Follow the Drinking Gourd

Follow the drinking gourd,
Follow the drinking gourd,
For the old man is a-waiting to carry you to freedom,
Follow the drinking gourd.

When the sun comes up and the first guail calls,
Follow the drinkin' gourd.
The old man is a-waitin' to carry you to freedom,
Follow the drinkin' gourd.

Now the river bank'll make a mighty good road,
The dead trees will show you the way.
Left foot, peg foot, travelin' on,
Follow the drinkin' gourd.

Now the river ends between two hills,
Follow the drinkin' gourd.
There's another river on the other side,
Follow the drinkin' gourd.

I thought I heard the angels say
Follow the drinkin' gourd.
The stars in the heavens gonna show you the way,
Follow the drinkin' gourd.

recordings of “Follow the Drinking Gourd”:
Pete Seeger, I Can See a New Day
Shays Rebellion, Daniel Shay's Highway
Weavers, Weavers at Carnegie Hall, Vanguard 73101
Weavers, Folk Songs of America and Other Lands, Decca DL-5285, 10“
Weavers, Weavers Greatest Hits , Vanguard 15/16, CD
Richie Havens, Songs of the Civil War, Columbia CT 48607, CD

musical notation:
Carry It On! A History in Song and Picture of the Working Men and Women of America, Pete Seeger & Bob Reiser. New York : Simon & Schuster, 1985.
Childrens Songs for a Friendly Planet
Here's to the Women
The Songs of the Civil War , compiled and edited by Irwin Silber. New York: Columbia University Press, 1960.
Songs of the Spirit
Weavers Songbook, New York: Harper & Row, 1960.

Follow the Drinking Gourd

In the years leading up to the Civil War, there were only two ways to escape slavery and gain one's freedom. Slaves could purchase their freedom, which was only possible in extremely rare cases, or they could run away, a dangerous affair. Yet a former governor of Mississippi claimed that between 1810 and 1850, a hundred thousand slaves ran away. (Brian Fulks, Black Struggle. A History of the Negro in America. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1969. p. 119-120.) Immediately after the War of Independence individuals and groups began to systematically help runaway slaves. The earliest such helpers were Quakers. Up to about 1830, most of the helpers were themselves black, as a rule former slaves. Gradually, a so-called Underground Railway developed.

In the beginning, there were only „stations,“ secure houses. The runaways had to find their way from one „station“ to the next. They traveled by night, using the North Star as their guide and rested during the day at a „station.“ The first white helper was Levi Coffin, a Quaker, who in the course of a quarter of a century helped more than three thousand people escape to freedom. He had the nickname „President of the Underground Railway.„

The „stations“ were barns, the backrooms of businesses, spaces behind false walls. At first, the runaways traveled on foot. Later, horse-drawn wagons were used. The „stations“ were a day's travel apart. About three hundred workers of the Underground Railway are known, many only by their nicknames.

The most dangerous work was done by the „conductors.“ They went into the South to bring people out. Almost all were themselves black and also runaway slaves who took it upon themselves to lead others to freedom. The most famous „conductor“ was a little woman named Harriet Tubman. Other „conductors“ might have brought out more people, but only Harriet Tubman, born in 1821, had the nickname „Moses.“ She returned to the South nineteen times to lead more than three hundred people to freedom, among them two of her own children, her mother and her sister. She always carried a loaded pistol, and not only for purposes of self-defense. If one of her „passengers“ was overcome by fear and considered turning back, Tubman convinced him or her at the point of a gun to continue. Slaveowners posted a bounty of $40,000 on Harriet Tubman's head, dead or alive. When the Civil War came, she worked as a nurse, a spy and a guerilla fighter. Harriet Tubman died on March 10, 1910.

When California applied for admission to the union as a free state it threatened to upset the balance between free and slave states. The impasse was settled by the "Compromise of 1850," which was largely the work of Henry Clay of Kentucky, Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. As part of the compromise California was admitted as a free state , and the prohibition of slave-trading in the District of Columbia. To satisfy the slave states, on the other hand, the Fugitive Slave Act was passed.

It required all Americans, whether they lived in a free or slave state, to assist in the capture of runaway slaves and their return to their masters. It further obligated courts and police everywhere in the United States to help slave-hunters. Private citizens who helped slaves could be punished by jail and fines as well as be forced to pay restitution to slave-owners. Runaway slaves could be arrested without warrant and turned over to a claimant on nothing more than his sworn testimony of ownership. Blacks had no resort to the courts for protection.

The Fugitive Slave Act radically changed the situation of Blacks in the North as well as galvanizing the attitudes of many in the North toward slavery. As many as 20,000 Blacks abandoned their homes in the “ free states ” and fled to Canada . The act left free Blacks in the North virtually defenceless. Many were captured and enslaved with no legal right to plead their cases.

On the other hand, the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act strengthened the resolve of abolitionists to end slavery. The Underground Railroad increased its activities and many people who had had no strong feelings on the subject of slavery took a more critical look at the “peculiar institution.”

In the short run, the Compromise of 1850 kept the nation united, yet at the same time increased the division over the issue of slavery

This song deals with the work of one such „conductor,“ Peg Leg Joe, a former seaman with a peg in place of a foot he had lost. Joe, who was obviously white, traveled from plantation to plantation in the South and offered his services as a painter, carpenter or laborer. Soon after being hired, he made friends with some young male slaves and before too long they were singing this strange song.

After a couple of weeks, Peg Leg Joe moved to the next plantation. But come spring, when „the first guail calls,“ many young men disappeared and if they escaped the hunting dogs and slave hunters, followed a marked path, marked with the form of a foot and a round hole, Joe's wooden foot. They traveled by night and followed the „drinking gourd,“ that is, the Big Dipper, which always points to the North Star. Along the river bank they could easily travel and the path led to the big river, the Ohio. There someone waited, „the old man“ or another „conductor,“ who helped the runaway continue his or her journey to Canada .

This wonderful story is most likely not just a legend. The activities of Peg Leg Joe were recorded in the files of the Anti-Slavery Society. He worked mostly north of Mobile , Alabama and the path of escape led to the source of the Tombigee River , over the divide and on north.

The modern version of this song is an adaption by the Weavers.

In 1993 Taj Mahal released the film Follow The Drinking Gourd, based on the song, with original and traditional songs, narrated by Morgan Freeman.


(Underground Railroad)
Bound for Canaan. The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America. Fergus M. Bordewich. New York: Amistad, 2005.
Hippocrene Guide to the Underground Railroad. Charles L. Blockson. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1995.
The Underground Railroad: Dramatic Firsthand Accounts of Daring Escapes to Freedom. Fergus M. Bordewich. New York: Berkley Books, 1994.
Let My People Go: The Story of the Underground Railroad and the Growth of the Abolition Movement. Henrietta Buckmaster. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1941.
Make Free: The Story of the Underground Railroad. William Breyfogle. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1958.
Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation. John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweniger. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Beyond the River: The Untold Story of the Heroes of the Underground Railroad. Ann Hagedorn. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002.
The Abolitionists and the South 1831-1861. Stanley Harrold. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1995.
Fugitive Slaves and the Underground Railroad in the Kentucky Borderland. J. Blaine Hudson. Jefferson , N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2002.
Sketches in the History of the Underground Railroad. Eber Pettit. Westfield , N. Y.: Chautauqua Regional Press, 1999.
The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom. Wilbur H. Siebert. New York: Macmillan, 1898.

(Harriet Tubman)
Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom. Catherine Clinton. New York: Little, Brown, and Co., 2004.
Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman. Sarah Bradford. Auburn, N. Y.: W.J. Moses, 1869.
Harriet Tubman: The Life and Life Stories. Jean M. Humez. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2003.
Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero. Kate Clifford Larson. New York: Random House, 2003.

(Blacks in Canada)
The Freedom Seekers: Blacks in Early Canada. Daniel G. Hill. Toronto: Stoddart, 1992.
Unwelcome Guests: Canada West's Response to American Fugitive Slaves. Jason H. Silverman. Millwood: Associated Faculty Press, 1985.
Negroes in Ontario from Early Times to 1870. Donald George Simpson. London, Ontario: University of Western Ontario, 1971.
The Underground Railroad . William Still. Chicago : Johnson Publishing Company, 1970.
The Blacks in Canada: A History. Robin Winks. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971.

Photograph of Harriet Tubman

The Underground Railroad in internet:

Harriet Tubman in internet:

Follow the Drinking Gourd, Taj Mahal

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Ballad of Ira Hayes
Peter LaFarge

click here for lyrics

Johnny Cash: Tribute to Ira Hayes: "Ballad of Ira Hayes"

recordings of “Ballad of Ira Hayes”:

Johnny Cash, Bitter Tears, Columbia/Legacy CK66597, CD
Hazel Dickens, By the Sweat of my Brow, Rounder CD0200, CD
Kinky Friedman, Lasso from El Paso, Epic EPC 47 4609.2, CD
Peter LaFrage, On the Warpath/As Long as the Grass Shall Grow, Bear Family BCD 15626, CD
Pete Seeger, Broadside Ballads, Vol. 2 , Broadside BR 302, LP.
Pete Seeger, Little Boxes & Other Broadsides , Verve Folkways FV/FVS-9020, LP
Patrick Sky, Patrick Sky, Vanquard VSD 79179, LP

musical notation:
The Collected Reprints from Sing Out! Volumes 7-12, 1964-1973, A Sing Out Publication, 1992

Photograph of Ira Hayes


Ballad of Ira Hayes

Ira Hayes was born on January 12, 1923 on the Pima Indian Reservation in Arizona. Before he volunteered for the Marines, he had hardly ever left the reservation. His chief told him to be a brave soldier. He fought in three battles in the Pacific theater, the last on Iwo Jima. From his company of 250 men, only 27 survived. Hayes is one of the soldiers honored at the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington, D.C. After the battle, President Roosevelt ordered Hayes and the other survivors home, so they could travel through the country and sell war bonds. For Hayes the tour was torture. Not he, but his dead buddies deserved to be honored. Ira Hayes was stylized a hero, perhaps because he was an Indian and what is more, he was a Christian Indian. But when he returned to the reservation he had neither money, nor a job nor a future.

Hayes sought refuge in anonymity, but he received hundreds of letters and people passing through looked for the Indian who had raised the flag on Iwo Jima. Ira started drinking. In 1954, he reluctantly took part in the dedication of the Iwo Jima Memorial and was praised as a hero by President Eisenhower. Asked whether he had liked the ceremony, he answered in the negative. Three months later he was found dead after a night of drinking, drowned in two inches of water. He is said to have spoken of his dead buddies to the very end. Ira Hayes was 32 years old.

Peter LaFarge: „The Pima Indians, whose reservation is at the gates of Phoenix, Arizona, are related to my people – the Hopi of the New Mexico pueblos. Cisco [Houston] worked hard on this [song] and contributed the line „wines and speeched and honored,“ after I had spent a week trying to press all that into four lines. He refused to have his name put under the song; he wanted me to have it, because, he said, „I'll be leaving soon.“ During those disappointing years when protest songs were not fashionable this song fought for a brief look at reality.“ Peter LaFarge. ( Booklet in the CD On the Warpath/As Long as the Grass Shall Grow, Peter LaFarge. Bear Family BCD 15626.)


Peter LaFarge

Peter LaFarge was probably born in Fountain, Colorado in 1931. He was a Nargaset, a tribe that was almost exterminated in the 19 th century. Peter and his sister were taken in by the Tewa tribe, whose reservation is near Santa Fe, New Mexico. He grew up on the ranch of a man by the name of Jim Kane. Oliver LaFarge, who in 1930 won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel about the Navajo, Laughing Child , adopted Peter and gave him his name. At the age of ten, Peter, accompanied by his father on the drum, danced the Hopi Eagle Dance at an exhibition in New York. At sixteen, he had his own radio program in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He quit school to become a singer and a rodeo rider. Soon LaFarge was playing with Josh White and was friends with Big Bill Broonzy. On his radio program, he played songs by Woody Guthrie. Cisco Houston heard the program and dropped by. Cisco became a friend and a mentor. „Cisco worked with me for hours and hours, he taught me not only music and how one deals with words, he gave me a whole philosophy of life.“

Peter LaFarge joined the Marines and fought in the Korean War, where he was wounded several times. After the war, he returned to the rodeo and became a boxer, suffering nose, wrist, and leg injuries. In 1956, after an accident with a Brahma bull, he had to give up the rodeo. Instead he attended the Goodman School of Theater in Chicago and performed in the play Darkness of the Moon in New York.

LaFarge devoted more and more of his attention to songwriting and singing. He performed at local coffee houses and later at major events, such as the Newport Folk Festival. LaFarge also began to write for Sing Out! A man of many talents, he wrote poetry and plays as well. He belonged to the circle of „folk singers“ around Bob Dylan, Jack Elliott, and Dave Van Ronk. For Columbia Records, with whom he signed a record deal in 1961, he recorded one album of songs mostly by other songwriters, Ira Hayes and other Ballads, produced by John Hammond. The record soon disappeared from the stores. Soon he found a recording home with Moe Asch of Folkways Records, where he recorded the first of five albums, the first, As Long as the Grass Shall Grow , in 1963.

From the one Columbia recording, Johnny Cash, who was often in Greenwich Village, learned „The Ballad of Ira Hayes.“ LaFarge visited him in Nashville and played him more of his own compositions. In June of the same year, Cash released Bitter Tears, a collection of songs about the situation of the Indians, with six songs by LaFarge.

Cash introduced LaFarge to a larger audience, for which LaFarge was criticized by many of his folk singing colleagues. His songs, harshly critical of Whites, did not fit into the folk song pattern and his voice was raw and unpolished, worlds away from those of Peter, Paul and Mary or Tom Paxton. Many were also sceptical of his proximity to country music. In September 1965, it became known that he had signed a contract with MGM Records to record a country album. It never happened.

On October 27, 1965, Peter LaFarge was found dead in his New York apartment. The official cause of death was a stroke, but some things pointed to suicide.

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Peter LaFarge discography in internet

On the Warpath/As Long as the Grass Shall Grow, Bear Family BCD 15626, CD
Song of the Cowboys/Iron Mountain, Bear Family BCD 15627, CD

Photograph of Peter LaFarge

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The Great American Bum
Harry „Mac“ McClintock


Come all you jolly jokers if you wanta have some fun
And listen while I relate the tale of the great American bum
From East and West and North and South like a swarm of bees they come
They eat in the dirt and wear a shirt that's lousy and full of crumbs

I am a bum, a jolly old bum and I live like a royal Turk,
I have good luck and I bum my chuck and the heck with the man that works.
I am a bum, a jolly old bum and I live like a royal Turk,
I have good luck and I bum my chuck and the heck with the man that works.

It's early in the morning when the dew is on the Ground,
The bum arises from his nest and gazes all around,
While going east they're loaded, and going west sealed tight,
"I reckon I'll have to ride aboard the fast express tonight."

Well, I met a man the other day that I'd never met before,
And he asked me if I wanted a job shovelin' iron ore.
I asked him what the wages was and he said: "ten cents a ton."
I said: "old fellow go scratch your...neck, I'd rather be a bum."

Oh, lady would you be kind enough to give me something to eat,
A piece of bread and butter and a tender slice of meat.
Some apple pie and custard just to tickle me appetite,
For really I'm so hungry, don't know where I'll sleep tonight.


recordings of “The Great American Bum”:
John Greenway, Big Rock Candy Mountain. Songs of the American Hobo … , Washington WLP 710, LP
John Greenway, The Great American Bum
Fred Holstein, Chicago and Other Ports, Philo 1030, LP
Cisco Houston, 900 Miles and other R.R. Songs, Folkways FA 2013, EP

musical notation:
The Collected Reprints from Sing Out! Volumes 7-12, 1964-1973, A Sing Out Publication, 1992. 



The Great American Bum

Hoboes are a part of American mythology, and they are part of American reality and have been from the beginning to the present day. They are sometimes called tramps or just plain bums. Even before the coming of the railroads, there had been men who roamed around the country offering their services in various places. They were often craftsmen. In such a thinly populated country in which the scattered small settlements could hardly support craftsmen, these travelers were most welcome. Many of them were adept at more than one trade, as they could not have supported themselves with just one.

