“Old Joe Clark” is an old mountain ballad from Kentucky and is one of the more popular traditional old time fiddle songs.
There actually was a real-life individual named Joseph Clark. According to a biography by Lisa Clark, Joe Clark was born in Clay County, Kentucky on September 18, 1839. He married Elizabeth (Betty) Sandlin when he was 17 and she was 15.
When the Civil War began, Joe was 22 years old and enlisted but became ill during the winter months and was discharged in 1862. After the war, he resumed farming and lived in the log house on Sextons Creek that had been built by his family.
He also operated a country store and ran a moonshine still, under license from the state. He sold his whiskey from an ox cart as well as at his store. Joe earned a notorious reputation in the local area, his wife left him around 1864. There are several stories surrounding his murder around 1885/1886. He is buried in the family cemetery on Sextons Creek.
Around that time there was popular tune which did not have lyrics, so some started making up rhymes to be sung with the tune. Others claim that the ballad came first and the melody later. There are estimated to now be about 90 stanzas in various versions of the song.
Some of the more popular lyrics are as follows:
Old Joe Clark’s a fine old man Tell you the reason why He keeps good likker ’round his house Good old Rock and Rye
Old Joe Clark, the preacher’s son Preached all over the plain The only text he ever knew Was High, low, Jack and the game
Sixteen horses in my team The leaders they are blind And every time the sun goes down There’s a pretty girl on my mind
Old Joe Clark had a yellow cat She would neither sing or pray She stuck her head in the butermilk jar And washed her sins away
Old Joe Clark had a house Fifteen stories high And every story in that house Was filled with chicken pie
I went down to Old Joe’s house He invited me to supper I stumped my toe on the table leg And stuck my nose in the butter
Fare ye well, Old Joe Clark Fare ye well, I say Fare ye well, Old Joe Clark I’m a going away
If you pay attention, you’ll notice early in the song I get off from where the guitar is and also where my bow slips on the E-string a bit (oops….screeeeech!!!). Later in the song I relax and it sounds a little better. I have a lot to learn about old time fiddle shuffling with my bow.
Considering I began to teach myself this tune only two weeks ago and I’m still a beginner with a great deal to learn- it’s not too bad.
I’ve played guitar and clawhammer banjo for over 20 years. You can see some of them hanging on the wall behind me. I enjoy all of my instruments but I just LOVE the fiddle. It’s a beautiful delicate little instrument with such a lovely expressive voice.
I’ll post more videos of new songs as I learn them. As my fiddling gets better, I might even repost new videos of the same songs so you can see how I’m improving.
This entry was posted on February 10, 2013 by Tom. It was filed under Uncategorized .
"In the process of completely exhausting myself, I connect with an inner part of me ordinarily veiled by the everyday distractions of life. During that short time spent on a trail in the mountains, my life is reduced to its simplest terms. Most ultrarunners are people who find goodness and joy in difficult times, who see beyond the misery to the beauty of nature, and who truly realize the elemental and important aspects of life. Going for a run always clears my head... but running 100 miles distills my soul."
Keith Knipling - RUNNING THROUGH THE WALL