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This month's Free Tablature is
"Eighth of January"

traditional American fiddle tune

                                     TAB ARCHIVE





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Battle of New Orleans - January 8th, 1815

On January 8, 1815, Major General Andrew Jackson led a small, poorly-equipped army to victory against eight thousand British troops at the Battle of New Orleans. The victory made Jackson a national hero. Although the American victory was a big morale boost for the young nation, its military significance was minimal as it occurred after the signing (although before ratification) of the Treaty of Ghent that officially ended the war between the U.S. and Great Britain. The battle was fought before word of the Treaty reached the respective armies in the field. The anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans was widely celebrated with parties and dances during the nineteenth century, especially in the South. A traditional fiddle tune commemorating the event came to be known as “Jackson’s Victory” or “Eighth of January.”

James Corbitt Morris was born on June 20, 1907, near Mountain View, Arkansas. His father Neil Morris was a folk singer, and young Jimmy learned to play guitar using his grandfather's unique homemade instrument, whose neck was made from a fence rail, its sides from an old ox yoke, and the head and bottom from the headboard of his grandmother's bed. When he graduated the eighth grade at the age of sixteen, he took the county teacher's examination and got a three month's summer teaching contract in the local school district.

He decided to try making a living as a folk musician, changed his professional name to Jimmy Driftwood, and hitchhiked around the southwest as a singer and entertainer. Life on the road was difficult, and after about 10 years, he gave it up to return to Arkansas, where he got married, started a family, and resumed his teaching career. During this period of his life Driftwood wrote hundreds of songs, but did not pursue a musical career seriously. He would often write songs to teach his students history in an entertaining manner. One of these songs was titled "Battle of New Orleans", which he set to the traditional fiddle tune "Jackson's Victory", aka "Eighth of January".

In the late 1950's, Jimmy decided to give music another try. He auditioned for a Nashville song publisher, and was signed to a record deal. His first album, "Newly Discovered American Folk Songs", included his song "Battle of New Orleans". Singer Johnny Horton heard the song, and asked Driftwood for permission to record his own version of it. That version shot to the top of the country music charts, and won the 1960 Grammy award for "Song of the Year". That success fueled Driftwood's own musical career, and he became a regular on popular live radio shows of the day such as the Grand Old Opry and Louisiana Hayride. He was invited to do concerts at Carnegie Hall and major American folk festivals.

In the 1960's, Driftwood returned to his home in Mountain View, Arkansas, where he became a folklorist. He started an annual folk festival to promote Arkansas folk music and the local folk performers he knew in the area. He was instrumental in establishing Mountain View Arkansas as the Folk Music Capital of the World. Today, Mountain View is the home of the Ozark Folk Center State Park, which is dedicated to perpetuating the music, crafts, and culture of the Ozarks.

Here is a link to a YouTube video of the tune being performed instrumentally by the group Celtic Fiddle Rush.  

.... and here is a link to a video of Jimmie Driftwood performing his original version of "Battle of New Orleans".

This is a 2-part arrangement, including the melody and the bass line.


In music and friendship,




Well, in 18 and 14, we took a little trip
Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Missisip
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans
And we met the bloody British in the town of New Orleans


We fired our guns and the British kept a comin'
There wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago
We fired once more and they began a running
Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

Well, I seed Mars Jackson come a-walkin' down the street
And a-talkin' to a pirate by the name of Jean Lafitte;
He gave Jean a drink that he brung from Tennessee,
And the pirate said he'd help us drive the British to the sea.


Well the French told Andrew, "You had better run
For Packenham's a=comin' with a bullet in his gun."
Old Hickory said he didn't give a damn
He's a-gonna whup the britches off of Colonel Packenham.


Well, we looked down the river and we seed the British come
And there must have been a hundred of them beating on the drum
They stepped so high and they made their bugles ring
While we stood behind our cotton bales and didn't say a thing


Old Hickory said we could take em by surprise
If we didn't fire a musket till we looked em in the eyes
We held our fire till we seed their face well
Then we opened up our squirrel guns and really gave em well..


Well they ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles
And they ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn't go
They ran so fast the hounds couldn't catch em
Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico


Well we fired our cannons till the barrels melted down
So we grabbed an alligator and we fought another round
We filled his head with minie balls and powdered his behind
And when we touched the powder off, the 'gator lost his mind


They lost their pants and their pretty shiny coats
And their tails was all a-showin' like a bunch of billy goats.
They ran down the river with their tongues a-hanging out
And they said they got a lickin', which there wasn't any doubt.


Well we marched back to town in our dirty ragged pants
And we danced all night with the pretty girls from France;
We couldn't understand 'em, but they had the sweetest charms
And we understood 'em better when we got 'em in our arms.

Well, the guide who brung the British from the sea
Come a-limping into camp just as sick as he could be,
He said the dying words of Colonel Packenham
Was, "You better quit your foolin' with your cousin Uncle Sam."


Well, we'll march back home, but we'll never be content
Till we make Old Hick'ry the people's president.
And every time we think about the bacon and the beans
We'll think about the fun we had way down in New Orleans.




JPG Dulcimer





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Eighth of January





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