Suggest a Songfact / Artistfact
Album: The Spectacular Johnny HortonReleased: 1959Charted:
The Battle of New Orleans was a real event. Near the end of the War of 1812, British troops attacked the city, but were defeated by American forces. The song was written by Jimmy Driftwood, an Arkansas high school principal and history teacher who loved singing and writing songs. He often wrote songs to help students learn about historical events like this battle.
When he performed the song, Driftwood would sometimes include this narrative: "After the Battle of New Orleans, which Andrew Jackson won on January the 8th eighteen and fifteen, the boys played the fiddle again that night, only they changed the name of it from the battle of a place in Ireland to the 'Eighth of January.' Years passed and in about nineteen and forty-five an Arkansas school teacher slowed the tune down and put words to it and that song is The Battle Of New Orleans and I will try to sing it for you."
Soon after he was awarded a Gold Record (then given for sales of one million copies of singles) for this, Horton asked the person who gave it to him (RIAA's Bill Gallagher) if he could trade it for four "Golden Guitar" awards, given by the RIAA for a Country single that sold at least 250,000 copies. Horton's wife thought the Gold Record didn't fit the home decor, but the Golden Guitar did.
This won the 1959 Grammys for Song of the Year (for composer Jimmy Driftwood) and Best Country and Western Performance for Johnny Horton. A parody version by Homer and Jethro ("Battle of Kookamonga") also won a Grammy for Best Musical Comedy Performance.
British skiffle star Lonnie Donegan had a #2 hit in the UK in 1959 with his live version recorded at Bristol Hippodrome. His version was originally banned by the BBC as it contained the word "Ruddy." Once Donegan substituted the word "Blooming," the BBC started playing it.
Horton died on November 5, 1960 in an auto accident after playing at the Skyline Club in Austin, Texas, which is the same place Hank Williams made his final appearance. Horton's widow Billie Jean Jones Eshlimar was once married to Williams.