country blues | old-time

I’ve been listening to this song a bunch lately. You can’t really describe me as a huge Jim Jackson fan, but this particular song is something special. The guitar accompaniment sounds more like a banjo technique than a guitar style, so I was inspired to try it out on the banjo. It’s a cool sound… first I tried it on a fretted, steel string banjo - that was ok… then I came into possession of a circa 1870 fretless banjo - simple oak rim, gut strings (Thanks, Peter for tracking it down!). What a dream! It couldn’t ever be described as a loud banjo, but what a perfect tone… volume is over-rated…


Anyway, here are the lyrics as I hear them:

Old Dog Blue - Jim Jackson

I’m goin’ back to where I’m come
I’m goin’ back to where I’m come
I’m goin’ back to Giles County
My wife died and left me a bounty
Way them pretty girls ganged around
That’s the reason why I’m goin’ to Giles County

I had an old dog whose name was Blue
You know that Blue was mighty true
You know Blue was a good old dog
Blue treed a ‘possum in a hollow log
You know from that he’s a good old dog

Blue treed a ‘possum out on a limb
Blue looked at me and I looked at him
Grabbed that ‘possum and put him in a sack
“Do fer me, Blue, ’til I get back.”

“Here, Ring! Yeah, Ring Here!
Here Ring! Hey, Ring here!”
Who’s been here since I been gone
Little bitty girl with the red dress on
Who’s been here since I been gone
Little bitty girl with the red dress on

Old Blue’s feet was big and round
Old Blue’s feets was big and round
Never ‘lowed a ‘possum to tech the ground
Me and Blue went out on a hunt
Blue treed a ‘possum in a hollow stump
You know that Blue was a good old dog
Blue treed a ‘possum in a hollow log
You know from that he’s a good old dog

Old Blue died and I dug his grave
I dug his grave with a silver spade
I let him down with a golden chain
And every link I called his name

Go on Blue you good dog you
Go on Blue you good dog you
Blue laid down and died like a man
Blue laid down and died like a man
Now he’s treein’ ‘possums in the promised land

I’m goin’ to tell you this jes’ to let you know
Old Blue’s gone where the good dogs go
When I hear old Blue bark
When I hear old Blue bark
Blue’s treed a ‘possum in Noah’s ark
Blue’s treed a ‘possum in Noah’s ark


John says:

03.30.07 @ 12:44 pm

That songs gets me every time!

frankie says:

03.30.07 @ 4:48 pm

Me too, brother. Kim and I fool around with this now & then on banjo & fiddle. Email me if you’re interested.

Ruth Deming says:

08.25.07 @ 7:59 am

Just rediscovered Old Blue after 30 years. One of the great blues tunes of all time with the artist’s philosophy emtombed in lyrics such as “lowered him down on a golden chain” and “Blue laid down inside like a man.” Thanks for hosting this FABULOUS website which I’ll refer to on my blog.

Mitch Cooley says:

10.14.07 @ 4:49 am

Thanks for putting this out here. It’s been many years since I have heard this song (recorded by someone else - a little differently - more of a sad version). but love the song. Wish I could find out who recorded the song I remember though….thanks again.

frankie says:

10.16.07 @ 6:51 am

Hi Mitch - you might want to take a look at Jane Keefer’s Folk Music Index, specifically this page, which lists many artists who have recorded a song by the title of “Old Blue,” which is probably the same song or a variant of Jim Jackson’s “Old Dog Blue.”

regina douglas says:

02.24.08 @ 7:23 am

My honorary granddaughter has just be cast in the play “Fences” to be performed here in San Francisco, CA at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre. She will be playing the part of Raynell and will be singing Old Blue. I am just doing research and looking for the musical arrangement for the piano and vocal accompaniment for Old Blue. If any has a copy please send to my e-mail or better yet a CD.

