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Moonshine Songs

04 Jan 98 - 09:02 PM (#18710)
Subject: Moonshine Songs

This is a spin-off of Rosebrooks "Favorite Melodies" thread.

Two of my favorite moonshine songs don't seem to be in the DT, and I know neither of them in full.

One starts:

Get you a Coper Kettle
Get you some coper coil
Cover it up with new-mown hay
Never more you'll toil.

You'll just lay there 'neath the Juniper tree
Lay there all the night
Whatch them jugs a-fillin'
In the pale moonlight.

The other one might be Irish in origin:

I've been a moonshiner for many a year
I spend all my money on whiskey and beer
I go to some hollow and sets up a still
And I'll make you a gallon for a ten dollar bill

Oh moonshine, Oh moonshine, Oh how I love thee,
You killed me old father, but did all right by me

This one would fit in with Rosebrooks Whiskey Medley, I suspect.

The first one was sung by one of the female folk singers of the 60s, but I suspect it has a longer history.

I would be interested in their history and in the rest of the lyrics.


04 Jan 98 - 09:57 PM (#18711)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: Helen


I am sure that you realise, being from Oz yourself, that the second one starts the same as an Australian song called The Wild Rover, except that it is:


I've been a wild rover for many a year And I spent all my money on whiskey and beer, And now I'm returning with gold in great store And I never will play the wild rover no more.

cho: And it's no, nay, never, No nay never no more, Will I play the wild rover No never no more.

I think that there is a similar song in the American tradition, but I'm not sure about this. The Oz version is very probably based on an Irish song/tune, and the DT database says that the Clancy Brothers (Irish) sang the Wild Rover.


04 Jan 98 - 10:08 PM (#18713)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: Tim Jaques

There are many pub singers who I wish would play the Wild Rover no more. Between that and The Black Velvet Band I don't know which is more overdone.

A fairly recent moonshining song from Canada is The Cape Breton Silver, by Allistair MacGillivary.

There is of course The Mountain Dew, which I believe has an American bluegrass version called That Good Ole Mountain Dew.

It's been years since I've had moonshine, which is an integral part of any Purple Jesus punch. You had to be careful from whom you got it. Usually some old fellow who had been making it for years could be trusted, if he hadn't poisoned anyone in the last decade. It is always a liquor to be treated with respect.

05 Jan 98 - 12:16 AM (#18725)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: Barry

In the DT check out The Private Still, very old, very nice & very funny (to a distiller) Barry

05 Jan 98 - 01:36 AM (#18726)
Subject: Lyr Add: OLD MOUNTAIN DEW (Bascom Lamar Lunsford)
From: Dale Rose

The song, Old Mountain Dew, seems to date back only to Bascom Lamar Lunsford. His quote here is from 1949 and appears in the booklet of Smithsonian Folkways CD 40082, 1996.

"This song is entitled 'Old Mountain Dew.' Possibly a footnote would be well here. About 1920 I composed the words and the tune to this song, and I put it on a Brunswick record about 1928. Of course, it was somewhat stilted, but it did very well as a record. But following that, the eminent singer 'Scotty,' Scott Wiseman of Lulu Belle and Scotty fame, added some more modernized stanzas, sang it, put it on a record, and it was re-popularized. Now we hear it on every hand by the folk singers and entertainers there with their own words, and the tune has stayed very much the same way, but it's well to know the growth of the thing. So I will give just as I composed it in 1920."

[You can hear this recording at the Internet Archive.]

As recorded by Bascom Lamar Lunsford, 1928. (Brunswick 219-B)

On my first day in court, I wish to report
Then witness a story so true
When the State closed its case a young man raised his face
And began all the facts to review
Oh, they call it that old mountain dew
And those who refuse it are few
While I know I've done wrong the temptation is strong
When they call for that mountain dew.

