Old Joe Clark: About the Song

“Old Joe Clark” is an American fiddle tune that is well-known throughout the United States and other parts of the world. Many different verses and choruses have been sung to the tune. The song’s origins are unclear, as is the identity of Joe Clark himself, if the title did actually derive from a namesake. Various claims indicate that Joe Clark may have been a moonshiner in the Virginia hills, a veteran of the War of 1812, or a banjo player from Clay County, Kentucky.


Round and round, old Joe Clarke
Round and round, I say
Round and round, old Joe Clarke
I ain’t got long to stay

Fare thee well, old Joe Clarke
Fare thee well, I say
He’d follow me ten thousand miles
To hear my fiddle play

Old Joe Clarke the preacher’s son
Preached all over the plain
The only text he ever used
Was high low jack and the game

I went down to old Joe’s house
Never been there before
He slept on the feather bed
And I slept on the floor

Old Joe Clarke he had a dog
As blind as he could be
Chased a redbug ’round a stump
And a coon up a hollow tree

Old Joe had a yellow cat
She would not sing or pray
She stuck her head in a buttermilk jar
And washed her sins away

I went down to old Joe’s house
Old Joe wasn’t at home
I ate up all of old Joe’s meat
And left old Joe the bone

I used to live on mountaintop
But now I live in town
I’m boarding at the big hotel
Courting Betsy Brown