Music of the Whiskey Rebellion

Folk, country, and rock music have lots of songs about whiskey.  But unlike other events in U.S. History, there are not a lot of music or films specifically about the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s.  Here is a list to get you started:

  • The public television series The Appalachians contains a segment on the Whiskey Rebellion.  (During the segment, you’ll hear the traditional song “Boozefighters,” performed by Gandydancer and also on the companion CD.  But this song is more likely about Prohibition in the 1920s and not the taxing of whiskey in the 1790s.)
  • The book Two Hundred Years of Pittsburgh-Region Folksongs contains a song “A ‘Canny’ Word to the Democrats o’ the West” (1799) which includes references to the Whiskey Rebellion in heavy Scotch-Irish dialect such as this: “When, ance, about Whiskey, / Ye a’ gat sae crusty, / An’ swore ye’d na pay for a drap.”
  • The same lyricist, David Bruce, also wrote “A New Song for the Jacobins” circa 1798 and also found in Two Hundred Years of Pittsburgh-Region Folksongs.  According to the notes accompanying the song, American Jacobin Clubs were radical agrarians inspired by the French Revolution and “furnished the leadership and organization for the Whiskey Insurrection.”
  • In 1953, Albert F. Beddoe published a song “Copper Kettle (The Pale Moonlight)” which became somewhat well-known amongst 60s folk revivalists.  It contains the lines: “My daddy he made whiskey, and my granddaddy too, / We ain’t paid a whiskey-tax since seventeen-ninety-two.”  Local group NewLanders, who specialize in songs about the region’s history, perform this song on their Where the Allegheny Flows album.
  • Another song called “Copper Kettle” also appears in folk song collections and tells the story of a jailed Patrick McCrory.  It contains the lyrics: “But Patrick paid no taxes / On any stuff he sold, / That’s why he went to prison,  / So the tale is told.”

— Tim


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4 responses to “Music of the Whiskey Rebellion

  1. Katie Nicholson

    Hi Tim,
    I enjoyed your post about the Whiskey Rebellion. I am a librarian in Centre County but I did an internship at the Carnegie Library in 2006. I am from Berlin, PA and every year they have a Whiskey Rebellion Heritage Festival. They are very proud of the Whiskey Rebellion in Berlin. It always seems like a forgotten part of American History. I am glad you wrote about. Here is the facebook page for the Whiskey Rebellion Festival in Berlin:

    I read the Eleventh Stack every day! Thanks for writing.

  2. Interesting stuff, thanks for sharing this. I too am a librarian in Albuquerq, NM. That’s what happens when you try to take away our whiskey!

  3. Thanks to both of you for reading and commenting. And Katie, thanks for sharing the link about the Whiskey Rebellion Heritage Festival. It sounds like a neat event. Interested folks should mark their calendars for Sept. 22-23, 2012.

    — Tim

  4. Pingback: Stop #7: Wigle is Pardoned « wiglewhiskeytour

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