Author: Daniel, Bert

Theme Songs From History

When I was a kid I liked to watch the Bob Hope Show. I don’t really know why. His humor was pretty tame, but somehow the guy was funny. Maybe it was his delivery or something. Hope seemed to have a big heart, entertaining soldiers in the field and that kind of stuff. For whatever reason, you simply liked the guy. One of the cool things about Bob Hope was that he had his own theme song, Thanks for the Memories, and it seemed to fit him. It conjured up all those lighthearted movies with Bing Crosby and simple wholesome laughs.

Everybody should have their own theme song. Ask yourself, if you had one, what would it be? What if you could select the theme song for anyone you wished? What about historical figures, what should they have for theme songs? I think CBA members should pick the theme songs for our forefathers and foremothers. For the most part those poor guys and gals never even knew about Bluegrass music. Lots of them didn’t get to enjoy Old Time music either. What would a theme song list look like for the famous people from the history of civilization, as picked by the California Bluegrass Association? Of course, some of these people could no doubt have selected their own tunes from a CBA jam session. Thomas Jefferson liked to play Grey Eagle on his violin while George Washington was partial to Jaybird Sittin’ on a Hickory Limb. Thomas Hardy mentions several fiddle tunes by name in his novels. But let’s pick the tunes ourselves. It’ll be more fun that way. If you have a suggestion or correction for the following list, let me know on the message board and maybe we can do a revised list in October for Day of the Dead or something. Here’s the list grouped by category. I’ll include some footnotes at the end in order to explain some of the more obscure references.


Beatrix Potter (Little Rabbit), Mark Twain (Mississippi Sawyer), Lord Byron (Put My Little Shoes Away), Arthur Conan Doyle (Red Haired Boy), Marquis de Sade (Shove That Pig’s Foot a Little Further Into the Fire), Emily Dickenson (Bury Me Beneath the Willow), Mary Wollstonecraft (Coal Mining Woman), Oscar Wilde (Whiskey Before Breakfast), Ernest Hemingway (Bull Durham), Anna Sewell (Molly and Tenbrooks, Spotted Pony), Confucius (Chinese Breakdown), Charles Dickens (Ebenezer, Christmastime’s a Comin’), Washington Irving (Sleepy Eyed Joe), John Steinbeck (Little Glass of Wine), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Free Born Man), Edgar Allen Poe (Who’s That Knockin’ at My Door?), O’Henry (Gold Watch and Chain), George Eliot (Miller’s Reel, Dusty Miller)


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (I’m Not Broke But I’m Badly Bent), Titian (Panama Red), Degas (Dance all Night), Claude Monet (You Are My Flower), John James Audobon (Jaybird), Roger Tory Peterson (Oklahoma Redbird), Augustus Saint Gaudens (Under the Double Eagle)


Tutankhamen (Down in Little Egypt), William the Conqueror (Billy in the Lowground), Henry VIII (Pretty Polly), Elizabeth I (Little Bessie), Louis XIV (On the Sunny Side of the Mountain, Keep on the Sunny Side), Marie Antoinette (Cakewalk), Queen Anne (Queen Anne’s Lace)

American Presidents:

Thomas Jefferson (The Rights of Man), James Monroe (Monroe’s Hornpipe), Andrew Jackson (Cherokee Shuffle), Abraham Lincoln (Woodchopper’s Reel), James Garfield (Garfield’s Hornpipe, Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom), Theodore Roosevelt (White House Blues), Franklin Roosevelt (Hard Times Come Again No More)


Robert de la Salle (Banks of the Ohio), Ponce de Leon (Florida Blues), Edward Whymper (Matterhorn), Daniel Boone (Take Me Back to Old Kentucky, Cumberland Gap), Merriweather Lewis (Lonesome Road Blues), Jesse Chisolm (Rawhide), Snowshoe Thompson (Footprints in the Snow), Davey Crockett (Crockett’s Honeymoon), Jim Bowie (Barlow Knife)


Alexander Graham Bell (I Hear a Sweet Voice Calling), Thomas Edison (I Saw the Light), John Thomas Romney Robinson (Texas Gales), Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (Cold Frosty Morning), John Deere (Speed the Plow), John Harrison (Grandfather’s Clock), Leon Foucault (Spinning Wheel), George Westinghouse (Wreck of the Old ’97), Charles R. Drew (Power in the Blood), Orville Wright (Red Wing), Wilbur Wright (I’ll Fly Away), Harvey Fletcher (Can’t You Hear Me Callin’), Eli Whitney (Cotton Eyed Joe)

