Parallel Anthology Track 20

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Icon Public Domain.jpg Track 20: Charlie Poole with the North Carolina Ramblers - White House Blues   Columbia 15099-D; Recorded in New York, 20.9.1926

Anthology Track 20 label.jpg

Record label does not assign authorship. Nor does either Anthology booklet. However, assigns authorship to "Charlie Poole".

According to wikipedia, Charlie Poole died in 1931, which if the assignation of authorship given by www.78discography is correct would mean that this composition has been public domain since 1st January 2002.

The Roud Folk Song Index classifies this song as a version of Roud 787. A Roud number search returns only one version (from the previous year) which predates Poole's recording.

According to the Where Dead Voices Gather blog:

"White House Blues" provides a model for the way in which a topical song is often made up of the elements of other songs. The folk songs "Delia," "That Crazy War," "The Cannonball (Solid Gone)," "Cannonball Blues," "Battleship of Maine," and "Pig in a Pen" have all been cited as sources for or near relatives of "White House Blues." Following the assassination of William McKinley in 1901, some enterprising songster borrowed elements from one or more songs to compose a topical song that captured the spirit of the moment. The song itself is quite irreverent. Most farmers and other country folk had supported McKinley's opponent William Jennings Bryan in 1896 (and again in 1900) and were not terribly saddened by McKinley's passing.

According to the Old Weird America blog:

It seems that the ballad originated with afro-americans “songsters” and, like “Stackalee”, was a kind of proto-Blues with a melody and a verse structure very alike another murder Blues ballad, “Delia’s gone”. In fact, all this songs, Delia, White House Blues, The Cannon Ball, Railroad Bill, even Stackalee and Frankie had very similar melodies in their primary forms, as they entered the oral tradition at the same time, the turn of the century and were all associated with black singers. Later, white musicians began to take those songs in their repertoire, like White House Blues, who became, thanks to Bill Monroe, a bluegrass standard.

There are very good grounds for treating this composition as public domain.

Parallel anthology main index page

Alternative Versions

The Unlucky Road to Washington by Ernest Stoneman and his Dixie Mountaineers    recorded in 1928 (according to RFSI): Spotify
No claim to authorship/arrangement on record label
White House Blues by the New Lost City Ramblers    album released in 1959 (according to Spotify
No claim to authorship/arrangement on [liner notes]