collapse

* Member Info

 
 
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

* Like Us on Facebook

* Support Weenie!

Shop on Amazon using these search boxes and Weenie earns a small commission:
USA
Search Now:
In Association with Amazon

United Kingdom
Search Now:
In Association with Amazon

Canada
Search Now:
In Association with Amazon

* Weenie's CD!

I'm not a crook. I'm an opportunist - Bernie, owner of the Nightshift Tavern, Bremerton spoken to Texan JohnD after Bernie tried to sell him a pint of Alaska Amber for $6

Author Topic: John Henry  (Read 28680 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline btasoundsradio

  • Member
  • Posts: 155
  • the artist formerly known as powerlinehorizon
    • BTA Sounds Radio: Podcast of Obscure Musics
Re: John Henry
« Reply #105 on: September 21, 2014, 08:29:09 PM »
also...


This is the hammer killed John Henry
Laid him low, laid him low
This is the hammer killed John Henry
Laid him ---

Take this hammer to the Captain
Tell him he's gone, tell him he's gone
Take your hammer to the Captain
---

When you hear that bulldog a-barkin'
Somebody 'round, somebody 'round
When you hear that bulldog a-barkin'
Somebody's 'round, somebody's 'round

When you hear that peafowl a holl'in'
Gwonna rain, gwonna rain
When you hear that peafowl holl'in'
---

Hammer, hammer, killed John Henry
Don't you see, don't you see?
Hammer, hammer, killed John Henry
---

I don't like no red-black woman
Like myself, like myself
I don't like no red-black woman
---

This is the hammer killed John Henry
Don't kill me, don't kill me
This is the hammer killed John Henry
---

SOLO

Take this hammer, carry it to Captain
Tell him he's dead, tell him he's dead
Take that hammer, carry it to Captain
He's ---

This is the hammer killed my brother
He is gone, he is gone
This is the hammer killed my brother
---

Hammer, hammer killed John Henry
He's gon' need, he's done need
Hammer, hammer killed John Henry
---
« Last Edit: September 23, 2014, 04:33:14 PM by Johnm »
Charlie is the Father, Son is the Son, Willie is the Holy Ghost

Online Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10418
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: John Henry
« Reply #106 on: October 07, 2014, 09:16:57 AM »
Hi all,
Here is a version of "John Henry" from, I believe, John Cephas and Phil Wiggins' last CD before John passed.  It's one of the few versions that has an altogether different sound in the guitar part, the way John walked the melody down in harmony with a lower line.  He really gave the song a grand sound.



All best,
Johnm

Offline Pan

  • Member
  • Posts: 1884
  • Howdy!
Re: John Henry
« Reply #107 on: October 07, 2014, 03:32:59 PM »
Such a nice version, Johnm. Thanks for posting it!

Cheers

Pan

Offline oddenda

  • Member
  • Posts: 597
Re: John Henry
« Reply #108 on: October 11, 2014, 06:32:43 AM »
Cephas was the only one who played the song without a slide and in standard tuning! All others I recorded learned that as one of their first songs - open tuning was easier for learners... slide, even more so.

Peter B.

Offline Pan

  • Member
  • Posts: 1884
  • Howdy!
Re: John Henry
« Reply #109 on: October 25, 2014, 04:36:01 PM »
Hi all

The search function revealed, that a few pages back, I posted an instrumental duet version by Etta Baker and Cora Phillips:

http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=4256.msg87457#msg87457

Anyway, here's a solo instrumental version by Etta Baker, that I just came across:



Cheers

Pan

Offline wreid75

  • Member
  • Posts: 251
Re: John Henry
« Reply #110 on: October 30, 2014, 07:43:10 AM »
Saw a play recently in a few different locations in NC with John Henry as the protagonist and Stagger Lee as the antagonist.  Now the stories don't ever intertwine but is more of a compare an contrast.  It was interesting how different demographics identified with each person differently.  In more economically depressed areas Stagger (who was portrayed sinister as F$&*) was cheered and supported.  In the areas with either affluence or strong blue collar audience John Henry was championed.  Also when the performance was done for friends and family (heavy amount of comic nerds like myself) Henry had a replica of Thors hammer could no one else could pick it up.  Since a fair amount of improv was done the Thor angle was awesome.  Stagger was portrayed as creepy as Hannibal Lectar and as bad ass as Joe Pesci in Casino/Good Fellows.  Just awesome.

