Our latest weekly feature is a fun Big Rock Candy Mountain ukulele tutorial. As you might expect, we present the complete package – lyrics, chords, strumming pattern, melody tabs and song history.
By the way, Big Rock Candy Mountain is one of the songs from Book 5 of the Beginning Ukulele books series, 21 Easy Ukulele Folk Songs. The book features 21 carefully selected songs, each with corresponding lyrics and chords plus melody tabs. Additionally, it comes with access to online video lessons. So get a copy of the book here and learn to play 21 folk songs on ukulele fast.
BIG ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN UKULELE TUTORIAL
For this Big Rock Candy Mountain ukulele tutorial, you’ll need to know just three chords which are C, F and G7. In addition, you’ll follow a D-DU-D-DU (D-down, U-up) strumming pattern. Of course, Jenny also plays the melody tab on the video for solo ukulele enthusiasts.
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Harry McClintock, also popularly known as Haywire Mac, first recorded Big Rock Candy Mountain in 1928. Although McClintock claimed writing credits for the song, many historians believe that at least parts of the song were based on older hobo songs. According to McClintock, he wrote the initial version of the song in the 1890s. Compared to the modern versions of the song, the earlier renditions warned of the dangers of hobo life especially for children who are being recruited by “jockers”. Jockers are experienced hobos that mislead children and introduce them to hobo lifestyle eventually making the children work for them.
MODERN VERSIONS OF THE SONG
Before McClintock recorded and released the song, he sanitized the earlier edition which he sang as a street performer.
Later recordings of the song by different artists also feature cleaned up versions of the lyrics and the cautionary tale about hobo life was lost. The modern versions of the song now talk about a hobo’s mythical paradise where “hens lay soft boiled eggs” and there’s a “lake of stew and of whiskey too”. Furthermore, Big Rock Candy Mountain has also been turned into a popular children’s song. Certainly, the version for children is even more sanitized. For instance, “cigarette trees” were changed to “peppermint trees” and “streams of alcohol” were changed to “streams of lemonade”.