“The Santa Barbara Earthquake”


"Way out in California, among the hills so tall, Stands the town of Santa Barbara." Around daybreak, "the hills began to sway." Women and children scream; the people pray. The conclusion: "It's just another warning, From God up in the sky."


There are several earthquakes on record affecting Santa Barbara, California, the earliest being in 1806, when it was little more than a mission in what was then Mexico.

It seems clear, however, that this song refers to the earthquake of June 1925, which was quite recent at the time this song was first collected. (I would bet a lot that there was a 78 recording of this song, though I haven't located it.)

The earthquake has been estimated at 6.3 on the Richter scale. As the song says, it happened around dawn, before the workday started -- which was very fortunate, since damage in the large buildings of the commercial district was severe, but most of the houses suffered relatively slight damage. Casualties, as a result, were slight -- only thirteen people killed. They probably would have been worse had workers been crowded into the (large, hard-to-escape) commercial buildings.

The garbage at the end makes me wonder if the song isn't by Andrew Jenkins; it has something of his style, and the earthquake happened in the period when he was writing a lot of topical songs, sometimes by invitation of record executives. The author declares that the earthquake was a warning. A warning of what? Lousy songwriters? - RBW

Historical references

  • June 28, 1925 - the Santa Barbara Earthquake


  1. MHenry-Appalachians, pp. 86-87, "The Santa Barbara Earthquake" (1 text)
  2. Roud #4752
  3. BI, MHAp087


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1929 (Henry, collected from Mary E. King)
Keywords: disaster warning
Found in: US(Ap)