With the growth of the railways, it became easier to overcome the great distances of the American continent. The real history of the hoboes, though, began after the Civil War. When the war ended, countless former soldiers had had their homes and their earlier lives destroyed. Their livelihoods no longer existed, their health was ruined. Many had known no other life than that of a soldier. The reconstruction and expansion of the railway network demanded a large workforce. There were jobs everywhere for men willing to follow the job.

Then, in the 1870s, economic depression struck. During earlier economic crises the problem of unemployment had remained a local affair. Now, thousands of unemployed men were drifting around the country and the best means of transportation was riding free on the rail lines they themselves had built.

The movement of settlers from the East to the West was not, contrary to legend, accomplished only be covered wagons. The American West was settled in the industrial age and trains carried most of the new settlers, many of them riding without a ticket.

In times of economic crisis, the number of hoboes has always increased. When, during the last quarter of the 19 th century, a million rail workers lost their jobs, a great many of them became virtual nomads. Again in the 1930s, after railroad construction had passed its peak and with the railroad companies suffering under the Great Depression, countless railroad workers again became unemployed.

Hoboes traveled back and forth across the country looking for work, and when the economy took an upturn, many of them remained on the freight trains. For many, traveling around became an addiction, once they had started riding the trains, they could never stop. A lifestyle developed. Some hoboes considered their lifestyle a profession or perhaps rather a calling. Their craft had to be learned and for beginners it was not easy. A hobo had to have a map of the entire American rail network in his head. He had to learn where and how to hop a freight without danger and which towns were antagonistic when hoboes showed up. Hoboes had to be able to ride anywhere on a freight train, on the bottom, the top, outside, inside, in or on every sort of car. Hoboes preferred to ride boxcars, but they also rode couplings and hung onto ladders, to which they had to tie themselves in case they fell asleep. When they rode on top of the cars, they not only had to fight the wind, but also the hot ashes which could burn their clothes, causes scars or even blind them.

A hobo culture developed with its own vocabulary, songs and poems. In 1899, two businessmen in Britt, Iowa had the idea of organizing a hobo convention to attract attention to their town. On August 22, 1900, the first Hobo Convention took place. To this day, hoboes and the curious gather there. There was a newspaper, the Hobo News and even hobo colleges, the most successful in Chicago, the hub of the American rail network.

The life of the hoboes was, however, anything but romantic. It was hard and full of danger. The railroad police or the local police came down hard of them. Almost all of them spent time in local jails. In the winter or in the mountains, they could easily freeze to death. The road bred a raw brutality. Among the „brothers“ there were plenty of men who were willing to take a life without qualms. Most carried knives for self-defense. Needless to say, riding the trains was in and of itself dangerous enough.

Though these nomads have always been looked down upon and even feared by most people, they have been, during various periods, almost a necessity for the American economy. On the big construction projects in the West, in the woods and in agriculture, large numbers of workers were needed for the short term. In the days before mechanization, hoboes were welcome during the wheat harvest. Hundreds of men arrived with every train. The railroads, which earned well transporting wheat, looked the other way and let the hoboes ride. But the minute the harvest was completed, the hoboes were expected to disappear. The hoboes were the moveable proletariat of the West and had to be able to do all sorts of work, be it cutting trees, picking apples, driving a team of horses, building dams, laying track, harvesting wheat or begging in order to survive.

The Great Depression created an army of 14 million unemployed men in the United States. The number of people riding the freights increased dramatically. They were now not only migrant workers by choice or escapists with wanderlust, but rather desperate people who saw no other way out. Many young people were also drawn to the trains. For many, it remained but a brief episode. Others became addicted and spent the rest of their lives on the rails. These were often young people unable to find work and who saw no future in a middle class life or who did not want to become a burden on the family. It was not until the outbreak of World War II that the number of hoboes was drastically reduced. Those who remained were the men who could not or did not want to adjust to a normal life.

Today, there a still hoboes traveling in America, though it is becoming ever harder on them. Many who would have ridden the rail in the past now have cars, but the wanderlust, the life without a home is the same. The hobo is a product of the American way of life, the size of the American land, the brutality of the American economic system, also of the American myth of freedom and movement. In everyday life there is no place for him, he is even feared, yet for the American psyche he seems to be a necessity, the last free man.



Harry „Mac“ McClintock

Harry „Mac“ McClintock was always a man who got around a lot. He was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1882. Already as a youth McClintock was riding boxcars. When he was fourteen, he ran away from his home to join the circus „Gentry Brothers, Dog and Pony Show.“ When the circus folded in 1896, he kept going and soon discovered, for example on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, that he could keep his head above water by singing.  

As a youth who looked even younger than his age, he was endangered by hoboes who liked to sexually bind young men to them. McClintock:

“Most of the vagrants were mechanics or laborers, uprooted and set adrift by hard times and they were decent men. But there were others, ‘blowed-in-the-glass-stiffs,‘ who boasted that they had never worked and never would, who soaked themselves in booze when they could get it and who were always out to snare a kid to do their begging and pander to their perversions.

“The luckless punk who fell into the clutches of one of these gents was treated with unbelievable brutality, and I wanted no part of such a life. As a ‘producer‘ I was a shining mark; a kid who could not only beg handouts but who could bring in money for alcohol was a valuable piece of property for any jocker who could snare him.

“The decent hoboes were protective as long as they were around, but there were times when I fought like a wildcat or ran like a deer to preserve my independence and my virginity. I whittled my way out of two or three jams with a big barlow knife, and on one occasion I jumped into the darkness from a boxcar door - from a train that must have been doing better than thirty miles an hour.“ (quoted in Kenneth Allsop, Hard Travellin' , p. 215-216. )

McClintock was a soldier, seaman, journalist, and cowboy as well as a hobo. He was in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War and also traveled to China, Africa, Australia, South America, Alaska and throughout the entire continental United States. In the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) first street band he played the clarinet and edited the first edition of the union's Little Red Songbook . He wrote „Hallelujah, I'm a Bum,“ which became the hymn of the IWW, and „Big Rock Candy Mountain.“ Almost every child in America knows the latter song, but few know that it is about the sexual abuse of young hoboes.

When McClintock settled down, he began a career as a cowboy singer. He became well-known as an early radio personality, working one of the earliest hillbilly radio programs for KFRC in San Francisco from 1926, calling himself „Haywire Mac“ McClintock. From 1927 to 1931 he made more than forty recordings for RCA Victor, cowboy songs like „Sam Bass,“ „Jesse James“ or „Texas Rangers,“ but also work songs and „The Great American Bum.“

During the 1950s, Harry McClintock published a songbook, Songs of the Road and Range , worked on the radio and recorded his classic songs for Folkways Records . He died in San Francisco on April 24, 1957.

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City of New Orleans
Steve Goodman

click here for lyrics


recordings of “City of New Orleans“:
Clam Chowder, For Here or to Go, Clam Chowder, LP
Judy Collins, Forever. The Judy Collins Anthology, Elektra
Judy Collins, Judith, Elektra
Country Gentlemen, Country Gentlemen, Vanguard VRD 79331, LP
John Denver, Aerie
Steve Goodman, Essential Steve Goodman, Buddah BDS 5665-2, LP
Arlo Guthrie, HARP, Redwood Records RR409, LP
Arlo Guthrie, Hobo‘s Lullaby, KOCH CD7951, CD
Arlo Guthrie & Pete Seeger, More Together Again, VoI. 2, Rising Son RSR 0008, CD
Pete Seeger & Arlo Guthrie, Together, Warner Brothers, 2R 2214, LP

musical notation:
Sing Out! 21/3

Arlo Guthrie,"City of New Orleans"

Steve Goodmann and Jetho Burns: "City of New Orleans"
Johnny Cash: "City of New Orleans"
The Highwaymen: "City of New Orleans"


City of New Orleans  

The history of the railroad in the United States began when the first British-built locomotive, the „Stourbridge Lion,“ arrived in New York City on May 13, 1829. In the following year, the first American-built locomotive, the „Best Friend of Charleston,“ was put into service. For a country of such dimensions, the rails were of particular importance. In the middle of the 18th century, a trip from New York to Philadelphia took three days. To reach New Orleans, one needed three months. Eighty years later, little had changed. By 1835, though, 200 railroad companies had been founded and nearly a thousand miles of track had been completed. Five years later, nearly three thousand miles of track had been laid, more than in all of Europe. The railroad reached Chicago, destined to become the hub of the nation's rail system, in 1852 and the Mississippi River on February 22, 1854.  

Railroad construction proceeded apace, especially in the industrial North, a fact which during the Civil War contributed to the superiority of the Union. By the time the war broke out, more than half the world's rail lines were in the northern states of the United States. It would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that the railroad created the United States. As long as communication remained slow, the US was a confederation of states. Regionalism remained a strong force and was one of the principle causes of the Civil War. It was during the era of Civil War that it first became common to say „the United States is “ instead of „the United States are.“ The golden age of the railroad in the United States was from the Civil War until about 1930.  

In 1862, Abraham Lincoln, who had begun his political career by supporting railroad construction, signed a law providing for the construction of a transcontinental rail line. Before the war, the North-South conflict had prevented any agreement on a route across the continent. During the previous two decades, the United States had extended its borders from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean. California had become a state in 1850, but until the completion of the first transcontinental railway in 1869, it had remained, physically speaking, a distant outpost which could only be reached after a long, arduous overland journey or by ship, either by sailing around the tip of South America or to Panama, walking over the isthmus and catching another ship.  

The men who built the first transcontinental railway from East to West were mainly veterans of the Civil War, men from both armies, „with little or nothing to go home to.“ (Nothing Like It in the World. The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869 , Stephen E. Ambrose. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000. p. 137.) Many were of Irish extraction. At least three hundred former slaves were also employed. (Nothing Like It in the World. p. 177.) Many of the civil engineers and construction bosses were former Union officers. From the west coast, it was, despite racial prejudices, Chinese laborers who did the work. By 1865, seven thousand Chinese were working for the Central Pacific Railroad alongside two thousand whites.  

The railroad opened up the West for settlement and natural resource exploitation. Dee Brown wrote that, „only the demonic power of the Iron Horse and its bands of rails could conquer the West...“ (Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow. The Epic Story of the Transcontinental Railroads , Dee Brown. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1977. p. 3.)  

By the 1880s. railroad construction became a way to get rich. Many lines were built for the purpose of financial exploitation rather than to meet any transportation need. The railroad companies gained political power, subsidized or owned hundreds of newspapers, and controlled or bribed reporters. They became involved in all elections, from the local to the national level and boasted openly of having elected James A. Garfield president, a man who had been involved in a financial fraud in connection with the building of the Union Pacific Railroad. Controlling local and national governments, the railroads lived virtually free of taxes. This power gave rise to farmers‘ organizations like the National Grange, which fought to curb the power of the railroads and in the end was crushed by them.  

When the United States entered the First World War, however, the railroads and their equipment were in such a dilapidated condition that the government had to take them over and rebuild them in order to meet wartime transportation needs. After the war, the newly refurbished rail system was returned to private owners, who then had the audacity to demand more than a billion dollars compensation for losses they claimed to have incurred.  

In 1920, 2.1 million people were employed by the railroads and in 1930, almost 300,000 miles of track tied the country together.  

Despite the excesses of the railroad companies, the railroad stood for freedom, which was equated with movement and became an integral part of the American myth. The engineers were folk heroes, the accidents – and there were many in the early years – were the subject of numerous ballads. It is said the rhythm of the railroad is the rhythm of American music.

Steve Goodman told the story of how he came to write „City of New Orleans.“ „Nancy and I were going down to a small town in southern Illinois on the Illinois Central to visit her grandmother who was in an old folks‘ home down there. I just took this sketch pad and wrote about what I saw out the windows of the train. Nancy was still asleep after an hour and I went down to the club car and ended up playing cards with a couple of old men. Everything in the song actually happened; I wish I had made it up. I'm not too good at fiction. I guess I can surround real events with some fiction every now and then to dress them up. But I don't come up with fictional situations. I have to see it first.“ (Country Music. The Encyclopedia. Irwin Stambler and Grelun Landon. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997. p. 222.)  

On the CD More Together Again, Vol. 2 , Arlo Guthrie tells how he heard this song for the first time in the „Quiet Knight“ in Chicago:  

„One time, a few years ago, around 1970, I was up in Chicago playing in a bar. After the show was over, the owner who was a friend of mine come up and said, 'Arlo, a friend of mine wants to sing you a song.' And I said, 'Oh, come on, man, I don't want to hear no songs. I hate songs. I don't even like my own songs. What am I gonna listen to other people's songs for? I mean, everybody thinks they wrote the cosmic-universal-anthem-song-of-the-month-club song.' And I was going on and on. And finally this little guy comes around the corner and he's smiling at me. He say, 'Arlo, I just want to sing you one song.' So I says, 'Tell you what, buy me a beer and I'll sit here and drink it. As long as it lasts, you can do whatever you want.' He says, 'That sounds like a good deal.' I says, 'It did?' This is the song he sang me. The guy's name was Steve Goodman, and he wrote a lot of good songs.“

Illinois Central Historical Society in Internet


Steve Goodman  

Steve Goodman was born in Chicago on July 25, 1948, the son of the used-car dealer Bud Goodman, and grew up in a „middle class Jewish family.“ Inspired by folksingers Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Bob Gibson, he began to play the guitar at the age of thirteen. By way of the folk music revival he became acquainted with the music of Woody Guthrie. Steve frequented Chicago's black blues clubs and was strongly influenced by Hank Williams. By the time he graduated from Main Township East High School , he had a large repertoire of folk songs, a few original compositions and a small following of fans and was a key figure in the revival of the Chicago folk scene. After high school he went to New York City to try his luck, but he returned to Chicago and attended Lake Forest College while singing nights at the Earl of Old Town. There he met his future wife, Nancy Pruter, who was working there as a waitress to earn money for college. To make ends meet, he even wrote music for advertising. One evening in April 1971, Steve sang as the opening act for Kris Kristofferson . Paul Anka was there, liked what he heard. Anka paid Steve's way to New York and arranged for him to make demo recordings which led to a recording contract with Buddha Records.  

The album Steve Goodman , recorded in Nashville in 1917, was produced by Kris Kristoffeson and Norbert Putnam. Some of Nashville's best session musicians lent their talents, among them Charlie McCoy, Vassar Clements, Kenny Buttrey, Billy Sanford and Grady Martin. Joan Baez and Kris Kristofferson sang on “Donald and Lydia.” Steve Goodman: “ We did the sonofabitch in three and a half days just non-stop and the whole damn thing was a party. It's amazing it sounds as good as it does. I'm serious, it's fun to look back on now, but I didn't have the slightest clue what to do. ” The album didn't sell well, but it led to a tour which established Goodman as a live performer. The breakthrough came in the following year when Arlo Guthrie had a hit with Goodman's „City of New Orleans.“ A few years after Arlo's success, Steve Goodman introduced the song with these words, „...this is a song I wrote a while ago, and then Arlo Guthrie recorded it and it was a big hit...Saved my ass!“  

After a second album, Somebody Else's Troubles, Steve switched to Elektra/Asylum Records, where he made Jessie's Jig and Other Favorites, Words We Can Dance To, Say It in Private, High and Outside and Hot Spot. Though Goodman was loved and respected by his colleagues and a small group of fans, he never became a big name himself. Still, during the 70s, he established himself as one of the mainstays in folk, known for his liveliness and his humor.  

Even though Steve Goodmann and his wife and three daughters moved to Seal Beach, California in 1980, he and his music remained closely connected with the city of Chicago, where he enjoyed great popularity. A song, „Lincoln Park Pirates,“ about the questionable practices of the Lincoln Towing Company, led to a new regulation of such services, which benefited many Chicagoans. Steve, a big Cubs fan, also wrote „Go, Cubs, Go“ and “Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request” for the team.  

Beginning in1982, Steve Goodman had to undergo chemotherapy. Since 1968 he had been suffering from leukemia and the disease had suddenly taken a turn for the worse. Only his wife and closest friends were aware of the disease. His performances had to be planned around his chemotherapy.  

In 1983, Goodman's own label, Red Pajama Records, released Affordable Art, followed by Artistic Hair and his last studio album, Santa Ana Winds , which appeared just before his death.  

On August 31, 1984,Steve received a bone marrow transplant from his brother David. He died on September 20 of liver and kidney failure, shortly before he had been scheduled to sing the national anthem for the first time at a Cubs game.  

