Sleepy-Eyed John

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X:0 T: No Score C: The Traditional Tune Archive M: K: x

SLEEPY-EYED JOHN. American, Song and Reel. "Sleepy-Eyed John" was written by left-handed fiddler Tex Atchison, who, according to researcher Charles Wolfe[1], may have based it on a bluegrass number called "Get Up John" or "Sleepy John." Atchison recorded it for Capitol Records in 1950, in western swing style, when he was playing fiddler for Ole Rasmussen and his band, the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Singer Johnny Horton had a minor hit with his cover of the song in 1961, when it rose to number nine on the Billboard Country and Western chars, where it remained for two months.[2]. The words to the song begin]:

Way down yonder on Caney Creek
I whittled out a fiddle from a wagon seat
Tuned my fiddle and rosined my bow
Play a little tune whereever I go

Sleepy eyed john, better get your britches on
Sleepy eyed john, better tie your shoes
Sleepy eyed john, better get your britches on
Try to get to heaven 'fore the devil gets you

Additional notes

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  1. Charles Wolfe, Kentucky Country, p. 59.