The Days the Earth Would Not Stand Still

Graphic courtesy USGS

I wrote this song to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-1812 (which began in December of 1811). Thanks to my fellow musicians for their contributions! Terry Lewis, mandolin. Will Turner, banjo (clawhammer style). Craig Ingram, guitar on solo. I played rhythm guitar and bass. The vocals are double-tracked.

Thanks also to Chris McGoldrick, Gary Patterson, Charles Langston, and Kent Moran, at the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis, for reviewing the lyrics for historical accuracy. (*) Early reports say bells rang in Boston, but the Center's historian (Kent Moran) says that Charleston, SC is more correct. I also originally wrote "chimneys fell in Maine", another historical misnomer, which I changed to "chimneys fell like rain" to keep the rhyme.

The song "The Days the Earth Would Not Stand Still" first aired on WCMT (Martin, Tennessee) on December 5, 2011 during the Good Times In the Morning radio program featuring Paul Tinkle and Chris Brinkley, and was featured in an article in The Weakley County Press (Dec 6, 2011).

The song is included in the documentary which first aired on WKNO (PBS/Memphis) on June 21, 2012.

Watch the documentary online!

(Song excerpt performed during rolling credits
beginning at 24:56)

Reelfoot Lake Bicentennial Page

Kentucky Lake Tourism's Reelfoot Lake Page

Reelfoot Outdoor's Earthquake Page

Commemorative plaque in Samford, Tennessee
(near the Boat House restaurant)

Words and Music by Larry Holder
Copyright © 2011 Larry Holder
(Larry Holder Music, ASCAP)

Play or download the MP3 free

Performed by Ralston Station
Larry Holder (vocals, guitar, bass),
Terry Lewis (mandolin),
Will Turner (banjo),
Craig Ingram (lead guitar)

They say it rang the church bells
In Charleston* far away
The skies were filled with darkness
The land around gave way
Some thought it was the wrath of God
Come rumblin' 'neath the hills
They never would forget
The days the earth would not stand still.

"A loud but distant thunder"
Awoke both beast and man
In late 1811
Around 'bout 2 a.m.
New Madrid, further northward
Would see the strongest quake
And there in early 1812
The earth began to shake.

[guitar instrumental]

The ground, it rose and then it fell
Like waves upon the sea
And all around the forest
Thund'rous crashing of the trees
It rang the bells in Charleston
Brought chimneys down like rain*
It seemed to all who saw it
That the earth had gone insane.

The mighty Mississippi
Reversed its raging flow
With sand and water shooting high
And forests sinking low
Yes, many a boat went under
Never to be seen again
And Reelfoot Lake was carved out
From the land a-cavin' in.

[mandolin instrumental]

Two hundred years have come and gone, now,
Since those fateful days
A mem'ry near forgotten
Or just a distant haze
Yet though New Madrid's fault line
Seems slumb'ring 'neath the hills ...

...Just how much time 'til once again
The earth will not stand still?

[banjo instrumental]

[outtro / fade]

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