The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane
|"The Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane"|
Sheet music cover (1871)
|Writer(s)||Will S. Hays|
"The Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane" is a popular song written by Will S. Hays in 1871 for the minstrel trade. Written in dialect, the song tells of an elderly man, presumably a slave or former slave, passing his later years in a broken-down old log cabin. The title is from a refrain: "de little old log cabin in de lane".
The Ballad Index by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle lists more than 20 recordings of the song from 1903 to 1940. 
The Metropolitan Quartet recorded the harmonized sentimental minstrel version in 1918, which has been digitized for online listening at the University of California at Santa Barbara.. 
Performers modified the lyric over the years, eliminating Hays' "darky" dialect along with the original reference to slavery. For example, the "old master and mistress" became the narrator's parents in mid-20th century Bluegrass versions.
The song itself was popular, resulting in several answer songs, but the melody was even more widely used, including songs set in the cowboy West: Western songs such as "The Little Old Sod Shanty on the Claim" and "Little Joe, The Wrangler"; railroad songs, "Little Red Caboose Behind The Train"; and even hymns, "The Lily of the Valley".
Fiddlin' John Carson's recording of "The Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane" was one of the first commercial recordings by a rural white musician. Its popularity ensured that the industry would continue recording rural folk songs. The only known recording of banjo player Uncle John Scruggs was a newsreel film performance of this song.
Oh I'm gettin' old and feeble and I cannot work no more
The children no more gather 'round my door
And old masters and old mrs they are sleepin' side by side
Near the little old log cabin in the lane
Oh the chimney's fallen down and the roof's all caved in
Lettin' in the sunshine and the rain
And the only friend I've got now is that good old dog of mine
And the little old log cabin in the lane
Oh the trees have all growed up that lead around the hill
The fences have all gone to decay
And the creeks have all dried up where we used to go to mill
And things have changed of course in another ways
Oh I ain't got long to stay here what little time I've got
I want to rest content while I remain
'Til death shall call this dog and me to find a better home
And leave th' little old log cabin in the lane
- Thorp, Songs of the Cowboys, pp. xviii-xviv: "Again, others have been built upon well-known airs; 'The Cowboy's Dream' is sung to the tune of 'My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,' and Jack Thorp's 'Little Joe, the Wrangelr' was composed to the tune of 'The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane'. "
- Carlin, Country Music, p. x: "One artist whom Brockman recommended was a fifty-plus-year-old fiddler and sometime house painter named Fiddlin' John Carson; the Okeh label dutifully made a custom record of Carson singing the late-nineteenth-century popular song 'The little Old Log Cabin in the Lane' for Brockman to sell, but didn't even bother to assign a master number or affix a label to the 500 records pressed for him. It was only after the record became a regional hit that the light bulb of commerce lit up in the executives' heads, and suddenly they were scouring the countryside for entertainers."
- Carlin, Richard. Country Music: A Biographical Dictionary. New York: Routledge (2002).
- Thorp, N. Howard "Jack". Songs of the Cowboys. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1908, 1921.
- Waltz, Robert B; David G. Engle. "Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane". The Traditional Ballad Index: An Annotated Bibliography of the Folk Songs of the English-Speaking World. Hosted by California State University, Fresno, Folklore, 2007.