≡ Menu
  • Mood: Cheerful, Wistful
  • Themes: Wishes, Dreams, Candy
  • Tempo: Medium
  • Genre/Style: Folk

“Big Rock Candy Mountain” was written in 1928 by Harry McClintock, whose hobo name was Haywire Mac. It was said he likely drew inspiration for the song from other songs of similar subject matter: a dream world made of treats and food.

He began performing the song as a busker ( a street musician) with a (ahem) non-family friendly version of the song. He cleaned the song up considerably for the official recorded version.

Here are some of the first recorded lyrics:

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains, there’s a land that’s fair and bright.
Where the handouts grow on bushes and you sleep out every night.
Where the boxcars all are empty and the sun shines every day
On the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees
The lemonade springs where the bluebird sings
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

The song did not actually become a hit until 1939, ten years after the recording was released, and then again in 1949, when it was re-released as a child friendly song where the cigarette trees were changed into peppermint, streams of alcohol became lemonade, and the whiskey lake was made into soda pop.

Try This:

The song’s wishful theme and subject of sweets and food provides an easy transition into reminiscence and discussion of many subjects. This songs can also be great for songwriting. Listen to the song then use the suggestions below to enhance the experience.

Theme – Wishes/Dreams, or Candy: This song would fit well into a themed discussion on ideal worlds, or to promote discussion of wishes or dreams, past or present. This song can also spark discussion of favorite candy and reminiscence about Halloween memories. Other complementary songs may include “Keep on the Sunny Side,” “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” and “Lollipop.”

Songwriting: Print or display fill in the blank style lyrics. Fill in the spaces with suggestions of group members, starting with those who volunteer, or encourage participants to choose ideas as a group. Work as a group to re-write the song, then sing your new version together. Gather feedback from the group and make changes as you write.

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains,
all the ___________ have ___________
And the __________all have ______________
And the ____________ __________ _____________
The farmers’ fields are full of _____________________
And the barns are full of ___________
Oh I’m bound to go where there ain’t no ________________
Where the _____________ don’t fall
The wind don’t blow
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

Build a personalized songbook: Print out the final draft of the new verse(s) and add to your group songbook as the group writes more songs together.

Play percussion instruments: Shake or tap along with this wishful tune.

What would be in your ideal world? What other songs about sweets do you enjoy? Please leave your comments below!

Lawrence Welk and Accordion

Song Spotlight: “Calcutta”

Mood: Relaxed Theme: Dance Music Tempo: Moderate, Relaxed Genre/Style: Easy listening Here’s an easy listening song that hit #1 on the charts even as rock and roll was dominating the music industry. Yes, while Motown was cranking out hits, Lawrence Welk was holding his own, with his light and bubbly arrangements of popular tunes. Lawrence Read More ➞

Song Spotlight: “Big Rock Candy Mountain”

Mood: Cheerful, Wistful Themes: Wishes, Dreams, Candy Tempo: Medium Genre/Style: Folk “Big Rock Candy Mountain” was written in 1928 by Harry McClintock, whose hobo name was Haywire Mac. It was said he likely drew inspiration for the song from other songs of similar subject matter: a dream world made of treats and food. He began Read More ➞

Woman sitting in grassy field, facing away from camera, looking at setting sun.

Song Spotlight: El Sol Que Tú Eres

Mood: Thoughtful Themes: The Sun, Heritage Tempo: Slow, relaxed Genre/Style: Ballad The fall season brings with it cooler weather. During the changing of the leaves the wind can bring a chill that contrasts the memories of warm summer weather. This song brings warmth back through music while describing the kind light of the sun. Linda Read More ➞

Song Spotlight: “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da”

Mood: Cheerful Themes: Family, Mottos Tempo: Medium Genre/Style: 1960s rock Who hasn’t heard of The Beatles? This British band got their big break on American soil in February 1964, kicking off the great cultural phenomenon known as the British Invasion, when the rock ‘n roll bands from the UK came to dominate American pop charts.  Read More ➞

Labor Day Songs for discussion

Songs for Labor Day

Labor Day provides the perfect opportunity to ask seniors about their work experiences. Use the playlist below to inspire discussions about work, as well as the joys of the retirement years. Which songs are your favorites Read More ➞

Alzheimer’s Association Jam Session

By Anastasia Wheeler, MT-BC This last month I had the opportunity to stop by the Alzheimer’s Association Jam Session, and I am TOTALLY going again. I arrived with my fiddle and mandolin in hand and met a group of fantastic, joyful, and talented musicians who welcomed me into their group. These folks lead all of Read More ➞