JOHN HENRY

Latest update on 21/01/2014

Artist: Fiddlin' John Carson
Author: traditional
Year: 1924

John Henry's tune has Scottish roots in ballad The Lass Of Loch Royale (Child 76) and inspired This Old Hammer's tune (see there). Most John Henry's end with exactly the same lines as in The Lass Of Loch Royale: "Who's going to glove your little hand, shoe your little foot".

Covers:

1925:

Ernest V. Stoneman

1926:

Uncle Dave Macon [as Death Of John Henry]

1927:

Gid Tanner [as Steel Driving Man]

1927:

Henry Thomas

1927:

Williamson Brothers & Curry [as Gonna Die With My Hammer In My Hand; part of Harry Smith's Anthology]

1928:

DeFord Bailey [as harmonica instrumental, distributed both as 'race music' and 'hillbilly']

1928:

Riley Puckett

1929:

Uncle Dave Macon

1929:

Furry Lewis

1930:

Birmingham Jug Band

1931:

Two Poor Boys [Joe Evans & Arthur McClain]

1933:

Paul Robeson [in film Emperor Jones]

1937:

Blind Blues Darby [as Spike Driver]

1942:

Josh White [released a whole album in '55 dedicated to the story of John Henry]

1942:

Sid Hemphill [Lomax recording]

1947:

Merle Travis

1949:

John Lee Hooker

1950:

Ed Lewis [Lomax recording]

1951:

Big Bill Broonzy

1951:

Elizabeth Cronin [as Lord Gregory (The Lass Of Roch Royal); Lomax recording on Classic Ballads Of Britain And Ireland - Vol. 1]

1953:

Maddox Brothers & Rose

1953:

Hank Thompson

1954:

Odetta

1954:

Hylo Brown

1956:

Big Bill Broonzy

1956:

Lonnie Donegan

1957:

Harry Belafonte

1959:

Mountain Ramblers

1959:

Neil Morris [as The Lass Of Loch Royale, on Vol. 1 of the Southern Journey series in The Alan Lomax Collection]

1959:

Dave Van Ronk

1960:

Buster Brown

1960:

Jerry Lee Lewis

1960:

Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks

1961:

Flatt & Scruggs

1964:

Kentucky Colonels

1965:

Dock Boggs

1966:

Fred McDowell

1966:

Merle Travis [as John Henry Jr.]

1967:

John Fahey

1968:

Johnny Cash [as The Legend Of John Henry's Hammer; outtake At Folsom Prison]

1970:

Area Code 615

1976:

Happy Traum

1977:

Van Morrison [saved up for The Philosopher's Stone compilation]

1995:

Howard Armstrong

1998:

John Jackson

1999:

Snakefarm [with Anna Domino]

2006:

Bruce Springsteen

John Henry was the strongest steel driver during the Big Bend tunnel works on the C&O-line in West Virginia about 1873. He had to drill holes for explosives in the worst of working conditions. Archives got lost. All we know for sure is that about ten horses died each month. Now the life of a horse was considered a lot more valuable than that of a negro worker, so that tells us something about the estimated casualties among men. They worked for years on that tunnel. To speed up the pace steam drills were used. Much against John Henry's liking. He was the strongest hammer around and challenged those steam drills. According to legend he won purely on force: "It was the flesh against the steam". When he died in an accident, myth began.

Contact


If you noticed blunt omissions, mis-interpretations or even out-and-out errors, please let us know by contacting us:

Arnold Rypens
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B-2840 Reet (Rumst)

info@originals.be

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