The 1937 Flood Watch
The 1937 Flood Watch Podcast
"Raise a Ruckus Tonight"

"Raise a Ruckus Tonight"

#298 / Dec. 29 Podcast

Here’s a tune we always trot out whenever we feel a party coming on. So you can bet we’ll have it on the set list this weekend for the big “Flood at 50” birthday bash on New Year’s Eve at Alchemy Theatre.

In fact, we’re so eager for this weekend that we actually started putting the song through its paces earlier this month.

Here’s our take on the tune from a joyous night at Sal’s Speakeasy in Ashland just a couple of weeks ago, featuring Michelle Hoge and the guys on the harmonies and happy solos from everybody in the band.

About the Song

The first reference to a tune called “Raise A Ruckus Tonight" dates back more than a century, to an entry in African American scholar Thomas W. Talley's classic 1922 song collection called Negro Folk Rhymes: Wise And Otherwise.

The first known recording of the song was the 1923 Paramount release by Norfolk Jazz Quartette, though their lyrics are different from those given in Talley's collection. 

(Incidentally, if that group’s name sounds familiar, you’re probably remembering our earlier article about the song “I Am a Pilgrim,” which noted that the Norfolk Jazz Quartette made the first recording of that tune as well, in 1924.)

Early Crossover Song

“Raise a Ruckus Tonight” dates from the 19th century, in what scholars called an “open-ended dance song” with various floating verses that can be found in many secular slave songs.

Like other songs originating in the African-American community, the tune soon was picked up by white singers as well. A half dozen years after the Norfolk group’s release, for instance, Hugh Cross and Riley Puckett pressed it for Columbia.

Then in the 1950s and ’60s came a slew of folk renditions of the song, including great ones by Eric Darling, Josh White, Oscar Brand and The Highwaymen.

More Recently

For older ears today, the song probably is best remembered for a hit by Georgia-born singer Buster Brown, a harmonica player who relocated to New York in the mid-1950s. Brown put the tune on the charts in 1962 for Fire Records.

In the same year the song made its screen debut when Debbie Reynolds sang it in How the West Was Won in a scene in which her character is trying to get a party started around a campfire.

Finally, 40 years later, a classic 21st century rendition was recorded by Old Crow Medicine Show on Eutaw, the group’s third album.

Our Take on the Tune

It was that particular version that Flood manager Pamela Bowen was thinking of 16 years later when in 2017 she recommended her guys use the tune as the theme song for the then-new monthly “Route 60 Saturday Night” musical variety shows in which The Flood was the house band.

For the next two years after that, the band performed the song nearly every month to start the show. As a result, “Raise a Ruckus Tonight” is deeply ingrained in The Flood recipe, so it’s only natural for us to be serving it again at this week’s birthday party.

Speaking of Which ….

We sincerely hope you’ll help us commemorate the 50th anniversary of The Flood’s birth by joining us at Alchemy Theatre, 68 Holley Ave., this Sunday night. Everything you need to know about the gala — directions to the venue, ticket information, recent media coverage, the party’s back story and much more — is on our new website at

Check it out, then come to the do! We’re going to share memories and make a whole bunch of new ones.

The 1937 Flood Watch
The 1937 Flood Watch Podcast
Each week The 1937 Flood, West Virginia's most eclectic string band, offers a free tune from a recent rehearsal, show or jam session. Music styles range from blues and jazz to folk, hokum, ballad and old-time. All the podcasts, dating back to 2008, are archived on our website; you and use the archive for free at: