“Remember the Poor Tramp Has to Live”


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


  • Blue Ridge Singers, "The Tramp Song" (Columbia 15647-D, 1931; rec. 1930)
  • Dock Boggs, "Railroad Tramp" (on Boggs2, BoggsCD1)
  • Walter Morris, "The Railroad Tramp" (Columbia 15101-D, 1926)
  • Ernest V. Stoneman, "The Poor Tramp Has to Live" (matrix GEX 493-A recorded 1927, released 1927-1928 as: Herwin 75535 [as by Stoneman], Gennett 6044 [as by Ernest V. Stoneman and his Graysen County Boys], Challenge 324/Challenge 398/Champion 15233 [all as by Uncle Jim Seaney], Challenge 244/Silvertone 5001/Silvertone 8155/Silvertone 25001/Supertone 9255 [all as by Uncle Ben Hawkins]); "The Poor Tramp" (Victor 20672, 1927); Ernest V. Stoneman and His Dixie Mountaineers, "Remember the Poor Tramp Has to Live" (Edison, unissued, 1928); Ernest Stoneman [and Eddie Stoneman], "Broke Down Section Hand" (Vocalion 02655, 1934)


  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


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1927 (recording, Ernest V. Stoneman/Stoneman Family)
Found in: US(SE)