Oh, the deacon drove by in his auto so shy
Said his family was down with the flu
And he thought that I ought to just get him a quart
Of good old mountain dew
Yes, he called it that old mountain dew
Said those who refuse it are few
So I thought that I ought to just get him a quart
Of good old mountain dew.

The doctor who phoned just to see me alone
One night about half-a-past two
Said he'd close up his mug if I'd fill up his jug
With good old mountain dew
Yes, he called it that old mountain dew
Said those who refuse it are few
So I closed up his mug when I filled up his jug
With good old mountain dew.

The conductor said with a nod of his head
"My wife she never knew
That I take my fun when I'm out on my run
So bring me a quart or two."
Of good old mountain dew
For those who refuse it are few
But his wife said to me, "You can bring me three
By the time his train is due."

My attorney began to turn the lid on the can
I knew then my case was lost
Said His Honor to me, "I will set you free
If you will pay the cost."
For they call it that old mountain dew
And those who refuse it are few
"But you acted the man when you took that stand
To swear what is so true."

Bascom does this with just his own claw hammer banjo accompaniment. I really recommend this album for those who like the old songs. It contains 18 songs recorded in 1928 and 1949. Included is a version of The Mermaid Song, Bonny George Campbell, Old Stepstone, and Death of Queen Jane, which has an interesting line, "The red rose of England shall flourish no more."

05 Jan 98 - 01:44 AM (#18727)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: Dale Rose

Yes, the Clancy Brothers did a version of The Wild Rover, and so did Burl Ives on his album of Australian Folk Songs.

05 Jan 98 - 11:10 AM (#18729)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: Earl

Another good moonshine song is "Darlin Corey" - in the database.

05 Jan 98 - 12:31 PM (#18733)
Subject: Lyr Add: THE MOONSHINER^^
From: Jon W.

For Murray, here's the Clancy Bros. & Tommy Makem version of "The Moonshiner". I belive Tommy Makem does the vocals on this one. It's from a recording of Irish drinking songs.

Clancy Bros. and Tommy Makem

I've been a moonshiner for many a year,
I've spent all me money on whiskey and beer,
I'll go to some hollow and set up me still,
And I'll make you a gallon for a ten shilling bill.

I'm a rambler, I'm a gambler, I'm a long ways from home,
And if you don't like me well leave me alone,
I'll eat when I'm hungry and I'll drink when I'm dry,
And if moonshine don't kill me I'll live 'til I die.

I'll go to some hollow in this coun-ter-ee,
Ten gallons of wash I can go on a spree,
No women to follow, the world is all mine,
And I love none so well as I love the moonshine.

Oh moonshine dear moonshine, oh how I love thee,
You killed me old father but dare ye try me?
Oh bless all moonshiners and bless all moonshine,
Oh it's breath smells as sweet as the dew on the vine.

Also, Joan Baez did the "copper kettle/coil" song you mentioned - but as you said, it probably has a longer history.

05 Jan 98 - 01:14 PM (#18738)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: rosebrook

A really fun, upbeat moonshine song is called Gather Up the Pots (this is the song my band calls Mountain Tea, Dick, and it is in the DT, though I didn't find a MIDI for it). It's a terrific song particularly for clawhammer banjo instrumental breaks....just hard to keep your toe from a- tappin'!

05 Jan 98 - 02:37 PM (#18741)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: Dale Rose

For a real overload, try Gid Tanner & the Skillet Lickers doing A CORN LICKER STILL IN GEORGIA , a reissue of 78s featuring all 14 parts of a skit recorded 1927-30, Voyager CD303. It is available from Elderly, and no doubt other suppliers as well.

05 Jan 98 - 04:32 PM (#18744)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: Bert

There's also that other Irish one
I only know the first verse

At the foot of the hill there's a neat little still
Where the smoke curls up to the sky
By the whiff and the smell you can plainly tell
There's poteen brewing close by
For it fills the air with a fragrance rare
and betwixt both me and you
as home we roll we will drink a bowl
or a bucketfull of mountain dew

Hi the dithery al the dal,
dal the dal the dithery al
dal the dal, dal dithery al the day
Hi the dithery al the dal,
dal the dal the dithery al
dal the dal, dal dithery al the day

And don't forget that story Jimmy Buffet tells about the still and the bear.


