Double millionseller; vocal: Billy Murray. Saga song based on the train wreck of the Cannon Ball Express in Vaughan, MS in 1900. Engineer Casey Jones was the best train conductor they ever had on the Illinois Central Line (the main artery between Chicago and New Orleans). Casey (real name: John Luther Jones; nicknamed for his birthplace Cayce, Kentucky).was in charge for the stretch between Memphis, TN and Canton, MS. His time scedule was so punctual people along the line adjusted their watch when he whistled. He used this very distinctive whistle blow pattern, setting him apart. "He crashed with one hand on the brake, the other on his whistle, scalded to death by the steam". Wallace 'Wash' Saunders was his assistant on the line for years and claimed he cleaned up Casey's bloodstains in the train cabin after the crash. He also made up a song to commemorate the event, using an existing melody (Jimmie Jones) he'd heard in Kansas City. That's what the Lomaxes' been told in 1933 by Sanders' partner Cornelius Steen. Casey Jones became a favorite piece among railway people and hobos, soon ending up in vaudeville routines. The first to incorporate this ballad in his act was Tallifero Lawrence Seibert (1877-1917) from Bloomington, Indiana, first as a sketch, later as a ragtime tune crediting himself and his pianist Eddie Newton. All 1910-versions use this vaudeville adaptation. According to legend, original author Wallace Saunders sold his rights for a pint of gin. This unpublished original version is printed in the booklet The Choo-Choo Stopped At Vaughan sold in the tiny museum situated right on the crash site. The people from Jackson, TN raised a statue on Casey Jones' real gravesite.
Billy Murray [solo version]
Leighton Brothers [in vaudeville]
Furry Lewis [as Kassie Jones]
Memphis Jug Band [as On The Road Again]
Prince Albert Hunt [as Katy On Time]
Wilmer Watts & The Lonely Eagles [as Knocking Down Casey Jones]
Ken Colyer's Skiffle Group [introducing Alexis Korner]
Warren Zevon & David Lindley [on Deadicated]
Rory Block [as Kassie Jones]
Dave MacKenzie [as Kassie Jones in medley with Turn Your Money Green]
North Mississippi All Stars [as K.C. Jones]
Political activist and well known songwriter Joe Hill (see: Joe Hill) also wrote a Casey Jones song, probably in 1911, covered by Pete Seeger & The Almanac Singers. The Furry Lewis version Kassie Jones (inspiring Rory Block) and the Mississippi John Hurt version (inspiring The Grateful Dead) both use a different melody. Then there's a similar ballad (The Wreck Of The Six-Wheel Driver) credited to H.M. Harris (who learned it from a black cotton picker in 1906), beginning with the line: "Joseph Mickel was a good engineer, told his fireman not to fear", just as in Casey Jones.