Is there a term for a commercial song, in a folk/roots style, which gets accepted as an authentic folk original ?

I'm thinking of a song like The Wheel of the Wagon is Broken.

Country/Western Swing fans may know the version by Patsy Montana. Likewise Roy Rogers, Milton Brown, Sons of the Pioneers....

People of the WW2 generation, or fans of 1930s dance bands may know the versions by "Arthur Young", the street singer, Joe Loss & Orchestra, vocal Chick Henderson, Rossini's' accordion band

But there are more rootsy versions also, for example Caribou Bill.

Being accepted as a folk original means that performers feel free to embroider the various loose ends in the lyric with their own added verses, like you would with a folk song :

for example , Caribou Bill adds a verse addressed to "Old Faithful", the horse:

So long, Old Faithful
We've crossed the great divide
So long, old Faithful
there's other trails to ride

or Arthur Young, who adds more detail about the "old grey mare":

The old grey mare is missing
and there's weeds round the old ranch door
The wheel of the wagon is broken
It ain't a-gonna turn no more

The song's composer Michael Carr is an interesting topic in himself, likewise the co-credited composers Elton Box and Desmond Cox who were really the song's publishers. Carr was a resourceful commercial songwriter, working in Denmark Street, London's "Tin Pan Alley" for many years.


1 Answer 1


In the US, such songs might be entered into a "Old American Songbook" (songs predating 1919 are generally considered too old for the Great American Songbook where libraries limit themselves to 1919 to 1955. Songs after that date are sometimes sorted into a "New American Songbook") Otherwise, many commercial songs that have made it into folk song catalogues such as Roud are indistinguishable from other community-built folk songs.

Some examples of such songs in the Roud Index.

Oh! Susanna, Stephen Foster (1848) (Roud Index Number 9614)

Oh Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone (Der Deitcher's Dog), Septimus Winner (1864) (Roud Index Number 15385)

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