By David Bennett February 7, 2012
Rumor has it Grady is planning a pilgrimage, I mean road trip, this spring to explore the history of the man behind his favorite tune: Old Joe Clark. Contact Grady to sign up.
Old Joe Clark was a real person and he was born in 1839. Joe Clark was a soldier in the Seventh Kentucky Infantry in the Civil War and fought in the Battle of Wildcat, the first battle of the war in Kentucky in the fall of 1861. He became ill during the winter months and was given a Disability Discharge in 1862. He was bumped off in 1885 presumably by a family member of one of his many lady friends.
The first stop on this tour will be in Clay County at Kentucky Roadside Historical Marker Number #1382. This marker is located at the Junction of. KY 577 & 1350. The tour will pause here to play all 90 stanzas of Old Joe Clark.
History has it the song was a popular fiddle tune while Joe Clark was alive that did not have lyrics, so his friends made up lyrics to go with the tune. From this originated the ballad of “OLD JOE CLARK.” They say Joe liked the song until people started making up verses that were not very flattering.
Clark operated a country store near his house and also ran a moonshine still, under license from the state. The still was located in the bottom near his house. Joe is said to have lost some use of his left arm after he had a fight with a man who slashed him across the collar bone with a knife.
There are several stories surrounding his death, suffice it to say he did not die peacefully in his sleep. The third stop will be at the Clark Cemetery to view the headstone of Old Joe Clark. The tour will pause here to play all 90 stanzas of Old Joe Clark.
The fourth stop of the tour will be at the Old Joe Clark statue at Renfro Valley, KY. Note this is not a statue of our Old Joe Clark but of an area entertainer who took the name of Old Joe Clark in honor of… Old Joe Clark. Nevertheless tour members will pause here to play all 90 stanzas of Old Joe Clark.
Sources (and our apologies to):
Kentucky Department of Highways Marker #1382
Points of Interest Driving Tour