.

  3. Phil says:

    I wasn’t expecting to comment on this, but that was a terrific performance of a song that you wouldn’t expect to work unaccompanied – Jon really nailed the rhythm. More please and thankyou!

  4. LadyD says:

    Enjoyed this one.
    Been learning to play ‘old joe clark’ on fiddle (after only hearing it for first time last month). The words make the tune in my head make more sense. Hope it helps my playing.

  5. John says:

    I’ve never heard this unaccompanied before, but yes, it does work very well. I was lucky enough to see the late great American singer and banjo player Hedy West do this on stage at a folk club in Norwich back in the 1960s. But it wasn’t until last year that I bought her CD ‘Old Times and Hard Times’, which includes her version of ‘Old Joe Clark’.

  6. Reinhard says:

    … which has completely different lyrics than Jon’s. But then she wrote in her sleevenotes that there are 144 known verses of this song.

  7. Jane Ramsden says:

    “Nice weird lyrics; and nobody gets seduced, abandoned or killed – are you sure this is a folk song?”

    Spot on, Reinhard! But I note we all like it! Crackingly well-sung, Jon. I could imagine this accompanied in a number of ways, all good, but which might make it sound rather more ordinary than unaccompanied. This way you listen to the words more. Being a person with 12 cats, I just hope that cat did not wash its sins away by drowning in the buttermilk!

  8. Jane Ramsden says:

    Oh, I’ve just read the notes and he was not a very nice man! I fear for the cat! Methinks another version of the words is called for!

  9. Jane Ramsden says:

    As the link given in Admin Skyman’s notes above no longer works, here is another (or even the same – can’t remember!) to the song’s lyrics & background; and another version of it plays whilst you read ’em!


  10. Kathy says:

    I’m familiar with this tune, with similar lyrics, but known as “Shady Grove.” “Shady Grove, my little love/Shady Grove my darlin’/Shady Grove my little love/I’m bound for Shady Grove….Peaches in the summertime/Apples in the fall/If I can’t have the one I love/I won’t have none at all.” Interestingly, one of the subway lines here in DC is the “Shady Grove” line, and I can’t get on it without singing that song to myself.

  11. Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    What a finger-snappin’, toe-tappin’,head-noddin’,heart-liftin’ little tune this is.
    If you sing it………better hide the buttermilk as Old Joe tends to use it for strange things!

  12. Diana says:

    What a peculier song – not sure what to make of it. It sounds like it should be a duet but it doesn’t really qualify for that either. Very strange.

  13. Old Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Enjoyed Bellowhead ‘givin’ it some’ on Radio 2 this evening(Wednesday)

  14. […] Songs include: Bile Them Cabbage Down, Liza Jane, Shortnin’ Bread, Buffalo Gals, Shady Grove, Old Joe Clark, Sandy Boys, Gray Cat on an Old Tennessee Farm, Angeline the Baker, Oh Susanna Related […]

  15. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    First time I heard this song (many, many moons ago) it was played at break neck speed on a dulcimer…at the same manic pace that Fiddlers go…akin to Appalachian, foot-tappy type rhythm.

  16. Jane (Maryland, US) says:

    Alas, Jane R.’s link now just goes to a page with a lot of “lorem ipsum” text. Old Joe is an elusive fellow!

  17. OldMuzza(NW Surrey) Uk says:

    Just like Old Joe Clark….I’m still tappin’ away ( by myself mostly , it seems!)
    but I know that you are all out there …..

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