The Battle of New Orleans

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"The Battle of New Orleans"
Single by Johnny Horton
B-side "All for the Love of a Girl"
Released April 1959
Genre Country
Length 2:33
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Jimmy Driftwood
Johnny Horton singles chronology
"When It's Springtime in Alaska (It's Forty Below)"
(1959)
"The Battle of New Orleans"
(1959)
"Johnny Reb"
(1959)

"The Battle of New Orleans" is a song written by Jimmy Driftwood. The song describes the 1815 Battle of New Orleans from the perspective of an American soldier; the song tells the tale of the battle with a light tone and provides a rather comical version of what actually happened at the battle. It has been recorded by many artists, but the singer most often associated with this song is Johnny Horton. His version scored number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959 (see 1959 in music). Billboard ranked it as the No. 1 song for 1959.[1]

In Billboard magazine's rankings of the top songs in the first fifty years of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, "The Battle of New Orleans" was ranked as the twenty-eighth song overall[2] and the number-one country music song to appear on the chart.[3]

History[edit]

The melody is based on a well-known American fiddle tune "The 8th of January", which was the date of the Battle of New Orleans. Jimmy Driftwood, a school principal in Arkansas with a passion for history, set an account of the battle to this music in an attempt to get students interested in learning history.[4] It seemed to work, and Driftwood became well known in the region for his historical songs. He was "discovered" in the late 1950s by Don Warden, and eventually was given a recording contract by RCA, for whom he recorded 12 songs in 1958, including "The Battle of New Orleans".[5]

"The Battle of New Orleans" is often played during North American sporting events, and is commonly heard during home games of the NHL's Calgary Flames[citation needed]. Original Horton 45 rpm discs of the song are now worth many times the original cost[citation needed].

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1959) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1
Canadian RPM Top Singles 1
Australian Singles Chart 1
U.K. Singles Chart 16

Other versions[edit]

Covers and remakes[edit]

As noted, Johnny Horton's 1959 version is the best-known recording of the song, which omits the mild expletives and many of the historical references of the original. Horton also recorded an alternative version for release in British Commonwealth countries which did not have unfavorable lyrics concerning the British: the word "British" was replaced with "Rebels", along with a few other differences.

Many other artists have recorded this song. Notable versions include the following:

  • In the United States, Vaughn Monroe's 1959 single competed with Horton's but did not achieve the same degree of success and became only a minor Hot 100 hit.
  • In the United Kingdom, Lonnie Donegan and His Skiffle Group's 1959 version competed with Horton's and achieved greater success, peaking at number two. In Donegan's spoken introduction, he made it obvious that the British were on the losing side.
  • The Royal Guardsmen covered the song in their unique 60's rock/novelty style on their 1966 Album Snoopy vs. the Red Baron
  • Harpers Bizarre had a minor Hot 100 hit with their somewhat psychedelic version from their 1968 album Secret Life of Harpers Bizarre.
  • Johnny Cash's version of the song is on the 1972 album America: A 200-Year Salute in Story and Song.
  • The Germany-based Les Humphries Singers 1972 hit, "Mexico", used the melody and parts of the lyrics, violating copyright by crediting the song to British bandleader Les Humphries. Later the Les Humphries Singers re-released "Mexico" with different lyrics. Another new release again contained the original lyrics.
  • Leon Russell's cover of the song is on his 1973 album "Hank Wilson's Back!"
  • Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had a minor Hot 100 hit with their version in 1974.
  • Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen played a cover version of the song at their performance in New York, NY, on September 14, 1976.[6]
  • Dolly Parton sang the song for her 1976/1977 variety show, Dolly.[7]
  • Bill Haley recorded a version in 1979 at his final recording sessions and it was released on his final album, Everyone Can Rock and Roll.
  • Cornershop covered the song as a bonus track for their 2009 album "Judy Sucks a Lemon For Breakfast".
  • Kingfish recorded a live version at their 1973 concert at the Beacon Theater, "Kingfish in Concert", released in 1995.
  • Icelandic singer Erling Ágústsson recorded a cover titled Við gefumst aldrei upp.
  • Les Claypool released a version on his 2014 Duo De Twang debut album "Four Foot Shack" with Bryan Kehoe.
  • The Mexican group La Tropa Loca (the Crazy Troup) recorded a cover titled "La Batalla del Cinco de Mayo" telling as the original song the events of the Cinco de Mayo.

Parodies[edit]

"The Battle of Kookamonga"[edit]

"The Battle of Kookamonga"
Single by Homer and Jethro
from the album Homer and Jethro at the Country Club
B-side "Waterloo"
Released 1959
Genre Country, Parody
Length 2:38
Label RCA Victor
Writer(s) Jimmy Driftwood, J. J. Reynolds

Country music parodists Homer and Jethro had a hit when they parodied "The Battle of New Orleans" with their song "The Battle of Kookamonga". The single was released in 1959 and featured production work by Chet Atkins. In this version, the scene shifts from a battleground to a campground, with the combat being changed to the Boy Scouts chasing after the Girl Scouts.

Other parodies[edit]

See also[edit]

American fiddle

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.bobborst.com/popculture/songoftheyear/
  2. ^ Billboard Hot 100 50th Anniversary – The Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs (30-21)
  3. ^ Billboard Hot 100 50th Anniversary – Top Billboard Hot 100 Country Songs
  4. ^ Collins, Ace. Songs Sung Red, White, and Blue: The Stories Behind America's Best-Loved Patriotic Songs, p. 62-64.
  5. ^ Collins, Ace. Songs Sung Red, White, and Blue: The Stories Behind America's Best-Loved Patriotic Songs, p. 66-67.
  6. ^ http://concerts.wolfgangsvault.com/dt/commander-cody-concert/20052586-8995.html
  7. ^ Video on YouTube

Further reading[edit]

  • Collins, Ace. Songs Sung, Red, White, and Blue: The Stories Behind America's Best-Loved Patriotic Songs. HarperResource, 2003. ISBN 0060513047

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Kansas City" by Wilbert Harrison
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single (Johnny Horton version)
May 26, 1959 – July 6, 1959 (6 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Lonely Boy" by Paul Anka
Preceded by
"White Lightning" by George Jones
Hot C&W Sides
number one single by Johnny Horton

May 18, 1959 - July 20, 1959
(ten weeks)
Succeeded by
"Waterloo" by Stonewall Jackson
Preceded by
"Oh Lonesome Me"
by Don Gibson
Billboard Hot C&W Sides
number-one single of the year

1959
Succeeded by
"Please Help Me, I'm Falling"
by Hank Locklin