05 Jan 98 - 06:02 PM (#18749)
Subject: Lyr Add: MOUNTAIN DEW (Clancy/Makem songbook)
From: Alice

As Dick will remind us, a search of the database will bring up a passle of songs. The Clancy/Makem songbook from 1964 has their version of Mountain Dew


Let grasses grow and waters flow
In a free and easy way,
But give me enough of the fine old stuff
That's made near Galway Bay,
And policemen all, from Donegal,
Sligo and Leitrim, too,
We'll give them the slip and we'll take a sip
Of the real old mountain dew.

Hi the diddly idle dum,
Diddly doodle idle um,
Diddly doo rye diddly i day,
Hi the diddly idle dum,
Diddly doodle idle um,
Diddly doo rye diddly i day.

At the foot of the hill is a neat little still,
Where the smoke curls up to the sky,
By the smoke and the smell you can plainly tell,
That there's whiskey brewin' nearby.
For it fills the air, with odor rare,
And betwixt both me and you,
When home you stroll you can take a bowl,
Or a bucket of the mountain dew.


Now learned men who use the pen
Have wrote her praises high,
That sweet poteen from Ireland's green,
Distilled from wheat and rye.
Throw away your pills, it'll cure all ills,
Pagan or Christian or Jew,
Take off your coat and grease your throat,
With the real Old Mountain Dew.


alice, in montana

05 Jan 98 - 09:08 PM (#18762)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: dulcimer

The song rosebrook refers to is also called Mountain Tay or Hills of Connemara. The Irish group I used to play with always started our program with it. Very snappy. Fits well with Turkey in the Straw.

05 Jan 98 - 09:31 PM (#18763)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: dick greenhaus

I'm confused. Copper Kettle is in the DT, cleverly hidden, though a search for Copper Kettle will find it. So is Moonshiner, albeit in s slightly different version (search for moonshiner).

Where's the problem?

05 Jan 98 - 10:16 PM (#18764)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: Bob Landry

There's also the old Newfoundland standard, "The Moonshine Can". Do a Forum Search with the subject "Moonshine Can" and you'll turn up all the words and some commentary.

At least six of these tunes mentioned in this thread are in my "A" book. I don't what that reflects on, my love of moonshine songs or my affinity for intoxicants (in modest amounts, of course).

06 Jan 98 - 12:51 PM (#18780)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: Bob Schwarer

This isn't really about moonshine, but listen to "The Intoxicated Rat".

Bob S

06 Jan 98 - 03:05 PM (#18785)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs

07 Jan 98 - 07:41 AM (#18817)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs

To Dick Greenhaus: You will note that I cleverly spelled Copper with only one "p". That is why I didn't find that one, I guess.

I can't explain how I missed the other one. I didn't try "moonshiner" alone, thinking that would yield too many hits, so I tried various phrases in the song containing that word.

To Jon W: Thanks for the lyrics and the name of the artists.

To Hellen: I am embarrased--I never did notice that they are so similar although I know both of them.

Thanks to others for some songs I wasn't aware of.


07 Jan 98 - 06:26 PM (#18843)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: Tim Jaques

Are there any Scottish moonshining songs? I can think of Irish, American, and Canadian songs in this vein but off the top of my head can't think of any Scottish ones. Odd considering that moonshining must have had a history there too. Maybe proper Scotch was so good no-one bothered to make the illicit stuff?

Or for that matter, traditional moonshine songs from England? Did the English just rely on duty-free French brandy smuggled by the Cornishers, or was gin so cheap that home stills were unnecessary?

07 Jan 98 - 07:44 PM (#18849)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: dick greenhaus

re Scots moonshine:

TRy a search for exciseman or gauger.

