The song was originally written by Ervin T. Rouse in 1938, and was first recorded by Rouse and his brother Gordon in 1939. It eventually became a staple at bluegrass festivals, and was commonly known as “the fiddle player’s national anthem.”
But it first became most popular in mainstream culture after Robert Russell “Chubby” Wise, began playing it weekly on the Grand Ole Opry. Though he also tried to claim authorship of the song, Rouse had the track copyrighted when he first wrote it, so he is credited as the original writer.
The Man in Black used the song as the title track to his 1965 Orange Blossom Special album, though he replaced the fiddle parts with two harmonicas and a saxophone and added his own touch to the bluegrass classic.
He also sang the lyrics written by Rouse, which most bluegrass players left out during live shows, and he played both harmonicas himself.
And you can find possibly the best example of his harmonica skills during his famous performance of the song live from San Quentin prison on February 24th, 1969, which might just be one of the coolest videos you’ll ever see.