Military Figures:

Napoleon Bonaparte (Bonaparte’s March, Bonaparte Crossing the Alps, Bonaparte’s Grand March, Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine, Bonaparte Crossing the Rocky Mountains), Duke of Wellington (Bonaparte’s Retreat), Andrew Jackson (Eighth of January), Jefferson Davis (Richmond Blues), George Armstrong Custer (Lost Indian), Robert E. Lee (Dixie Hoedown), William Tecumseh Sherman (Atlanta Blues), Robert the Bruce (Scotland), Lawrence of Arabia (1952 Vincent Black Lightning), Sam Houston (T for Texas), Isaac Hull (Hull’s Victory)

Religious Figures:

Job (Man of Constant Sorrow), Methuselah (Oh Death), Ezekiel (Ezekiel Saw the Wheel), Daniel (Daniel Prayed), Moses (Go Down Yonder, Moses), Rachel (Rachel), Solomon (Jerusalem Ridge), Noah (Sinner You Better Get Ready), John (Walkin’ in Jerusalem), John the Baptist (River of Jordan), Jesus (Carpenter of Wood, Carpenter’s Reel), Muhammad (Arab Bounce), St. Anne (St. Anne’s Reel), William Miller (My Last Days on Earth)


Euclid (Can the Circle Be Unbroken?), Charles Lyell (Rock of Ages), Sigmund Freud (Devil’s Dream), Galileo Galilei (Blue Moon of Kentucky), Tycho Brahe (Twinkle Little Star)


Harriet Tubman (Going to the Free State), William Cody (Hunting the Buffalo), Frank Lloyd Wright (I’m Working on a Building), Captain Edward J. Smith (Take Me in Your Lifeboat), Miles Standish (I Am a Pilgrim), Gifford Pinchot (In the Pines), Patrick Henry (Liberty), Annie Oakley (Little Annie, Ragtime Annie), Carrie A. Nation (Temperance Reel), Benjamin Franklin (Turkey in the Straw), Johnny Appleseed (June Apple), James W. Marshall (Gold Rush), Giacomo Cassanova (Girl I Left Behind, Sophronie), Joy Morton (Salt Creek), Jack Daniel (Mountain Dew), Andrew Carnegie (Golden Slippers), J.P Morgan (Fortune), Casey Jones (Casey Jones), Raul Capablanca (Brilliancy), Nanny Doss (Widowmaker), Otto Wood (Otto Wood), Jesse James (Jesse James), Tom Dooley (Tom Dooley), Antonio Stradivari (Fiddler’s Dram), Chief Sitting Bull (Chief Sitting Bull)

Obviously this game can go on and on (It’s probably gone on way too long already for most of you). I hope you were amused by at least some of these offerings and maybe you learned a little history in the process. If nothing else, this seemingly interminable exercise illustrates just how rich and varied our music is. There’s something somewhere for just about every subject you can think of! I hope you’ll come up with some of your own tune choices and have fun doing so.

As promised, here are some brief explanatory footnotes. If you don’t need any of these, I’ve got to hand it to you. These will by no means clear up all of my arcane references, but at least it’s a start: Lord Byron had a club foot. Anna Sewell wrote Black Beauty. One of Conan Doyle’s stories was “The Red Headed League”. Hemingway made Pamplona famous and Poe wrote “The Raven” O’Henry wrote “The Gift of the Magi” in which the husband sells his gold watch to buy a gift for his wife who has sold her hair to buy a chain for the same watch. Irving made Rip Van Winkle famous. Toulouse-Lautrec’s body was twisted by a bone disease, Titian was famous for his red and Picasso had a blue period. Elizabeth I was “good Queen Bess”. Louis XIV was known as the Sun King and Marie Antoinette is alleged to have said “Let them eat cake”. Andrew Jackson is blamed for the forced relocation of the Cherokee nation (The “Trail of Tears”). He also commanded at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8. Abraham Lincoln was often depicted as the “rail splitter”.

In order, the inventors worked on the following devices: telephon
Posted:  5/10/2009

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email