Lomax recording in the Cummins Farm in Gould, AR, one month after they first heard it from anonymous prisoners in Little Rock. Lead Belly was their chauffeur, so he witnessed it all. The Rock Island Line was the name of the rail link between Chicago and Mississippi (Rock Island). Railways give this sense of freedom, among prisoners in the first place. Alan Lomax made sure Kelly Pace obtained royalties, at least on the Lonnie Donegan hit.
Lead Belly [first rudimentary version for the L.o.C.]
Lead Belly & The Golden Gate Quartet [for RCA]
Lead Belly [with new spoken intro for Asch]
Lead Belly [for Capitol with his patent spoken intro pretty good together, about an engineer coming down the depot, signalling with his whistle it's lifestock he's carrying; lifestock was free, iron was taxable; once past the checkpoint, seemed he signalled 'pig iron' instead of 'pigs']
Chris Barber Jazzband [sung by Lonnie Donegan on influential 10-inch New Orleans Joys, making good use of Lead Belly's spoken intro]
Lonnie Donegan [the very same recording on Decca single under his own name, while he copied Lead Belly's spoken intro word for word (see also: Bring A Little Water Silvy); started the skiffle craze; transatlantic millionseller in '56, the year Donegan recut it for his new label Pye]
Jimmy Dale [parody as Piccadilly Line]
Jacques Jay et ses Joyeux Saltimbanques [as Le Train du vieux noir]
Rory Block [with Paul Rishell & Annie Raines]
Rock Island (Buell Kazee), Rock Island Blues (Furry Lewis) and Old Rock Island Blues (Lonnie Coleman) are older, but different songs.