Old Joe Clark

Joseph Clark was born in Clay County, Kentucky on September 18th, 1839. In 1857 at the age of 17 he married 15 year old Elizabeth Sandlin.

At 22 years old, married with 3 kids, the American Civil War began and Old Joe was there in line to enlist. He didnít last long though as he became sick the first winter and was given a discharge in 1862. With nothing else to do he went home and resumed life as a farmer in Clay County.

In 1868 he purchased 700 acres of land from his father and lived in a log house built by his ancestors on Sextons Creek. Seems this was about the time he started earning a bad reputation for himself. In 1864 Betty couldnít take it any more and bid him farewell. Being free from Betty, somehow I donít think it really mattered; he took up living with a lot of different women. Did Old Joe have kids? Oh yeah, he had a bunch.

Did you ever wonder why Old Joe Clark has so many versus? There are a couple of stories about that.

As I said Joe was a bit of a wild man and his friends, taking note of his wild and crazy exploits started making rhymes out of them. There was a popular break down tune at the time that they chose to put those rhymes to and then was born ďThe Ballad of Old Joe ClarkĒ. It is said at first Joe was amused with it at first but then his friends starting embellishing some of his exploits, or did they? He sure didnít do anything to help them write better lyrics about him.

When the farming didnít work out he opened a little store by his house. He also operated a moonshine still not far from his house, which was licensed by the state. He brewed brandy, whiskey, and other drinks, which he would sell from his store. Iím sure there are some great stories of what went on in that store.

Joe was said to have a neighbor he didnít get along very well with. The relationship was so bad that during one heated exchange Joe produced a gun and shot the neighbors arm off. In another fight with a man Joe is said to have lost the use of his own arm when he received a knife wound in the shoulder. Things like this are said to have been a regular occurrence until one day in 1886 Joe was shot and killed on his back porch. Legend has it Old Joe is buried in the Clark family cemetery facing Sexton Creek.


OLD JOE CLARK

Old Joe Clark, the preacher's son
Preached all over the plain
The only text he ever knew
Was high low jack and the game

Chorus:

Old Joe Clark had a yellow cat
She would neither sing nor pray
Stuck her head in a buttermilk jar
And washed her sins away

Chorus:

Old Joe Clark had a house
Fifteen stories high
And every story in that house
Was filled with chicken pie

Chorus:

I went down to Old Joe's house
He invited me to supper
I stumped my toe on the table leg
And stove my nose in the butter

Chorus:

Wished I had a sweetheart
Put her on the shelf
And every time she'd smile at me
I'd get up there myself

Chorus:

Old Joe Clark's no friend of mine
Treats me like a pup;
Kicks my houn' dog under the porch
An' drinks my booze all up.

Chorus:

Old Joe Clark came to my house
Scared my little pup
Broke up all my chairs and stuff
And drunk my liquor up

Chorus:

Old Joe Clark he had a mule
His name was Morgan Brown
And every tooth in that mule's head
Was sixteen inches round

Chorus:

Old Joe Clark was married
His wife was ten feet tall
And when her head was in the bed
Her feet were in the hall

Chorus:

I went down to Old Joe Clark's
Old Joe wasn't home
I ate all Joe's meat and bread
And I gave his dog a bone

Chorus:

I went down to see my gal
She met me at the door
Shoes and stockings in her hand
And her bare feet on the floor

Chorus:

Raccoon has a bushy tail
'Possum's tail is bare
Rabbit has no tail at all
'Cept a bunch of hair

Chorus:

Sixteen horses in my team
The leaders they are blind
And every time the sun goes down
There's a pretty girl on my mind

Chorus:

Eighteen miles of mountain road
And fifteen miles of sand
If ever travel this road again
I'll be a married man

Chorus:

Well, I wouldn't marry that old maid,
I'll tell you the reason why,
Her neck's so long and stringy, boys,
I fear she'd never die.

Chorus:

And I wouldn't marry an old school-teacher,
Tell you the reason why,
She blows her nose in old corn bread,
And calls it pumpkin pie.

There is more than one chorus. Choose the one you like or use Ďem all.

Chorus: Fare thee well, Old Joe Clark
Fare the well I say.
Heíd foller me a thousand miles
Just to hear my fiddle play. (banjo, guitar, harmonica, whatever)

Fare thee well, Old Joe Clark
Goodbye, Betsy Brown
Fare thee well, Old Joe Clark
I'm goin' to leave this town

Round and round, Old Joe Clark
Round and round I say.
Round and Round Old Joe Clark
I'm a goin' away.