“Old Joe Clark”


Old Joe Clark, a "fine old man" and a "preacher's son," lives an improbable life of courting, gambling, drinking, and sundry accidents. Versions range from the thoroughly clean (often involving animals) to the significantly bawdy


Randolph-Legman I offers some of the rarely printed bawdy verses to this familiar square dance and quatrain ballad. - EC

Since this piece is often played as a fiddle tune, and since the verses are usually improbable, often come from other songs, and rarely show any connection to each other, this song has been suspected of having begun life as an instrumental. - RBW

Seeger states that Joe Clark was "an actual person, a veteran of the War of 1812." - PJS

I'd love to know what evidence there is to prove that this soldier inspired the song.... - RBW

This shouldn't be confused with the fiddle tune "Old Joe," which is separate. "Old Joe" is reported to have been a nickname for syphilis. - PJS

Same tune

  • Fare You Well, Old Ely Branch (by Aunt Molly Jackson) (Greenway-AFP, pp. 268-269; on PeteSeeger13)

Cross references


  • James "Iron Head" Baker, "Old Joe Clark" (AFS 200 A3, 1933)
  • H. M. Barnes & his Blue Ridge Ramblers, "Old Joe Clark" (Brunswick 313, 1929)
  • Fiddlin' John Carson, "Fare You Well Old Joe Clark" (OKeh 40038, 1924; rec. 1923) (OKeh 45198 [as "Old Joe Clark"], 1928, rec. 1927)
  • James Crase, "Old Joe Clark" (on MMOK, MMOKCD)
  • Da Costa Woltz's Southern Broadcasters, "Old Joe Clark" (Gennett 6223/Challenge 333/Herwin 75565, 1927; on GoingDown)
  • The Hillbillies, "Old Joe Clark" (OKeh 40376, 1925) (Vocalion 15369, 1926)
  • Vester Jones, "Old Joe Clark" (on GraysonCarroll1)
  • Bradley Kincaid, "Old Joe Clark" (Brunswick 485, c. 1930; Conqueror 8090, 1933)
  • Clayton McMichen & his Georgia Wildcats, "Old Joe Clark" (Varsity 5029, 1942)
  • John D. Mounce et al, "Old Joe Clark" (on MusOzarks01)
  • Glen Neaves & band, "Old Joe Clark" (on HalfCen1)
  • New Lost City Ramblers, "Old Joe Clark" (on NLCR05, NLCR11)
  • W. Lee O'Daniel & the Light Crust Doughboys, "Old Joe Clark" (Vocalion 02975, 1935)
  • Mose "Clear Rock" Platt, "Old Joe Clark" (AFS 197 A1, 1933)
  • Fiddlin' Powers and Family, "Old Joe Clark" (Victor 19434, 1924) (Edison 51662, 1925)
  • Riley Puckett, "Old Joe Clark" (Columbia 15033-D, c. 1925)
  • Ernest V. Stoneman, "Old Joe Clark" (Victor 20302, 1926); Ernest V. Stoneman Trio, "Old Joe Clark" (OKeh, unissued, 1927)
  • Pete Seeger, "Joe Clark" (on PeteSeeger07, PeteSeeger07b)
  • Gid Tanner & his Skillet Lickers, "Old Joe Clark" (Columbia 15108-D, 1926)
  • Wade Ward, "Old Joe Clark" [instrumental] (on LomaxCD1702)


  1. Randolph 533, "Old Joe Clark" (10 texts plus 2 excerpts, 1 tune)
  2. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 399-401, "Old Joe Clark" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 533A)
  3. BrownIII 86, "Old Joe Clark" (5 texts); also 111, "Wish I Had a Needle and Thread" (7 text, of which only "E" is really substantial; it is certainly the "Italy" version of "Going Across the Sea." The other fragments contain verses typical of "Shady Grove," "Old Joe Clark," and others)
  4. Randolph-Legman I, pp. 428-430, "Old Joe Clark" (5 texts, 1 tune)
  5. SharpAp 183, "Old Joe Clarke" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Lomax-FSUSA 25, "Old Joe Clark" (1 text, 1 tune -- plus the modern adaption "Round and Round Hitler's Grave")
  7. Lomax-ABFS, pp. 277-279, "Old Joe Clark" (1 text, 1 tune, composite)
  8. Botkin-AmFolklr, pp. 814-818, "Old Joe Clark" (1 collated text, 1 tune)
  9. JHCox 174, "Old Joe Clog" (1 text, partly from "Old Joe Clark" and partly floating verses, several of them from "Shady Grove")
  10. Abrahams/Foss, p. 89, "Old Joe Clark" (1 partial text)
  11. PSeeger-AFB, p. 35, "Old Joe Clark" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. Darling-NAS, pp. 249-250, "Old Joe Clark" (1 text)
  13. Silber-FSWB, p. 206, "Old Joe Clark" (1 text)
  15. ADDITIONAL: Fred W. Allsopp, Folklore of Romantic Arkansas, Volume II (1931), p. 209, "(Old Joe Clark)" (1 text)
  16. Roud #3594
  17. BI, R533


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1842
Found in: US(Ap,SE,So)