The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #4018   Message #21261
Posted By: Barry Finn
12-Feb-98 - 10:16 AM
Thread Name: Origins: John Henry
Subject: RE: The origins of john Henry
2 books are dedicated to John "John Henry: Tracking Down A Negro Ledgend" by Guy B Johnson (Chapel Hill, 1929) 7 "John Henry: A Folklore Study" by Chappell (Jena, 1933). Lomax credits Chappell with the tracking of the major folk hero's roots & any facts that have survived as the best that'll ever happen with John Henry. "He (Chappell) pinpointed the scene of the ballard to the Big Bend Tunnel on the C & O, R.R. in the West Virginna Mnts. about 1870. 1 1/4 mile long, the Big Bend was the biggest tunnel job attempted by man up to that date". It appears John started out as a mere 6' & 200 lbs, who could out sing & work any other man (sounds like Leadbelly & John L) on the job, swinging a 20lb hammer, when 10lb was the norm, drilling 2 holes 7' deep beating the staem drill which drove only 1 hole, 9', not dying from the race but probaly later from the frequent cave-ins, when his hammer made the mnt shake (sexual), again giving rise to belief that he died not from being overworked but from love making.. Lomax belives that John Henry is a decendant of Old John the trickster slave & that the origins of the song springs from the old Hammer song & Lass Of Roch Royal, giving it sexual & magical powers. Just a brief run down from mostly Lomax, but if you read Jackson's 'Wake Up Dead Man' & Lomax's 'Land Where The Blues Began', it gives many reasons for the rise of folk heros within an oppressed community & the relationships developed between worker & worksong & how the labor is seen by themselves & others. Good Luck, Barry