Offline jphauser

  • Member
  • Posts: 129
  • Howdy!
Re: John Henry
« Reply #111 on: October 30, 2014, 12:37:41 PM »
Saw a play recently in a few different locations in NC with John Henry as the protagonist and Stagger Lee as the antagonist.  Now the stories don't ever intertwine but is more of a compare an contrast.  It was interesting how different demographics identified with each person differently.  In more economically depressed areas Stagger (who was portrayed sinister as F$&*) was cheered and supported.  In the areas with either affluence or strong blue collar audience John Henry was championed.  Also when the performance was done for friends and family (heavy amount of comic nerds like myself) Henry had a replica of Thors hammer could no one else could pick it up.  Since a fair amount of improv was done the Thor angle was awesome.  Stagger was portrayed as creepy as Hannibal Lectar and as bad ass as Joe Pesci in Casino/Good Fellows.  Just awesome.


Here's a quote from Zora Neale Hurston that may be of interest to some.

"John Henry is a culture hero in song, but no more so than Stacker Lee, Smokey Joe, or Bad Lazarus."

(I once tried to figure out who Smokey Joe was.  I found that there was a great negro league baseball pitcher named Smokey Joe Williams.  I couldn't find a song about him though. The only song I could find was Leiber and Stoller's "Smokey Joe's Cafe.")

Jim Hauser

Online Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10418
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: John Henry
« Reply #112 on: April 02, 2015, 10:24:06 AM »
Hi all,
I was glad to find this version of "John Henry" by Big Boy, who recorded "Blues", which was discussed over in the "What is this Musician Doing?" thread, recently.  Big Boy was a member of the prison population who, like Blind Joe, was drastically under-recorded, relative to his musical skills.  He's joined by someone else here, singing lead, and Big Boy actually has a coughing fit almost a minute long in the middle of the rendition, but his playing never falters.  What time, and what a touch!  This is one of those recordings which opens and closes with a fade, which always makes you wonder how long they actually went with the song.  Here is the performance:




. . . standin' on the side
Said, "The Big Bend tunnel on that C & O Road,
It's gonna be the death of me, Lord, Lord,
Lord, It's gonna be the death of me,
Lord, it's gonna be the death of me, Lord, Lord,
Lord, it's gonna be the death of me."

Johnny Henry was a little fella
You could hold him in the palm of your hand
Now, he said to his Ma, "When I grow up,
Gonna be a steel-drivin' man, yes, yes, Lord
Gonna be a steel-driving man."

Johnny Henry walked in the tunnel
With his captain by his side
The mountain so tall, John Henry so small
He laid down his hammer and he cried
Lord, he laid down his hammer and he cried
Lord, he laid down his hammer and he cried
Lord, he laid down his hammer and he cried

Now, they heard a mighty rumblin'
Says, "The mountain must be cavin' in."
John Henry said to the captain, "Boys,
It's my hammer swingin' in the wind,
It's my hammer swingin' in the wind,
It's my hammer, swingin' in the wind,
It's my hammer, swingin' in the wind."

John Henry said to his shaker,
"Shaker, you'd better pray.
'Cause if ever I miss this piece of steel,
Tomorrow'll be your buryin' day, yes, Lord,
Tomorrow'll be your buryin' day.
Lord, tomorrow be your buryin' day, Lord, Lord,
Lord, tomorrow'll be your buryin' day."

Johnny Henry said to his captain, "Captain,
'Fore I ever leave town,
Give me a five-pound hammer and a whalebone hat
I'll hurry that old steam drill on down, yes, yes
Got to hurry this old steam drill on down.
Lord, I hurry that old steam drill on down, Lord, Lord
Lord, I'll hurry that steam drill on down."

Johnny Henry said to his captain,
"'Fore I ever leave town,
Give me one more drink of that old tom cat here,
And I'll hurry that old steam drill on down.
Lord, I'll hurry that old steam drill on down."

