“Rye Whiskey”


A song of intense alcoholism: "Rye whiskey, rye whiskey, rye whiskey I cry; If I don't get rye whiskey I surely will die." "If the ocean was whisky and I was a duck, I'd dive to the bottom...." Many verses about how drink has affected the singer's life


This song merges almost continuously with "The Wagoner's Lad" (which itself has offshoots such as "I'm a Rambler, I'm a Gambler"); see that song also for the full list of variants.

The "Jack of Diamonds" subfamily of this song is well known, and perhaps would be considered by some a separate song, but contains so much mixture with this song that I don't see any way to separate them. - RBW

Cross references


  • Jules Allen, "Jack O' Diamonds" (Victor 21470, 1928; Montgomery Ward M-4464, 1934)
  • Fiddlin' John Carson, "The Drunkard's Hiccups" (OKeh 45032, 1926; rec. 1925)
  • Wilf Carter, "Rye Whiskey" (Bluebird [Canada] 58-0058, 1948)
  • Yodeling Slim Clark, "Rye Whiskey" (Continental 8012, n.d.)
  • Homer & Jethro, "Rye Whiskey" (King 571, 1947)
  • Harry Jackson, "Jack o' Diamonds" (on HJackson1)
  • J. E. Mainer's Mountaineers "Drunkard's Hiccoughs" (Bluebird B-8400, 1940)
  • New Lost City Ramblers, "Drunkard's Hiccups" (on NLCR08)
  • Elmo Newcomer, "Rye Whiskey" CroMart 100, n.d. but prob. late 1940s - early 1950s)
  • Bill Nicholson w. Zane Shrader, "Jack of Diamonds" (AFS; on LC14)
  • Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers, "If the River Was Whiskey" (with verses from this song though also related to "Hesitation Blues" or Handy's "Hesitating Blues"; Columbia 15545-D, 1930; on CPoole02)
  • Tex Ritter, "Rye Whiskey, Rye Whiskey" (Vocalion 5493, c. 1931; Vocalion 04911, 1939) (Edison Bell Winner [U.K.] W-21, 1933); "Rye Whiskey" (Capitol 40084, 1948)
  • Reaves White County Ramblers, "Drunkard's Hiccups" (Vocalion 5247, 1928)
  • Hobart Smith, "Drunken Hiccups" (on LomaxCD1706)
  • Pete Seeger, "Whiskey, Rye Whiskey" (on PeteSeeger07, PeteSeeger07b)
  • Jilson Setters [pseud. for James W. "Blind Bill" Day], "Way Up On Clinch Mountain" (Victor 21635, 1928; on RoughWays1, KMM)
  • Woltz's Southern Broadcasters, "Jack O' Diamonds" (Herwin 75561, c. 1927)


  1. Belden, pp. 374-377, "The Guerrilla Boy" (4 texts, 1 tune; the first of two texts filed as "C" is this song)
  2. BrownIII 50, "Jack of Diamonds" (4 texts, all short; some may be "Jack of Diamonds (II)")
  3. Hudson 79, pp. 207-208, "Jack of Diamonds" (1 short text); 117, pp. 258-259, "O Lillie, O Lillie," mostly a "Jack of Diamonds" text but with verses which mix it with "The Rebel Soldier"; also 116, p. 258, "I'll Eat When I'm Hungry" (1 fragment, a single stanza based on this song but probably belonging with "The Rebel Soldier": "I'll eat when I'm hungry, I'll drink when I'm dry, If the Yankees don't kill me, I'll live till I die")
  4. Randolph 405, "Rye Whiskey, Rye Whiskey" (6 texts, 1 tune); also 494, "Tie-Hackin's Too Tiresome" (1 fragment, 1 tune, an extract from a longer version)
  5. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 344-345, "Rye Whiskey, Rye Whiskey" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 405A); pp. 375-376, 'Tie Hackin's Too Tiresome" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 494)
  6. Fuson, p. 157-159, "His Wants," "My Welcome," "I'll Live Till I Die (second, ninth, and tenth of 12 single-stanza "jigs") (3 fragments, all sometimes found with this song though all are floating verses)
  7. Sandburg, p. 307, "Way Up On Clinch Mountain" (2 text, 1 tune, but only the "A" text belongs here; "B" is perhaps "Sweet Lulur")
  8. Lomax-FSUSA 64, "Rye Whiskey" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Lomax-ABFS, pp. 170-173, "Rye Whiskey" (1 text+minor fragments, 1 tune)
  10. Botkin-AmFolklr, pp. 855-857, "Rye Whisky" (1 text, 1 tune)
  11. Chase, pp. 142-143, "Clinch Mountain" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. PSeeger-AFB, p. 69, "Rye Whiskey" (1 text, 1 tune)
  13. Rorrer, p. 92, "If the River Was Whiskey" (1 text, built around W. C. Handey's "Hesitating Blues" but with most of the verses from this song)
  14. Darling-NAS, pp. 286-287, "Jack o' Diamonds" (1 text, heavily mixed with "Logan County Jail"); pp. 287-288, "Rye Whiskey" (1 text)
  15. MWheeler, pp. 112-113, "Beefsteak When I'm Hongry" (1 text, 1 tune, a mixed fragment I file here on the basis of the first verse; the others are from elsewhere)
  16. Thomas-Makin', p. 121, (no title) (1 text, all floating verses, some of which are, or can be, part of "Rye Whiskey" and all of which are drink-related)
  17. Silber-FSWB, p. 233, "Rye Whiskey" (1 text)
  18. Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 5, "Rye Whiskey" (1 text, 1 tune)
  19. Saffel-CowboyP, pp. 211-213, "Jack o' Diamonds" (1 text; this particular Lomax offering contains elements of "Jack o Diamonds/Rye Whisky," "The Wagoner's Lad," The Rebel Soldier," and others)
  21. Roud #941
  22. BI, R405


Alternate titles: “Jack O'Diamonds”; “Drunken Hiccups”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1910 (Lomax)
Found in: US(Ap,SE,So)