Old Rivers is a country music song written by Cliff Crofford which tells the story of a man recalling a childhood friendship with an elderly farmer. The song was most famously recorded as a recitation by actor and recording artist Walter Brennan.

Released in March 1962, "Old Rivers" — prominently featuring The Johnny Mann Singers as the backing choir over Brennan's recitation of the refrain — became a top 5 hit on the Billboard Hot 100Easy Listening, and Hot C&W Sides charts by the end of May.

In addition to a recording by The Johnny Mann Singers, "Old Rivers" was also covered by Jimmy DeanDave Dudley and Red Sovine.


TheTITLE character of "Old Rivers" is an elderly farmer, a childhood friend of the song's main protagonist. The protagonist, whose family is very poor, recalls how Old Rivers used a mule-driven plow to cultivate the fields in the hot sun. The mule's name was "Midnight," and he would plow straight rows for the crops. During a break, Old Rivers would take the boy aside and tell of a place he one day was going to go, by "climb(ing) that mountain." The place is not specifically named, but it can be inferred through the lyrics — "Walk up there among them clouds/Where the cotton's high and the corn's a-growin'/And there ain't no fields to plow" — that Old Rivers was speaking of Heaven.

Years later, the young boy is now an adult and, having moved away from his dirt-poor farming community, is now a success in his chosen field. He talks about a letter he received from his hometown, where he learns that Old Rivers has died. The protagonist is stunned and deeply saddened by this news, and needs to find shade to gather his thoughts and grief. However, he is able to take comfort in what Old Rivers one day told him about Heaven.

The story continued with the last track of the album, "Old Rivers' Trunk." Old Rivers had many friends, but no family. The narrator buys Old Rivers' trunk at anAUCTION for two dollars and finds the only thing of worth was his Bible.

Chart performanceEdit

Chart (1962) Peak


U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles [1]
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 5
U.S. Billboard Easy Listening [2]



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