Cripple Creek (folk song)

"Cripple Creek" is an Appalachian-style old time tune and folk song, often played on the fiddle or banjo, listed as number 3434 in the Roud Folk Song Index.

"Cripple Creek"
PublishedMid 19th Century
Cripple Creek, performed by Gid Tanner and his Skillet Lickers (1929)

The lyrics are probably no older than the year 1900, and the tune is of unknown origin. It has become a standard among bluegrass musicians and is often one of the first songs a banjo picker learns.[1]

Origin and contextEdit

Cripple Creek, Colorado, c.1898

Its time of composition is unknown, and according to Bob Coltman, the tune is probably older than the lyrics.[2]

The most famous Cripple Creek is Cripple Creek, Colorado, where a mining town was formed after gold was discovered there in 1891. However most traditional Virginia musicians believe that the song refers to Cripple Creek, Virginia.[2]


Simplified version of the basic melody (A part followed by B part).




The following are lyrics from a 1909 version included in the Journal of American Folklore, 1915.

Goin' to Cripple Creek, goin' ter Rome (roam),

Goin' ter Cripple Creek, goin' back home.

See them women layin' in the shade,

Waitin' fer the money them men have made.

Roll my breeches ter my knees

En wade ol' Cripple Creek when I please.

"(From East Tennessee; mountain whites; from memory; 1909)":

Goin' to Cripple Creek, going in a run;

Goin' to Cripple Creek to have my fun.

"(From South Carolina; country whites, MS. of Mr. Bryan; 1909)":[4]

When Cecil Sharp collected folksongs in the Appalachian Mountains in 1917 he found two versions of "Cripple Creek", one from Lizzie Abner of Oneida, Kentucky[5] and another from Alice Wilson of Pineville, Kentucky, a variant which begins "Buck Creek Girls, don't you want to go to Somerset?"[6]


The first recording was in 1924 by Sam Jones, also known as Stovepipe No. 1, a black one-man-band. The Skillet Lickers recorded the song later in the same year.[2] Luther Strong was recorded in 1937 by the Library of Congress singing the song.[1]

Buffy Sainte-Marie recorded "Cripple Creek" on her 1964 Album It's My Way!

Leo Kottke performed a fingerpicked acoustic guitar arrangement on his 1971 long player Mudlark.

"Uncle" Homer Walker performed the song in 1978 for Virginia Traditions - Non-Blues Secular Black Music (Smithsonian Folkways)

U.S. Senator Robert Byrd recorded the song on his album Mountain Fiddler.

Rising Appalachia recorded the song on their 2015 album, Wider Circles.


  1. ^ a b "Cripple Creek". Archived from the original on 2014-03-27. Retrieved 2014-03-26.
  2. ^ a b c "Cripple Creek Song History - Matteson Art". Retrieved 2022-01-08.
  3. ^ Rogers, Austin. "Cripple Creek" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
  4. ^ American Folklore Society (1915). Journal of American Folklore. Published for the American Folk-lore Society by Houghton, Mifflin, and Co. pp. 180–1. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  5. ^ "Cripple Creek (Cecil Sharp Manuscript Collection (at Clare College, Cambridge) CJS2/10/3879)". The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Retrieved 2022-01-07.
  6. ^ "Cripple Creek / Somerset Girls (Cecil Sharp Manuscript Collection (at Clare College, Cambridge) CJS2/10/3930)". The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Retrieved 2022-01-07.