Follow the Drinking Gourd: Home Page


Follow the Drinking Gourd:
A Cultural History



The Recordings

Record collecting is no mere hobby, no innocuous leisurely diversion; it is a feverish passion bordering upon dementia...driving those under its influence to irrational, compulsive, fanatical extremes...

"Searching Out an Endangered Species, I: FD's Newest Hunting Tips" by Frank Doris, Technical Director, The Absolute Sound, Issue 65, May/June 1990, page 78


Follow the Drinking Gourd has been recorded almost 200 times. This sampler includes representative versions that demonstrate the different ways the song has been performed for over 50 years.

The Weavers (Listen)► First commercially released recording of the song. Recorded and released in 1951.

The Weavers (Listen)► Alternate version with big-band accompaniment. Recorded in 1950 but first issued on a Bear Family box set, 2000.

Follow the Drinking Gourd, Foster and Larue, 1958Alex Foster and Michel Larue (Listen)► First recording by black performers. 1958.

John Coltrane (Listen)► Cover by the jazz great. Recorded in 1961 but first released in 1974.

Leon Bibb (Listen)► Recorded Fall, 1962 as part of Harry Belafonte's monumental "Long Road to Freedom" project. Not released until 2001. Note that this is the only version based directly on the Parks original. Leon's son Eric has also recorded a version of the song.

New Christy Minstrels (Listen)► Next to the Weavers, perhaps the most influential arrangement. Except for the chorus, completely different lyrics than the 1928 original version or the Lee Hays arrangement. 1963.

Drinking Gourd used in "Follow the Rugged Road" BSA programDon Rondo (Listen)► The tune and some of the lyrics of Follow the Drinking Gourd were used in a variety of media (including television advertisements) by the Boy Scouts Of America. This version of "Follow The Rugged Road" comes from a Flexi-disc sent to Scout leaders, ca. 1965.

Unknown artist, Mississippi Head Start program (Listen)► Interesting spoken anecdotes between verses. 1967.

Triban (Listen)► Welsh folk group. The song was also performed by Austrian, Czech, Canadian, German and Australian artists. 1969.

The Fellowship Singers (Listen)► Representative of the many church groups that performed this song – but only this LP had Mariah Carey's mother Pat as soloist! 1971.

Chor der Klassen 6/7, Chor der Klassen 8-13, Chor der Eltern und Freunde (Listen)► Private pressing for a High School (Gymnasium) in Hamburg, Germany. Introductory arrangement reminiscent of Karl Orff's Schulwerk. 1977.

Motor Totemist Guild (Listen)► with various Cambodian and Laotian musicians. Representative of various avant-garde treatments of the song. 1989.

Ron Richardson (Listen)► Version from the Jeanette Winter audio book. All voice parts sung by this Tony award winning actor. 1990.

Taj Mahal (Listen)► Version from the Bernardine Connelly audiobook. See also the other Taj Mahal version. 1991.

Drinking Gourd, Spiritual Kvintet recordingSpirituál Kvintet (Listen)► Sung in Czech. 1992.

Lovey Williams (Listen)► From the Follow the Drinking Gourd planetarium show soundtrack. 1994.

Seattle Sound (Listen)► Representative of several barbershop quartet versions. 1995.

James Curnow (Listen)► Symphonic version, representative of settings for orchestra, band, string quartet, etc. 1995.

Eric Bibb, Linda Tillery, Taj Mahal and the Cultural Heritage Choir (Listen)► Contrast with the other Taj Mahal version above. Eric Bibb is Leon's son! 1997

Angela Brown (Listen)► Bluesy rendition. 2001.

Homestead Pickers (Listen)► Bluegrass-flavored version. On a 2-CD set aimed at the home-schooling market. 2003.

Hot Tuna (Listen)► Instrumental version led by Jorma Kaukonen, an original member of Jefferson Airplane. 2004.

Florida State University Combined Choirs (Listen)► Representative of several recordings of this choral arrangement by the black composer, André J. Thomas. 2004.

Follow the Drinking Gourd: Home Page


Copyright 2008 - 2012, Joel Bresler.