On Top of Old Smokey

On Top of Old Smokeyis a song many of my residents enjoy singing. The song is an American folk song, which was passed down through the generations.

Only when these songs began to be written down around the early 20th Century, was the song preserved for prosperity.

Throughout the years of World War I, Cecil Sharp, an English folklorist, made three summer trips across the Appalachian Mountains and wrote down and recorded many of the songs he and his partner, Maud Karpeles, came across.

On July 29, 1916, Miss Memory Shelton of Allegheny {Madison County}, North Carolina sung the song, which the duo recorded. The version she sang had twelve stanzas.

Sharp and Karpeles published the song in a collection of their folk song field work in 1917 and again as a compendium of Sharp’s work in 1932, following his death.

Other musicologist working to preserve the music of the Appalachian mountains, came across the song and published it, including E. C. Perrow in 1915. Each version has it’s own variations and local flavor.

The first commercial recording of the song was made by George Reneau in 1925. In the years following World War II, Pete Seeger recorded the song with his own arrangement and some new words he’d written.

An arrangement by The Weavers in 1951, reached #2 on the Billboard Chart. The song also became a signature song for Burl Ives around this time.

The song has been recorded by Bing CrosbyBurl Ives, Gene Autry, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Presley, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and ABBA. 

The exact location of where the Scots-Irish immigrants regarded Old Smokey has been lost to antiquity.

On Top of Old Smokeyremains one of the songs many Americans remember from childhood.