The house of 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. It 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.
The Animals performed this while touring England with Chuck Berry. It went over so well that they recorded it in 1964 between stops on the tour. They recorded in 1 take, they had perfected this from years performing it on the road.
The traditional version of “The House of the Rising Sun” speaks, not of a boy’s experience, but of a girl corrupted into a life of ruin. The confusion probably starts with the fact that the Animals did not write “The House of the Rising Sun.” (If you look at the really small print on their 1966 album, The Best of the Animals, you’ll find that it was only arranged by Burdon / Chandler / Price / Steele / Valentine.)
According to folklorist Alan Lomax in his book Our Singing Country (1941), the melody of “The House of the Rising Run” is a traditional English ballad and the lyrics were written by Georgia Turner and Bert Martin (both from Kentucky). The song was first recorded in the 1920s by black bluesman Texas Alexander and later covered by Leadbelly, Charlie Byrd, Roy Acuff, Woody Guthrie, the Weavers, Peter, Paul & Mary, Henry Mancini, Dolly Parton, David Allan Coe, John Fahey, Waylon Jennings, Tim Hardin, Buster Poindexter, Marianne Faithful, Tracy Chapman and Bob Dylan . . . just to name a few.