FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN
The tune usually goes at breakneck speed, giving rise to popular folklore for the reason
for its name: the fiddler plays so fast the fiddle catches on fire and lights up the woods.
The title may be Celtic in origin: Scottish clans often used blazing bonfires on highland
hills as gathering signals (ironically, this also may be the origin for the Ku Klux Klan’s
blazing crosses). Early records of the tune’s earliest American publication date is 1814 or
1815 in Riley’s Flute Melody’s (where it appears as “Free on the Mountains”), and as “I
Betty Martin” in A. Shattuck’s Book, a fiddler’s manuscript book dating from around
1801. The piece was recorded in the early 1940’s from Ozark Mountain fiddlers by
musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph for the Library of Congress.
Fire on the mountain, run boy run;
Sal, let me chaw your rosin some.
Fire on the mountain, run, boys, run;
Fire on the mountain till the day is done.
Fire on the mountain, water down below;
Never get to heaven ‘less you jump Jim Crow.
Fire on the Mountain, fire on the hillside
Fire on the Mountain, run, boys, run.
Old Uncle Cyrus fished all night,
Never caught a fish on a crawfish bite.
Old mother Taylor she drinks whiskey,
Old mother Taylor she drinks wine.
Old mother Taylor she got drunk,
Swung across the river on a pumpkin vine.
Two little Indians lying in bed,
One turned over and the other one said,
Fire on the mountain coming son,
Fire on the mountain run boy run.
Two little Indians and their squaw
Sittin’ on a mountain in Arkansas.
All little Indians gonna drink whisky
All little Indians gonna get drunk.