“I Lay Around the Old Jail House (John C. Britton)”


Perhaps a composite song: The singer complains of life in jail and of working in the coal mines. There follows a brief item about a raid or a race from "Manthus" to Cairo in which John C. Britton suffers a grave loss of men


It's not often that one encounters a song this confusing. The first four stanzas seem to be your standard prison/poverty song. Stanza 5 is a floater. Stanzas 6 and 7 are suspected of being from at least one and perhaps two other songs.

The editors of Brown suggest that the last stanzas might be a description of a Civil War raid. Possible, but if so, it's too small to have left a dent in the standard histories. But I rather doubt it. It looks to me like a race between two boats, the John C. Britton and the (Robert E.?) Lee, from Memphis to Cairo. The rest must be referred to the reader. - RBW


  1. BrownIII 364, "I Lay Around the Old Jail House (John C. Britton)" (1 text)
  2. Roud #11734
  3. BI, Br3364


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1952 (Brown)
Found in: US(SE)