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GUEST,Richie Origin Of John Henry--part TWO (240* d) RE: Origin Of John Henry--part TWO 25 Nov 06

Hi John,

The first post A from 1905 resembles Take This Hammer/Nine Pound Hammer/Roll on Buddy versions

Here are the others. B and C are both Take This Hammer/Nine Pound Hammer songs. D. Is probaby John Hardy. Only E from 1912 is a version of the ballad tho not a good one.

1. is clearly John Hardy mixed with John Henry. Of particular interest is the footnote 2 and the "big tunnel on the C and O line" lyric.


B.(From Indiana; ?; MS. of Mr. Davidson)

Did you hear that rain-crow hollering?
Sign of rain, Baby, sign of rain.
If I had forty-one dollars,
I'd go home, Baby, I'd go home.

C.(From Mississippi; ?; MS. of R. J. Slay; 1909)

This old hammer killed John Henry,
Can't kill me; can't kill me!

This old hammer killed Bill Dooley,
Can't kill me; can't kill me!

This old hammer weighs forty pounds, sah!
Can't kill me; can't kill me!

D (From Mississippi; ?; MS. of W. P. Cassedy; 1909)

John Henry got in his buggy,

And tightened up his reins,
And passed by those ladies,

Like a shower of rain.

John Henry used to sing: " I owe you some money,

I haven't got no small change,
But I'll bet you five dollars

I will see you again."

E. (From Kentucky; mountain whites; MS. of E. N. Caldwell; 1912)

When John Henry was a little boy,
Sitting on his papa's knee,
Was a-lookin down at a piece of steel,
"For a steel-driving man I want to be."

When they take John Henry down to the tunnel,
Well, they set him head for to drive;
For the rocks so tall, John Henry was so small,
Threw down his hammer, and he cried.

Well, they set John Henry on the right-hand corner,
A steam-driller was on the left;
"Before I let the steam-driller hammer me down,
I'll hammer my fool self to death.

1. A favorite number with the folk; cf. Journal of American Folk-Lore, vol. xxii, p. 243.

"If I die a railroad man,

Go bury me under the rail ties,

With my pick and my shovel at my head and feet,

And my nine-pound hammer in my hand."

John Henry he come walkin' out;
He looked all around and above,
Wrapped up his hammer and paper and silk,
And sent it to the woman whom he loved.

John Henry had a lovin' little wife,

Sometimes she was dressed in red;

She went walkin' down the track, and she never looked back;

She said, "I'm goin' where my honey fell dead."

John Henry had a lovin' little wife,
Sometimes she was dressed in blue;
Went to the graveyard where his dead body lies;
"John Henry, I've always been true to you."

When John Henry was a little boy,
Sittin' on his grandpa's knee:
"That big tunnel on the C and O line
Is going to be the death of me."2

2 A note on the manuscript says, "About half of the 'John Henry' here; very long." Mr. C. B. House tells me there is a song in Clay County, Kentucky, about John Henry, a steel-driving man.

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