Now, John Henry said to his captain,
"Man ain't nothin' but a man.
'Fore I let your steam drill beat me down
I will die with my hammer in my hand, Lord, Lord,
Yes, I'll die with my hammer in my hand.
Lord, I'll die with the hammer in my hand, Lord, Lord,
Yes, I'll die with the hammer in my hand."

Now, the captain of the steam drill
Lord, he was mighty fine
John Henry drove down twelve foot of steel
While the old steam drill only drove nine, Lord, Lord,
While the steam drill only drove nine, Lord, Lord,
While the steam drill only drove nine, Lord, Lord,
While the steam drill only drove nine

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: September 16, 2015, 09:52:09 PM by Johnm »

Online Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10418
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: John Henry
« Reply #113 on: September 04, 2015, 08:17:53 AM »
Hi all,
Here is a field recording of Ed Lewis singing "John Henry", recorded by Alan Lomax.  You can hear Ed Lewis chopping as he sings.



Woh, John Henry went up on the mountain
You know that mountain, it was so high
Woh, John Henry laid his hammer down, he cried,
"Captain, a ten-pound maul is too small, oh Lord,
A ten-pound maul too small."

Woh, John Henry, he says to the captain,
"Captain, pay me my whole back-day.
I will make more money on that IC line,
I will on this M & O,
Woh, than I will on the M & O."

Well, John Henry's captain told him,
"I have a power steel driver down home.
Well, John Henry, and if you beat that power driver down,
I'm going to buy you a railroad of your own
I'm going to buy you a railroad of your own."

Well, John Henry told his captain,
He says, "A man ain't nothin' but a man.
'Fore I would stand to see your power driver beat me down,
Would die with my hammer in my hand,
 Woh, I would die with my hammer in my hand."

Oh well, the people all heard a mighty rumblin'
Well, like a train comin' down the track
Woh, John Henry throwed his hammer on the ground and lay,
"It's the echo from my hammer comin' back,
Woh, that's the echo from my hammer comin' back."

Well, John Henry had a buddy
Said, "Buddy, why ain't you takin' your time?"
John Henry drilled down eighteen spikes
While his buddy was only drivin' down nine,
Oh, while his buddy was only drivin' down nine

John Henry, he told his shaker,
He said, "My shaker, you better pray.
If I misses this steel on the deal goin' down,
Tomorrow be your buryin' day.
You know, tomorrow'll be your buryin' day."

Well, John Henry told his captain,
Said, "Just bring your steam driver down here.
And before I let your steam driver beat me down,
Gon' die with my hammer in the wind,
I'm going to die with my hammer in the wind."

John Henry, he had a little woman
And her name was Polly Ann
John Henry taken sick and he had to go to bed,
Polly Ann drilled steel like a man,
Woh, Polly Ann drilled steel like a man

All best,
Johnm


« Last Edit: September 04, 2015, 08:18:59 AM by Johnm »

Offline oddenda

  • Member
  • Posts: 597
Re: John Henry
« Reply #114 on: September 04, 2015, 10:38:14 PM »
For what it's worth, I don't care for the song as EVERYbody (except Henry Johnson) cited that as the first piece they learned to play. Peg Leg Sam's favorite performance venue was busking, and when doing so for Blacks, "John Henry" was his most requested song! Shows ya' what I know!

pbl

Online Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10418
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: John Henry
« Reply #115 on: May 21, 2016, 06:26:35 AM »
Hi all,
I just found this instrumental version of "John Henry" on youtube.  It's by William Francis and Richard Sowell.  I don't know where the musicians were from, or even which one played guitar and which played harmonica, but here you go:



All best,
Johnm

Offline Bunker Hill

  • Member
  • Posts: 2832
Re: John Henry
« Reply #116 on: May 21, 2016, 06:58:06 AM »
Hi all,
I just found this instrumental version of "John Henry" on youtube.  It's by William Francis and Richard Sowell.  I don't know where the musicians were from, or even which one played guitar and which played harmonica, but here you go:
All best,
Johnm
I thought this had been raised before at Weenie but can't locate it. For what it's worth the Eagle & Leblanc magnum opus give the following:

Richard Sowell (h) (apparently Buffalo Township, Kershaw County, November 13, 1905?Jefferson, Chesterfield County, January 1980). He recorded the instrumental "Roubin Blues" for Vocalion (1927), with guitarist William Francis.