Two White Horses « Tiny Cat Pants says:

10.13.08 @ 3:41 pm

[…] spade and being laid down with a golden chain (which I suspect must be an old phrase–in this song […]

Rochelle Troyano says:

11.04.08 @ 8:07 am

My daughters and I used to sing this song when they were little (grown with kids now). I accompanied on guitar. This song felt so good to us; we always loved our dogs and still do. My youngest daughter has to put her dog down soon and asked me to find this song which she remembered. Thanks.

frankie says:

11.04.08 @ 9:25 am

I’m sorry to hear about your daughter’s dog, Rochelle. Having outlived a few dogs in my time, I can understand how the decision affects her, and I hope this song might bring her some comfort - it’s what music is for.

Kind regards,

anonym says:

11.28.08 @ 11:05 am

this song is good

justin says:

03.20.09 @ 10:10 pm

David Johansen and the Harry Smiths do an excellent cover of this song.

I downloaded it off i-tunes, and it’s very moving for anyone interested in a new take on it. Very sparse arrangement and Johansen has a haggard well-traveled voice that fits it perfectly, imo.

frankie says:

05.08.10 @ 3:19 pm

corvid says:

07.27.10 @ 12:54 am

thank you for this!

Old Blue has quite a history, from the cotton fields to minstrel shows to a Disney compilation of kid songs. I like The Byrds folk/rock rendition as well as the more traditional takes.

Another great blog on the subject can be found here: gives some history for Jim Jackson & the song, and a more complete list of covers than the other site mentioned here. It is also great because the dog on the site looks just like mine. ; ) Be sure to read the comments too!

I am interested in the Johansen/Smith version Justin, which apparently was the inspiration for the Old Weird America blog just referenced.

happy noodling!


frankie says:

07.27.10 @ 6:50 am

Hi corvid - oldwierdamerica is a very interesting site - a real time sink. I like the Byrds version, too, but the inspiration for the OWA post is definitely not the Davis Johansen version, but the original version by Jim Jackson. In fact, the purpose of of the OWA blog is to explore the recordings on The Anthology of American Folk Music.

I can’t recommend the set highly enough. There’s a lot to discover there, and it’s a great introduction for the blues, religious, country and folk music recorded on 78rpm records.

corvid says:

07.27.10 @ 6:31 pm

thanks much Frankie –

That was only one of the things I was wrong about in my short post! I did figure that out later (I am deep into an obsession of compiling a list of songs about dogs, particularly but not limited to old blues/traditional songs, which is how I found you and the other Blue)…I poked into some information on Harry Everett Smith later. Fascinating fellow! Interesting parents too.

Also, the Jane Keefer’s Folk Music Index list is MUCH more conmprehensive than the one I provided.

Here though, is an alphabetical list of all the people I have found who cover Old Dog Blue, without the wonderful extra information regarding the recordings in the lists previously linked.

Alan Lomax and the Dupree Family; Anne Hills and Cindy Mangsen; Art Thieme; Betsy Rutherford; Bill Davis; Burl Ives; Cisco Houston; Cora Pinkley Call; Dave Bragman; Dave Van Ronk; David Johansen & the Harry Smiths; Dink Roberts; Frank Hovington; Furry Lewis; George Stevens; Guy Carawan; Ian and Sylvia; Irvin Cook; Jim Jackson; Joan Baez; Joan O’Bryant; Johnny Duncan; Larry Mohr; Lizbeth McLaughlin; Lonnie Pitchford; Matthew Sabatella and the Rambling String Band; Michael Cooney; Odetta and Larry; Panhandle Polecats; Pete Seeger, Peggy Seeger, Mike Seeger, Ruth Seeger, and all the little Seegers; Ramblin’ Jack Elliot; Reba McDonald; Sam Hinton; Seaway Singers; T. Texas Tyler; Tennessee Ernie Ford; The Byrds, Layne Brooks; The Dillards; The Little Brothers; Thelma, Beatrice & Irene Scruggs; and probably many more…

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