White House Blues

Lyrics: Traditional
Music: Traditional

Apparently played by Jerry Gracia with Old And In The Way. It does not appear on setlists or tapes, but is mentioned in an article in Rolling Stone in April 1973:

"Marin County's newest bluegrass band, Old and In the Way, was playing at the Lion's Share in San Anselmo, California. ... The four picked and sang close harmony through more than a dozen fast-paced numbers, including Bill Monroe's "The Old Crossroads," "White House Blues," and "Panama Red," a Rowan tune."
See for Robert Hunter's version.

The lyrics for the Bill Monroe version (which seems the likeliest source for the Old And In The Way version) are below. Another possibility is the 1959 version by Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys, from a compilation put together by Mike Seeger. David Grisman said in an interview on the Grateful Dead Hour that it was the first bluegrass record he'd heard, and the one that inspired him to take up playing bluegrass. The lyrics on that recording are essentially the same as Bill Monroe's with the omission of the secong verse:
McKinley hollered , McKinley squalled
Doc said, McKinley I can't find the cause
You're bound to die, you're bound to die

Doc told the horse, he'd throw down his rein
He said to the horse you gotta outrun this train
From Buffalo to Washington

The doc came a-running, he took off his specs
Said, Mr Mckinley better cash in your checks
You've bound to die, you're bound to die

Look here, you rascal, you see what you've done
You shot my husband with your Ivor Johnson gun
I'm carrying you back, to Washington

Well, Roosevelt's in the White House, doing his best
McKinley's in the graveyard taking his rest
He's gone, for a long time
The earlier (1928) Charlie Poole version was fuller:
McKinley hollered, McKinley squalled
Doc said to McKinley, I can't find that ball
From Buffalo to Washington

Roosevelt in the White House, he's doing his best
McKinley in the graveyard, he's taking his rest
He's gone a long, long time

Hush up, little children, now don't you fret
You'll draw a pension at your papa's death
From Buffalo to Washington

Roosevelt in the White House drinking out of a silver cup
McKinley in the graveyard, he'll never wake up
He's gone a long, long time

Ain't but one thing that grieves my mind
That is to die and leave my poor wife behind
I'm gone a long, long time

Look here, little children, don't waste your breath
You'll draw a pension at your papa's death
From Buffalo to Washington

Standing at the station just looking at the time
See if I could run it by half past nine
From Buffalo to Washington

Came the train, she's just on time
She run a thousand miles from eight o'clock 'till nine
From Buffalo to Washington

Yonder comes the train, she's coming down the line
Blowing in every station Mr. McKinley's a-dying
It's hard times, hard times

Look-it here you rascal, you see what you've done
You've shot my husband with that Iver-Johnson gun
Carry me back to Washington

Doc's on the horse, he tore down his rein
Said to that horse, you've got to outrun this train
From Buffalo to Washington

Doc come a-running, takes off his specs
Said, Mr McKinley, better pass in your checks
You're bound to die, bound to die
Robert Hunter sang a version in a solo performance in 2002. The lyrics are hard to make out.
Wash my britches [?} laws
[?]
[From Buffalo to] Washington

McKinley hollered, McKinley squalled
Doc said to McKinley, I can't find that ball
From Buffalo to Washington

Look you here [?], see what you've done
You've killed McKinley with an Iver-Johnson gun
And now he's gone, he's [?] gone

Only one thing, baby, troubles my mind
That's to [?] die, leave my darling wife behind
From Buffalo to Washington

Oh Aunt Peggy is as short as she is tall
[?] that train that they call the Cannonball
From Buffalo to Washington

McKinley hollered, McKinley squalled
Doc said to McKinley, I can't find that ball
From Buffalo to Washington

Roosevelt in the White House, he's doing his best
McKinley in the graveyard, he's taking his rest
He's gone, he's really gone

Wash my britches, [?] my old laws
'Cause I'm on that train they call the Cannonball
From Buffalo to Washington


 


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