The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #107210   Message #2223119
Posted By: Jim Dixon
27-Dec-07 - 07:36 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: John Henry (from Williamson Brothers)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Williamson Brothers' John Henry
OK, I'm being kind of imaginative here, but this is the best I can come up with:

John Henry had a little hammer.
Handle was made of oak.
Every time he hit the drill on the head,
Hammer reaches down and broke, Lord, Lord,
Hammer reaches down and broke.

The above verse would make more sense if there were an accompanying, contrasting verse:

John Henry had another hammer,
Handle was made of steel…

* * *

From Steel Drivin' Man: John Henry, the Untold Story of an American Legend By Scott Reynolds Nelson, 2006, page 125:

Other parallels between the story of Samson and the story of John Henry crop up in some unique versions of the John Henry ballad, suggesting that performers saw in John Henry's story a retelling of Samson's. One version declared:in this version John Henry's hammer made of bone evokes Samson's biblical tool, the jawbone of an ass….

* * *

The pages that are available through Google Book Search don't include the endnotes, so I don't know where the quoted verse came from, but I don't think it's an accurate transcription of the Williamson Brothers' verse.