Harry McClintock

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Harry Kirby McClintock
Harry McClintock.jpg
Harry Kirby McClintock

(1884-10-08)October 8, 1884
DiedApril 24, 1957(1957-04-24) (aged 72)
Other namesHaywire Mac, Radio Mac, Strawlegs Martin
Occupationboomer, author, poet, busker, cowboy, union organizer
Known for"Big Rock Candy Mountain", "Hallelujah, I'm a Bum"

Harry Kirby McClintock (October 8, 1882 – April 24, 1957), also known as "Haywire Mac", was an American singer, songwriter, and poet, best known for his song "Big Rock Candy Mountain".


McClintock was born on October 8, 1884, in Uhrichsville, Ohio, "the son of a railroad cabinet maker and nephew of four boomer trainmen". He was the son of Walter McClintock (1852-1901) and Joanna Kirby (1852-after 1920) and only had a single sibling, Milton McClintock (1876-1880). His family was native to Tippecanoe, Ohio, and soon after his birth his parents removed their small family to Knoxville, Tennessee, where they raised him. His drifting began when he ran away from home as a boy to join a circus. He railroaded in Africa; worked as a seaman; saw action in the Philippines as a civilian mule-train packer, supplying American troops with food and ammunition; and in 1899 found himself in China as an aide to newsmen covering the Boxer Rebellion. Back in the States, he hired out to the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway in the Pittsburgh area, and from there he took the boomer trail as railroader and a minstrel. "Mac lived an adventurous life and never lost his sense of humor".[1]

Harry McClintock married Bessie Johnson on September 8, 1917, in Farmington City, Utah. They only ever had one daughter, Joan (McClintock) Norman.

The writer Jim Thompson, an acquaintance of McClintock, alluded to McClintock in his autobiographical work Big Boy. Thompson stated that he "was put next to a job" dismantling oil derricks "by a character named Strawlegs, a one-time banjo player and an all-time dipsomaniac".[2] Later on, he says, "Strawlegs was a very good banjo player, as, if you have guessed his right name, you know. He was also a very good little guy."[3]


His song "Big Rock Candy Mountain" (1928), much later featured in the 2000 movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?, reached No. 1 on Billboard's "Hillbilly Hits" chart in 1939. Having worked as a cowboy himself, McClintock was one of the few "country" singers who had an authentic background from which to draw.

His song "The Old Chisholm Trail" was featured in the end credits of The Grandest Enterprise Under God episode (Episode 5) of the TV documentary miniseries The West.

He was included in Robert Crumb's series of "Heroes of Blues, Jazz and Country" trading cards.


He is credited with being the first person to sing "The Preacher and the Slave", a song by Joe Hill, in public. He was a lifelong member of the Industrial Workers of the World. Mac wrote the marching song of the IWW "Hallelujah I'm a Bum". In the mid 1920's He hosted a children's program on KFRC San Francisco called "Mac and his Gang." In the early 1920s he worked and organized union men in the oil fields of west Texas, where he met and recruited Jim Thompson, who later incorporated him into several short stories using the name "Strawlegs Martin."[4]

Selected discography[edit]


  • Ain't we crazy? (Barefoot boy with boots on) (1928; Victor V-40101) [5]
  • The Big Rock Candy Mountains (1928, Victor Talking Machine Co. Camden, NJ No. 21704-B) [6]
  • Hallelujah! I'm a Bum (1928, Victor label No. 21343-B (42137)). Reverse side is "The Bum Song".[7]


  • Haywire Mac (1950, Cook Records 01124)
  • Harry K. McClintock "Haywire Mac" (1972,Folkways Records, FD 5272)
  • Hallelujah! I'm A Bum (1975, Rounder Records, 1009)


  • Songs to Grow On, Vol. 3: American Work Songs (1951, Folkways Records 07027). Track 4: "Jerry, Go and Oil That Car"
  • Cowboy Songs on Folkways (1991, Smithsonian Folkways 40043). Track 7: "Utah Carl"
  • Folk Song America, Vol. 1 (1991, Smithsonian Collection 461). Track 5: "Big Rock Candy Mountain"
  • When I Was a Cowboy, Vol. 1 (1996, Yazoo Records 2022). Track 9: "Sam Bass"
  • Train 45: Railroad Songs of the Early 1900s (1998, Rounder Select 1143). Track 20: "Jerry, Go Oil That Car"
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000, Lost Highway Records 170069). Track 2: "Big Rock Candy Mountain"
  • Back in the Saddle Again: American Cowboy Songs (2004, New World Records). Track 1: "Old Chisholm Trail"



  • "Railroaders are Tough" (Railroad Magazine, April, 1943)
  • "Boomer and Their Women" (Railroad Magazine, December, 1957)


  • "New Publications - Railroad Songs of Yesteryear" (Railroad Magazine, August 1943) Short biography is part of review.


  1. ^ "He's Gone to the Big Rock Candy Mountain", Railroad Magazine, Vol. 68 No. 6, Oct. 1957 p. 57
  2. ^ Thompson, Jim (1953). Big Boy. New York, NY: Mysterious Press. p. 152. ISBN 9780445407138.
  3. ^ Thompson, Jim (1953). Big Boy. New York, NY: Mysterious Press. p. 169. ISBN 9780445407138.
  4. ^ Burnett, Jay. "Things Are Not As They Seem". The Penniless Press On-Line. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  5. ^ Victor Discography: Matrix BVE-46452. Ain't we crazy? / Radio Mac [i.e., Harry K. McClintock
  6. ^ Victor Discography: Matrix BVE-46454. The big rock candy mountains / Mac [i.e., Harry K. McClintock
  7. ^ Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Victor 21343 (Black label (popular) 10-in. double-faced)," accessed October 6, 2021, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/index.php/object/detail/18869/Victor_21343.

External links[edit]


Sheet music



Streaming audio