Sunday, October 15, 2006

Hobos, Bums, & Wobblies: Harry McClintock

Most Monday mornings find me staring in the bathroom mirror wishing I was someplace else. Just about anyplace else will do. This past month marked my thirtieth year of doing the same thing for a living. Oh, I've worked all around the country, met lots of good folks, and had good times I wouldn't trade for anything. But after thirty years I'm just getting tired of the daily routine.

It's Monday mornings that I often find myself singing a Harry McClintock song to myself as I drive the backroads to the plant. I was first introduced to the music of Harry McClintock more than twenty-five years ago and several of his songs seem to come to mind often.

Harry McClintock (October 8, 1882 - April 24, 1957), was a songwriter and union organizer. A lifelong Wobblie, as the Industrial Workers of the World were known, Harry is credited as the first person to record fellow Wobblie and folk hero, Joe Hill's "The Preacher and the Slave". McClintock's radio and recording career took off when he moved to The San Fransisco Bay Area where he hosted a daily children's program on KFRC called "Mac and his Gang" calling himself "Haywire Mac". He also had a novelty cowboy band called Mac and his Haywire Orchestry.

Harry McClintock worked all of his life in a variety of occupations. At various times he was a seamen, muleskinner, railroader, cowboy, sheep herder, and union organiser. It's ironic that he is most often remebered for his songs about folks who do not work. Perhaps, like me, he looks upon these folks with a bit of envy. His best known song, "Big Rock Candy Mountain", is often mistaken for a children's folk song but is far from a song for the little tikes.

Let's start this work week off with a couple of tunes dedicated to those who's Monday mornings aren't interupted by an alarm clock.

Harry McClintock - Hallejujah! I'm a Bum.mp3

Harry McClintock - The Bum Song.mp3

Harry McClintock - Big Rock Candy Mountain.mp3


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed good job I guess your right we are just bums at heart just cant find a train going slow enough to jump on


October 16, 2006 6:53 AM  
Anonymous G-Dub said...

When I was a kid, my brother and I had a record with this song on it, but it was a kids song. It went on about the place "where chocolate bars are stuck to the stars" and things like that. We used play it all the time. We thought it was the original until the movie "o Brother, where art thou" came out some thirty odd years later.

October 16, 2006 11:13 AM  
Anonymous Rockin'andRollin' said...

thank you for there roots!

October 16, 2006 11:59 AM  
Anonymous Lucy said...

"Hallejujah! I'm a Bum" has such a catchy little tune. Ed, these are great especially for a Monday.

October 16, 2006 2:45 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

It would seem I am not alone in enjoying the music of the non-working class!

g-dub and rockin'androllin' - I had forgotten about Harry McClintock's music being included on the movie "Oh, Brother". It seems Harry learned a few lessons from that song as well. He wrote "Big Rock Candy Mountain" around 1898 when he sang it on street corners in his hometown of Knoxville. He claims his first lesson was "Anyone who can sing never has to go hungry." By 1925 the song had gained such popularity that most people thought it was an old folksong and performed or broadcast the song without paying Harry his due royalties. Eventually he had to file several costly lawsuits to enforce his publishing rights.

Joey and Lucy - I suppose all of us that must toil our days away have a strong sympathy, perhaps envy, for the freewheelin' and rambling ways of the hobo.

October 16, 2006 5:46 PM  
Blogger retank said...

The Bum Song I thought was by Hobo Jack

And I had Hallejujah I'm a Bum, by someone else,,though I can't find it now

October 17, 2006 1:17 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Lots of folks recorded Harry's tunes and either claimed them as their own or as "traditional". The earliest reference I could find to The Bum Song is when Harry published it in 1906.
Hobo Jack Adkins grew up during the Depression and was likely to hear many versions of the song as a child. He first recorded The Bum Song in the early 1940s.
The Bum Song is one of those tunes that seemed to pick up new verses at every stop. Even Harry added verses and recorded The Bum Song #2 in 1928. Fred Holstien assembled the largest number of verses that I have heard and recorded his live version around 1972, that is perhaps my favorite rendition.
A perfect example of "the folk tradition".

October 17, 2006 7:37 AM  
Blogger retank said...

Ed, Have you seen Elizabeth Cottens videos on You Tube. Some great stuff.

October 17, 2006 3:29 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Thanks for the link retank! Great videos!

October 17, 2006 6:24 PM  

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