Mr. Alexander M. Plumwax, the noted folk-song collector, first discovered this song at a roadside souvenir stand just outside Luray, Virginia, where it was sung by a one-armed banjo player who said that he had learned it at the gas station down the street. Further research has revealed that the song is widespread throughout the Appalachian region in many slightly different versions. For example, Mr. Plumwax discovered that, in Bristol (Virginia or Tennessee, it hardly matters which), the song is known as “In Albion Wood Chimes Ring So Long,” and the usual accompaniment is a Galax-style dulcimer; outside Asheville, North Carolina, the song is called “The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis” and is usually banged out on trash-can lids; and near Clarksburg, West Virginia, the song is known as “Someone to Watch Over Me” and is sung to a tune by George Gershwin.

All the good times have gone bad.
All the sweet times have turned sour.
All the happy times are sad,
To the last depressing hour.

All the gold times have turned blue.
All the right times have gone wrong.
So there’s nothing left to do
But sing this whiny little song.

1. ’Cause fair was fair a century since,
And people weren’t so jaded.
If Serbians shot an Austrian prince,
Then Belgium got invaded.


2. They sure did have it good back then.
Their lives were so much merrier
When every swamp and marsh and fen
Was teeming with malarier.


3. And days in spring had bluer skies,
And summer was more summery.
If anyone says otherwise,
He’s full of idle flummery.



  1. Jared says:

    Luray is among my favorite locations for engaging in idle flummery. I have spent many a carefree hour hiking the Catherine Furnace area overlooking Luray, which, be it only a year or two ago, was nonetheless back when summer was more summery. In what little time I’ve spent in Bristol, though, I’ve seen but little to remind me of Fair Albion.

  2. Clay Potts says:

    Ah, yes, these chord changes would be very difficult to play with only one arm, but not impossible – add a bridge, and a key change towards the end – now that would be impossible.

    Then again, until now, I also would have thought it impossible to rhyme anything with “malarier”. The thought of this just gives me the chills…

  3. These lyrics can be sung, if badly, to the tune of the old “I’d like to teach the world to sing” Coca-Cola commercial jingle.

    Of course, anything *I* sing can only be sung badly. I couldn’t carry a tune in an NPR tote bag.

  4. Greybeard says:

    Makes me fervent to don a pair of hickory stripe bib overalls and croon, “Gloom! Despair! and Agony on Me!. . . . “

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