Online Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10418
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: John Henry
« Reply #117 on: May 21, 2016, 09:27:56 AM »
Thanks very much for that information, Bunker Hill.  So it appears that Richard Sowell, at least, (and probably William Francis, too) was a native of South Carolina.  It's nice to have enough information so that people aren't complete biographical ciphers.
All best,
Johnm

Online Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10418
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: John Henry
« Reply #118 on: September 20, 2016, 06:20:41 PM »
Hi all,
Here is  version of "John Henry" sung by Rich Amerson, backed by his older sister, Earthy Ann Coleman.  They were recorded by Harold Courlander, in Alabama in 1950.  It is probably the most involved version I've ever heard, lyrically, clocking in at over eight minutes long (!) and one of the most striking aspects of the rendition is the way that Earthy Ann Coleman shadows her brother's singing throughout the song.  Here is their performance, and if you listen to the youtube version, some very valuable notes from the original recording, "Negro Folk Music of Alabama, Vol. 1" on Folkways, are provided:



John Henry said to the captain,
That a man is not but a man,
Said, "Before I let this steam drill beat me down,
I'll hammer my fool self to death,
I'll hammer my fool self to death."

John Henry had a little woman
Well, the dress she wore, it's a-red, like blood
And the shoes she wore, it's a-red
Well, the hat she had on it's a-red
That woman's eyes had turned red with blood
Well, she come a-screamin' and a-cryin' that day
Come a-walkin' down, a-that railroad track
The captain's replied to the woman,
Says, "Tell me, woman, what's troublin' your mind."
Says, "I'm goin' where my man fell dead."
Says, "I'm goin' where my man fell dead."
Says, "I'm goin' where my man fell dead."
Says, "I'm goin' where my man fell dead.
He done hammered his fool self to death.
He done hammered his fool self to death."

John Henry had another woman
Well, her name was Polly Ann
Well, Polly Ann, she heard about this man's dead
Well, what you reckon she said?
Said, "Before I'll stand to see my man go down",
Said, "Give me a ten-pound hammer,
Gonna hook it on to the right of my arm,
Gonna bring me a nine-pound hammer,
I'm gonna hitch it on to the left of my arm,
Before I stand to see my man go down,
I'll go down 'tween of them mountains.
And before I'll stand to see, man go down,
I'll hammer, just like a man,
I'm gon' hammer, just like a man.
I'm gon' hammer, just like a man,
I'm gon' hammer, just like a man."
I'm gon' whup a-this mountain down,
I'm gon' whup a-this mountain down."
He say, "I'll hammer my fool self to death,
I'll hammer my fool self to death."

John Henry had a little baby boy
You could tote it in the palm of your hand
Well, a-every time a-that baby cried,
He looked at his mother face
Well his mother looked down all in her baby's face
"Tell, tell me, son, what you worryin' about."
The last lovin' words you will hear the boy say,
"Mam', I want to make a railroad man,
Mam', I want to make a railroad man.
I want to die like Papa died,
I want to die like Papa died."
"Son, Papa was a steel-drivin' man,
Son, Papa was a steel-drivin' man,
But he hammered his fool self to death,
Yes, he hammered his fool self to death."

John Henry had another little baby boy
He were layin' in the cradle, kickin' and cryin'
Every time Mama rocked, the baby bumped a-lump-a-lump
"I want to make a railroad man,
Say, I want to make a railroad man.
Wanta die like Papa died,
I wanta die like Papa died."
"Son, your Daddy was a steel-drivin' man,
Your Daddy was a steel-drivin' man,
But he hammered his fool self to death,
But he hammered his fool self to death."

When the Henry was seein' them mountains
The captain saw him gwine down
He 'plied to Henry one day,
Tried to pacify to his mind
Said, "Henry, you know you's a natch'l man."
Well, what you reckon that he said?
Said, "The steam drill driver gonna hammer my steel,
Well, the steam drill driver, one by air,
Well, how in the world, you 'xpect to beat steam down?
And how in the world you 'xpect to beat air down?
Henry's reply to his captain that day,
"Steam is steam, I know air is air,
'Fore I let the steam drill beat me down,
I say, I'll die with these hammers in my hand,
I'm gon' die with these hammers in my hand.
I'm gon' hammer my fool self to death,
I'm gon' hammer my fool self to death."

