Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight

What are words to this song? Supposedly, it is about Mrs. O’Leary’s cow causing the Chicago fire?


  • Jinx

There seem to be several versions (as well as the one played by the Hooterville Volunteer Fire Department).

The one you’re thinking of goes,

Late one night
When we were all in bed
Old Mother Leary
Left a lantern in the shed

And when the cow kicked it over,
She winked her eye and said,
“There’ll be a hot time
In the old town, tonight.”

An older version, by “Hayden and Metz,” seems to be a “coon song” (sorry, but that’s what they were called!) and runs—

Come along, get you ready Wear your bran’, bran’ new gown
For there’s gwine to be a meeting In that good, good old town
Where you knowded everybody And they all know-ded you
And you’ve got a rabbit’s foot To keep a-way de hoo-doo.

When you hear that the preaching does begin
Bend down low for to drive away your sin
And when you gets religion, you want to shout and sing
There’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight!

When you hear dem a bells go ding ling ling
All join 'round and sweetly you must sing
And when the verse am through in the chorus all join in
There’ll be a hot time in the old town to-night.

. . . and it goes on from there. I’m pretty sure a number of other versions will turn up, too.

I found a site that has the history of this song and others, scroll down to Selection Six for the one being discussed here. Looks like Thomas Metz wrote the tune in 1886 and Joe Hayden wrote the lyrics some time later.