Bestselling Author Delilah Devlin
HomeMeet Delilah
BookshelfBlogExtrasEditorial ServicesContactDelilah's Collections


Genevive Chamblee: House of the Rising Sun
Monday, February 19th, 2024

Today’s post may seem an odd one, but for me, it isn’t. See, recently, Mardi Gras was celebrated, which is a major event in Louisiana. And since 2020—when the entire world broke—it hasn’t been the same. Sure, it’s on its way to recovery, but it’s taking a while to get there. I should say, though, that this isn’t something that many people who have been around and are familiar with carnival are overly concerned with because, as mentioned, Mardi Gras is a big deal. It has tons of moving parts. Restructuring events this large is complicated. For those who think I’m minimizing the disruption, reflect on what happened in the years following Hurricane Katrina. It wasn’t that much different than what is presently occurring.

I began by saying Mardi Gras is a popular celebration in Louisiana. This is true. However, it is an event celebrated across the globe. New Orleans is likely the place where it is the most famously celebrated or is given the most attention. But NOLA wasn’t where Mardi Gras was created or even first celebrated. It’s just that when NOLA does something it does it big. Like, there is nothing really “over-the-top” about the place. Nevertheless, this post isn’t about Mardi Gras. Carnival was just the reason this topic registered with me.

This year, several parades were canceled—not due to weather but due to continued money issues that a lot can be attributed to the start of the icky Rona situation. In 2020, Fat Tuesday was on February 25, barely beating the U.S. shutdown/shelter-at-home. In 2021, it’s fair to say, that the Mardi Gras public celebration in NOLA was all but canceled. In 2022, it returned, but many parades/krewes didn’t return due to financial issues and parade route conflicts. This has continued to be the case as people get back on their feet.

So, as some friends and I were discussing the “good ol’ days” of carnival, we began to realize that there are plenty of things that we’ve taken for granted about Mardi Gras. Taking something for granted means failing to appreciate the value of something due to overfamiliarity. It also means failing to make assumptions without asking questions. Well, while we were having this profound discussion (and yes, distilled spirits were involved), the song House of the Rising Sun (or as I’ll refer to it from henceforth, HOTRS) began playing. And for the first time, I took note of the lyrics—perhaps because the first line begins: “There is a house in New Orleans.” As many times as I’ve heard this song, I never once questioned anything about it. I looked at my companions and asked where this place was located. No one knew, and that sent me spiraling down a wormhole of intoxication and loose association. Not only was I curious about the where, but I also wanted to know the what and why. So, I did some digging, and the results were intriguing…at least, to me.

Before I began dumpster diving into the where, what, and why, I was smacked with who. This became significant later when trying to answer what.


Like Mardi Gras being closely associated with NOLA despite it not originating from there, HOTRS is mostly associated with being performed by the British rock band, The Animals. Their version was released in 1964. However, HOTRS is a folk song that is believed to have been written in the early twentieth century and has been performed/recorded by a host of other artists. This list includes (in alphabetical but not recording order) the following: The Animals, Clarence “Tom” Ashley, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Five Finger Death Punch, Gwen Foster, Frigid Pink, Geordie, Andy Griffith, Woody Guthrie, Johnny Halliday, Lead Belly, Los Speakers, Miriam Makeba, Johnny Miller, Sinead O’Connor, Odette, Dolly Parton, Pete Seeger, Nina Simone, Thin Lizzy, Dave Von Ronk (Mayor of McDougall Street), and Glen Yarborough. This list may not be exhaustive.

Reportedly, The Animal’s version of the song was based on Bob Dylan’s version, and Dylan based his version on Dave Van Ronk’s version. However, Ronk wasn’t the original artist. The original artist is alleged to have been a woman, and the original lyrics reportedly are “poor girl” and not “poor boy.” It is believed the lyrics were changed when the gender of the singer switched from male to female. This is significant because the switch in gender perception changes the interpretation of the song. I’ll swing back around to this later.


Most of the information that I’ve read says that the HOTRS is based on a real location in NOLA. To be fair, I did find a couple of sources that said it was fictitious and a few others that concluded it was real but located in other places than NOLA. As to what type of establishment it was, three common answers kept recurring:

  1. A house of ill-repute/brothel
  2. A jail/prison
  3. A gambling hall/casino


Brothel – Apparently, there was a gentlemen’s adult pleasure facility that was run by a woman known as Madame Marianne LeSoleil Levant. From the name, it can be assumed that this woman had a French heritage. However, as I’ve discussed multiple times on my blog, South Louisiana has a diverse culture. While this woman may have been from France, she may have been a native of Louisiana (Cajun or Creole). Her name (LeSoleil Levant) translates to mean “Rising Sun.” This explanation for the song is pretty much in the face.