When the Henry was seein' them mountains
His wife could hear the hammers cryin',
When she went down 'tween them mountains,
For to get a little iron down
He surprised his wife that day,
Said, "My kneebones are gettin' to grow cold."
Said, "My grip of my hands, givin' out.
My eyes begin to leak water.
Before I lay a-these hammers down,
I'll die with these hammers in my hand,
I'm gon' die with these hammers in my hand."

Take John Henry to the cemetery,
Laid him in his lonesome grave
Wife, she walks up at the foot of his grave,
Cast her eyes in her husband's face
Commenced screamin' and a-cryin' that day
Preacher looked 'round her, at the woman's face
"Tell me, woman, what you screamin' about?"
Last lovin' words that she 'plied to him,
"Tain't but the one thing, troubles my mind,
That certainly was a true man to me,
That certainly was a true man to me.
But he hammered his fool self to death,
He hammered his fool self to death."

John Henry's wife sittin' down one day
Just about hour of sun
Commenced to screamin' and a-cryin',
Papa said, "Daughter, what' troublin' your mind?"
"I got three little children here,
Who gonna help-a me carry 'em along?
Who gonna shoe my children's feet?
Who gonna glove a-my children's hand?
Who gon' shoe my lovin' feet?
Who gon' glove a-my lovin' hand?"
Papa looked 'round her, at his daughter's face,
Tried to pacify his daughter's mind
"Daughter, I'll shoe your lovin' feet.
Daughter, I'll shoe your children's feet.
Daughter, I'll glove a-your lovin' hand.
Daughter, I'll glove a-your children's feet."
Brother, he looked her, in his sister's face,
Tryed to pacify a-his sister's mind
"Sister, I kiss your rosy little cheeks."
"But you can't be my lovin' man,
Brother, can't be my lovin' man.
Papa can't be my lovin' man,
Papa can't be my lovin' man.
'Cause you can't follow the whole deal down,
Brother, can't follow the whole deal down.
Papa can't follow the whole deal down,
Papa can't follow the whole deal down."

SPOKEN:  That's old John Henry from the mountains, directly.

All best,
Johnm














 










 

Offline TenBrook

  • Member
  • Posts: 208
    • darkhollar.tumblr.com
Re: John Henry
« Reply #119 on: September 21, 2016, 08:24:37 AM »
Yesterday in my searchings I stumbled upon a site for the 'Kentucky Alan Lomax Recordings' [http://lomaxky.omeka.net] which to my surprise contains 34 recordings of George 'Shortbuckle' Roark made in 1938 (it seems the recordings may not have directly involved Alan Lomax but rather were made by Mary Elizabeth Barnicle who worked with Lomax at various times). Also to my surprise George does his version of 'John Henry' which can be heard here: https://archive.org/details/afc1938009_1997A He also does renditions of many other classic old time songs. Through some small effort I was able to dl all of his recordings, if anyone is interested pm me and I'll send you a link to grab them as well.

Also, not sure if this has been touched on in this thread or not, but I've recently noted two instances of old time performers claiming that John Henry and John Hardy are in fact the same person, a claim which definitely seems incorrect and yet is really interesting. The first I heard of it was in an interview Joe Bussard conducted with Buell Kazee where Buell very emphatically makes the claim for the two men being the same person. Then I noticed a letter from Ernest Stoneman reprinted in 'People Take Warning! Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs' which makes the same claim.

A little searching found this:
From Alan Lomax:
"John Hardy was an actual person, a black man, working in the tunnels of West Virginia (just like "John Henry"). In fact, as Alan Lomax remarks, "the two songs ["John Henry" & "John Hardy"] have sometimes been combined by folk singers, and the two characters confused by ballad collectors....")."

Looking forward to reading through the rest of this thread for more insight into this American literary treasure.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2016, 08:29:54 AM by TenBrook »

 


anything