On Top of Old Smokey

DESCRIPTION: "On top of old Smokey, All covered with snow, I lost my true lover, From courting too slow." The singer laments (her) lover's infidelity, saying that a "false-hearted lover is worse than a thief." (She) claims one cannot trust one in a thousand
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1911 (Belden-BalladsSongsCollectedByMissourFolkloreSociety)
KEYWORDS: courting love rejection lyric warning floatingverses
REFERENCES (42 citations):
Belden-BalladsSongsCollectedByMissourFolkloreSociety, pp. 473-476, "The Unconstant Lover" (3 texts, 1 tune, none of which mention Old Smokey; the second mixed with "The Cuckoo" and the third short enough that it might be any of the "never place your affection on a green willow tree" songs)
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore3 253, "Old Smoky" (2 texts plus 3 excerpts and mention of 3 more); also 248, "The Inconstant Lover" (5 texts plus a fragment, admitted by the editors to be distinct songs but with many floating items; "A," "B," and "C" are more "On Top of Old Smokey" than anything else, though without that phrase; "D" is primarily "The Broken Engagement (II -- We Have Met and We Have Parted)," "E" is a mix of "Old Smokey" and "The Cuckoo," and the "F" fragment may also be "Old Smokey")
Brown/Schinhan-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore5 253, "Old Smoky" (7 tunes plus text excerpts); 248, "The Inconstant Lover" (4 tunes plus text excerpts; the "B," "C," and "C(1)" tunes presumably belong with "On Top of Old Smokey"; "H" appears to be "Beware, Oh Take Care")
Morris-FolksongsOfFlorida, #195, "The Cuckoo" (1 text, very mixed, containing fragments of at least three songs, "On Top of Old Smokey" being the largest element, plus "The Cuckoo" and something that begins "Johnny on the water")
Lunsford/Stringfield-30And1FolkSongsFromSouthernMountains, p. 54, "Old Smoky" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hudson-FolksongsOfMississippi 50, p. 166, "Jimmy" (1 text, more this than anything else but starting with "A-walking, a-talking, a-walking foes I, To meet pretty Jimmy, he'll be here by and by" and continuing with many floating verses, e.g. "The cuckoo is a pretty bird," "If I am forsaken, I am not foresworn, And he is mistaken who thinks I will mourn")
Hudson-FolkTunesFromMississippi 20, "Jimmy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Wolfe/Boswell-FolkSongsOfMiddleTennessee 95, pp. 147-149, "Sweet Willie" (1 text, 1 tune, with verses from "The Cuckoo" but also much material from "On Top of Old Smokey" or something similar plus one of "Farewell He" type)
Sulzer-TwentyFiveKentuckyFolkBallads, p. 24, "Old Smoky" (1 text, 1 tune)
Randolph 49, "The Cuckoo" (4 texts, of which "A" is about half "Inconstant Lover/Old Smokey" verses and "B" never mentions the cuckoo and appears to be mostly floating verses; 1 tune)
Randolph/Cohen-OzarkFolksongs-Abridged, pp. 117-118, "The Cuckoo" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 49A)
Cambiaire-EastTennesseeWestVirginiaMountainBallads, p. 38, "Sweet Willie" (1 text, six verses derived from at least two and probably three or four songs; the largest portion is "On Top of Old Smokey" but there is a bit of "Farewell Ballymoney (Loving Hannah; Lovely Molly)" and something from one of amorphous the "courting is a pleasure" group)
Henry-SongsSungInTheSouthernAppalachians, pp. 2-3, "Old Smoky" (1 text, starting with a full "On Top of Old Smokey" text and then including a long set of verses from "The Roving Gambler" or perhaps "The Wagoner's Lad"); pp. 18-19, "Pretty Polly, Pretty Polly, I'm Going Away" (with five verses of "Old Smokey" preceded by two "Roving Gambler"-type floaters); p. 33, "Advice to Girls" (a pure "Old Smokey" version)
Scarborough-ASongCatcherInSouthernMountains, pp. 272-282, "The Waggoner's Lad" (9 texts, 6 tunes on pp. 428-431, but the entry combines many songs; A (no title), B ("My Fortune's Been Bad"), and E ("My Horses Ain't Hungry") are extended versions of "The Wagoner's Lad"; C ("The Last Farewell") is a short text probably of "The Wagoner's Lad"; D ("Old Smokie") combined one "Smokey" verse with three "Wagoner's Lad" verses; "F" ("Old Smoky") is a very long "Old Smokey" text which seems to have gained parts of other songs; G ("A False Lying True Love") is "Old Smokey" minus the first verse; H ("I'll Build My Cabin on a Mountain So High" is "Old Smokey" with a first verse from a drunkard song and a final floating verse supplying the title; I (no title) is a fragment probably of "Old Smokey")