After his death, it bacame clear just how loved and respected Steve Goodman had been. Friends like Arlo Guthrie , Bonnie Raitt , Jehro Burns , Jimmy Buffet , John Prine , and others sang at two tribute concerts, from which the album Tribute to Steve Goodman was taken. It received the first Grammy in the newly-created Best Contemporary Folk category. In 1994, Willie Nelson recording of „City of New Orleans“ became a number one country hit and Steve Goodman was posthumously awarded a Grammy for Best Country Song.

return to biography list

Steve Goodmann and Jetho Burns: "City of New Orleans"

Affordable Art, REDR CD002, CD
Artistic Hair, REDP CD001, CD
The Best of the Asylum Years, REDP CD006, CD
The Best of the Asylum Years, Vol. II , REDP CD007
City of New Orleans
The Easter Tapes, REDP CD009, CD
The Essential Steve Goodman, Buddah CD25665, CD, CD
High and Outside
Hot Spot
Jessie's Jig & Other Favorites
No Big Surprise: The Steve Goodman Anthology, REDP CD008
Say It in Private
Somebody Else's Troubles, Buddah
Steve Goodman , Oneway, CD28559, CD
Words We Can Dance To
Santa Ana Winds, REDP CD003, CD
Unfinished Business, REDP CD005, CD  

the songs of Steve Goodman:
A Tribute to Steve Goodman, Red Pajamas CD004  

biography of Steve Goodman
Steve Goodman. Facing the Music. by Clay Eals. ECW Press, 2007

in internet
Red Pajama Records
Steve Goodman Scrapbook

Photograph of Steve Goodman

handwritten lyrics to City of New Orleans

back to stories behind the songs

return to biography list  




Backwater Blues
Bessie Smith

click here for lyrics

Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee: "Backwater Blues"

recordings of “Backwater Blues”:

LaVern Baker, Precious Memories/LaVern Sings Bessie Smith
Big Bill Broonzy, Sings Folk Songs, Smithsonian/Folkways SF 2359, LP
Dan Gellert, Old Time Banjo in America, Kicking Mule KM 204, LP
John Jackson, Step It up and Go, Rounder CD2019, CD
Lead Belly, Huddie Ledbetter's Best, Capitol SM-1821, LP
Lead Belly, Leadbelly, Playboy Records PB-119, LP
Lead Belly , Leadbelly's Last Sessions, Smithsonian/ Folkways CD o-9307-40068-2-5, CD
Bessie Smith, L'Arte Vocale, Vol. 3: La Sélection 1923-1933 , L'art Vocal Records.
Bessie Smith, Bessie Smith: La Selection 1923-1933 - Vol. 3 , L'art Vocal.
Bessie Smith, Bessie Smith: The Complete Recordings, Vol. 3 , Sony CD47474.
Bessie Smith, Careless Love, Complete Blues
Bessie Smith, Chattanooga Gal, Proper Box UK .
Bessie Smith, The Complete Recordings-volume 5, Frog UK .
Bessie Smith, The Empress & the Pianist: 1923-1931, Epm Musique CD15922.
Bessie Smith, The Empress of the Blues: 1923-1933, Jazz Legends.
Bessie Smith, Empty Bed Blues, Asv Living Era CD5213.
Bessie Smith, The Essential Bessie Smith, Sony CD64922.
Bessie Smith, The Gold Collection, Retro.
Bessie Smith, Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues – Bessie Smith, Sony.
Bessie Smith, Nobody Knows You When Your Down & Out, Roots.
Bessie Smith, Queen of the Blues, Prope.
Preachin' the Blues: Original Recordings 1925-1927
, Naxos.
Bessie Smith, Woman's Trouble Blues, Recall Records UK.
Dave Van Ronk, Gambler's Blues, Verve FV 9007, LP
Dave Van Ronk, Dave Van Ronk Sings Ballads, Blues, and Spirituals, Folkways FS 3818, LP
Dinah Washington, The Bessie Smith Songbook, Polygram Records CD26663.
Dinah Washington, Dinah Washington Sings Bessie Smith, Polygram Records, CD538635.

musical notation:
Bessie Smith Songbook, Hal Leonard Corporation, 1994.
The Leadbelly Songbook, Oak Publications, 1962.


Backwater Blues  

In August, September and October of 1926 there was unusually heavy rainfall and the first floods occurred along tributaries of the Mississippi. In October, there were devastating floods and that at a time when the rivers are usually running low. At that point, it was already clear that in the spring of 1927, there was going to be major flooding along the lower Mississippi.  

In December, the rains set in again and the entire North of the country, from Minnesota to Montana experienced unusually heavy snowfall. In April, there was more rain than anyone could remember. Dozens of states were ravaged by tornadoes. In the beginning, people had greeted the rain, but when it did not stop people became depressed and finally fearful. Some preachers spoke of a sign from God because of the evil in the world. Many were reminded of the story of Noah and feared it might be the end of the world.  

When the Mississippi left its banks south of Cairo, Illinois, it was to be 153 days before it returned.  

As long as the levies still held, they were guarded 24 hours a day by armed guards, by armed white guards. The backbreaking work of filling and carrying sandbags was, as though it were the most natural thing in the world, done by Blacks. Thousands of black men labored and the supervision of a handful of white men, and that without any legal basis or obligation whatsoever. The situation corresponded to the social order of that time and place. In particularly endangered areas, the police combed black neighborhoods daily and forced the men to go to work on the levies. If a black man refused, he was beaten or locked up. In areas that were acutely endangered, black men were forced by white men to work on the levy at the point of a gun. In the Mississippi Delta, north of Greenville , the levy broke on April 21, 1927. When the water broke through as many as a hundred black died, men who had been forced to work on the weak spot on the levy until it was too late to escape. The water which flowed through the break dug a valley 30 meters deep and 1600 meters long. People were caught by surprise.  

The water washed away houses, barns, and trees, destroyed railroad beds. Tens of thousands of people, wet and exhausted, clung to trees or sat in the roofs of houses and waited to be saved. The wind whipped up waves which weakened houses. The water reached inland from the river for 60 miles. When helpers set out in boats they had to be armed and not only ward off cows and dogs who sought to save themselves in the boats. Some plantation owners would not allow or tried to prevent their sharecroppers from being saved. For the first 36 hours, it was possible to save people. Then there was stillness over the water. The people and animals which had not been picked had drowned. Hundreds of human and animal corpses floated on the flood waters. If they floated onto the levies on which people had sought refuge, they were gathered for burial. If not, they were eaten by hungry animals.  

In Greenville, the remaining levy now had water on both sides. It was eight feet wide and the survivors were spread out along eight miles along it, initially with neither tents nor food. Almost all of them were black. Many whites had been evacuated in time or had houses which were not entirely under water. The first boats and barges which arrived to take people from the levy would only transport white people. The Blacks were to be evacuated thereafter, but plantation owners, fearful of losing their hands, saw to it that the people were held on the levy. Most of those people had lost everything they had possessed, except for their debts to the plantation owners. They had no reason to remain in the delta. Without their labor though, the lifestyle of the white upperclass would not have been possible. The boats which landed at Greenville evacuated only white women and children.  

Again, black men, and only black men, were forced to work. Blacks who had remained in their houses were forced to move to the levy. If they refused, they received no further rations. Whites were allowed to remain in their houses. Blacks received fewer rations than their white neighbors and what they got was of lower quality. Later, the levy was patroled by National Guard troops and could only be left with written permission. That was the case in all the camps set up in the state of Mississippi . Later, the Red Cross cooperated with plantation owners to see to it that „their“ sharecroppers were returned to them. In Greenville , Blacks had to work without pay for the Red Cross. The levy effectively became a slave camp. The already existing gulf between black and white was deepened. Once more, the place of Blacks in society was made abundantly clear.  

In the great flood of 1927, 70,200 square kilometers of land were flooded. Not until four months after the first levy broke did the river finally return to its banks. Their is no complete survey of the damage done by the flood because it extended from Pennsylvania, where Pittsburgh was flooded, to Oklahoma City and from Missouri to the Golf of Mexico, but the situation on the lower reaches of the river make clear how dramatic the flood was. In an area in which 931,159 people had lived, the water was 30 feet deep. 330,000 people had to be saved from trees and rooftops. The Red Cross opened 154 „concentration camps“ – yes, that was the name – in which 325,554 people lived for as long as four months, most of them black. Another 311,922 people living outside the camps were supplied by the Red Cross. Of the remaining 300,000, those who did not drown fled the area. The dead could not be counted, but the number was surely in the thousands. Material losses, direct and indirect, are said to have been over one and a half billion dollars. (John M. Barry, Rising Tide, p. 283-286.)  

Photographs of the Flood

„Backwater Blues“ was Bessie Smith's best selling record in the 1920s. She wrote the song after she had experienced the flooding on the Ohio River . On the recording, one can hear Joe Smith on cornet and James P. Johnson on piano. The record was released in the midst of the great Mississippi flood of 1927, which surely contributed to its popularity. Charlie Patton also wrote a song about the flood, the two-part „High Water Everywhere.“

John M. Berry, Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997.

The Great Flood in internet


Bessie Smith  

Bessie Smith was born into a poor family in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1898. By the age of eight or nine, she had already lost both her parents. She began her career in 1912 as a dancer in a minstrel show in which Ma Rainy was the star. In the beginning, Bessie Smith did „covers“ of other people's hits. Music publishers were interested in as many recordings as possible of each song in hopes of meeting the taste of as many customers as possible. In contrast to many other blues singers, Bessie Smith was not only popular in the South and not only among Blacks. In 1929, she played on Broadway and in the same year appeared in the movie „ St. Louis Blues.“ Her recordings sold well and she was accompanied by the best musicians of the age, among other by Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, or Fletcher Henderson.  

Photograph of Bessie Smith

She was called the „Empress of the Blues,“ but she could be crude and mean. She was a fighter and she fought men or women when she felt threatened or jealous. A turbulent marriage ended in divorce, but she had countless affairs with men and women. In a time when Blacks themselves felt that the lighter their skin the more attractive they were, Bessie was proud of her blackness. She was also courageous. When, during a tent show, she was confronted with members of the Ku Klux Klan, she drove them off, cursing them as only she could. Chris Albertson wrote: „Bessie wasn't fooled by those Southern crackers smiling at her. She wasn't scared of those white people down there. Not Bessie – she would tell anybody to kiss her ass. Nobody messed with Bessie, black or white, it didn't make no difference.“ (Giles Oakley, The Devil's Music. A History of the Blues. New York and London: Harcourt Brace Javanovich, 1976. p. 108.)  

Giles Oakley wrote: „As a performer her singing was incomparable; moving, powerful, sensuous, earthy, and she was also an actress of some depth, a comedienne and an agile dancer. While she could be tough, ill-mannered, crude and irresponsible, Bessie Smith was passionate and full of big-hearted generosity and kindness, yearning for acceptance on her own terms. If her personal life was frequently a disaster zone, it never hollowed out her extraordinary spirit.“ (Giles Oakley, The Devil's Music. p. 110.) It has been said that, „Through Bessie Smith the blues were raised to an artform...“ (Daphne Duval Harrison, Black Pearls Blues Queens of the 1920 's. New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press, 1988, p. 52.)

return to biography list

1921-1933: Empress of the Blue,. Giants of Jazz (Ita), CD53090
1923, Classics, CD761
1923-1924, Classics CD787
1923-1933: Empress of the Blues , Giants of Jazz CD53090
1924-1925, Classics CD812
1925-27, Jazz Chronological Classics CD843
1925-1933, Nimbus Records CD6003
1927-1928, Classics CD870
1928-1929, Classics CD897
1929-1933, Classics CD977
After You've Gone, Catfish UK
Alexander's Ragtime Band, Four Star
American Legends - Vol. 14, Delta CD12737
L'Arte Vocale, Vol. 3: La Sélection 1923-1933, L'art Vocal Records
Beale Street Mama, Charly Budget Line CD2018
Bessie Smith: La Selection 1923-1933 - Vol. 3, L'art Vocal
Bessie Smith: Members Edition, Member's ed. [Tko] CD3050
Bessie Smith Sings the Jazz, Jazz Archives No. 61
Bessie Smith Sings the Jazz, Epm Musique CD157902
Bessie Smith: The Complete Recordings, Vol. 1, Sony CD47091
Bessie Smith: The Complete Recordings, Vol. 2, Sony CD47471
Bessie Smith: The Complete Recordings, Vol. 3, Sony CD47474
Bessie Smith: The Complete Recordings, Vol. 4, Sony CD52838
Bessie Smith: The Complete Recordings, Vol. 5 - The Final Chapter, Sony CD57546
Bessie Smith The Ultimate Collection, Empress of the Blues, Prism Platinum CD123
Best of the Empress of the Blues, Blues Forever
Black Mountain Blues, Chrisly CD60016
Careless Love, Complete Blues
Chattanooga Gal, Proper Box UK
The Collection, Sony CD44441
Complete Recordings, Vol. 1, Frog UK
The Complete Recordings, Vol. 3, Frog UK
Complete Recordings, Vol. 4, Frog UK
The Complete Recordings- volume 5, Frog UK
Complete Recordings, Vol. 6, Frog UK
Complete Recordings, Vol. 7, Frog UK
Complete Recordings, Vol. 8, Frog UK
Do Your Duty, Indigo
Downhearted Blues, Naxos
The Empress & the Pianist: 1923-1931, Epm Musique CD15922
Empress of the Blues, CHARLY
Empress of the Blues, Universe Italy
The Empress of the Blues: 1923-1933, Fremeaux & Assoc. Fr.
The Empress of the Blues: 1923-1933, Jazz Legends
Empress of the Blues: Collectors Edition, Tko Coll. Blues
Empty Bed Blues, Asv Living Era CD5213
The Essential Bessie Smith, Sony CD64922
The Gold Collection, Fine Tune
The Gold Collection, Retro
I Ain't Gonna Play No Second Fiddle, Abm
I Ain't Gonna Play No Second Fiddle V.3, Abm
I Ain't Gonna Play No Second Fiddle V.4, Abm
I Ain't Gonna Play No Second Fiddle V.5, Abm
I'm Wild About That Thing, Object Enterprises, Ltd. CDORO 102
The Incomparable, Columbia River Ent. CD120001
An Introduction to Bessie Smith: Her Best Recordings 1923-1933, Best of Jazz CD4030
Kings of the Blues, Castle/Pulse
Legendary Blues Recordings: Bessie Smith, Direct Source Label
Mama's Got the Blues, Pearl CD1002
Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues – Bessie Smith, Sony
Masters, Cleopatra CD445
Nobody Knows You When Your Down & Out, Roots
Nobody's Blues But Mine, Past Perfect
Queen of the Blues, Prope
Preachin' the Blues: Original Recordings 1925-1927, Naxos
St. Louis Blues, Naxos
Sings the Blues, Collectables
Sings the Blues, Sony Special Product CD26422
Sings the Jazz, Jazz Archives
The Ultimate Collection, Prism
Woman's Trouble Blues, Recall Records UK

Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong, Together, Tko Collectors

(the songs of Bessie Smith)
LaVern Baker, Precious Memories/LaVern Sings Bessie Smith, Collectables CD6415
Count Basie/Teresa Brewer, Songs of Bessie Smith, Sony
Teresa Brewer, The Songs of Bessie Smith/The Cotton Connection, Collectables CD6641
Vic Dickinson, Plays Bessie Smith: "Trombone Cholly", Gazell Records CD1011
Amina Claudina Myers, Salutes Bessie Smith, Leo Records CD103
Dinah Washington Sings Bessie Smith, Polygram Records, CD538635
Dinah Washington, The Bessie Smith Songbook, Polygram Records CD26663

Bessie Smith Songbook. Hal Leonard Corporation, 1994.
Chris Albertson, Bessie Smith: Empress of the Blues, Schirmer Books, 1975.