07 Jan 98 - 07:57 PM (#18850)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: Barry

I believe from the English and/or the Scottish we get John Barleycorn, the mother of distillers. Barry

07 Jan 98 - 08:48 PM (#18853)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs

I tried again and found the Copper Kettle song (Why can't the search engine learn that it is me and that I can't spell!) and the moonshiner song.

It seems that the Copper Kettle song was written in 1953 for a folk opera called "Go Lightly Stranger". What exactly is a Folk Opera? I guess the Beggar's (or its later incarnation as The Three Penny) opera is an example.

The other interesting thing is that the moonshiner song was recorded by Dylan. I don't recall every hearing that version. I sort-of gave up on him when he "pluged in". Did he do that song with electronic instruments?


08 Jan 98 - 11:43 AM (#18878)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: Earl

Dylan recorded "Copper Kettle" on his "Self Portrait" album during his country/western period. I haven't listened to it in years but I believe it had Nashville style electric musicians.

08 Jan 98 - 12:00 PM (#18879)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: Mountain Dog

There's an old favorite of mine, "Quare Bungle Rye", that's in the DT. I had a recording by Tommy Makem and The Clancy Bros. on which one o'the lads (Tommy, I believe) did a wonderful a capella version. While not strictly a moonshine tune, it does involve "whusky", smuggling and a bit of a "jolt" from the storyteller's point of view!

06 Sep 98 - 03:51 PM (#37237)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs

I would like to hear some music of moonshiners and get some lyrics!!! can someone email with some lyrics?

06 Sep 98 - 09:09 PM (#37267)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: Roger Himler

There are two modern songs that come to mind. Si Kahn wrote a song called Moonshine Man (lyrics posted later if no one gets there before me) and the other is the Ballad of Thunder Road by Robert Mitchum which is available on COWPIE. I don't know which came first, the song or the movie. An old favorite of mine, nonetheless.

Roger in Baltimore

07 Sep 98 - 10:49 AM (#37305)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: harpgirl

Tim and all, I think "And The Moon Shone Bright and Clearly" in the DT is Scottish, isn't it? It's one of my favoirte moonshine songs...harpgirl

08 Sep 98 - 12:06 PM (#37427)
Subject: Lyr Add: TEAR MY STILLHOUSE DOWN (G Welch)^^^
From: Barbara Shaw

Salamander Crossing does a great a cappella version of "Moonshiner" on one of their albums. The DT has a song called "Dooley" about a moonshiner, and here's one by Gillian Welch, recorded on her first? album (can't remember the name) and also done by Nashville Bluegrass Band:

Gillian Welch

  	D			G
Put no stone at my head, no flowers on my tomb
No gold plated sign in a marble pillared room
There's just one thing I want
When they lay me in the ground
When I die, tear my stillhouse down.

Lord, tear my stillhouse down, let it go to rust
Don't leave no trace of the hidin' place

Where I made that evil stuff
For all my time and money, no profit did I see
That old copper kettle was the death of me.

When I was a child, way back in the hills
I laughed at the men who tended those stills
But that old mountain shine it caught me somehow
When I die, tear my stillhouse down.

Go tell all your children, that hell ain't no dream
Old Satan, he lives in my whiskey machine
Oh, in my time of dyin', I know where I'm bound
When I die, tear my stillhouse down.

HTML preformat commands added. --JoeClone, 11-Jul-02.

08 Sep 98 - 01:39 PM (#37442)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: lingolucky

Uncle Dave Macon used to do a song on the Grand Old Opera called The Cannon County Hills. Some of the words were: "There's bright lights on Broadway, the sun shines down in Dixie, they'll make moonshine in those Cannon County hills." Lane Goldsmith

22 Sep 98 - 05:02 PM (#39001)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs

If I remember correctly, I searched for "Thunder Road" in the database and couldn't find it. Not a true folk song, but certainly a moonshine song. (I don't know who wrote and recorded it; I'm terrible on musicians.)

