“The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane”

Author: Will S. Hays
Earliest date: 1871 (sheet music)
Keywords: age loneliness home abandonment death farming dancing music slavery nonballad animal dog friend slave Black(s)
Found in: US


Singer, a former slave, is getting old and can't work; his master and mistress and fellow slaves are gone; only his old dog remains. His home is falling apart. He recalls the dances they used to have. He hopes the angels will watch over him.

Long description

Singer, a former slave, is getting old and feeble; he can't work any more, his master and mistress are gone, and so are the other former slaves; no one else remains except his old dog. In former days the other "darkies" would gather around his door, and he'd play the banjo while they danced. His house is falling down, the footpath is overgrown and the fences fall down. Chorus: "The chimney's falling down, and the roof is caving in/I ain't got long round here to remain/The angels watches over me when I lay down to sleep/In the little old log cabin in the lane"


This pop song is the basis from which all of the cross-referenced songs were built. From a modern perspective it's sentimentally stereotyped balderdash, but it was a huge hit when published -- and, judging by the number of versions on 78s, it remained wildly popular half a century later. (Presumably among white people.) It's indexed here primarily because of the genuine folk songs it inspired. - PJS

According to Bill Malone (_Don't Get above Your Raisin'_, p. 54), the 1923 Fiddlin' John Carson recording is "one side of the first documented recording of a southern rural musician." - RBW

Not quite; Eck Robertson recorded several sides of fiddle music on Victor before Carson made his first recording, and one of the discs was released before Carson's. But it didn't have any impact, probably because Victor considered itself a "prestige" label and had no idea how to market it. (They also, unlike their competitors, had no distribution agreement with a major mail-order company like Sears, and wouldn't until the 1930s, so they missed a prime means of distribution to rural buyers.) Carson's OKeh disc, backed with "The Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster's Going to Crow," wasn't the first, but it was the one that started the avalanche. - PJS

Same tune

Cross references



  1. Roud #2473