(about Bessie Smith)
Edward Albee, The Sandbox and the Death of Bessie Smith. Plume Books; Reprint edition, 1988.
Chris Albertson, Bessie: Revised and expanded edition. Yale University Press; Rev Exp edition, 2003.
Edward Brooks, Bessie Smith Companion. Cassell Academic, 1982.
Angela Y. Davis, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday. Vintage, 1999.
Daphne Duval Harrison, Black Pearls. Blues Queens of the 1920's. New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press, 1988.
Elaine Feinstein, Bessie Smith (Lives of Modern Women). Viking Pr; Reprint edition, 1986.
Sara Grimes, Backwaterblues: In search of Bessie Smith. Rose Island Pub; 1st ed edition, 2000.
Jackie Kay, Bessie Smith (Outlines). Absolute Press, 1997.
Alexandria Manera, Bessie Smith (African-American Biographies, Raintree, 2003.
Carman Moore, Somebody's Angel Child: The Story of Bessie Smith. Ty Crowell Co, 1969.
Paul Oliver, Bessie Smith (Kings of jazz). A.S. Barnes, 1971.

Bessie Smith in internet:

back to stories behind the songs






John Henry

When John Henry was a little baby
Sitting on his papa's knee
Well he picked up a hammer and a little piece of steel
said, "Hammer's gonna be the death of me, Lord. Lord,
Hammer's gonna be the death of me."

The captain said to John Henry,
"I'm gonna bring that steam drill around,
I'm gonna bring that steam drill out on the job,
I'm gonna whup that steel on down,"

John Henry told the captain,
"Lord, a man ain't nothin' but a man
But before I'd let that steam drill beat me down
I'd die with my hammer in my hand."

John Henry said to his shaker,
„Shaker why don't you sing?
Because I'm swinging thirty pounds from my hips on down;
Just listen to that cold steel ring.“

Now the captain said to John Henry,
"I believe that mountain's cavin' in."
John Henry said right back to the captain,
"Ain't nothin' but my hammer suckin' wind."

Now the man that invented the steam drill
He thought he was mighty fine
But John Henry drove fifteen feet
And the steam drill only made nine.

John Henry hammered in the mountains
His hammer was striking fire
But he worked so hard, he broke his poor heart
And he laid down his hammer and he died.

Now John Henry had a little woman,
Her name was Polly Ann,
John Henry took sick and had to go to bed,
Polly Ann drove steel like a man.

So every Monday morning
When the bluebirds begin to sing,
You can hear John Henry a mile or more;
You can hear John Henry's hammer ring.


John Henry

In early 1870, in the Northwest of West Virginia where the Greenbriar River takes a sharp turn to the south work began on the Big Bend Tunnel for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. Men hammered on long steel bits to drill the holes in the stone for the explosive charges. Those were the steel drivers. The drills used in the tunnel ranged from 2 to 14 feet in length and as many as 50 holes had to be dulled for each blast. A second worker, called the shaker or the turner, held the lower end of the bit and turned it a quarter of a turn after each hit. It was hard and dangerous work and cave-ins were not a rarity. Blacks made up the largest part of the thousand-man workforce, most of the men having only recently been freed from slavery. The steel drivers and the shakers were often the same men and traded positions. They wandered from job to job and were also employed in mines.  

One of the steel drivers in the Big Bend Tunnel might have been a man by the name of John Henry. He was known for his extraordinary strength. The proud steel drivers often held competitions to see who could „drive the most steel.“ At the east end of the Big Bend Tunnel an unusual competition might have taken place. Or perhaps it was a test? The first steam driver had been patented in 1849 and had been tested in tunnel construction before work on the Big Bend Tunnel had begun. Yet the work on the Big Bend Tunnel, which was completed in 1872, was still done by hand. Perhaps a salesman brought the machine to the tunnel. Its said that a competition was held between the machine and John Henry. According to the legend, John Henry emerged victorious, but he died of exhaustion at the site of the competition or shortly thereafter.  

Or maybe the story was different? John Garst of the University of Georgia has found evidence that John Henry's feat may not have taken place in West Virginia, but in Alabama, at the east portal of the Oak Tunnel in the Central of Georgia line in 1887. According to this version, he might have been a slave of Thomas Smith Gregory Dabner on the Burleigh Plantation between Raymond and Crystal Springs. The engineer in charge of the construction of the Oak Tunnel was a Dabner.  

That is how the legend of and song „John Henry“ might have been born. At first, it was probably a work song, sung by the steel drivers as they went from job to job. The work songs were sung on the job to secure rhythmic movements. Just about as many versions of the song were developed as there were singers who sung it. At some point the work song became a ballad. Someone added a woman. These verses might have derived from the old Scottish ballad „Lass of Roch Royal,“ which was widely sung in the Appalachians. Derivations of the song also developed, like „Spike Driver Blues“ sung by John Hurt.  

The most widely known version is that by Pete Seeger, who calls it „the noblest American ballad of them all.“ Pete learned the song in 1931 from the painter Thomas Hart Benton. By that time, the song already had a long history. In 1929, Guy B. Johnson had published the book John Henry. Tracking Down a Negro Legend, in which the author printed several dozen versions of the song. Many versions of the song had already been published in song collections and Johnson listed eleven phonographic recordings. Since then, it has been recorded more than 300 times from such singers as Duane Eddy, Dave Dudley, Richard Dyer-Bennet, Jesse Fuller, John Renbourn, Johnny Cash, Flatt & Scruggs, Lonnie Donegan and Billy Preston.  

Pete Seeger, who begins his concerts with „John Henry,“ says, „The older I get, the more facits of meaning I see in the story.“

recordings of “John Henry”:
Etta Baker, Instrumental Music of the Southern Appalachians, Tradition TR 1007, LP
Kenny Baker & Josh Graves, Bucktime!, Puritan 5005, LP
Harry Belafonte, Mark Twain and Other Folk Favorites, RCA (Victor) LPM-1022, LP
Elmer Bird, Elmer's Greatest Licks, Bird, Cas
Dock Boggs, Dock Boggs, Vol 2, Folkways FA 2392, LP
Dock Boggs, His Folkways Years 1963-1968, CD40108, CD
Bogtrotters, Original Bogtrotters, Biograph RC 6003, LP
Big Bill Broonzy, Black, Brown and White, Storyville SLP 30006/7, LP
Big Bill Broonzy, Sings Folk Songs, Smithsonian/Folkways SF 40023, LP
Fleming Brown, Fleming Brown, Folk Legacy FSI-004, LP
Blind James Campbell and his Nashville Street Band, Blind James Campbell and his Nashville Street Band, Arhoolie F1015, LP
John Cephas, Folk Music in America, Vol. 9, Songs of Death & Tragedy, Library of Congress LBC-09, LP
Chicago String Band, Chicago String Band, Testament T-2229, LP
Paul Clayton, Dulcimer Songs and Solos, Folkways FG 3571, LP
Fred Cockerham, Southern Clawhammer, Kicking Mule KM 213, Cas
Fred Cockerham and Kyle Creed, Clawhammer Banjo, County 701, LP
Coleman Brothers, Folk Music Radio, Radiola MR 1133, LP
Michael Cooney, Michael Cooney or: "The Cheese Stands Alone", Folk Legacy FSI-035, LP
Bill (Banjo Bill) Cornett, Mountain Music of Kentucky, Smithsonian/Folkways SF CD 40077, CD
Crotton Hollow String Band, Poor Boy, Yodel-Ay-Hee 108327, LP
Erik Darling, Blue Grass Music from the Appalachian Mountains, Laserlight 12181, CD
Bill and Jean Davis, Close to Home, Smithsonian/Folkways SF 40097, CD
Double Decker String Band, Sentimental Songs and Old Time Melodies, Fretless FR 160, LP
Richard Dyer-Bennet, Richard Dyer-Bennet No. 5. Requests, Dyer-Bennet 5000, LP
John Fahey, Blind Joe Death, Vol. 1, Takoma C-1002, LP
Flatt & Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys, Foggy Mountain Banjo, Columbia LE 10043, LP
Folksmiths, We've Got Some Singing to Do, Folkways FA 2407, LP
Tony Furtado, Swamped, Rounder 0277, LP
Worley Gardner, Mountain Melodies. Tunes of the Appalachians, Oak Leaf OL 3-7-2, LP
Phyllis Gaskin, Mountain Dulcimer - Galax Style, Heritage (Galax) 094C, Cas
Franklin (Frank) George, Folk Festival of the Smokies. Volume II, Traditional FFS-529, LP
Grisby and Young, Mountain Music of Kentucky, Smithsonian/Folkways SF CD 40077, CD
Bob Grossman, Bob Grossman, Elektra EKL-215, LP
Woody Guthrie, The Legendary Woody Guthrie in Memoriam, Traditon/Everest 2058, LP
Woody Guthrie, Woody Guthrie, Folkways FA 2483CS, Cas
Woody Guthrie, Woody Guthrie Sings Folk Songs, Vol. 1, Folkways CD40007, CD
Frank Hamilton, Frank Hamilton Sings Folk Songs, Folkways FA 2437, LP
Bob Harman and the Blue Ridge Descendents, Music of the Blue Ridge, Galaxie , LP
Hazel and Alice, Won't You Come and Sing for Me, Folkways FTS 31034, LP
Heartbeats, Living Black and White, Marimac 9048, Cas
Joe Hickerson, Drive Dull Care VI
Greg Hooven, Tribute to Fred Cockerham, Heritage (Galax) 079C, Cas
Iron Mountain String Band (Galax), Music from the Mountain, Heritage (Galax) 101C, Cas
Burl Ives, Return of the Wayfaring Stranger, Columbia CL 1459, LP
John Jackson, Blues and Country Dance Tunes from Virginia, Arhoolie F-1025, LP
Tommy Jarrell, Come and Go With Me, County 748, LP
Tommy Jarrell, Joke on the Puppy, Heritage (Galax) 044, LP
Snuffy Jenkins, American Banjo, Smithsonian Folkways CD40037, CD
Albert Josey, Library of Congress Banjo Collection, Rounder 0237, LP
Fiddlin' Van Kidwell, Midnight Ride, Vetco LP 506, LP
Kimble Family, Carroll County Pioneers, Marimac 9036, Cas
Kimble Family, Pine Knots School Rowdies, Marimac 9037, Cas
Lead Belly, Leadbelly, Playboy Records PB-119, LP
Lilly Mae Ledford, Banjo Pickin' Girl, Greenhays GR 712, LP
Ed Lewis, Southern Journey. Vol. 5: Bad Man Ballads, Rounder 1705, CD
Lilly Brothers, Lilly Brothers: Early Recordings, Rebel CD1688, CD
Limeliters, Limeliters, Elektra EKL 180, LP
Mainers Mountaineers (J. E. Mainer's Mountaineers), Good Ole Mountain Music, King 666, LP
Paul B. McCoy, Allegheny Trails, Jewel LPS 504, LP
Ed McCurdy, Ballad Record, Riverside RLP 12-601, LP
Ed McCurdy, Everybody Sing, Vol 2., Riverside RLP-1419, LP
John McCutcheon, Howjadoo, Rounder CD8009, CD
Youra Marcus, Marc Robine et Bouzouki, Hommage a Woody Guthrie, Le Chant du Monde LDX 74 684/85, LP
Wade Miles and Paul Vernon (Miles Brothers), Folk Music in America, Vol. 3, Dance Music, Breakdowns & Waltzes, Library of Congress LBC-03, LP
Bruce Molsky, Big Hoedown, Rounder CD 0421, CD
Bill Monroe, The Music of Bill Monroe from 1936 to 1994, MCA MCA D4 11048, CD
Bill Monroe, Sings Country Songs
Clyde Moody, White House Blues, Rebel REB-1672, LP
Charlie Moore, Charlie Moore Sings Good Bluegrass, Vetco LP
Mountain Ramblers, Sounds of the South, Atlantic 7-82496-2, CD
Amie Maiman and Chris Coole, 5 Strings Attached with No Backing, Merriweather , CD
J. J. Neece, Close to Home, Smithsonian/Folkways SF 40097, CD
Neskowim Valley School Singers, You Don't Knock, Neskowin Valley School NVS-1, LP
New Lost City Ramblers, New Lost City Ramblers, Vol. 5, Folkways FA 2395, LP
Odetta, The Essential
Odetta, Odetta at Carnegie Hall, Vanguard VSR-9076, LP
Milt Okun, America 's Best Loved Folk Songs, Warwick W 2011, LP
Tom Paley, Folk Banjo Styles, Elektra EKL-7217, LP
Tom Paley, Old Tom Moore and More, Global Village C 309, Cas
George Pegram, Galax Virginia; Old Fiddler's Convention, Folkways FA 2435, LP
George Pegram, George Pegram, Rounder CD0001, CD
Larry Penn, Labor Concert 1986, Collector , LP
Virgil Perkins, American Skiffle Bands, Folkways FA 2610, LP
Virgil Perkins, Folk Music USA . Vol. 1, Folkways FE 4530, LP
Cora Phillips, Music from the Hills of Caldwell County, Physical 12-001, LP
Billie and De De Pierce, New Orleans Jazz, Folk Lyric FL 110, LP
Mutt Posten and the Farm Hands, Hoe Down! Vol. 7. Fiddlin' Mutt Poston and the Farm Hands, Rural Rhythm RRFT 157, LP
Moses Rascoe, Blues, Flying Fish FF-454, LP
Larry Richardson and Red Barker and the Blue Ridge B., Blue Ridge Bluegrass, County 702, LP
Leslie Riddle, Close to Home, Smithsonian/Folkways SF 40097, CD
James Roberts, Black Banjo Songsters of North Carolina and Virginia, Smithsonian/Folkways SF 40079, CD
Art Rosenbaum, Five String Banjo, Kicking Mule KM 108, LP
Round Peak Band, Round Peak Band, Marimac 9044, Cas
Russell Family, Old Time Dulcimer Sounds from the Mountains, County 734, LP
Jean Schilling, Old Traditions, Traditional JS-5117, LP
Peggy and Mike Seeger, American Folk Songs for Children, Rounder 8001/8002/8003, LP (Every Monday Morning)
Pete Seeger, Country Dance Music Washboard Band, Folkways FA2201, 10“
Pete Seeger, Folksongs for Young People, Smithsonian-Folkways, SF-C45024, CD
Pete Seeger, Freight Train, Music for Pleasure MFP 50115, LP
Pete Seeger, How to Play the Five String Banjo, Folkways FTS 38303, LP
Pete Seeger, John Henry
Pete Seeger, Sing A Long at Sanders Theatre, Smithsonian/Folkways CD 0-9307-40027-2-8, CD
Pete Seeger, Sing Out! Hootenanny, (mit den Hooteneers), Folkways FN2513
Pete Seeger, Story Songs, Columbia CL 1668, LP
Lee „Boy“ Sexton, Whoa Mule, June Appal JA 0051, LP
Morgan Sexton, Rock Dust, June Appal JA 0055, LP
Glen Smith, Clawhammer Banjo, Vol. 3, County 757, LP
Raymond Smith & Bob Cowan, In the Hills of Home, Marimac 9010, Cas
Kilby Snow, Mountain Music On the Autoharp, Folkways FA 2365, LP
I.D. Stamper, Red Wing, June Appal JA 0010, LP
Stanley Brothers, Shadows of the Past , Copper CD0101, CD
Ralph Stanley, Man and his Music, Rebel SLP 1530, LP
Glen Stoneman, Southern Journey. Vol. 2: Ballads and Breakdowns, Rounder 1702, CD
Stringbean, Goin' to the Grand Ole Opry, OV 1726, LP
Stringbean, Stringbean and His Banjo. A Salute to Uncle Dave Macon, Starday SLP 215, LP
Vernon Sutphin, Stoneman Family Old Time Songs, Folkways FA 2315, Cas
Wallace Swann and his Cherokee Band, Anglo-American Shanties, Lyric Songs, Dance Tunes & Spirituals, Library of Congress AAFS L 2, LP
Raymond Swinney, Library of Congress Banjo Collection, Rounder CD0237, CD
Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers, Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers, Rounder 1005, LP
Henry (Ragtime Texas Henry) Thomas, Texas Worried Blues, Yazoo CD1080/1, CD
Joe Thompson and Odell Thompson, Black Banjo Songsters of North Carolina and Virginia, Smithsonian Folkways SF 40079, CD
Joe Thompson and Odell Thompson, Oldtime Music from the North Carolina Piedmont, Global Village Global-C217, Cas
Happy Traum, Relax Your Mind
Dave Van Ronk, Dave Van Ronk Sings Ballads, Blues and Spirituals, Folkways FS 3818, LP
Dave Van Ronk, Gamblers Blues, Verve FV 9007, LP
Doc Watson & Clarence Ashley, The Original Folkways Recordings: 1960-1962, Smithsonian/Folkways CD SF 40029/30, CD
Paul Wiley, Comin' Round the Mountain, Voyager VLRP 302, LP
Williamson Brothers and Curry, American Folk Music; Vol. 1, Ballads, Folkways FA 2951, LP (Gonna Die With My Hammer in my Hand)
Dave Winston, Tribute to Tommy Jarrell, Heritage (Galax) 063, LP
Winnie Winston, Old-Time Banjo Project, Elektra EKL-7276, LP
Bill Wood, Folksingers Round Harvard Square, Veritas , LP  

musical notation:
American Favorite Ballads, Tunes And Folksongs As Sung By Pete Seeger. New York: Oak, 1961.
American Folksongs for Children , Ruth Crawford Seeger. Doubleday, 1948.
The American Songbag , Carl Sandburg and Garrison Keillor, Harcourt Brace, 1990.
Bluegrass Songbook , Dennis Cyporyn. Collier, 1973.
Carry It On! A History in Song and Picture of the Working Men and Women of America , Pete Seeger & Bob Reiser. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985.
Folksong Abecedary , James F. Leisy. New York: Bonanza Books, 1966.
Folksong Encyclopedia Vol. 2, Jerry Silverman. Chappell Music, Inc., 1963.
The Folk Songs of North America , by Alan Lomax. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1975
Folksong U.S.A., John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1947.
People's Songbook
Sing Out!
21/6; 34/1
Singing Family of the Cumberlands, Jean Ritchie. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.