I was surprised to learn that "Copper Kettle" is an art song rather than a folk song. It sounds so authentic!

22 Sep 98 - 08:45 PM (#39032)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: RayBanks

The New Lost City Ramblers produced an album in the sixties called something like "Songs of Moonshine and Prohibition", which had a fine collection of boozy old-time songs. The only titles I remember at the moment are The Virginia Bootlegger and Whiskey Seller. Maybe someone else remembers this fine record? Ray

23 Sep 98 - 12:41 AM (#39056)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: BSeed

One that I guess hasn't been mentioned is "Little Brown Jug." And if we're taking lines referring to moonshine from songs that aren't necessarily about moonshine, there's "Okie from Muskogee" by Merle Haggard. The chorus ends "And white lightnin's still the biggest thrill of all." (Interesting that Hag considered breaking the law to drink moonshine a thrill, but smoking dope a no-no, despite the fact that far more people have gone blind or just plain died from moonshine than marijuana.) --seed

By the way, how about expanding the thread to include dope songs? I posted "Down to Seeds and Stems Again Blues" but it hasn't made it onto the trad.

23 Sep 98 - 06:18 AM (#39082)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: Roger Himler


Merle and his band buddies were smokin' weed when they wrote Okie from Muskogee. They were on the band bus and saw the sign for Muskogee and someone offered the line "I'm proud to be an Okie from Muskogee."

It went on from there. At the time it was written, it was very "tongue in cheek." I don't think Merle and his dope smokin' buddies intended to write an anthem for the segment of our population they were parodying.

I bet they accepted all of the royalties, however.

This song, to me, is a prime example of the the rallying power of music and of how we might want to be careful just what we sing.

Roger in Baltimore

23 Sep 98 - 09:24 PM (#39158)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: BSeed

Thanks, Roger. The Haggard album I have certainly doesn't give that fascinating little bit of background--it also includes "The Fightin' Side of Me." Actually, I've always enjoyed singing "Okie from Muskogee"--it's a good song, and Hag is a great singer with a fine band. I feel better now about liking him. --seed

23 Sep 98 - 10:18 PM (#39166)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: Roger Himler


The drug songs seem to keep cropping up. See the Ain't Nobody's Business thread for some cocaine songs. There was a recent thread on Buffy Sainte Marie's song Codeine. Another recent thread covered Tom Paxton's Talking Vietnam Pot Luck.

Too many flower children perhaps?

Anybody remember a guy named Jim Post? He had a wonderful tune about LSD called Brain Damage.

Alcohol for many localities and in many times was the only serious drug of choice. Hence, there are more songs about alcohol. During the rag-time era, cocaine and marijuana became the subject of some songs. Off the top of my head, I don't recall many references to heroin or morphine

A search of the DT provides little on heroin and morphine. There are multiple songs that mention drugs, but only a few that focus intently on them.

Roger in Baltimore

24 Sep 98 - 12:25 AM (#39184)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: BSeed

Cab Calloway had at least one dope song: I remember him in his white tux in front of his big band singing it in a '30's comedy ("International Hotel"?) with W.C.Fields, Mae West, George Burns and Gracie Allen, and many others. Maybe came out a bit before "Reefer Madness." As for morphine, all I can think of is from the Stones, "Sister Morphine" ("Lay your cool hand on my head"), on the Sticky Fingers album. And this seems to be palliative use rather than recreational--although the song was banned in Spain, I think. --seed

25 Sep 98 - 02:30 PM (#39358)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: Barry Finn

I think it was Lou Reed & the Velvet Underground that had a subculture hit with the song call "Heroin" & later, some one from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young doing "the Needle & the Damage Done". Barry

25 Sep 98 - 06:35 PM (#39395)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: BSeed

Joe Offer provided the lyrics to The Talking Vietnam Pot-luck Blues on the thread of that name. And among my favorite marijuana songs, along with Commander Cody's "Down to Seeds and Stems Again Blues," there is the wonderful "Illegal Smile" by John Prine, on his first album. I mentioned Cab Calloway's dope song above, hoping someone might come up with the name--and a db where I might find words and music. --seed (hint, hint)

25 Sep 98 - 07:02 PM (#39401)
Subject: Lyr Add: MINNIE THE MOOCHER^^
From: Roger Himler

I think you're looking for Minnie the Moocher Seed. Here are lyrics. Not so drug involved, but, hey, before the 60's it was a verboten subject.

