The Battle of New Orleans
|"The Battle of New Orleans"|
|Single by Johnny Horton|
|B-side||"All for the Love of a Girl"|
|Johnny Horton singles chronology|
"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.
In Billboard magazine's rankings of the top songs in the first 50 years of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, "The Battle of New Orleans" was ranked as the 28th song overall and the number-one country music song to appear on the chart.
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. 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."
"The Battle of New Orleans" is often played during North American sporting events, and is commonly heard during home games of the National Hockey League's Calgary Flames. Original Horton 45 rpm discs of the song are now worth many times the original cost, partly because the price is inflated. It was regarded with derision in Britain as the British forces withdrew from the battle after heavy losses had put victory out of the question. The withdrawal was an orderly one and not a rout by any means. The song was seen in Britain as a clumsy attempt to mask American embarrassment at the events of the War of 1812. After an American attack on York (now Toronto) in 1813, the American forces were defeated and withdrew only after an orgy of looting and arson on the civilian population on the shores of Lake Erie. In retaliation, a punitive raid was mounted on the American capital of Washington, D.C. An invasion force of British troops landed to attack the city and, having put to flight its American defenders at Bladensburg, the British entered the capital. After putting President James Madison to flight, the troops conducted a mock parliament, whereupon the force made for the White House, and after consuming a banquet prepared earlier to celebrate the assumed American victory, the British torched it and other government buildings, taking care not to destroy private property.
|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|
Covers and remakes
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, avoiding the 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 Britain, 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 1960s 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.
- Sunny Ryder sang a version of the song in the 1971 spaghetti western A Town Called Hell
- 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 contained the original lyrics again.
- 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 City on September 14, 1976.
- Dolly Parton sang the song for her 1976/1977 variety show, Dolly.
- 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 Theatre, 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 El Tren (the Train) recorded a cover titled "La Batalla del Cinco de Mayo," telling as the events of the Cinco de Mayo.
"The Battle of Kookamonga"
|"The Battle of Kookamonga"|
|Single by Homer and Jethro|
|from the album Homer and Jethro at the Country Club|
|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.
- "The Battle of All Saints Road" by Big Audio Dynamite, 1988.
- "The Battle of the Waikato" by Howard Morrison Quartet, 1960.
- "Deer Hunter's Lament" by Stew Clayton, 1973.
- "The Ballad of Hank Williams" by Hank Williams Jr..
- "The Cattle of New Orleans" (Hurricane Katrina) by John Archer, 2005.
- "The White House Burned (The War of 1812)" by Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie.
- "The Battle of Bannockburn" by The Corries.
- "The Ballad of Fetteh Shmeel" by Country Yossi and the Shteeble-Hoppers.
- Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1959
- Billboard Hot 100 50th Anniversary – The Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs (30-21)
- Billboard Hot 100 50th Anniversary – Top Billboard Hot 100 Country Songs
- Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014.
- Collins, Ace. Songs Sung Red, White, and Blue: The Stories Behind America's Best-Loved Patriotic Songs, p. 62-64.
- Collins, Ace. Songs Sung Red, White, and Blue: The Stories Behind America's Best-Loved Patriotic Songs, p. 66-67.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 162.
- Video on YouTube
- Clayton, Stew – My Canadian Home
- Collins, Ace. Songs Sung, Red, White, and Blue: The Stories Behind America's Best-Loved Patriotic Songs. HarperResource, 2003. ISBN 0060513047
- Tom Simon's Battle of New Orleans page
- MIDI file of music (from Louisiana History, which includes Johnny Horton's lyrics)
- Library of Congress page, includes a recording of "The Eighth of January"
- Lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
"Kansas City" by Wilbert Harrison
|Billboard Hot 100 number-one single (Johnny Horton version)
May 26, 1959 – July 6, 1959 (6 weeks)
"Lonely Boy" by Paul Anka
"White Lightning" by George Jones
|Hot C&W Sides
number one single by Johnny Horton
May 18, 1959 - July 20, 1959
"Waterloo" by Stonewall Jackson
"Oh Lonesome Me"
by Don Gibson
|Billboard Hot C&W Sides
number-one single of the year
"Please Help Me, I'm Falling"
by Hank Locklin