John Henry in internet

John Henry: Tracking Down a Negro Legend, Guy B. Johnson. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1929).
John Henry: A Bio-Bibliography, Brett Williams. (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1983).
A Treasury of American Folklore , B. A. Botkin, ed. (New York: Crown Publishers, 1944)
A Treasury of Afro-American Folklore, Harold Courlander (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc.).
Heroes, Outlaws & Funny Fellows of American Popular Tales, Olive Beaupre Miller (New York: Cooper Square Publishers, Inc., 1973)
Great American Folklore, Kemp P. Battley, ed. (Garden City , NJ: Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1986.
American Folklore, Richard M. Dorson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959).
Folk-Songs of the South, John Harrington Cox, ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1925).
Negro Workaday Songs, Howard W. Odum and Guy B. Johnson (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1926).
Negro Folk Music, USA, Harold Courlander (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963).
Southern Folk Ballads , W. K. McNeil, ed. (Little Rock, AR: August House, 1987).
Here's Audacity! American Legendary Heroes, Frank Shay (New York: The Macaulay Co., 1930).
The Hurricane's Children, Carl Carmer (New York: Farar & Rinehart, 1937).
Tall Tale America: A Legendary History of our Humerous Heroes, Walter Blair (New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1944)

Bibliography of American Folklore: Index to Materials in Books on Select American Folk Characters, Marjorie Crammer.
A Natural Man: The True Story of John Henry, Steve Sanfield (illustrated by Peter Thornton). (Boston: D.R. Godine, 1986)
A Man Ain't Nothin' But a Man: the Adventures of John Henry, John Oliver Killens.1st ed. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1975)
John Henry; A Folk-Lore Study, Louis W. Chappell (Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1968)

John Henry, An American Legend, Ezra Jack Keats. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1965).
John Henry and The Double Jointed Steam-Drill, Irwin Shapiro, (drawings by James Daugherty) (New York : J. Messner, 1945)
John Henry, The Rambling Black Ulysses, James Cloyd Bowman (illustrated by Roy La Grone) (Chicago, Ill.: A. Whitman & Company, 1942).


back to stories behind the songs







Kiri's Piano
James Keelaghan 

click here for lyrics


James Keelaghan. My Skies, 1993. Green Linnet & Justin Time JTR 8455-2

James Keelagan: "Kiri's Piano"

Kiri's Piano

Although Canada had already entered the war in September 1939, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor came as just as much a shock to the Canadians as to their southern neighbors. Mistrust of Japanese immigrants led to calls for measures against them. The surrender of Hong Kong on December 25, 1941, where 2,500 Canadian soldiers were taken prisoners of war, heated up the atmosphere even more.  

Just as in the United States, racial discrimination was nothing new in Canada. The anti-Japanese movement in British Columbia was just as vehement an in California. Japanese were, for example, only allowed to sit in certain sections of movie theaters and were often banned from public facilities such as swimming pools. They were forbidden by law from becoming lawyers or pharmacists. Canadian citizens of Japanese descent were allowed neither to vote nor hold public office, could not serve as jurors nor be employed by companies holding federal contracts.  

The Canadian government acted even more quickly than the Americans. Immediately after the events in the Pacific, the navy began the confiscation of 1,200 fishing boats belonging to people of Japanese ancestry. On January 18, 1942, they were legally forbidden from working as fishermen and their boats were sold. A hundred mile exclusion zone was ordered along the coast. On February 24, five days after Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066, Order in Council P.C. 1486 was issued. It was ordered, among other things, that all people „of the Japanese race“ leave the exclusion zone. They also had to turn in radios, cameras, weapons, munition and explosives. On March 16, the government began the roundup of people of Japanese ancestry in Vancouver and the surrounding area, where three-fourths of all those affected by the order lived. In contrast to the United States, people of Japanese ancestry with spouses of non-Japanese origin were spared. Many men were first taken to labor camps.  

21,000 people were evacuated. 750 men considered special security risks were interred in northern Ontario. 2,150 were sent to labor camps, 3,600 to the sugar beet harvest in Alberta and Manitoba, 3,000 to special projects in the interior of British Columbia and to other provinces. The remaining 11,500 were taken to so-called „Interior Housing Centres.“  

In contrast to the situation in the United States, neither the labor camps nor the housing centers were surrounded by barbed wire. Geography provided security. The housing centers were six old miners' settlements and two newly-built settlements in the interior of British Columbia. The internees were given cash to buy groceries, also a garden and seeds. Gardening tools were made available. But those whose property had been sold, first had to live from the proceeds of those sales. The worst burdens were the extreme winter temperatures and the poorly insulated housing. Vancouver has a mild climate.  

Photographs of Internment Camps for Japanese Canadians

Compared to the United States, internees had virtually no opportunity to go to college. In 1945, there were less than a hundred students of Japanese origin enrolled at colleges and universities and only a handful of men had been allowed to serve in the Canadian military. Just as in the United States, there was not a single case of espionage or treason.  

After the was, the Canadian government pursued a plan of spreading people of Japanese origin across the country. In 1941, 95.9% of them had lived in British Columbia, in 1950, only a third. About 4,000 returned to Japan. Not until 1948 were Canadians of Japanese origin given the right to vote.  

In 1988, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney formally apologized to Canadians of Japanese ancestry and authorized $21,000 compensation for each survivor of the war-time internment.  

The Kiri of the song was a real person who had a white upright piano before the war. In 1996, she was near a hundred years old.  

Adachi, Ken. The Enemy That Never Was: A History of the Japanese Canadians. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Ltd., 1977.
Beckow, Stephen M. "Keeping British Columbia White": Anti-Orientalism in the West, 1858-1949. Canada's Visual History; series 1, v. 14. [Ottawa]: National Film Board of Canada with the National Museum of Man (National Museums of Canada), 1974.
Daniels, Roger. Concentration Camps, North America: Japanese in the United States and Canada During World War II. Malabar, Fla.: R.E. Krieger Pub. Co., 1981.
Kitagawa, Muriel. This is my Own: Letters to Wes & Other Writings on Japanese Canadians, 1941-1948. Vancouver, B.C.: Talonbooks, 1995.
Japanese Canadian Centennial Project. A Dream of Riches: the Japanese Canadians, 1877-1977. Vancouver, B.C.: Japanese Canadian Centennial Project, 1978.
McInnes, Tom. Oriental Occupation of British Columbia. Vancouver: Sun Publishing Co., 1927.
Miki, Arthur K. The Japanese Canadian Redress Legacy. Winnipeg: National Association of Japanese Canadians, 2003.
Nakano, Ujo. Within the Barbed Wire Fence: A Japanese Man's Account of his Internment in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980.
Oiwa, Keibo, ed. Stone Voices: Wartime Writings of Japanese Canadian Issei . Montreal: Vehicule Press, 1991.
Omatsu, Maryka. Bittersweet Passage: Redress and the Japanese Canadian Experience . Toronto: Between The Lines, 1992.
Patton, Janice. The Exodus of the Japanese. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Ltd., 1973.
Scantland, Anna Cecile. Study of Historical Injustice to Japanese Canadians: Bibliography Vancouver, B. C.: Parallel Publishers Ltd., 1986.
Sunahara, Ann Gomer. The Politics of Racism: The Uprooting of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. Toronto: Lorimer, 1981.
Takata, Toyo. Nikkei Legacy: The Story of Japanese Canadians from Settlement to Today . Toronto: NC Press, 1983.
Ward, W. Peter. White Canada Forever: Popular Attitudes and Public Policy Toward Orientals in British Columbia . Second ed. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1990.
Winchester, N. Brian [et al.], ed. The Japanese Experience in North America: Papers and Proceedings. [Lethbridge, Alberta]: The Department of Political Science, University of Lethbridge, [1977?].

Joy Kogawa, Obasan. Boston: David Godine, 1982.
Joy Kogawa, Itsuka. New York: Anchor Books, 1994.
Joy Kogawa, Naomi's Road. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Shizuye Takashima, A Child in Prison Camp. Plattsburg, N.Y.: Tundra Books, 1971.

Japanese Internment Camps in internet

The Japanese Canadian National Museum
6688 Southoaks Crescent
Burnaby, B.C. V5E 4M7
Tel: 604.777.7000
Fax: 604.777.7001

back to stories behind the songs







Bread and Roses
words: James Oppenheim, music: Caroline Kohlsaat

As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us signing: „Bread and roses! Bread and Roses!“  

As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women's children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread but give us roses!  

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for – but we fight for roses, too!  

As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler – ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!  

recordings of “Bread and Roses”:
Bluestein Family. Travelin‘ Blues, Swallow LP-2003, LP (1983)
Judy Collins, Bread and Roses, Elektra 7E-1076, LP
Judy Collins, So Early in the Spring, Elektra
Ani DiFranco/Utah Phillips, Fellow Workers, Righteous Babe RBR015D, CD
Gerri Gribi, Womansong Collection, Gribi, CD
Tom Juravich, Rising Again, UAW 002, LP (1982)
Si Kahn, Carry it On, Flying Fish FF 104, LP (1986/?)
Bobbie McGee, Bread and Raises. Songs for Working Women, Collector 1933, LP (1981)
Faith Petric, As We Were, Center 37, LP (1986)
Utah Phillips, We Have Fed You all a Thousand Years, Philo 5008, LP
Shays Rebellion, Daniel Shays Highway, Flying Fish FF427, LP  

notes for “Bread and Roses”:
Carry It On! A History in Song and Picture of the Working Men and Women of America, Pete Seeger & Bob Reiser. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985.
Rise Up Singing , Peter Blood and Annie Patterson, Sing Out, (1989/1992).
Dulcimer Player News , Rosamond Campbell, (1973-), 14/1, p30.
Songs of Work and Protest , Edith Fowke and Joe Glazer (eds.) Dover, (1960/1973).
Here‘s to the Women, Hilda Wenner and E. Freilich. Syracuse Univ. Press, (1987).
Winds of the People, Sing Out, (1982).  


Bread and Roses

The song “Bread and Roses” is associated with the 1912 strike of textile workers in Lawrence , Massachusetts , which has become known as the “Bread and Roses Strike.”  

The city of Lawrence , thirty miles north of Boston , was founded in the 1845 in order to use the power of the Merrimack River to produce textiles and machines. During the first decades, it had been people of British or northern European ancestry who had found work there. In 1905, the American Woolen Company built the world's largest textile mill in Lawrence . The modern technology no longer required skilled laborers and by 1912, the textile workers of Lawrence were primarily newly-immigrated Italians, Poles, Russians, Syrians and Lithuanians. People of twenty-five different nationalities lived in Lawrence ; fifty languages were spoken.  

A study by the U.S. Commissioner of Labor showed that textile employees, including not only the unskilled laborers at the looms but also foremen, supervisors and office workers, averaged $8.76 a week. Women and children received less. The workweek was 56 hours when they worked full-time, which was not always the case. The workers were aggravated by a bonus system which forced them to work ever faster, but in the end, still left them without a bonus. They complained about how they were treated by the foremen, which in the case of women often meant sexual harassment. Every year, 150 people died of tuberculosis. The study reported that, “"A considerable number of the boys and girls die within the first two or three years after beginning work
. . . thirty-six out of every 100 of all the men and women who work in the mill die before or by the time they are twenty-five years of age. Because of malnutrition, work strain, and occupational diseases, the average mill worker's life in Lawrence was over twenty-two years shorter than that of the manufacturer.” [Joyce Kornblum, Rebel Voices: An I.W.W. Anthology. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1964. p. 159.]  

The life of the textile workers of Lawrence were expensive and the company-owned housing was crowded. People were often obliged to take in boarders to be able to pay the rent. On an average, there were five people to a room. In the years from 1905 to 1910, 15,000 immigrants settled in Lawrence .  

During its last session of the year 1911, the Massachusetts legislature, under pressure from the workers, passed a bill reducing the working week for women and children from 56 to 54 hours. Management reacted by reducing the working week for all to 54 hours, which meant a loss of income for everyone. At the same time, the speed of the machines was increased. The workers were forced to produce in 54 hours just an much as they had in 56.  

On January 11, 1912, Polish women working as weavers at the Everett Cotton Mills noticed that their wages had been cut by 32 cents. They immediately shut down theirs looms. They were joined the following day by workers at the Washington and Woods mills. Soon, 22,000 to 25,000 of the city's 32,000 workers were out on strike. Only 2500 textile workers were union members, most in unions associated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL) affiliated United Textile Workers. The AFL opposed the strike. The strikers were not their clientel. 44,6% of the textile workers were women, 11,5% under the age of eighteen. [Philip P. Foner, History of the Labor Movement in the United States : The Industrial Workers of the World 1905-1917. Vol. IV. New York , International Publishers, 1965.] In the Lawrence mills of the American Woolen Company half of all employees were girls between fourteen and eighteen. Until 1918, the AFL refused to admit women to membership. Though the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) had been organizing among foreign workers in Lawrence since 1907, at the time of the walkout, only a few hundred textile workers were members of the IWW. In contrast to the AFL, a group of craft unions, the IWW industry-wide unions and discriminated against neither Blacks, immigrants nor women. The IWW assumed leadership of the strike.

ettor.jpg (10727 bytes)
Joe Ettor

Twenty-six-year old Joe Ettor was given the task of organizing a strike committee. Ettor (1885-1948) had worked as a laborer before he joined the IWW in 1906. He became one of its most effective organizers. Before coming to Lawrence, he had led strikes of sawmill workers in Portland, Oregon (1907), steel workers in McKees Rock, Pennsylvania (1909), shoe factory workers in Brooklyn (1910-1911), and messengers in New York City. Ettor, who spoke English, Italien and Polish fluently and could understand Hungarian and Yiddish, organized a strike committee with 56 members (later increased to sixty) with four representatives of each of the largest national groups. Every member had a designated replacement who could immediately jump in if a committee member were arrested. The only major nationality not represented were the Germans. Except for a few socialists, they only joined the strike at a later date.  

The strike committee met daily and there were mass meetings on Saturday and Sunday. Twenty-seven languages were spoken on the committee. Interpreters were necessary as the majority of the members could speak no English. At the conclusion of the mass meetings though, everyone could sing the „International,“ each in his or her own language. More than 10,000 strikers joined the IWW. Demands were formulated: (1) a 15% pay increase, (2) the 54-hour workweek, (3) the elimination of the bonus system and double pay for overtime, (4) no retaliation against the strikers, and (5) no discrimination against foreign workers.  

The striking workers, together with their family members, accounted for 60% of the residents on the city. The Lawrence strike was the first to use moving pickets. Twenty-four hours a day, there were as many as 20,000 people in the streets, constantly moving through the textile district. Each wore a sash or a card with the works, „Don't Be a Scab.“ Strikebreakers were publicly berated and threatened with retaliation. At first, the men were opposed to having the women picket, but the women insisted and soon proved their bravery. They were always on the go in the icy streets and attacking strike breakers. Many, when arrested, refused to pay a fine, even if they had the money, and let themselves be jailed.  

