If you’re a music lover of any stripe, undoubtedly you’ve heard some version or another of a song about Cripple Creek. There’s the classic banjo tune “Cripple Creek” popularized by bluegrass master Earl Scruggs, The Band’s “Up On Cripple Creek” and Neil Young’s “Cripple Creek Ferry” among others (see below). Some seem to believe the folk song is about the tiny town of Cripple Creek, Virginia, while others believe it’s about the mining town (there’s a nice explication of both hypotheses along with the lyrics HERE). Most seem to agree that The Band’s “Up On Cripple Creek” is about the Colorado town despite the fact that there’s nothing beyond a “mountain” to peg it. Neil Young’s “Cripple Creek Ferry” seems to refer to an imaginary Cripple Creek along a river large enough to float a ferry, though it’s hard to say. Perhaps it just sounds good. Or perhaps all the later songs refer back to the folk tune. In any case, here’s a whole playlist of YouTube videos on fascinating variations on the theme that include a Sesame Street episode featuring mouth bow to Skip Spence’s deep-throated ballad.


5 Responses to Cripple Creek Playlist

  1. adam degraff says:

    love the way folk songs accumulate around a meme. nice collection here.

    i will add droon’s “cripplefight” just for fun.


  2. The woman playing the mouth bow on Sesame Street is Buffy St.Marie, an amazing folk singer definitely worth checking out. “Cripple Creek” is on her album, “It’s My Way”.

  3. Ann Cox says:

    I guess Doc Watson can play those guitar breaks(!) Thanks for the priceless links.

  4. January says:

    Thank you so much for profiling all the Cripple Creek songs! Robbie Robertson of The Band said he had heard of Cripple Creek,Colorado and envisioned some old man sitting in a house all by himself in a desolate mountain town – definitely what Cripple Creek was when the song was written in the 1970’s.

    There is also indeed a Cripple Creek, Virginia, close to the Kentucky border where Bob Womack and his family lived before arriving in our area and discovering gold. That Cripple Creek may or may not be the place Neil Young sang about. “Goin’ up to Cripple Creek” appears to have been written with our local Cripple Creek in mind.

    Last, Montgomery Gentry’s song, “Hillbilly Shoes”, features the chorus from “Goin’ up to Cripple Creek”. A fine tribute to our funny little mountain town!

  5. Thanks for the Cripple Creek playlist. I’ll have to share these.

    As a resident of Cripple Creek, Va, I feel like I need to point out that we — from the Revolution until the Depression — were also a mining town. We’re in the mountains of southwest Virginia (about 45 minutes from North Carolina, 45 minutes from West Virginia, and 2 or 3 hours from Kentucky). So, like our namesake in Colorado, we were a mountain mining town.

    I’m not sure if bluegrass is popular in Colorado, so I’m not sure I can argue that the bluegrass “Goin’ Up Cripple Creek” refers to us because of the style. But…bluegrass is very popular here, and is part of our heritage. If anyone wants to visit our lovely area (the mountains aren’t quite as tall and rugged, but they’re still beautiful) and hear bluegrass, check out the Mt. Airy radio show on Saturday mornings, the Galax Fiddler’s Convention, Wayne Henderson Festival, etc.

    As to The Band song, who knows? I’m willing to give that one to you guys.


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