There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight

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"A Hot Time In The Old Town"
Sheet music cover (1896).
GenrePopular song
Songwriter(s)Composer: Theodore A. Metz
Lyricist: Joe Hayden

"A Hot Time in the Old Town", also titled as "There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight", is an American popular song, copyrighted and perhaps composed in 1896 by Theodore August Metz with lyrics by Joe Hayden. Metz was the band leader of the McIntyre and Heath Minstrels.


One history of the song reports: "While on tour with the McIntyre and Heath Minstrels, their train arrived at a place called 'Old Town'. From their train window, [Metz] could see a group of children starting a fire, near the tracks. One of the other minstrels remarked that 'there'll be a hot time in the old town tonight'. Metz noted the remark on a scrap of paper, intending to write a march with that motif. He did indeed write the march the very next day. It was then used by the McIntyre and Heath Minstrels in their Street parades."[1]

An alternative suggestion is that Metz first heard the tune played in about 1893 at Babe Connor's brothel, known as the Castle, in St Louis, Missouri, where it was one of the songs performed by the entertainer known as Mama Lou (or Mammy Lou), with pianist Tom Turpin.[citation needed]

And yet one more version is Metz and his Minstrels were in Hot Springs, SD, where Joe Hayden worked at the Evans Hotel. Hayden had the song from his "growing up" days in New Orleans, and he and Metz sat down and wrote the first version of "Hot Time" for a re-dedication ceremony for the local Chautauqua Park and Entertainment Center. The tale is part of the 2015 book And The Wind Whispered.[citation needed]

According to a 1930s newspaper report, Mama Lou's original lyrics went: "Late last night about ten o'clock / I knocked at the door and the door was locked / I peeked through the blinds, thought my baby was dead / There was another man in the folding bed....".[2] Metz heard the tune, copyrighted the music in his own name, and had it incorporated into a minstrel show, Tuxedo Girls, with revised lyrics.[3][4]

The dialect and narrative of the song imitate those of African-American revival meetings.[5]

In popular culture[edit]

Films and musicals[edit]

  • The song is also featured in Citizen Kane (1941), in the line: "are we going to declare war on Spain or are we not?".
  • The Joker sings the title line from this song in a scene where he uses his "joy buzzer" to electrocute the character Antoine Rotelli in the film Batman (1989).
  • Catwoman directly refers to the song title as Selina Kyle, while asking Bruce Wayne if he plans to attend the tree relighting ceremony in the film Batman Returns (1992).[6]


The song was a favorite of the American military's around the start of the 20th century, particularly during the Spanish–American War and the Boxer Rebellion.[7] The tune became popular in the military after it was used as a theme by Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders.[8][9]


Bing Crosby included the song in a medley on his album Join Bing and Sing Along (1959).


  • The chorus is used at the University of Kansas immediately after every touchdown in football and following each basketball game, during "The Waving of the Wheat".



  1. ^ "Theodore Metz". A Composer's and Lyricists Database. Archived from the original on April 2, 2003.
  2. ^ "The Fabulous Babe Connors". 1889 Victorian House Restoration (Reprint from an unknown newspaper ed.). 1930s.
  3. ^ Cooperman, Jeannette (September 19, 2014). "Babe & Priscilla". St Louis. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  4. ^ Wright, John Aaron (2002). Discovering African American St. Louis: A Guide to Historic Sites. Missouri History Museum. pp. 11–12. ISBN 9781883982454.
  5. ^ Finson, Jon W. (1997). The Voices That Are Gone: Themes in Nineteenth-Century American Popular Song. Oxford University Press. p. 222. ISBN 9780195354324. Retrieved July 25, 2012.
  6. ^ "Quotes". Batman. 1989.
  7. ^ Browne. The Story of Our National Ballads. p. 208. "The witchery of this tune was such, that during our brief war with Spain, the Spaniards in Cuba were quite convinced that our National Anthem was named 'There'll be a Hot Time in the Old Town To-night.' At all events, the frolicsome tones of this unpretentious popular song are the most intimately associated of any, with the already dimming recollections of that 'whirlwind campaign'."
  8. ^ Tucker, Spencer C. (editor) (2009). The Encyclopedia of the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars: A Political, Social, and Military History. p. 768.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link) ABC-CLIO
  9. ^ Victor Military Band (1917). "Hot Time in the Old Town". Library of Congress. .mp3 recording
  10. ^ "ItemID 286". Retrieved 2016-07-26.
  11. ^ "Music: 'Hot Time'". Archived from the original on 2007-12-30. Retrieved 2007-11-05.
  12. ^ "Hot Time (Cheer, Boys, Cheer!)". University of Wisconsin Marching Band.
  13. ^ "University of Michigan - Michiganensian Yearbook (Ann Arbor, MI), Class of 1999". p. 186. Retrieved 2016-07-26.
  14. ^ "Commercials - 1968 - Convention". The Living Room Candidate. Retrieved 2016-07-26.


  • Browne, C.A. (1919). The Story of Our National Ballads. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company.
  • Hayden, Joe & Metz, Theo A. Metz (m.) (1896). A Hot Time in the Old Town (sheet music). New York: Willis Woodward & Co.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]