The IWW had no strike fund. Aid committees were organized. Arturo Giovannitti, representing the Italian socialist newspaper Il Pretorio , came to Lawrence to lead the relief efforts. Giovanitti (1882-1959) had been a coal miner, bookkeeper and teacher. He was the leader of the Italian Socialist Federation of North America . And he was a poet. [ The Collected Poems of Arturo Giovanitti (Chicago , 1962).] There was an aid group for each nationality and five soup kitchens provided meals for 2,300 people daily. Voluntary doctors offered free medical care. Contributions came in from all over the country, from unions and from national fraternal organization of the Poles, Italians, Portuguese, Belgians and French. The Socialist Party newspaper, the New York Call , supported the strike and collected contributions. Aside from contributions in kind, $75,000 were collected during the nine weeks of the strike.  

The AFL-affiliated United Textile Workers attempted without success to take over the leadership of the strike. John Golden, president of United Textile Workers, called the strike “revolutionary” and “anarchistic.” [Joyce Kornblum, Rebel Voices ] For their members, they agreed on a 5% pay raise. [Joe Hill wrote a song about it, „John Golden and the Lawrence Strike“, which was published in the July 11, 1912 edition of the Little Red Songbook.]  

The city fathers of Lawrence were afraid of losing control of the situation. On January 29, the city was placed under the protection of soldiers. All in all, 2,500 soldiers were shipped to Lawrence . It amounted to martial law. During a march that evening, a young woman, Anna LoPizzo, an innocent bystander, had been shot and killed. The militia claimed the strikers had fired the fatal shot. The strikers said it had been the police. In an attempt to break the strike, the two leaders, Joe Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti, were arrested. The strike leaders had not been present during the march, yet it was claimed that they were responsible for the shooting. They were charged with being “accessories to the murder.”

On January 30, a Syrian boy killed by a bayonet. The soldier responsible was never brought to justice.  

The organization of the strike was not disrupted by the arrests of Ettor and Giovannitti. The two leaders had planned ahead and prepared others to carry on in their absence until Big Bill Haywood could assume leadership. When Haywood arrived in Lawrence , 15,000 strikers, three bands and two drum corps greeted him. He led the strike for six weeks.  

It was decided to evacuate the children, who were suffering from stress and malnutrition, for the duration of the strike. On February 10, the first group of 119 children left by train for New York City . They were met in New York City by 5000 members of the Italian Socialist Federation and the Socialist Party. A week later, 91 more traveled to New York and 35 to Barre , Vermont . Most of the children were taken in by the families of socialists. In New York , the socialists organized a march of the children down Fifth Avenue . The employers in Lawrence were determined to prevent any further evacuations. On February 24, seven children who were going to leave the city were arrested. Two days later, when the parents of forty children attempted to put their children on a train, fifteen children and eight adults were arrested. They were beaten by police, one woman so badly that she suffered a miscarriage.  

On February 26, both houses of the American Congress discussed the incident. It was decided to investigate the strike. The „affair with the children“ was the turning point of the strike and won the strikers much sympathy. The factory owners, fearing the bad publicity could lead to a reduction of the high tariffs which guaranteed their profits, gave in. The workers did not achieve all their goals, but clear improvements were made in all areas. On March 24, the strike was ended. The workers had won and the workers in other Massachusetts textile centers also benefited. As an indirect result of the Lawrence strike, 275,000 textile workers received pay raises. The strike even had positive repercussions for textile workers in other parts of the country. The final report of the Senate investigating committee came to the conclusion that, „The strike in Lawrence is a social revolution.“ [U.P. Congress, Senate, „Report on Strike of Textile Workers in Lawrence, Masp.,“ Senate Document , 62 nd Con., 2d sesp., 1912, p. 13-17.]  

Ettor and Giovanitti, however, remained in jail. There were protests all over the country as well as abroad. On September 30, 15,000 Lawrence textile workers again went out on strike, this time to protest the continued jailing of their two leaders. The trail lasted 58 days and it was not the two union leaders who were on trial as the IWW itself. On November 25, Ettor and Giovanitti were acquitted.  

The IWW was unable to turn the success in Lawrence into long-term strength. When the strike ended, it had 10,000 members in the city. By the summer of 1913, there remained only seven hundred. A year later, membership was down to 400. The situation at other textile sites was similar. The union was not capable of building a stable organization.  

After the IWW leadership left Lawrence , the textile mills again speeded up the production and together with the Catholic Church, the mill operators instigated a campaign to discredit the IWW and harass union members. Soon, an economic recession led to lowered wages and lay-offs. In the long-run, many textile producers chose to move their plants to the South, where the unions had little influence.  

James Oppenheim, who wrote poems about the world of the working class, wrote this poem. The poem was put to music by Caroline Kohlsaat. There is also music by Martha Coleman. (see: Sing Out! , 25/1, 1976. p. 8.) Mimi Farini wrote yet another melody which can be heard by Judy Collins on her CD Bread and Roses .  

Oppenheim (1882-1932) was a poet, novelist and editor of the small magazine The Seven Arts . His poems were regularly published in the newspapers Industrial Pionee r and One Big Union Monthly . Upton Sinclair published the poem in 1915 in his collection The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest , and mentioned it in connection with the Lawrence Strike, which became known as the “Bread and Roses Strike.” The city of Lawrence annually celebrates the “Bread and Roses Festival.” It was said that Oppenheim was inspired by seeing women carrying a banner with the words, “We want bread and roses, too.”  

That is the story that has been told for decades. It is, however, as Jim Zwick proved in Sing Out! (Vol. 46. No. 4, Winter 2003), not true. The poem “Bread and Roses” first appeared in the magazine The American Magazine in December 1911, that is to say, a month before the Lawrence strike began. Oppenheim said that it was a “slogan of the women of the West.” When on October 4,1912, the poem was reprinted in The Public , the slogan was attributed to “ Chicago Women Trade Unionists.” That was probably correct. Chicago was the home of the National Woman's Trade Union League. The Public was published in Chicago and its publisher and editor, Louis F. Post, had close ties to the labor movement. The slogan might have been used during a textile workers' strike in Chicago in 1910-1911 and could have been inspired by Mary McArthur on the British Trade Union League. During a visit in 1907, she had quoted from the Qur'an : “If thou hast two loaves of bread, sell one and buy flowers, for bread is food for the body, but flowers are food for the mind.” The use of the slogan during the Lawrence strike has never been proven.  

There is also an Italian song with the title, „Pan e Rose,“ that was sung by the Italian members of the Dressmaker Local 89 on the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union in New York. The author of the lyrics was Arturo Giovanitti. In the year 1908, „Bread and Roses“ had been the motto of a protest march by female textile workers in New York after 128 women had died in a factory fire.  

America‘s Working Women: A Documentary History 1600 to the Present. Compiled and edited by Rosalyn Baxandall, Linda Gordon, and Susan Reverby. New York: Vintage Books, 1976.
Henry F. Bedford, Socialism and the Workers in Massachusetts 1886-1912. Amherst , MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1966.
William Cahn, Lawrence 1912: The Bread and Roses Strike. New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1980.
Collective Voices. [videocassette]. Boston: Massachusetts AFL-CIO.
Joseph R. Conlin, Bread and Roses Too: Studies of the Wobblies. 1969.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, I Speak My Own Piece. New York: Masses & Mainstream, 1955.
Philip S. Foner, History of the Labor Movement in the United States. New York: International Publishers, 1965.
Big Bill Haywood, BilI Haywood‘s Book: The Autobiography of William D. Haywood. New York: International Publishers, 1929.
Joyce L. Kornblum, Rebel Voices: An I.W.W. Anthology. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1964.
Milton Meltzer, Bread and Roses: The Struggle of American Labor 1865-1915. New York: Random House, 1967.
Anne Huber Tripp, The IW.W. and the Paterson Silk Strike of 1913. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1987.  

"Bread and Roses" strike in internet.

  back to stories behind the songs









The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Bob Dylan
click here for lyrics

Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-changin', Sony CD 8905.
Bob Dylan, Biograph, Sony CD 65298.
Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan Live 1975. The Bootleg Series Vol. 5, Sony CD 510140 2.
Judy Collins, 3 & 4. Wildflower.  

musical notation:
The Collected Reprints from Sing Out! The Folk Song Magazine Volumes 7-12. 1964-1973. Song Out Corporation, 1992.

Hattie Caroll
The arrest of William Zantzinger

The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  

On February 8, 1963, the “Spinster's Ball” was held in the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland. The guests at this white-tie affair were the cream of Maryland 's high society. Among them was 24-year-old William Devereux Zantzinger and his wife, a member of the prominent Duvall family. Zantzinger traced his roots back to the earliest white settlers of Maryland. One of his mother's ancestors had been governor of Maryland. William Zantzinger war the owner of a 600-acre farm “West Hatton,” at Mount Victoria , where he grew tobacco, corn and grain. The main house, a three-story brick mansion built by a veteran of the Revolutionary War faces the Wicomico River. Zantzinger was fond of the fox hunt. His father, Richard C. Zantzinger, was a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates and the State Planning Commission and members of the Devereux family were also in state politics.  

At the ball, William Zantzinger became quite drunk and with a toy cane struck the 30-year-old waitress Ethel Hill, who was cleaning a table near him. Earlier in the day, he had stuck a bellboy across the buttocks. After striking the waitress, he went to the bar and struck Hattie Carroll on the head and back until the cane broke in three pieces. He was angry because she had not delivered a drink as promptly as he thought appropriate. He cursed her, “When I order a drink, I want it now, black bitch.”  

Hattie Carroll, 51 was the mother of eleven children and a deacon in her church. After the assault, she was rushed to Mercy Hospital, where she died the next morning of a brain hemorrhage.  

Following the attack on Hattie Carroll, who, like the other victims was black – a fact not mentioned in Bob Dylan's song - hotel employees had called the police. While being taken downstairs from the ballroom, Zantzinger's wife attacked one of the policemen. He had to be hospitalized for a leg injury.  

William Zantzinger was initially charged with assault, but after Hattie Carroll's death also with murder. After a medical report revealed that the victim had suffered from hardened arteries, an enlarged heart and high blood pressure, the murder charged was reduced to manslaughter. It was reasoned that Hattie Carroll's death might have been due to natural causes and only indirectly a result of the blows from the cane. Zantzinger pleaded innocent and was released on $3,600 bail.  

Zantzinger was found guilty, but received only a six-month sentence. He was judged to be an immature man who had been drunk and gotten carried away. It was also speculated that a longer sentence was rejected because it would have meant that he would have had to serve in the state penitentiary, where the large black prison population would have been a threat to his life. He served out his sentence in the Washington County Jail, but was allowed to bring in his tobacco crop before going to jail.  

After serving out his sentence, Zantzinger returned to his farm. Later, he sold the farm and went into real estate, often acquiring houses from people who owed back taxes. In 1986, Charles County took possession of some houses owned by Zantzinger as rental property because he himself owed back taxes. Although he was no longer owner of the houses, he continued to collect rent from the residents, who had no idea that Zantzinger had lost the houses. When some tenants, who were living in shacks without indoor plumbing, fell behind in their rent, Zantzinger even took them to court and before a poorly-informed Charles County Court actually won a $240 judgement, five years after he had ceased being owner of the property. The law caught up with him though and in 1991 he was found guilty of collecting $60,000 in rent for property that did not belong to him and sent to prison. William Zantzinger still lives in the area of his former farm.  

Hattie Carroll died on February 9, 1963. William Zantzinger entered jail on September 15, 1963. Bob Dylan wrote the song in September 1963 in Carmel, California while living with Joan Baez. He recorded it in New York City on October 23 performed it for the time on October 26, 1963 in Carnegie Hall. Dylan's record The Times They Are A-Changin' was released on January 13, 1964. The name Zantzinger became Zanzinger, either by mistake or otherwise.  


back to stories behind the songs






Amazing Grace
John Newton

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I'm found,
Was blind, but now I see.  

Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.  

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.  

Shall I be wafted to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others try to win the prize
And sail on bloody seas?  


selected recordings of “Amazing Grace”:
Adams, Howard. Southern Journey. Vol. 4: Brethren, We Meet Again, Rounder 1704, CD (1997)
Berst, Mike. Favorite American Melodies, Vol. 1, BerstTT 01, Cas (1988)
BulIa Family. Bullas, Live, Famiiy Vision Ministries, Gas (1993)
Clan Erdverkle. Clan Erdverkle Presents Potatoes & Oatmeal, Fret‘n Fiddle no. 1010, LP
Cook, Russell. American Hammered Dulcimer, Vol. 2.25 Years with the O.DP.C., L-Three 8x510, LP (1988)
Faithful Folk. Faithful Folk, Faithful Folk, CD (2002)
Harmon, R. L. and Margie. Traditional Music of Beech Mountain, NC, Vol II, Foik Legacy FSA-023, LP (1965)
Hornbuckle, Linda; with No Delay. Portland‘s Genuine Blues, Allegro ABR-7001, CD (2003)
Horton, Abe. Old Time Music from Fancy Gap, Heritage (Galax) 019, LP (1978)
Ives, Burl. I Do Believe , Word WST 8391, LP
Kazee, Buell. Buell Kazee, June Appal JA 0009, LP (1977)
Kazee, Buell. Buell Kazee Sings and Plays, Folkways FS 3810, LP
Keith, Leslie. Black Mountain Blues, Briar BF-42 10, LP (1974)
Leadbelly. Leadbelly; The Library of Congress Recordings, Elektra EKL-301/2, LP (1965)
Lewis, C. Roger. Stringing Beans and Singing Hymns, Lewis, Gas (1995)
Liberty Church Sacred Harp Singers. Georgia Folk. A Sampler of Traditional Sounds, Global Village SC 03, Gas (1990)
Light, Christopher. One Man Band, Kicking MuIe KM 242, LP (1985)
Little Zion Church Congregation. Ritchie Family of Kentucky Folkways FA 2316, LP (1959)
Lowman, Jim; and Elaine Reichenbacher. Jim & Elaine - A Celebration, Lowman & Reichenbach, CD (1998)
Maddox, Rose; and the Vern Williams Band. This is Rose Maddox, Arhoolie 5024, LP (1980)
Matney, Sisters. Iowa State Fair. Music from the Heartland, Smithsonian/Folkways SF 40083, CD (1996)
McCoy, Paul (B.). Allegheny Trails, Jewel LPS 504, LP (1975)
Old Regular Baptist Church Congregation. Mountain Music of Kentucky, Folkways FA 2317, LP (1960)
Old Regular Baptist Church Congregation. Mountain Music of Kentucky, Smithsonian/Folkways SF 40077, CD (1996)
Owens, Bill; and the Kinfolk. Songs of the Smokey Mountains, REM LP-1024, LP
Presnell, M rs. Edd (Neliie). Instrumental Music of the Southern Appalachians, Tradition TR 1007, LP
Psalms. Iowa State Fair. Music from the Heartland, Smithsonian/Folkways SF 40083, CD (1996)
Reagon, Bernice (Johnson). Folk Songs: the South, Folkways FA 2457, LP
Ritchie, Jean; and Doc Watson. Jean Ritchie and Doc Watson At Folk City, Smithsonian/Folkways SF 40005, LP (1990)
Runnin‘ Wild Bluegrass Band. Runnin‘ Wild Spirit, Running Wild, Gas (1979)
Rutherford, Betsy. Traditional Country Music, Biograph RC-6004, LP
Ryan, Buck. Draggin‘ the Bow, Rebel SLP 1552, LP (1976)
Seldom Scene. Baptizing, Rebel SLP 1573, LP (1978)
Simmons Family. Rackensack Volume 2, Driftwood LP 279, LP (1972)
Smith, Peggy Donaldson. Shady Grove, Shady Grove PDS 11-30-78, LP (1978)
Smith, Winifred. Simple Gifts, Tennessee Squire Assoc TFA 64440, LP
Stanley Brothers. Uncloudy Day, County 753, LP
Stanley Brothers. Beautiful Life, Old Homestead OHCS 119, LP (1978)
Travelers. Movin‘ On with the Travelers, Travelers, LP
Tucker, George. George Tucker, Rounder 0064, LP (1976)
Watson, Doc. Folk Box, Elektra EKL-9001, LP (1964)
Watson, Doc. Old-Time Music at Clarence Ashley‘s, Part 2, Folkways FA 2359, LP (1963)
Weavers. Weavers at Carnegie Hall, Vol. 2, Vanguard VRS-9075, LP (1960)
White Lightning. White Lightning, ABC ABCS-690, LP (1969)
Weide, Lisa. Potpourri, Dancing Doll DLP 612, LP (1985)
Williams, Tommy. Forever Fiddlin', Murray MR-5500, LP

musical notation:
Ashley, Clarence (Thomas/Tom). Raim, Ethel and Josh Duncan (eds.), Grass Roots Harmony, Oak, Sof (1968), p.18.
Baez, Joan. Siegmeister, Eile (arr.), Joan Baez Song Book, Ryerson Music, (1964/1971), p 150.
De Mause, Alan., GuitarPower, Amsco, (1976).
Lomax, John A. & AIan Lomax, American Ballads and Folk Songs, MacMillan, (1934), p.573.
Moore, David T. Dulcimer Player News r (1973-), 18/1, p28.
Penix, Ron. Dulcimer Player News, Dulcimer Player News, 5er (1973-), 3/2, p15.
Ritchie, Jean, Dulcimer People, Oak, sof (1975), p 89.
Snyder, Jerry (arr.), Golden Guitar Folk Sing Book, Charles Hansen, Fol (1972), p 14.
Wernick, Peter (ed), Bluegrass Songbook, Oak, Sof (1976), p 25.
Lomax, John A. & Alan Lomax, FolkSong USA, Signet, (1947/1966).
Winds of the People, Sing Out, (1982), p104.  