Prison – According to the research I found, there was a women’s detention center in New Orleans Parish. At the entrance, allegedly, there was artwork depicting a rising sun embossed on the concrete above the doorway. This artwork was reported to resemble the red and white Imperial Japanese Army war flag (adopted in 1889). The prison had nothing to do with Asia or Japan, and it is not known why similar artwork was used. This theory hypothesizes that the creator of the song was an inmate at this prison. The lyrics such as “Wearing that ball and chain” and “If I had listened to what my mama said, I’d be at home today,” lend support that the HOTRS is a prison.

Casino – This is another on-the-nose reference. The lyrics state that the “father was a gambling man” and what a gambler needs. There are also references (depending on the version) to the use of alcohol and drugs, and of course, most casinos serve adult beverages. In my opinion, this is the weakest of the three choices but still plausible.


As mentioned, it is believed the original creator/singer of HOTRS was a woman, but the most popular version of the song is about a man. How the narrator affects the songs is this. If the song is about a man, then the house could not be a woman’s prison. That simply wouldn’t make sense. Also, it weakens the theory that the house is a brothel. In general, society hasn’t written off men for visiting brothels. However, if it was a woman working in a brothel, she (as sexist as it is) would have more to lose. She would have been an outcast and not accepted by “decent” society. That would give credit to the line about being “ruined.” Furthermore, if the song is about a woman, the narrative becomes that she got hooked up with a gambler and alcoholic which caused her to turn to this way of life as having no other choice or means to support herself.

The singer being a man yields a slightly different spin. In that version, it is more commonly inferred that the singer has followed in the footsteps of his father on a path of drinking and gambling by choice.

In any version, one fact remains constant—the HOTRS is a bad thing. It appears to rob a person of hope and drains one physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Doing a deep dive into this song was fun. It caused me to think, and I learned a lot. Songs are poetry to music. Sometimes, the meaning isn’t obvious and one needs to think and look beyond the written word for the implied meaning. HOTRS is pretty apparent that it is referring to a physical location associated with moral deterioration and degeneration.

So, that’s a wrap on today’s topic. Now, it’s your turn to sound off. What did you think? What is your take on the subject? Do you agree or disagree? Did you find this information helpful or informative? Did you learn anything new, or did it change your opinion? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section. Also, let me know if you would like me to cover more of these types of topics or dive deeper into this one. If you like this post, please click the like button, and share it. Your feedback allows me to know the content that you want to read. If you’re not following me on Creole Bayou blog, what are you waiting for? There’s always room at the bayou.

Get ready. It’s time to hit the ice again. Future Goals has arrived and is available.

When a college hockey player needs the help of an attractive older attorney, he gets more than he bargained for when trying to sort out the troubles in his career. Falling in love was never part of either man’s plan, especially as Corrigan’s and Sacha’s lives should never have collided. Now they’re left questioning if they’re standing in the way of the other’s future goals, or if there’s room for redirection.

Order your copy at:
Other booksellers:

Did you miss the first four books in my hockey romance series? No frets.

Out of the Penalty Box (book #1), where it is one minute in the box or a lifetime out, is available at It also can be ordered on iTunes, Nook, or Kobo. For more links on where to purchase or to read the blurb, please visit

Defending the Net (book #2) can be ordered at or Crossing the line could cost the game.

Ice Gladiators (book #3) is the third book in my Locker Room Love series. When the gloves come off, the games begin. Available at or

Penalty Kill (book #4) retakes the ice. Get a copy at or and let the pucker begin.

For more of my stories, shenanigans, giveaways, and more, check out my blog, Creole Bayou, New posts are made on Wednesdays, and everything is raw and unscathed. Climb on in a pirogue and join me on the bayou.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this post or any others, feel free to comment below or X (formerly tweet) me at @dolynesaidso. You also can follow me on Instagram at genevivechambleeauthor or search for me on Goodreads, Amazon Authors, BookBub, Bluesky, Threads, or TikTok.

NEWSLETTER! Want to get the latest information and updates about my writing projects, giveaways, contests, and reveals first? Click and sign up today.

Until next time, happy reading and much romance. Laissez le bon temps rouler.

About the Author

Genevive Chamblee resides in the Bayou country where sweet tea and SEC football reign supreme. She is known for being witty (or so she thinks), getting lost anywhere beyond her front yard (the back is pushing it as she’s very geographically challenged), falling in love with shelter animals (and she adopts them), asking off-the-beaten-path questions that make one go “hmm,” and preparing home-cooked Creole meals that are as spicy as her writing. Genevive specializes in spinning steamy, romantic tales with humorous flair, diverse characters, and quirky views of love and human behavior. She also is not afraid to delve into darker romances as well.

One comment to “Genevive Chamblee: House of the Rising Sun”

  1. Delilah
    · February 19th, 2024 at 1:02 pm · Link

    New Orleans is my favorite, most visited American city. It’s a pilgrimage for me, my daughter, and her girls. Loved reading about the story behind one of my favorite songs.

Comments are closed.