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On Top of Old Smokey/ Spaghetti

Updated: Jan 28, 2023

If you can listen to it and not think about spaghetti, sneezing and meatballs, more power to you. (Stack, 2016)

On Top of Old Smokey is an old Kentucky mountains song. One of the Kentucky mountain or The Appalachian Mountain peaks is called Clingman's Dome which is said to be Old Smokey. It is the highest mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the highest point in the state of Tennessee, and the highest point along the 2,192-mile (3,528 km) Appalachian Trail. It is the third highest point in mainland Eastern North America. (Wikipedia, 2023)

It is unclear when the song On Top of Old Smokey was first sung as many folk songs followed the tradition of songs being passed down by the song being taught by singing rather than writing it down (Wikipedia, 2022). Cecil Sharp, an English musicologist who was in America, was one of the first to write these folk songs down during the years of the first world war. This song was first heard by Cecil Sharp on July 29, 1916, it was sung by Miss Memory Shelton in Alleghany, Madison County, North Carolina (Home School Book Review Blog, 2018). Miss Sharp was 23 years old at the time and many of the family sang songs for the English song collector. The original song is called The Wagoner's Lad. (Sharp, 1917)

In 1918, the composer Percy Grainger wrote a version of the folk song English County Gardens which was collected by Cecil Sharp. Although the original transcriber, Sharp refused to accept any royalties.

The process of collecting the Appalachian folk songs ignited interest in this music style, this in turn became the advent of Country Music.

“It is no exaggeration to say that some of the hours I passed sitting on the porch of a log-cabin, talking and listening to songs were amongst the pleasantest I have ever spent.”

Cecil Sharp, Introduction to English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians

Many have said that without their preservation work, the songs and the rich cultural heritage they represent would have been lost (, n.d.).

This version by Gene Autry is available on Spotify (Autry, 2005).

In 1963 an artist called Tom Glazer released On Top of Old Smokey with alternative lyrics. Although this is often seen as the emergence of the alternative lyrics it was first released by Dick Biondi two years before. The fun and catchy lyrics have ensured it is a popular camp fire song (All Nursery Rhymes, n.d.). This version is available on Spotify (Glazer, 2008)

The alternative, and perhaps more popular with certain age groups, are as follows.

(, n.d.)

On top of spaghetti all covered with cheese

I lost my poor meatball when somebody sneezed

It rolled off the table, it rolled on the floor

And then my poor meatball rolled out of the door

It rolled in the garden and under a bush

And then my poor meatball was nothing but mush.

The mush was as tasty as tasty could be,

And early next summer it grew to a tree.

The tree was all covered with beautiful moss

It grew great big meatballs and tomato sauce.

So if you eat spaghetti all covered with cheese,

Hold on to your meatball and don’t ever sneeze.

You can download the lyrics and chords from Ultimate Guitar (, n.d.)



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All Nursery Rhymes. (n.d.). On Top Of Spaghetti – Nursery Rhymes. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2023].

Autry, G. (2005). On Top Of Old Smokey. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2023]. (n.d.). A Brief History of These Events. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2023].

Glazer, T. (2008). On Top Of Spaghetti. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2023].

Home School Book Review Blog (2018). Cecil Sharp and ‘On Top of Old Smokey’. [online] Walker Home School Blog. Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2023].

Sharp, C. (1917). ISH Campbell nq^lisU^olk Sallys ?rom Hi^S iOI’iG BOOK. [online] Archive, New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s sons, p.215. Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2023].

Stack, D. (2016). On Top of Old Smoky – Sound Beat. [online] Soundbeat. Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2023]. (n.d.). Misc Children - On Top Of Spaghetti (Chords). [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2023].

Wikipedia. (2022). On Top of Old Smoky. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2023].

Wikipedia. (2023). Clingmans Dome. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2023]. (n.d.). On Top of Spaghetti - Song Lyrics. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2023].



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