Sharp-EnglishFolkSongsFromSouthernAppalachians 78, "I'm Going to Georgia" (2 texts, 2 tunes; as with many pieces listed above, I've filed the Sharp-EnglishFolkSongsFromSouthernAppalachians "I'm Going to Georgia" songs here for want of a better place for them, using the "never place your affections" line as the delineator. - PJS)
Gentry/Smith-ASingerAmongSingers, #44, "Wagoner's Lad (Meeting Is a Pleasure) (Old Smokey)" (1 text, 1 tune, probably mixed, filed here because it has most of these verses although it never mentions Old Smokey)
Brewster-BalladsAndSongsOfIndiana 89, "The Unconstant Lover" (1 text, with no mention of Old Smokey and many floating verses)
Neely/Spargo-TalesAndSongsOfSouthernIllinois, pp. 236-238, "Old Smoky Mountain" (1 text)
Carey-MarylandFolkLegendsAndFolkSongs, pp. 101-102, "The Cuckoo" (1 text, with at least two verses that are "On Top of Old Smokey," two that might be from any of several abandonment songs, and a final verse that is "The Cuckoo")
Leach-TheBalladBook, pp.738-740, "The Wagoner's Lad" (2 texts, with the "B" text being a composite of "Wagoner's Lad" and "Old Smokey" verses)
Morris-FolksongsOfFlorida, #65, "Old Smoky" (1 text, 1 tune, another "Old Smokey"/"Wagoner's Lad" mix)
Wyman/Brockway-LonesomeSongs-KentuckyMountains-Vol2, p. 1, "An Inconstant Lover" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fuson-BalladsOfTheKentuckyHighlands, pp. 119-120, "Old Smoky" (1 text)
Burton/Manning-EastTennesseeStateCollectionVol1, pp. 50-51, "On Top of Old Smokey" (1 text, 1 tune)
Owens-TexasFolkSongs-1ed, pp. 152-154, "Forsaken"; Owens-TexasFolkSongs-1ed, p. 178, "On Top of Old Smoky" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Owens-TexasFolkSongs-2ed, p. 97, "On Top of Old Smoky" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax/Lomax-FolkSongUSA 18, "Old Smoky" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FolkSongsOfNorthAmerica 112, "Old Smokey" (1 text, 1 tune)
Seeger-AmericanFavoriteBallads, p. 60, "On Top Of Old Smoky" (1 text, 2 tunes)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 165, "On Top Of Old Smoky" (1 text)
Cox-FolkSongsSouth 143, "A Forsaken Lover" (1 text, which appears to be a compound: Three verses of a forseken lover song, followed by an Old Smokey text less the first verse)
Cox/Hercog/Halpert/Boswell-WVirginia-B, #13, pp. 151-152, "Old Smoky" (1 text, 1 tune)
McNeil-SouthernMountainFolksong, pp. 27-28, "(Old Smokey)" (1 text)
Opie/Opie-OxfordDictionaryOfNurseryRhymes 121, "The cuckoo is a merry bird" (text 2 is "The Forsaken Lover" which omits the "Old Smokey" lines; dated c.1780 (The Merry Gentleman's Companion, according to Opie/Opie-OxfordDictionaryOfNurseryRhymes))
Palmer-EnglishCountrySongbook, #78, "The Cuckoo" (1 text, 1 tune, of four verses, all of which can float; one might be "Oh, No, Not I"; the second is clearly "The Cuckoo"; the third is perhaps from "On Top of Old Smokey"; the fourth is uncertain)
Wolf-AmericanSongSheets, #2398, p. 161, "The Unconstant Lovier" (1 reference, probably to this)
NorthCarolinaFolkloreJournal, Daniel W. Patterson, "Archive Notes," Vol. XV, No. 1 (May 1967), pp. 21-22, "(The Inconstant Lover)" (1 text, 1 tune, probably this although it lacks the first verse)
Fireside-Book-of-Folk-Songs, p. 42, "On Top of Old Smoky" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fuld-BookOfWorldFamousMusic, p. 416, "On Top of Old Smokey"
Averill-CampSongsFolkSongs, pp. 56, 230, 238, 254, "On Top of Old Smoky" (notes only)
ADDITIONAL: [no author listed], Scenes & Songs of the Ohio-Erie Canal, Ohio Historical Society, 1971, "Johnny and Mollie" (1 text, 1 tune, from Pearl R. Nye; it never mentions Old Smokey and appears to have several stanzas added by Nye, but more of the many floating lines appear to belong here than anywhere else)

Roud #414
Bob Atcher, "Old Smokey" (Columbia 20484, 1948; rec. 1947)
Cramer Brothers, [pseud. for Vernon Dalhart and -- probably -- Carson Robison] "On Top of Old Smokey" (Broadway 8071, c. 1930)
Gerald Duncan et al, "On Top of Old Smokey" (on MusOzarks01)
I. G. Greer, "Old Smoky" (AFS; on LC14)
Roscoe Holcomb, "Old Smoky" (on Holcomb-Ward1, HolcombCD1)
Buell Kazee, "On Top of Old Smoky" [fragment] (on Kazee01)
Bradley Kincaid, "On Top of Old Smokey" (Supertone 9566, 1929)
George Reneau, "On Top of Old Smokey" (Vocalion 15366, 1926)
Pete Seeger, "On Top of Old Smoky" (on PeteSeeger17) (on PeteSeeger23)
Henry Whitter, "It's a Rough Road to Georgia" (on StuffDreams1)

cf. "The Wagoner's Lad"
cf. "The Little Mohee" [Laws H8] (tune)
cf. "Lee's Hoochie" (tune)
cf. "I'm Sad and I'm Lonely" (floating lyrics)
cf. "The Blackbird and Thrush" (floating lyrics)
cf. "I Shot My Poor Teacher (With a Big Rubber Band)" (tune)
cf. "Sailing Out on the Ocean" (floating lyrics)
cf. "A Warning to Girls" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Once I Loved a Bonny Boy" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Courtin' Owre Slow" (theme: lover lost by courting too slowly)
cf. "William and Nancy (II) (Courting Too Slow)" [Laws P5] (theme: lover lost by courting too slowly)
cf. "Go Away From Me, Willie" (floating lyrics)
I Shot My Poor Teacher (With a Big Rubber Band) (File: PHCFS093)
The Little Mohee (File: LH08)
Lee's Hoochie (File: EM407)
On Top of Spaghetti (File: NCF211TS)
On Top of Old Smoky ("On top of old Smokey, All covered with grass, I saw Davy Crockett") (Pankake/Pankake-PrairieHomeCompanionFolkSongBook, p. 111)
On Top of Old Smoky (All Covered with Blood) (Pankake/Pankake-PrairieHomeCompanionFolkSongBook, p. 126)
On Top of My Headache (Pankake/Pankake-PrairieHomeCompanionFolkSongBook, p. 111)
On Top of Old Baldy (Pankake/Pankake-PrairieHomeCompanionFolkSongBook, p. 144)
Song of the Grand Coulee Dam/Way Up in that Northwest (by Woody Guthrie) (Woody Guthrie, __Roll On Columbia: The Columbia River Collection_, collected and edited by Bill Murlin, Sing Out Publications, 1991, pp. 50-51)
Up in Old Loray (by Ella May Wiggins and/or Odell Corley; Greenway-AmericanFolksongsOfProtest, pp. 135-136; NorthCarolinaFolkloreJournal, Charles W. Joyner, "Up In Old Loray: Folkways of Violence in the Gastonia Strike," Vol. XII, No. 2 (Dec. 1964), p. 23)
NOTES [444 words]: The relationship between this song and "The Wagoner's Lad" is problematic. The two are occasionally listed as one song (e.g. by Leach, Scarborough, and implicitly by Shellans-FolkSongsOfTheBlueRidgeMountains; also, at least in part, by Roud); indeed, this was done in early versions of this Index. This was done under the influence of the Lomaxes, who classify the songs together.
Further study, however, seems to show that almost all versions which have common material are derived from the Lomaxes, and the minor exceptions are usually fragments of floating verses. (Morris-FolksongsOfFlorida is an exception, but in his case, it looks as if two songs have been grafted together -- and Morris worked with John Lomax anyway.) The plots of the two songs are different, their tunes are distinct, and there does not seem to have been any overlap in ordinary versions. It would appear that the identification of the two is purely the result of the sort of editorial work the Lomaxes so often committed.
Due to this inconsistency, it is suggested that the reader check all versions of both songs, as well as both sets of cross-references, to find all related materials.
It also appears that certain key lines, beginning "A meeting's a pleasure, a parting's a grief, And an (unconstant young man) is worse than a thief," predate this song, as they appear in several British texts which otherwise bear little resemblance to "Old Smokey." For the moment, these British Isles variations are filed under "The Blackbird and Thrush," at least until I find a more authoritative source.
Edwin Wolf 2nd, American Song Sheets, Slip Ballads, and Political Broadsides 1850-1870, Library Company of Philadelphia, 1963, p. 61, mentions a broadside, "The Unconstant Lovier" (sic.), which begins "Oh! it's meeting's a pleasure, and it's parting's a grief"; this is credited to J. H. Collins, but I know nothing else about it.
Another interesting question: Does this song refer to the Great Smoky Mountains, which run along the North Carolina/Tennessee border? This seems reasonable based on the geographical distribution. The flip side is, the highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains is Clingmans Dome, 6643 feet/2025 meters, the highest point in Tennessee. My information is that it is not snow-covered in summer; it is low enough and far enough south that the snow melts every year. Hardly anyone lives near Clingman's Dome, but if it's the highest point in the Smokys, what are the odds of year-round snow on some other peak in the range? Of course, the song could have taken place in winter, when there is snow in the Smokys, but it seems an odd way of identifying the place. - RBW
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File: BSoF740

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