Friday Five: Jimmy Driftwood

Ken Morton, Jr. | July 12th, 2013

On this day in 1998, Jimmy Driftwood passed away at the age of 101. He reportedly wrote 6,000 songs over the course of his life–Johnny Horton, Eddy Arnold, Johnny Cash, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Homer and Jethro, and Doc Watson were just a few of the artists who recorded his work. During one week during 1959, Driftwood had six of his songs on the music charts at the same time.  He was a Grand Ole Opry member, a musicologist for the National Geographic Society, and toured with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Few songwriters have left their mark on the music landscape quite like he did.  What are your favorite Driftwood songs?

5. “Tennessee Stud”

This classic tune has been covered dozens of times over by everyone from Johnny Cash to Doc Watson to Hank Williams, Jr.

 

4. “On Top of Shiloh’s Hill”

Painting a story based on historical events was one of Driftwood’s greatest talents. Here, he sings about a bloody Civil War battle.

 

3. “What is the Color of the Soul of a Man?”

“Tell me, tell me if you can
What is the color of the soul of a man?
Black or yellow, white or tan
What is the color of the soul of a man?”

 

2. “The Marshal of Silver City”

The Old West was a frequent topic of many Driftwood tales and this tale of thievery and redemption is a personal favorite.

 

1. “The Battle of New Orleans”

Johnny Horton’s chart-topping single might be more well-known, but Driftwood owns this version of his most popular song, which set lyrics to the fiddle tune “Eighth of January.”

  1. Luckyoldsun
    July 12, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    “Tennessee Stud” was a #5 single for Eddy Arnold in ’59.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClUxM5mHJnQ

  2. Arlene
    July 12, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    “He Had A Long Chain On.” Peter, Paul and Mary also recorded this but I first heard it on an Odetta album my parents owned which was recorded at Town Hall in NYC:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIVuPSfOXlQ

  3. Paul W Dennis
    July 13, 2013 at 12:16 am

    “Tennessee Stud” was widely recorded, perhaps his most recorded song. I’ve heard many versions, but my favorite is by Doc Watson, with the Eddy Arnold version a close second

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