The Cowper and Newton Museum in internet

The Cowper and Newton Museum,
Orchard Side,
Market Place,
MK46 4AJ
Telephone: (UK) (0) 1234 711516
Fax: (UK) (0) 870 164 0662


Amazing Grace

“Amazing Grace” is surely the most famous hymn in the world. It is sung in the entire English-speaking world and beyond. It was written by John Newton sometime between 1760 and 1770 and first published in the Olney Hymns (London: W. Oliver) in 1779. Newton did not compose the music, however. For many years, the words were sung to various melodies before they became firmly associated with the present tune. That melody first appeared in a sharp note hymnal published in 1831, Virginia Harmony (by James P. Carrell and David S. Clayton. Wincester, Virginia). The tune was called “New Britain.” The pentatonic melody suggests it might have been a bagpipe tune and it is probably of Irish or Scottish origin.  

“Amazing Grace” was nearly forgotten in the British Isles for over a century, though it remained popular in the United States. The folk music revival of the 1960s brought it back to the British Isles.  

It's popularity is as contradictory as the life of the man who wrote it. (see biography of John Newton) The song was popular among soldiers on both sides of the Civil War. Many view it as an anti-slavery song and it was popular in the civil rights movement. Yet, it is also sung by the Ku Klux Klan.  

The six verses as they appeared in the last edition of the Olney Hymns before John Newton's death read as follows:

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav'd a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.  

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev'd;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ'd!  

Thro' many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.  

The Lord has promis'd good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.  

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.  

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call'd me here below,
Will be forever mine.

They appeared under the heading: “Hymn 41, Faith's review and expectation” with the scriptural reference: I Chronicles. 17:16-17. But John 9:25 also played a role: “I was blind, now I see.”

A further stanza appeared in 1829 in the Baptist Songster by R. Winchell (Wethersfield, Connecticut).

When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we'd first begun.

It was from a hymn called “Jerusalem, My Happy Home.” In her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe added the verse which has since been associated with the song.

Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie have recorded another verse.

Shall I be wafted through the skies,
on flowery beds of ease,
where others strive to win the prize,
and sail through bloody seas.  


Olney Hymns in internet


back to stories behind the songs

John Newton


John Newton

John Newton, born in London on July 24, 1725, led a life of extremes. His mother died
when he was only seven and his father, the captain of a merchant ship which sailed the Mediterranean, sent him to a boarding school. At the age of eleven though, John Newton went to sea and made six voyages on his father's ship before the latter retired in 1742. He was later to write of his father: “ I am persuaded he loved me, but he seemed not willing that I should know it. I was with him in a state of fear and bondage. His sternness . . . broke and overawed my spirit." [Richard Cecil, Memoirs of the Rev. John Newton, in The Works of the Rev. John Newton , Vol. 1 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985), p. 2.]  

At the age of 17, Newton was promised a five-year stay in Jamaica, where he was to learn how to manage a plantation. Before his scheduled departure, he visited friends of his mother in Chatham, near London. While there he fell in love with the 13-year-old Mary Catlett and missed his ship to Jamaica. His angry father shipped him off on a ship to the Mediterranean. A year later, he was back in Chatham to visit Mary.  

In 1744, Newton was pressed into service on the warship “H.M.S. Harwich”. Conditions on the ship were harsh and the young Newton jumped ship. Upon his capture he was "confined two days in the guard-house;...kept a while in irons...publicly stripped and whipt,” and demoted to common seaman. [ Richard Cecil, Memoirs of the Rev. John Newton, in The Works of the Rev. John Newton , Vol. 1. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985, p. 10] At his own request he shipped out on another ship from Madeira, a ship involved in the slave trade. At the age of twenty, he was put off ship on some islands southeast of Sierra Leone. There he lived for a year and a half as a virtual slave of a slaver. His master's wife abused him and even the African slaves slipped food to him. In February 1747. the ship “Greyhound” anchored off the small island. The captain knew Newton's father and freed the young man from bondage.

The ship remained at sea for more than a year and it was on this ship that Newton experienced his religious awakening. The “Greyhound” survived a violent two-week storm and Newton was convinced that God had saved him, “the African blasphemer” from the storm. [ Richard Cecil, Memoirs of the Rev. John Newton, in The Works of the Rev. John Newton , Vol. 1. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985, p. 88 ] It was May 10, 1748, and for the remainder of his life he celebrated the day as the anniversary of his conversion. The conversion was, however, just the beginning of a transformation. "I thought I saw the hand of God displayed in our favour. I began to pray: I could not utter the prayer of faith; I could not draw near to a reconciled God, and call him Father...the comfortless principles of infidelity were deeply riveted;...The great question now was, how to obtain faith." [Richard Cecil, Memoirs of the Rev. John Newton, in The Works of the Rev. John Newton, Vol. 1. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985, p. 28] Newton began to study the Bible.  

On February 1, 1750, John Newton finally married Mary Catlett. In June of the same year, his father died while swimming in Hudson Bay. During that summer, the 25-year-old Newton became captain of a ship belonging to the merchant Joseph Manesty, who had been the owner of the “Greyhound.” The ship, “Duke of Argyle,” was old and hardly seaworthy. During the following four years, Newton was involved in the slave trade. His diaries reveal that despite his religious beliefs he treated the slaves no better than other sea captains. He saw no conflict between his profession and his religious convictions. [James Walvin, Black Ivory: A History of British Slavery . London: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992. ]In 1754, after an epileptic seizure, Newton finally turned his back on the sea.  

For five years he worked as surveyor of tides in Liverpool. There he met George Whitefield. Deacon of the Church of England and leader of the Calvinist Methodist Church. He became such a devoted follower of Whitefield that he was dubbed “Little Whitefield.” He also became acquainted with John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church.  

During his years at sea, Newton had already begun to learn French and Latin. Now he began to study Greek, Hebrew and Syriac as well. Newton had had but two years of formal schooling and never had any formal theological training. He felt the calling to preach and asked the Bishop of York to ordain him. His request was turned down. But Newton didn't give up. In 1764, he was ordained by the Bishop of Lincoln and became pastor at Olney, Buckinghamshire. There he was so popular as a preacher that the church had to be enlarged.  

In 1767, the poet William Cowper settled in Olney and became Newton's friend. Cowper helped with the church services and together they wrote hymns designed for use at weekly prayer services. In 1179, the first edition of the Olney Hymns appeared with 68 hymns by Cowper and 280 by Newton. Among Newton's hymns was one which later became known as “Amazing Grace.”  

In 1880, after 16 years in Olney, Newton relocated to London to become rector of St. Mary Woolnoth with St. Mary Woolnoth Church. There he influenced William Wilberforce, member of Parlament and the future leader of the abolition movement in Great Britain. To encourage the abolition of slavery Newton wrote a memoir of his years in the slave trade, Thoughts on the African Slave Trade.  

Mary Newton died in 1790 after 40 years of marriage. The couple had no children of their own, but had adopted two nieces. Now John Newton moved in with one of those adopted daughters.  

John Newton was in the pulpit for the last time in St. Mary's in October 1806. He died on December 21, 1807, the year in which the slave trade was forbidden. Newton was buried at St. Mary Woolnoth Church in London. In 1893, he and Mary were reinterred in the graveyard at St. Peter and St. Paul's Church in Olney.

return to biography list  

John Newton in internet:

(by John Newton)
An Authentic Narrative of Some Remarkable and Interesting Particulars in the Life of John Newton. London, 1764.
Letters of John Newton. Banner of Truth, 1976.  
Omicron: Twenty-six Letters on Religious Subjects (1774; subsequent editions, in which the number of the letters became forty-one).  
Out of the Depths. Kregel Publications, 2003.  
Thoughts on the African Slave Trade. London: 1788, reprinted 1962 [Guildhall Library B: N564]  
Works of John Newton [6 Volumes]. Banner of Truth, 1985.  
John Newton, Bruce D. Hindmarsh, Bruce Hindmarsh, The Life & Spirituality of John Newton: An Authentic Narrative (Sources of Evangelical Spirituality). Regent College Publishing; Reprint of 1841 edition edition, 1998.  
Bernard Martin and Mark Spurrell, eds. Journal of a Slave Trader, John Newton, 1750-54. With Newton‘s “Thoughts on the African Slave Trade.“ London, 1962.    

(about John Newton)
Brian Blandford, John Newton: Author of “Amazing Grace.” Christian Life Bocks, 2004.  
Dick Bohrer, John Newton, Letters of a Slave Trader (Everymans Bible Commentary). Moody Pr., 1983. 
Josiah Bull, “But Now I See” The Life of John Newton. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1998, original 1868. 
Richard Cecil, John Newton. Christian Focus Publications, 2003.
Richard Cecil, The Life of John Newton, edited by Marylynn Rousse. Fearn, Rossshire, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2000.  
Noel Davidson, How Sweet the Sound: The Story of John Newton & William Cowper. Emerald House Group, 1997.
William 5 Deal, John Newton sings a glorious song. World-Wide Missions, 1967.  
Donald E. Demaray, The Innovation of John Newton, 1725-1807: Synergism of Word and Musc in Eighteenth Century Evangelism (Texts and Studies in Religion, Vol 36). Edwin Meilen Press, 1988.  
D. Bruce Hindmarsh, “1 Am a Sort of Middle-Man“: The Politically Correct
Evangelicalism of John Newton, “in Amazing Grace: Evangelicalism in Australia, Britain, Canada, and the United States, ed. by George Rawlyk and Mark Noll. Grand Rapids: Baker Bock House, 1993.  
D. Bruce Hindmarsh, John Newton and the English Evangelical Tradition: Between the Conversions of Wesley and Wilberforce. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000.  
Bernard Martin, John Newton and the slave trade (Then and there series). Longmans; 3rd Impression edition, 1968.  
William E. Phipps, Amazing Grace in John Newton: Slave Ship Captain, Hymn Writer, and Abolitionist Mercer University Press, 2001.  
John Piper, The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and Will/am Wilberforce (Piper, John, Swans Are Not Silent, V. 3.). Crossway Books, 2002.  
John Pollock, Amazing Grace: John Newton‘s Story HarperSanFrancisco; ist U.S. ed edition, 1981.  
Anne Sandberg, John Newton: Author of Amazing Grace (Heroes of the Faith). Barbour Publishing, 1996.  
Kay Marshall Strom, John Newton: The Angry Sailor. Moody Publishers, 1984.  
Catherine Swift, John Newton (Men of Faith). Bethany House Publishers; Reissue edition, 1994.    

(fictional accounts of Newton‘s life)
Grace Irwin, Servant of slaves: A biographical novel of John Newton. Eerdmans, 1968.
Joe Musser, The Infidel: A Novel Based on the Life of John Newton. Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001.

  back to stories behind the songs

return to biography list  







The L & N Don't Stop Here Anymore
Jean Ritchie

click here for lyrics

recordings of „The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore“:

Norman Blake, Direction, Takoma D-1064, LP
Tom Bledsoe and Rich Kirby, Hits From Home, June Appal JA 0042, LP
Bluestein Family, Travelling Blues
Guy Carawan, Telling Takes Me Home, Curnon CNL-722, LP
Guy Carawan, Tree of Life, Flying Fish FF 525, LP
June Carter Cash, Press On , Risk 4107, CD
Johnny Cash, Silver, Sony (1979) 2002.
Johnny Cash, Unearthed, Lost Highway, 2003.
Devilish Merry, The Ghost of His Former Self, Wildebeest Records.
Magpie, Working My Life Away, Collector CD1936, CD
Midnight Court, half moon over the mountains, DDD LC 8681, CD
New Coon Creek Girls, The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore, Pinecastle 1027
Jean Ritchie, High Hills & Mountains, Greenhays C701, Cas
Jean Ritchie, Time for Singing, Warner Bros 1592, LP
Kevin Roth, Kevin Roth Plays the Dulcimer, Folkways FA 2367, LP
Michelle Shocked, Short Sharp Shocked, Mighty Sound, 2003.
Lorre Wyatt, Roots and Branches, Folk Legacy FSI-088, LP  

musical notation:
Carry It On! A History in Song and Picture of the Working Men and Women of America, Pete Seeger & Bob Reiser. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985.
"Celebration of Life," Jean Ritchie. Port Washington, NY: Geordie Music Publishing, 1971.
Sing Out! 36/1
Sing Out! 44/4  

The L & N Don't Stop Here Anymore  

This song laments the end of the way of life in the Appalachians which the coming of the railroads had brought with them. The railroads had been built to exploit the mountains and their people. As soon as there was nothing more to be had, the railroads were shutdown and the people were abandoned. The mountain people were no longer needed and saw little hope for the future.  

The first settlers of European heritage arrived in the Appalachians toward the end of the 18 th century. It was principally Englishmen who migrated into the mountains, but also „Scotch-Irish,“ Scots who had earlier migrated from Scotland to Northern Ireland , and a small number of Germans. Most people had just enough land to support themselves. There were also craftsmen, but up to the last decade of the 19 th century, no industry. For the most part, the people were self-supporting, though the construction of houses or barns was done communally. There was only very little money in circulation. Roads were few and in poor condition. There were few other means of transportation. The soil was good, the woods were full of animals and plants and the water was of good quality. The Appalachians were once one of the regions of the world with the greatest variety of animals and plants. Today, that is no longer the case.  

The Civil War was a turning point in the history of the Appalachians. It brought many people from the North into the mountains. They discovered the wealth of wood, mineral resources and people that had been untouched by the industrial revolution.  

The years 1865 to 1920 was a period of industrial growth in the United States. The country advanced from the fourth to the leading industrial nation in the world. This development demanded energy, above all coal, and the Appalachians were the largest coal reserve in the country.  

The industrial revolution brought with it the expansion of the railways into the Appalachians. Practically the entire region became accessible by rail. The reason for all this construction was of course to facilitate the exploitation on the natural resources. The construction on the C & O (Chesapeake and Ohio) line, on which John Henry is said to have worked, was part of this development. The C & O was the first major line over the mountains. The railroad builders knew few scruples. The Western North Carolina Railroad, for example, was for the most part built with convict labor. One stretch of ten miles cost the lives of four hundred men. The railroad changed the life of the mountain people for ever.

At the same time, land speculators appeared on the scene. Between 1880 and 1900, outsiders bought thousands of acres of land. Often they only purchased the mineral rights. Before the mountain people became mistrustful, a good part of the land was in the hands of outsiders.  

