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Days of ’49

[ Roud 2803 ; Ballad Index R198 ; DT DAYSOF49 ; Mudcat 22283 ; Joaquin Miller / trad.]

The Days of ’49 is a poem by Joaquin Miller about a gold miner from the California gold rush of 1849. It was published in The Gold Seekers of the Sierras, Chap. VII, p. 68, Funk Wagnalls, New York, 1884. The verses on characters like Tom Moore were added by others.

Bob Dylan recorded Daya of ’49 for his 1970 album Self Portrait.

Trevor Lucas sang Days of ’49 with Fairport Convention at the Sydney Opera House concert on 26 January 1974—listen for Sandy Denny coming in on the chorus. I wonder why this recording has not been included on Fairport’s Live Convention album. But it was later released on Trevor and Sandy’s cassette Together Again - The Attic Tracks Vol. 4 and then again on the CD Fiddlestix: The Best of Fairport 1972-1984.

Another Australian recording is Alistair Hulett singing Days of ’49 accompanied by Dave Swarbrick in 1996 live at The Basement, Sydney. This track can be found on the Dave Swarbrick anthology Swarb!.

Peter Bellamy sang The Days of ’49 live at the Cockermouth Folk Club in January 1991. This concert was published on his cassette Songs an’ Rummy Conjurin’ Tricks. The liner notes commented:

An amalgam of several traditional versions of a popular American music hall song of the 1870s.

American folklorist Jeff Warner sang The Days of ’49 at Edinburgh Folk Club on 4 June 2008:

Jon Boden learned The Days of ’49 (Old Tom Moore) from Peter Bellamy’s singing. He sang it as the 24 July 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Jeff Warner sang Days of ’49 in 2018 on his WildGoose CD Roam the Country Through. He noted:

John Galusha gave this to the Warners in 1941. A nostalgic look back at the California gold rush camps, it first appears in print in San Francisco in 1872, a minstrel song (without chorus) written by Charles Bensell (aka Charley Rhoades), d. 1877, with a tune different from Galusha’s. The Galusha-Warner version appeared in John and Alan Lomax’s Folk Song USA in 1947 and has become the standard melody for the song. I use a G minor banjo tuning, gDGBbD.


Peter Bellamy sings The Days of ’49

I’m old Tom Moore, I’m a bummer sure from the good old golden days.
You can call me a bummer, a gin sot too, what care I for praise.
I just rove around from town to town, folks call me the roving sign,
It’s just old Tom Moore, he’s a bummer sure from the days of ’49.

Chorus (after each verse):
In the days of old, in the days of gold,
How oft-times I repine
For the days of old when we dug up the gold
In the days of ’49.

There was Nantuck Bill, I knew him well, he was always fond of tricks.
At a poker game he was always there and ready with his bricks,
He would ante up and draw the cards, he would go for the hatfull blind.
In a game with death, he lost his breath in the days of ’49.

There was New York Jake, the butcher’s boy, he was always getting tight,
And every time that he got drunk he was looking for a fight.
One night he rampaged up against a knife in the hands of old Doc Kline;
Over Jake we held a wake in the days of ’49.

There was Frisco Jess, one of the best, he never would repent.
Her was never known to miss a beer not yet to pay a cent.
But one night poor Jess like all the rest who never can decline,
In his ruddy bloom he went up the flume in the days of ’49.

There was Roaring Joe from Buffalo, I never will forget.
He roared all day and he roared all night and I guess he’s roaring yet.
One night he fell in a prospect hole of roaring bad design,
In that hole he roared out his soul in the days of ’49

Now of all the friends that I had then there’s no-one left to boast
For I’m left alone in my misery like some poor wandering ghost.
I just rove around from town to town, folks call me the roving sign,
It’s just old Tom Moore, he’s a bummer sure from the days of ’49.