“Mister McKinley (White House Blues)”


"McKinley hollered, McKinley squalled; The doc says, 'McKinley, I can't find the ball.'" Describing McKinley's assassination by Zolgotz, his poor medical treatment, and his funeral. MacKinley is usually said to be "bound to die."


I know of three derivative versions of this song: one collected in Kentucky in the 1930s, talking about Herbert Hoover (in this collection as "White House Blues (II)"), a second recorded by country-and-western singer Tom T. Hall in the 1970s, talking about Richard Nixon. Both share the title "White House Blues." The third is ""Governor Al Smith." - (PJS)

McKinley had been unpopular among farmers, most of whom had supported Democrat William Jennings Bryan, and his passing was not much mourned among country people -- thus the jaunty, humorous tone of this song. - PJS

The reference to McKinley's children earning a pension upon their father's death is completely unhistorical; McKinley married Ida Saxton (1847-1907) in 1871, but his two daughters, Katie and Ida, both died in infancy, and Mrs. McKinley was an epileptic and an invalid by the time her husband was elected President. - RBW

Historical references

  • Sept 6, 1901 - President William McKinley is shaking hands at an exhibition when he is shot by anarchist Leon Czolgosz, who felt McKinley was receiving too much attention.
  • MacKinley's wounds should not have been serious, but his inept doctor decided to operate immediately rather than wait for a specialist
  • Sept 14, 1901 - Death of MacKinley (due more to operative trauma than to his wounds). Theodore Roosevelt becomes President

Cross references


  • Warde Ford, "Buffalo, Buffalo (Death of McKinley)" (AFS 4198 B3, 1938; tr.; in AMMEM/Cowell)
  • Bill Monroe & his Bluegrass Boys, "Whitehouse Blues" (Decca 29141, 1954)
  • Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers, "White House Blues" (Columbia 15099D, 1926; on AAFM1, CPoole01, CPoole05)
  • Riley Puckett, "McKinley" (Columbia 15448-D, 1929)
  • Swing Billies, "From Buffalo to Washington" (Bluebird B-7121, 1937)


  1. Cohen-LSRail, pp. 413-425, "Cannonball Blues/Whitehouse Blues" (2 texts, 2 tunes, the first being "Mister McKinley (White House Blues)" and the second the "Cannonball Blues," plus a version of a song called "Mr. McKinley" from _The Week-End Book_, which is so different that I would regard it as a separate though perhaps related song, probably not traditional)
  2. Lomax-FSNA 143, "Mister MacKinley" (sic) (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Asch/Dunson/Raim, p. 56 "White House Blues" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Cohen/Seeger/Wood, p. 228 "White House Blues" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Rorrer, p. 73, "White House Blues" (1 text)
  6. Silber-FSWB, p. 287, "White House Blues" (1 text)
  8. Roud #787
  9. BI, LoF143


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1926 (recording, Charlie Poole)
Found in: US(SE)