"The Battle of New Orleans" is a song written by Jimmy Driftwood. The song describes the War of 1812 Battle of New Orleans from the perspective of an American soldier; the song tells the tale of the battle with a light tone and provides a rather comical version of what actually happened at the battle. It has been recorded by many artists, but the singer most often associated with this song is Johnny Horton. His version scored number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959 (see 1959 in music). Billboard ranked it as the No. 1 song for 1959, it was very popular with teenagers in the late 50's/early 60's in an era mostly dominated by rock and roll music.
In Billboard magazine's rankings of the top songs in the first 50 years of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, "The Battle of New Orleans" was ranked as the 28th song overall and the number-one country music song to appear on the chart.
Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.
The melody is based on a well-known American fiddle tune "The 8th of January," which was the date of the Battle of New Orleans. Jimmy Driftwood, a school principal in Arkansas with a passion for history, set an account of the battle to this music in an attempt to get students interested in learning history. It seemed to work, and Driftwood became well known in the region for his historical songs. He was "discovered" in the late 1950s by Don Warden, and eventually was given a recording contract by RCA, for whom he recorded 12 songs in 1958, including "The Battle of New Orleans."
"The Battle of New Orleans" is often played during North American sporting events, and is commonly heard during home games of the National Hockey League's Calgary Flames. Original Horton 45 rpm discs of the song are now worth many times the original cost, partly because the price is inflated. It was regarded with derision in Britain as the British forces withdrew from the battle after heavy losses had put victory out of the question. The British lost 2,036 men, while the Americans under command of future president Andrew Jackson lost only 71.
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Covers and remakes
As noted, Johnny Horton's 1959 version is the best-known recording of the song, which omits the mild expletives and many of the historical references of the original. Horton also recorded an alternative version for release in British Commonwealth countries, avoiding the unfavorable lyrics concerning the British: the word "British" was replaced with "Rebels," along with a few other differences.
Many other artists have recorded this song. Notable versions include the following:
- In the United States, Vaughn Monroe's 1959 single competed with Horton's but did not achieve the same degree of success and became only a minor Hot 100 hit.
- In Britain, Lonnie Donegan and his Skiffle Group's 1959 version competed with Horton's and achieved greater success, peaking at number two. In Donegan's spoken introduction, he made it obvious that the British were on the losing side.
- The Royal Guardsmen covered the song in their unique 1960s rock/novelty style on their 1966 Album Snoopy vs. the Red Baron
- Harpers Bizarre had a minor Hot 100 hit with their somewhat psychedelic version from their 1968 album Secret Life of Harpers Bizarre.
- Doug Kershaw recorded the song for his third LP, Doug Kershaw in 1971
- Sunny Ryder sang a version of the song in the 1971 spaghetti western A Town Called Hell
- Johnny Cash's version of the song is on the 1972 album America: A 200-Year Salute in Story and Song.
- The Germany-based Les Humphries Singers' 1972 hit, "Mexico," used the melody and parts of the lyrics, violating copyright by crediting the song to British bandleader Les Humphries. Later the Les Humphries Singers re-released "Mexico" with different lyrics. Another new release contained the original lyrics again.
- Leon Russell's cover of the song is on his 1973 album Hank Wilson's Back!
- Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had a minor Hot 100 hit with their version in 1974.
- Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen played a cover version of the song at their performance in New York City on September 14, 1976.
- Dolly Parton sang the song for her 1976/1977 variety show, Dolly.
- Bill Haley recorded a version in 1979 at his final recording sessions and it was released on his final album, Everyone Can Rock and Roll.
- Sha Na Na appropriately performed the song as a part of a War of 1812 themed skit on their show.
- Cornershop covered the song as a bonus track for their 2009 album Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast.
- Kingfish recorded a live version at their 1973 concert at the Beacon Theatre, Kingfish in Concert, released in 1995.
- Icelandic singer Erling Ágústsson recorded a cover titled Við gefumst aldrei upp.
- Les Claypool released a version on his 2014 Duo de Twang debut album Four Foot Shack with Bryan Kehoe.
"The Battle of Kookamonga"
Country music parodists Homer and Jethro had a hit when they parodied "The Battle of New Orleans" with their song "The Battle of Kookamonga". The single was released in 1959 and featured production work by Chet Atkins. In this version, the scene shifts from a battleground to a campground, with the combat being changed to the Boy Scouts chasing after the Girl Scouts.
- "The Battle of the Waikato" by Howard Morrison Quartet, 1960.
- "Deer Hunter's Lament" by Stew Clayton, 1973.
- The Mexican group El Tren recorded a parody titled "La Batalla del Cinco de Mayo," 1980, telling the events of Cinco de Mayo.
- One verse of "The Battle of All Saints Road" by Big Audio Dynamite, 1988 (another verse parodies "Duelling Banjos").
- "The White House Burned" recounts the War of 1812 by Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie, 1991.
- "The Ballad of Hank Williams" by Hank Williams Jr., 1993
- "The Cattle of New Orleans," recounting Hurricane Katrina, by John Archer, 2005.
- "The Ballad of Fetteh Shmeel" by Country Yossi and the Shteeble-Hoppers, reworks the tune with a Jewish message, on the 2005 LP Break Out.
- ^ https://www.discogs.com/Johnny-Horton-The-Battle-Of-New-Orleans-All-For-The-Love-Of-A-Girl/release/7119367
- ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-09-13. Retrieved .
- ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-10-08. Retrieved .
- ^ Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014.
- ^ Collins, Ace. Songs Sung Red, White, and Blue: The Stories Behind America's Best-Loved Patriotic Songs, p. 62-64.
- ^ Collins, Ace. Songs Sung Red, White, and Blue: The Stories Behind America's Best-Loved Patriotic Songs, p. 66-67.
- ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 162.
- ^ "Doug Kershaw - Doug Kershaw". Discogs. Retrieved 2018.
- ^ "Concert Vault - Live Concert Recordings Streamed Online". Concerts.wolfgangsvault.com. Retrieved .
- ^ Video on YouTube
- ^ "Clayton, Stew - My Canadian Home". Mocm.ca. Retrieved .
- Collins, Ace. Songs Sung, Red, White, and Blue: The Stories Behind America's Best-Loved Patriotic Songs. HarperResource, 2003. ISBN 0060513047