Minnie the Moocher

Folks here's a story 'bout Minnie the Moocher
She was a red hot hoochie-coocher
She was the roughest toughest frail
But Minnie had a heart as big as a whale
Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-hi.... (Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-hi)
Whoa-oh-oho-oh-oh-oho.... (Whoa-oh-oho-oh-oh-oho)
Ee-de-ee-de-ee-de-ee.... (Ee-de-ee-de-ee-de-ee)
Way-hey-ey-ay-ee-ay-ay-ay.... (Way-hey-ey-ay-ee-ay-ay-ay)
She messed around with a bloke named Smokey
She loved him though he was Coke-y
He took her down to Chinatown
And he showed her how to kick the gong(?) around
Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-hi.... (Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-hi)
Whoa-oh-oho-oh-oh-oho.... (Whoa-oh-oho-oh-oh-oho)
Yeah-eah-aa-aheah-ah-ah-ah.... (Yeah-eah-aa-aheah-ah-ah-ah)
Whoa--ioh--ioh--iohh.... (Whoa--ioh--ioh--iohh)
She had a dream about the king of Sweden
He gave her things that she was needin'
He gave her a home built of gold 'n steel
A diamond car ... with big pl-atinum wheels
Hi-de-i-de-i-de-i-de-iii.... (Hi-de-i-de-i-de-i-de-iii)
Oh-de-oh-de-oh-de-oh-de-O-oh.... (Oh-de-oh-de-oh-de-oh-de-O-oh)
Skitleedatleedootidituditooey.... (Skitleedatleedootidituditooey)
A-boo-rrigi-boo-rrigi-boo-rigi-ay.... (A-boo-rrigi-boo-rrigi-boo-rigi-ay)
He gave her a townhouse and his racing horses
Each meal she ate was a dozen courses
She had a million dollars worth of nickels and dimes
She sat around and counted them a million times
Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-i.... (Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-i)
Whoahohohohohohooooooh.... (Whoahohohohohohooooooh)
Whay-hey-heey-heey-hey-a-ay.... (Whay-hey-heey-heey-hey-a-ay)
Whoa-oh - Whoa-oh.... (Whoa-oh - Whoa-oh)
Poor Minnie Poor Minnie Poor Minnie....

Of course, Cab Calloway was born right here in Baltimore.

Roger in Baltimore

25 Sep 98 - 11:41 PM (#39428)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: Barry Finn

See "Willie The Weeper" in the DT, the first (of two) would be the one I've known to carry the same tune as "Minnie The Mocher", don't know about Willie II. Barry

26 Sep 98 - 03:13 AM (#39449)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: BSeed

Roger, did Cab continue to live there, and perform? Of course he was in "The Blues Brothers," a really magical scene. He was one of the all time great performers (he couldn't have been a folksinger--folksingers don't wear white tuxes). There is a jazz/swing combo around here called Comfy Chair with a singer who reminds me of Calloway, despite the fact that he's white, kind of homely, and wears a purple double-breasted suit with a green shirt and a loud tie. It's just that he's a wonderfully expressive singer and dancer. I missed them today--they played on the Cal campus and I had wanted to go and photograph them but got lazy. --seed

26 Sep 98 - 07:35 AM (#39476)
Subject: RE: Moonshine Songs
From: Roger Himler


Cab moved to New York very early to seek his fame and fortune, but he always remembered Baltimore and Baltimore remembers him.

Roger in Baltimore