John Henry--Leadbelly

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John Henry--Leadbelly
D position, standard tuning, at B
Note: Leadbelly speaks with Frederick Ramsey, Jr. in the intro

SPOKEN, LEADBELLY: Now, "John Henry", you know, it's a-made up about a
hard-workin' man, folks, don't forget it. Anytime you hear anybody singin'
"John Henry", it's a dance tune if they play it right. Some people don't . . .
RAMSEY, INTERRUPTING: Well now, where did John Henry come from?
SPOKEN, LEADBELLY: Well, John Henry came from Newport News.Mr. Lomax and myself,
we drove all around where the spot John Henry was born at. Well, that's the reason
why they say "that C & O Road", that road runs from Newport News to Cincinnati, Ohio.
John Henry was the man, drove steel and put down,he drove spikes around all the steel
that was laid from Newport News to Cincinnati, Ohio, now that's true.
Ellen Louise was a track liner.She'd come behind like John Henry, she'd line the track
with eight men. She lined all that track and when Ellen Louise went out linin' track,
in come the train, oozin' on up to it, see? The whole thing come, the Rock Island Line,
see when they brings in . . .
RAMSEY, INTERRUPTING: She kept ahead of the train.
SPOKEN, LEADBELLY: That's right. What?
RAMSEY: She kept ahead of the train.
SPOKEN, LEADBELLY: Yes, she was ahead of the train, but they didn't start the train
'til she was nearly out, you know. So she had to be out when the train come, but anyhow,
the train'd ooze along, track was all right. Now, this is "John Henry" and it's a dance tune,
and we dance to it down home, now I'm gonna play it to you.

John Henry was a new-born baby, sittin' down on his mama's knee
Say, "That Big Bend Tunnel on that C & O Road,
It's gonna be the death of me, Lord, Lord
It's gonna be the death of me.
It's gonna be the death of me, Lord, Lord
It's gonna be the death of me."

John Henry had two women, one was named Mary Magdalene
He would go out on the job and she would sing,
"Hear John Henry's hammer ring, Lord, Lord,
Hear John Henry's hammer ring.
Hear John Henry's hammer ring, Lord, Lord,
Hear John Henry's hammer ring."

John Henry had another little woman, her name was sweet Polly Ann
John Henry taken sick, boy, and he had to go to bed
Polly Ann drove steel just like a man, Lord, Lord
Polly Ann drove steel like a man
Polly Ann drove steel just like a man, Lord Lord
Polly Ann drove steel like a man

SPOKEN, LEADBELLY: Before John Henry dies, he called Polly Ann to his bedside.
Wasn't thinkin' about Mary Magdalene. And this is what he wanted Polly Ann
to tell him 'fore he died.

"Baby, who's gonna shoe your little feet, tell me, who's gonna glove your hand?
Tell me, who's gonna kiss your sweet lips now
Tell me, who's gonna be your man, Lord, Lord
Tell me, who's gonna be your man.
Tell me, who's gonna be your man, Lord, Lord
Tell me, who's gonna be your man?"

SPOKEN: She told him,

"My papa's gonna shoe my little feet, my mama's gonna glove my hand
My sister's gonna kiss my sweet little lips, now
You know I don't need no man, Lord, Lord
You know I don't need no man.
You know I don't need no man, Lord, Lord
You know I don't need no man."

SPOKEN, DURING SOLO: "Tell him now--ah ha--yeah!"

Then they taken John Henry to the White House, they buried him in the sand
And every locomotive come a-rollin' by, sayin',
"There lies that steel-drivin' man, Lord, Lord
There lies that steel-drivin' man.
There lies that steel-drivin' man, Lord, Lord
There lies that steel-drivin' man."

SPOKEN: "That was "John Henry", which is a dance tune."

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