The story of Cotton Eyed Joe Dance

By | April 6, 2021


The song ‘Cotton Eyed Joe’ is an American folk song that dates back to before the Civil War, but like many folk songs, its specific origin is unknown. At the beginning of the 20th century, John Avery Lomax wrote down the texts for the first (known) time. Lomax just wrote down a version of the song —- each region, from Texas to Mississippi, has its own variation. Many artists have recorded different versions of the song over the years. The dance to ‘Cotton Eyed Joe’ also has several incarnations, including a compound circle dance and a line dance.

Urban Cowboy

In 1980, the film Urban Cowboy with John Travolta’s country dance moved to a fly. Thus, the Cotton Eyed Joe dance thrived in popular culture. In 1980, Joe Edwards of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote, ‘it was the year to get dressed up in fancy western clothes, slip into a shiny pickup truck, zip down to a West Country nightclub and turn into Cotton Eyed Joe. ‘


In 1992, Rednex, a Swedish euro dance band, released a techno version of the American folk song. The song was charted at number eight in April 1995, and it reached number one in the United Kingdom. Rednex popularized the single line dance in popular arenas such as clubs and school dances. Although there are many versions of line dancing, kicks and stomps are the most popular. Many DJs added the song to their repertoire to join as other interactive songs such as ‘YMCA’ and ‘The Macarena.’


Rednex’s ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ plays at many sporting events, especially during the 7th Inning stretch at Texas Rangers games. Many European sporting events also include the song, despite the company’s American origins.


In April 2008, the ensemble played ABC’s’ Dancing with the Stars’ ‘performed a group country-western dance to’ Cotton Eyed Joe ‘. ‘The difficult song’ Cotton Eyed Joe ‘and the accompanying dance have roots in American culture and history. The current versions of the song are culminations of the many forms that have circulated over the years. The Cotton Eyed Joe dance experienced a similar development over the many decades (and even centuries) of its popularity.