“Remember the Poor Tramp Has to Live”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1927 (recording, Ernest V. Stoneman/Stoneman Family)
Keywords: poverty rambling begging hardtimes hobo
Found in: US(SE)


Singer, a tramp, tells how hard his life is, asks for understanding. Chorus ends "Remember that the poor tramp has to live"


Boggs states he learned the song from a recording in the late 1920s, but as he doesn't give a name or title I left initially Boggs' recording as the earliest verified to date.

The Walter Morris recording is placed here tentatively; if it can be verified as this song, it would constitute the earliest verified appearance. - PJS

I don't know what Boggs's source was, but Ernest V. Stoneman and the Stoneman Family recorded this on several occasions, the first in 1927. It appears possible that the Brown version (which comes from a manuscript collection) predates this, but unfortunately this is one of the many undated items in the collection; we don't even know when Brown received the manuscript.

The first appearance of the song Cohen could find was a Wehman broadside, apparently in print by 1886; it lists Billy Kearney as the author, and the tune as "True As Steel." It is very different from the Stoneman text and doesn't even mention railroads. I'd call them recensionally different -- perhaps even separate songs -- and so leave the Stoneman recording as the earliest date, subject to Paul's caveat about the Morris recording. - RBW

Cross references



  1. Cohen-LSRail, pp. 351-354, "The Poor Tramp Has to Live" (1 text plus a broadside print, 1 tune)
  2. BrownIII 357, "The Tramp Song" (1 text, a noticeably defective transcription)
  3. Roud #11720
  4. BI, RcRtPTHL