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Two Towns and a Song: Cripple Creek for Musicians, Singers and Cloggers.
Rutherford County's Cripple Creek Cloggers
Cripple Creek Song History
- Matteson Art - Cripple Creek Song History
The artwork of Richard L. Matteson Jr.
The evolution of folksongs has been of great interest to me. Likewise I have been interested in the founding and naming of towns. Sometimes the two are related.
Mudcat Café, a website for folk and blues music
Shows a version that they list as Kentucky, traditional song.
roll my britches,
Up to my knees
An wade of Cripple Creek
When I please
Wikipedia shows an East Tennessee version from 1909 and a version of the ballad collector Cecil Sharpe collected in 1917
It is a popular fiddle and banjo song and has bee recorded by Bascom Lamar Lumford’ in 1921.On the Website of Matteson Art-Cripple Creek Song History Lunsford in a book said that he knew of a Cripple creek within a five minute walk of his office in the Flat Iron Building in Ashville, North Carolina.
Although many think that the song refers to Cripple Creek, Colorado Matteson believes it is Cripple Creek, Virginia, which is an unincorporated community in Wyeeth County.
Ironically, both towns are mining towns. In Colorado gold was the big draw. It got its name rather accidentally when cattleman and a helper were building a shelter by a creek. The helper by accident discharged a firearm, which wounded another man in the foot. In the excitement a calf broke a leg jumping over the creek. The rancher called the creek “Cripple Creek.”
The Virginia town also was engaged in mining but in lead and iron ore. Matteson cites a Betty Vernbrock as confirming the existence of the town. She states that she heard that the name came from some hunters who were on the trail of a large buck elk. The elk led them over Buck Mountain, along and across Elk Creek and on up north until they shot him. The only crippled the elk, at Cripple Creek.
I am more inclined to think that the Virginia town is the one as the song seems to be one of the mountains of that area rather than the west, although singers to travel.
It is also possible, I suppose, that the song only refers to a creek and could mean
Bascom Lamar lunsford
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More than likely the song goes back to the early 1800’s. The earliest reference to the song is in the Journal of American folklore in 1915.
The song has also been sung under various other names, possibly for copyright reasons. “Going Up/Down Cripple Creek’” “Going up/down Shootin’ creek’” “Blue Creek Girls”
Well known musicians who have recorde this song include: Flatt and Scruggs. “Live at Vanderbilt University.; Doc Watson “At Folk City;” Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers;” Folk Festival of the Smokies, Vol 1.” Leo Kottke, “Mudlark;” Buffy-Sainte-Marie, “The Best of Buffy Sainte-Marie” Mike Seeger, “Feuding Banjos”; Pete Seeger, “We Shall Overcome”.
© 2010 Don A. Hoglund