“Old Rattler”

Alternate titles: “Long Hot Summer Days”; “Here, Rattler, Here”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1924 (recording, George Reneau)
Keywords: dog manhunt prison escape captivity worksong chaingang floatingverses prisoner
Found in: US(SE,So)


Chorus: "Here, Rattler, Here." Rattler is a great tracking dog. When (Old Riley) escapes from prison, Rattler is put on his trail, and finds the man despite many distractions and even (the Brazos River) in the way


The "Old Reilly" version is officially credited to Huddle Ledbetter. This looks to me like Lead Belly's adaption of "Long John" -- but of course there is Lomax influence. Given that "Long John" is also derived primarily from the Lomaxes, it's hard to have any confidence about the relationship between the songs, or even their folk status. - RBW

Seeger reports that the Texas state farm prisoners from whom he collected a version of the song believed it described the escape of the prisoner Riley from Clements State Farm. - PJS

Cross references



  1. Courlander-NFM, pp. 104-105, "(Here, Rattler, Here)" (1 text, perhaps composite, plus apparently a portion of another version)
  2. Lomax-ABFS, pp. 66-67, "Ol' Rattler" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Silber-FSWB, p. 66, "Old Reilly (In Dem Long Hot Summer Days" (1 text); p. 395, "Old Rattler" (1 text, with the chorus of this song though the verses are those of "Old Tyler")
  4. Roud #6381
  5. BI, CNFM104