Breedloves's Folk Songs



“Big Rock Candy Mountain” is a song about a hobo‘s idea of paradise – a modern version
of the medieval concept of Cockaigne, and similar to the fishermen’s concept of Fiddler’s
Green. It was frequently sung by President Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s New Deal Armies,
nation-building schemes to employ men during the Great Depression. The song describes
a hobo’s vision of utopia, a place where the “hens lay soft boiled eggs” and there are
“cigarette trees”. The song is also rather ironic and satirical in that it additionally
describes mollified versions of things that one wouldn’t think should exist in paradise at
all, such as police (with wooden legs) and jail bars (made of tin), but sound appealing to
someone whose lifestyle runs afoul of the law.
The song apparently dates to around the 1890s, as a hobo ballad based on An Invitation
to Lubberland”. Authorship is commonly attributed to Harry McClintock, whose version
is the first documented example of it. McClintock attempted to enforce a copyright on the
song but lost his lawsuit, which would put the song in the public domain. Sheet music
with a copyright date 1928, by Denton & Haskins Music Pub. Co. Inc., 1595 Broadway,
New York, N.Y., identify the author as Billy Mack. Before recording the song,
McClintock cleaned it up considerably from the version he sang as a street busker in
1897. Originally the song described a child being recruited into hobo life by tales of the
“big rock candy mountain”. Such recruitment actually occurred, with hobos enchanting
children with tales of adventure called ghost stories by other hobos.
One evening as the sun went down and the jungle fire was burning
Down the track came a hobo hiking and he said boys I’m not turning
I’m headin for a land that’s far away beside the crystal fountains
So come with me we’ll go and see the Big Rock Candy Mountains
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains there’s a land that’s fair and bright
Where the handouts grow on bushes and you sleep out every night
Where the boxcars are all empty and the sun shines every day
On the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees
Where the lemonade springs where the bluebird sings
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains all the cops have wooden legs
And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth and the hens lay soft boiled eggs
The farmer’s trees are full of fruit and the barns are full of hay
Oh, I’m bound to go where there ain’t no snow
Where the rain don’t fall and the wind don’t blow
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains you never change your socks
And the little streams of alcohol come a-trickling down the rocks
The brakemen have to tip their hats and the railroad bulls are blind


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