Such an influential C&W guitarist Doc Watson named his son after him and Chet Atkins his daughter. Country tabloids never detected the slightest hint of romance between this Merle Watson & Merle Atkins, although they tried. Coming from coalminer state Kentucky, Merle Travis released a concept album with local hillbilly work songs in 1949 named Folksongs From The Hills. Realizing he'd have to scrape to collect enough worthwhile material, he composed a few miner songs himself and they all survive the test of time: Dark As A Dungeon, Nine Pound Hammer and Sixteen Tons. This last one was inspired by his own father, who as a miner shoved 16 tons of coal a day. And what did he get? "Another day older and deeper in debt".
Tennessee Ernie Ford [n°1 US & C&W, landing him more than 16 tons worldwide]
Max Bygraves [parody as Seventeen Tons]
Freddy Quinn [as Sie Heisst Mary-Ann; B-side of Heimweh]
John Williams [as Seize Tonnes, n° 1 F]
George S. Davis [Kentucky miner for Folkways; claimed on this recording to be the author of this song, having written it in the 1930s as Nine To Ten Tons]
Adriano Celentano [as L'Ascensore]
Patsy Montana [parody as Sixteen Pounds; her final recording]
Gunther Neefs [and in 2000 with Voice Male]
Stan Ridgway [triphop version]
Merle Travis relates in the Country Music Encyclopedia: "I stole pieces of two Josh White songs and wrote Sixteen Tons."