The "Rising Sun" occurs as the name of a bawdy house in two other traditional songs, both British in origin.... The melody can be linked with one setting of "Lord Barnard and Little Musgrove"... and with other old traditional tunes.'
Yet this song is, as far as I know, unique. I took it down in 1937 from the singing of a thin, pretty, yellow-headed miner's daughter [Georgia Turner] in Middlesborough, Kentucky, subsequently adapting it to the form that was popularized by Josh White....
In the United States, The Rising Sun, a song with roots in 17th century British folk melody -- the rising sun has been a longtime symbol for brothels in British and American ballads -- circulated widely among Southern musicians, black and white. Black bluesman Texas Alexander first recorded it in 1928. [Roy] Acuff [who commercially recorded the song on Nov 3, 1938] may have learned this number from such neighboring Smoky Mountain artists as versatile entertainer Clarence Tom Ashley or the Callahan Brothers, an influential duet team of the '30s and '40s.
There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Risin' Sun.
Been the ruin of a many a poor gal,
And me, oh, God, I'm one!
If I'd a-listened what mama said
I'd a-been at home today.
Being so young and foolish, poor boy,
I let a gambler lead me astray.
My mother, she's a tailor,
She sewed those new blue jeans.
My sweetheart, he's a drunkard, Lord,
Drinks down in New Orleans.
The only thing a drunkard needs
Is a suitcase and a trunk;
The only time he's satisfied
Is when he's on a drunk.
Fills his glasses to the brim,
Passes them around,
The only pleasure that he gets out of life
Is a-hoboin' from town to town.
Go tell my baby sister
Never do like I have done,
To shun that house in the New Orleans
That they call the Risin' Sun!
One foot's on the platform,
The other on the train,
I'm going back to New Orleans
To wear that ball and chain.
Going back to New Orleans,
My time is almost done;
Going back to spend my life
Beneath that Rising Sun.