Friday, February 18, 2005

Hobo Days

Due to several requests, and the increase in my traffic, I'm reposting the following entry from August. It's an intro of sorts. BigRock 101.

It's occurred to me that the title of my blog may need a bit of an explanation to those who haven't seen Oh Brother Where Art Thou, or who aren't big fans of hobo music. Obviously the song, Big Rock Candy Mountain, is a favorite of mine, and a bit of a theme, though i've never "rode the rails" in my life. It's old timey music in the grandest tradition. I'm going to do quite a bit of plagarizing for the full text of the following paragraph, go here:

"Big Rock Candy Mountain' is a song about a hobo's idea of paradise. It was first recorded in 1928 by Harry McClintock, also known as Haywire Mac. It is probably best remembered for its recording by Burl Ives in the 1940s, but it has been recorded by many artists throughout the world. The most popular version, recorded in 1960 by Dorsey Burnette, reached the Billbord top 10.
The song is generally recognized as a turn of the century hobo ballad based on
An Invitation to Lubberland, but authorship is also generally attributed to Harry McClintock since earlier written evidence of the song is not known. As a result, the song's copyright status is also in dispute. There are secondhand reports that McClintock attempted to enforce a copyright on the song but lost his lawsuit; in that case the song is in the public domain. Without further verification it must be assumed that the song is copyright by Harry McClintock.
Before recording the song, McClintock cleaned it up considerably from the version he sang as a street busker in
1897. Originally the song described a child being recruited into hobo life by tales of the "big rock candy mountain". Such recruitment actually occurred, with hobos enchanting children with tales of adventure called ghost stories by other hobos. In proof of his authorship of the song, McClintock published the original words, the last verse of which was:
The punk rolled up his big blue eyes
And said to the jocker, "Sandy,
I've hiked and hiked and wandered too,
But I ain't seen any candy.
I've hiked and hiked till my feet are sore
And I'll be d--ned if I hike any more
To be buggered sore like a hobo's whore
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.
In the released version this verse did not appear; in fact all mention of the "hoosier boy" was removed. The "cigarette trees" became peppermint trees, and the "streams of alkyhol" trickling down the rocks became streams of lemonade. The lake of gin is not mentioned, and the lake of whiskey became a lake of soda.
1929, the song lent its name to a cluster of brightly-colored hills a short distance north of Marysvale, Utah, and a spring nearby was named "Lemonade Springs". The Big Rock Candy Mountain Resort is at the base of the hills.
1943, Wallace Stegner published his autobiographical novel The Big Rock Candy Mountain
The largest exposed rock in the South Platte rock
climbing area of Colorado is also called "Big Rock Candy Mountain" because of its colored stripes resembling a candy cane.

Now, wasn't that enlightening?
For both versions of the lyrics go here.

The first song is Tom Waits' version, take from the film "Candy Mountain". Frankly, the film's kind of a stinker...but Tom is brilliant as usual. This tune comes to us via a bootleg, so be warned that the sound quality is not exactly topnotch.
Next is Harry McClintock, of course. This version is a bit different from the more famous version used in "Oh Brother..." It features a rather long interview followed by a live rendition. Harry's not sounding real great here, perhaps having just come down from the mountain, so to speak. The tune is featured on the album Railroad Songs and Ballads, put out by Rounder.
Finally, a bonus cut by Harry, "Hallelujah I'm a Bum", helping to cement his reputation as the bard of the hobos.

Tom Waits: Big Rock Candy Mountain (mp3)

Harry McClintock: Big Rock Candy Mountain (mp3)

Harry McClintock: Hallelujah I'm a Bum (mp3)

Please purchase yr Hobo music locally and independently. The Hobos would, dontcha know.


Anonymous said...

I love reading your blog, it makes me smile! Keep up the good work. I can't wait to hear all the songs you've posted ( I have to wait and get them from Thurm) I hope you are doing well. Take Care,

bigrockcandymountain said...

thanks's life? hey, don't know if anyone told you, but my email is

Last Girl On Earth said...

I am SOOOO loving your new format. Thanks for making it easy for us to hear your great music library! And thanks for reposting this post. The Tom Waits version is a hoot.

And I'M A BUM is so...dark... but the music is so happy. Just up my alley!

Don't be a stranger. I've posted more music today. Lots going on. Have a great weekend,

countrygrrl said...

heya countrygrrl here love the jimmie dale gilmour track sublime...not so sure about the tom waits...maybe i just never rated the guy....I always hear a lispy sound when he sings, might be my speakeres mind's grt to hear so many americana type tracks...keep up the blogging and will pop in again tomorrow night....lassoo yer lassie and feed her country..

Tonopah Slim said...

The film "Candy Mountain" isn't a masterpiece by any means, but it is pretty interesting. It's directed by Robert Frank, noted photographer ("The Americans") and film/video maker - Frank's only feature. Check out Frank's book "The Americans" (or others), then try watching again. You may come around.

Loui said...

I have the original recording, 78, of The Bum Stong by Harry McClintock in mint condition. Know what it may be worth, or where I could sell it? Thanks in advance.