During the years 1890 to 1923, the coal industry continually expanded, reaching its height during the First World War. The years from 1870 to 1910 were the era of railroad construction in the Appalachians . Among the railroads involved was the Louisville & Nashville, which built lines in Eastern Tennessee to transport coal and wood. Between 1879 and 1881, the L&N gained access to the coal fields of Western Kentucky . It was the time of the development of the Harlan county coal fields. During the last decade of the 19 th century, financed by investors from England , the L& N was extended as far as Middlesboro in the eastern part of Kentucky , which had also been built by English investors. After 1910, the L&N reached Harlan, Bell , Knoll, Perry and Letcher counties.  

The L&N had been chartered by the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 1850 and began service out of Louisville in 1855. Four years later, the railroad had extended its line to Nashville. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the L&N had 269 miles of track and as a result of its location served, at one time or another, both armies. The railroad emerged from the war in good financial condition and embarked upon a period of expansion, becoming one of the most important rail systems in the United States. By the end of the century, the L&N's tracks extended from Pensacola, Florida to St. Louis , Missouri and from Cincinnati to Mobile and New Orleans .

The coming of the railroad meant the end of a way of life in the mountains and the beginning of a new age. Mountain people now had access to the outside world, but the outside world also had access to the Appalachians and above all their natural resources.  

The work in the mines changed people. They now worked regular hours and for money. The mine owner, however, considered the local population unreliable and many men from the outside, preferably immigrants, were hired. Agents were sent to Ellis Island. Initially, most of the miners were of English or Welch ancestry. By 1900, they had been replaced by immigrants from southern Europe .  

There was a mine in almost every valley. In 1923, more than 700,000 miners were employed in almost 12,000 mines. They mined a billion tons of coal a year. During the summer of 1923, the domestic coal market collapsed while the European coal industry, having recovered from the effects of the war, got back on its feet. Many mines went bankrupt or were bought up by bigger companies. More than 200,000 men lost their jobs.  

The 20 th century brought with it the loss of the old way of life. By the time the United States entered the First World War, the economy and the society of the Appalachians had been totally transformed. The people were now dependent on money and industrially produced goods. The money economy had destroyed the egalitarian nature of Appalachian society. Wealth became a measure of status. The land was owned by outsiders. Independent, proud farmers had become dependent, poor workers, who only slowly learned to defend their pride. They did that in bloody labor battles, sometimes with more, sometimes with less success, but always with great sacrifice.  

Early in the 20 th century, the mine owners put increasing pressure on their employees to live in company towns. More than six hundred such settlements were built in the region. That was five times as many towns as had existed previously. The houses were of poor quality, the streets unpaved. The police worked for the company. The company-owned stores had prices high. Cholera and typhus were widespread. The residents of these company towns were practically without rights. A second collapse of the market for coal in 1927, however, signaled the beginning of the end of the company town.  

Soon the textile companies, who were fleeing the influence of the unions in the North, began to establish themselves in the Appalachians. They also built company towns and recruited entire families to work in their mills. The pay was so low that the whole family had to work to get by.  

The political power was in the hands of the coal barons and the textile mill owners. Unions were bitterly opposed. That is to say, the industrialists and not the people of Appalachia made the decisions about schools, streets, hospitals, taxes and economic development.  

The Great Depression hit Appalachia even harder than it did other areas. The entire industrial system which had lured the people from their farms collapsed. Three-fourths of the people became dependent on government assistance. Thousands left the coal camps and tried anew to make a living from their farms. But their small holdings made it impossible to produce a surplus to sell for cash. The markets had changed, the agricultural infrastructure had been neglected. The mountain people could just keep their heads above water.  

As part of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was created. It was charged with regional planning. The TVA was supposed to „develop“ the Tennessee River valley, among other things through the production of inexpensive electricity. The first director supported local initiatives which tried to take matters into their own hands. His successor, though, was only interested in the production of electricity. In 1949, nine dams were built along the Tennessee River.  

The Second World War tossed the mountain people into the wide world, where they often felt inferior on account of their dialect and poor education, and that is how they were treated. After the war, these people were the core of the migration movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Between 1945 and 1965, 3.3 million people left the Appalachians to seek a new life in the cities, usually in the North. There they lived, like earlier immigrant groups, in closed communities and like other ethnic minorities, they suffered from prejudice. It was especially bitter that the better educated left the mountains.  

The continued destruction of jobs in the coal mines accelerated the migration. In 1940, 476,000 men had still been employed in the mines. In 1960, it was only 198,000. Further destroying jobs was the increased use of strip mines, which required far less manpower. In 1960, strip mines still accounted for less than 25% on the coal production in Kentucky. Then the TVA signed a contract with the Kentucky Oak Mining Company to buy coal for the production of electricity. The TVA put the coal company under pressure to go over to the cheaper strip mining method. It was the beginning of the massive expansion of strip mining in Kentucky, which totally destroyed large portions of the landscape. By the mid-seventies, 150,000 miners were producing the same amount of coal as three times that number had done at the end of World War II.  

During Lyndon Johnson's „war on poverty,“ many volunteers came into the mountains to help. These usually well-educated, often politically liberal people were initially met with suspicion, but in the end, they helped the people to organize themselves and look out for their own interests. Among other things, the people of Appalachia have regained pride in their identity.  

The 1970s saw the expansion of the consumer society with the construction of chain stores and restaurants, which only increased people's dependence on consumer goods.  

Today, the people of Appalachia still face many problems: the destruction of the land through strip mining, soil and water pollution, clear cutting by the logging companies and road construction. The construction or purchase of vacation houses by outsiders have driven up real estate prices. More and more people face the conflict between jobs and environmental protection. Of decisive importance is the loss of self-determination.  

The L&N Railroad Company no longer exists under that name. At its peak in 1971, it operated 6574 miles of track in thirteen states. At the end of 1982, the L&N was merged into the Seaboard System Railroad, which became CSX Transportaion in 1986.

The Clinchfield in The Coal Fields, by Robert A Helm. Morning Sun Books.
Dixie Lines: The Louisville & Nashville Railroad, by Dave Oroszi and Ron Flanary
Hundman Publishing Co.
History of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, by Maury Klein. University of Kentucky Press.
Louisville and Nashville In Color - Volume I, by Richard Bodowski, Jr. Morning Sun Books.
The Louisville and Nashville Railroad 1850-1963, by Kincaid A. Herr. 2000.
Louisville & Nashville Steam Locomotives, Richard E Prince.
L & N Passenger Trains - The Pan-American Era. 
L & N's Memphis Line  
L&N Color Guide to Freight & Passenger Equipment - 2. Vols., by Steven D. Johnson. Morning Sun Books.  

Reflections of L&N video. Film of L&N and NC&StL 1940's - 1970's (VHS 60 min+)
The Old Reliable & The General's Ribbon. Two all color L&N films, produced in '54 and '62 (57 min)  

These books and videos are available from the:
Louisville & Nashville Railroad Historical Society
P.O. Box 17122
Louisville , KY 40217

L & N Railroad in internet

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Jean Ritchie

The English ancestors of the Ritchie family came to America in 1768. In 1917, Cecil Sharp visited the family and collected songs the family sang. During the thirties, the family was again sought out by a song collector, John A. Lomax.  

Jean Ritchie grew up in Viper, in Perry County, in eastern Kentucky, the youngest of fourteen children. She began to learn to play the dulcimer at age seven in that she secretly played her father's instrument while he was working in the farm.  

„There weren't many instruments around back then and it wasn't considered suitable for youngs ladies to play things like guitar and fiddle; and particularly not banjo. A girl's reputation would be sullied forever if she were caught playing the banjo.“ (Mary Des Rosiers, „Jean Ritchie: An Unbroken Circle," Sing Out! Vol. 41., No. 3, Nov./Dec. 96/Jan.97, p. 57.)  

Jean was interested in ballads and songs and sought out people who could teach her a song she did not know. In that part of the country, people lived isolated and far apart, which meant long walks to visit one another.  
Ritchie's most pleasant memories are of evenings on the porch. In the time before radio and television, the singing songs in the family had a great importance. The Ritchie family „sang up the

Photograph of Jean Ritchie and her father 

Jean was the first in her family to go to high school and later college. After her studies, in the late 1940s, she went to New York to work at the Henry School , an alternative school in which most of the students were the children of Jewish and Italian immigrants. Her singing and playing the dulcimer at school and for friends – the dulcimer was at the time still an exotic instrument – led to small concerts. In 1948, she made recordings for Alan Lomax for the Archive of Folk Music. Lomax in turn introduced her into the New York folk scene.  

Ritchie received a scholarship to study the Scotch-Irish roots of Appalachian music. With her husband, the photographer and filmmaker George Pickow, she traveled to Ireland and Scotland , Among others, she met Seamus Ennis and Tommy Makem there. Not only did she record Irish ind Scottish music, she also sang. One song that Jean sang for the Scottish singer Jeannie Robertson, „Loving Hannah,“ was recorded by Mary Black in 1983. It was listed as a „traditional Irish song.“  

After the passing of the folk music boom, Jean Ritchie began to concentrate more and more on her own songs. She began by adapting traditional songs. In the southern mountains, one could often hear several versions of a song. Ritchie collected all the verses and put together her own version of the song together. „Pretty Polly„ is an example. But her entirely original compositions, like, „The L & N Don't Stop Here Anymore,“ are rooted in the music of the mountains. In the early 1980s, Ritchie founded her own label, Greenhays.  

When she began giving concerts, Jean needed a bigger, louder instrument than the dulcimer she had played at home. George Pickow began to build dulcimers and the instrument she plays today was built by her husband. Now he also sells his instruments to other musicians.  

Jean Ritchie is the author of several books, among them: The Dulcimer Book, Dulcimer People and Singing Family of the Cumberlands.

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Jean Ritchie in internet

Jean Ritchie: "Black Diamond Mines"

Jean Ritchie: "Black Waters"
Jean Ritchie: "Shady Grove"


Carols for all Seasons, Tradition CD1058, CD
Child Ballads in America
Childhood Songs, Greenhays, CD723, CD
Clear Waters Remembered
Field Trip

High Hills and Mountains, Greenhays CD701, CD
Jean Ritchie - Ballads from her Appalachian Family Tradition, Smithsonian Folkways 40145
Kentucky Christmas, Greenhays CD17, CD
The Most Dulcimer, Greenhays CD714, CD
None But One, Greenhays CD708, CD
None But One/ High Hills and Mountains
, Greenhays CD708, CD
Sweet Rivers, JUN CD37

(with Doc Watson)
Jean Ritchie and Doc Watson at Folk City, Smithsonian-Folkways CD SF 40005, CD

(with her sons)
Mountain Born, Greenhays CD725, CD

Jean Ritchie bibliography:
(books by Jean Ritchie)
Apple Seeds and Soda Straws: Love Charms and Legends Written Down for Young and Old. New York:
H.Z. Walck, 1965.
Celebration of Life. Port Washington , NY: Geordie Music Publishing, 1971.
The Dulcimer Book. New York: Oak Publications, 1963.
Dulcimer People. New York: Oak Publications, 1975.
Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians as Sung by Jean Ritchie. New York: Oak Publications, 1965; University Press of Kentucky, 1997.
From Fair to Fair. New York : H.Z. Walk, 1966.
Garland of Mountain Songs. New York: Broadcast Music, 1953.
Singing Family of the Cumberlands. New York: Oxford University Press, 1955; reprint, Oak Publications, 1963; reprint, Geordie Music Publishing, 1980; reprint, Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1988.
The Swapping Song Book. New York: Oak Publications, 1965.
Traditional Mountain Dulcimer. New York: Homespun Tapes, 1984.  

(articles by Jean Ritchie)
"A Dulcimer Round from Jean Ritchie." Sing Out! 25/2 (1976): 20-21.
"Jean Ritchie's Junaluska Keynote: Now Is the Cool of the Day." Mountain Life and Work 46/5 (1970): 3-8.
"Living Is Collecting: Growing Up in a Southern Appalachian 'Folk' Family." In An Appalachian Symposium: Essays Written in Honor of Cratis D. Williams, edited by J.W. Williamson. 188-98. Boone, NC: Appalachian State University Press, 1977.
"Yonder Comes My Beau." Ladies Home Journal 72 (April 1955): 54, 127-29.  

(about Jean Ritchie):
Mary Des Rosiers, „Jean Ritchie: An Unbroken Circle, Sing Out! Vol. 41., No. 3, Nov./Dec. 96/Jan.97
Traditional Background, Contemporary Context: The Music and Activities of Jean Ritchie to 1977, Karen L Carter-Schwendler, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Kentucky, 1995.  


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Steve Earle

click here for lyrics

Steve Earle: "Dixieland"

Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band, The Mountain , Glitterhouse Records GRCD 453, CD  

musical notation:
Mountain, Steve Earle, 1999.


This the only song I know by a southern songwriter which celebrates the Northern soldiers of the Civil War.  

The 20th Maine Regiment was called into the service of the US Army in August 1962, and quickly sent to Washington, where the soldiers underwent basic training. The regiment was made up principally of loggers and fishermen from the Maine coast. Before the battle of Gettysburg, the regiment had only seen combat at the battle of Fredricksburg.  

At the battle of Gettysburg, which took place only a few days before the New York City riots, the decisive task of securing the left flank of the Northern army fell to the 20th Maine. The regiment had its position on Little Round Top. It consisted of 28 officers and 358 men. For two hours, the 20th Maine resisted frontal attacks by the soldiers of the Confederacy. Yet their position became more and more critical. A third of the defenders were either dead of seriously wounded and their ammunition was almost gone. Before the rebels could mount yet another attack, the commander of the 20th Maine, Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain, ordered his men to mount their bayonets and attack their opponents from Alabama. The soldiers from Alabama, weary from a 25 mile march that morning and the repeated attacks, panicked and surrendered.  

Before the war, Joshua L. Chamberlain had been professor of rhetoric and modern languages at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. (Before the war, Bowdoin College had awarded Senator Jefferson Davis an honorary doctorate.) He had himself freed from his duties with the excuse of pursuing further studies in Europe, but instead offered his services to the governor of Maine and joined the army.  

In 1865, three days after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomatox, Virginia, Joshua L. Chamberlain, by then major general, was in charge of the official surrender ceremony. When his former enemies presented themselves under General John B. Gordon to surrender weapons and flags, Chamberlain orderd his men to present arms. The Confererate soldiers returned the salute.  

After the war, Chamberlain was elected governor of Maine four terms before he became president of Bowdoin College. Joshua L. Chamberlain died on February 24, 1914.

bibliography – Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine:
His Proper Post: A Biography of General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, by Sis Deans, Belle Grove Publishing Company, Kearny, NJ, 1996.
In the Hands of Providence: Joshua L. Chamberlain and the American Civil War, by Alice Rains Trulock, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC, 1992.
The Passing of the Armies: The Last Campaign of the Armies, by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, 1915, reprinted by Stan Clark Military Books, Gettysburg, PA, 1994.
Soul of the Lion: A Biography of General Joshua L. Chamberlain, by Willard M. Wallace, 1960, reprinted by Stan Clark Military Books, Gettysburg, PA, 1991.
Through Blood and Fire: Selected Civil War Papers of Major General Joshua Chamberlain , by Mark Nesbitt, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 1996.
The Twentieth Maine: A Volunteer Regiment in the Civil War, by John J. Pullen, Morningside House, Inc., Dayton, OH, 1991.

Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine in internet:
The Official Joshua Chamberlain Homepage
A good brief biography of Joshua Chamberlain

The 20th Maine Website

Ballad of the 20th Maine and Other Original Songs of the American Civil War by Joe Bennett Singer-song-writer Joe Bennett of Bangor, Maine with 8 original songs celebrating Joshua Chamberlain and others. Available from the Pejepscot Historical Society Museum Shop / 159 Park Row / Brunswick, ME 04011.

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Steve Earle

Steve Earle was born on January 17, 1955 in Fort Monroe, Virginia, where his Texas father, Jack Earle, was stationed as a flight controller, but grew up in Schertz, Texas, 17 miles south of San Antonio. At age thirteen, just two years after he had gotten his first guitar, he won a talent show. But for the country music fans of his hometown, he was too rebellous, his hair was too long, and his oppositon to the war in Vietnam was not to their taste. He dropped out of school at age sixteen and got married. In Houston, he met Jerry Jeff Walker and Townes Van Zandt. Van Zandt was to have an especially strong influence on Steve Earle, „a good teacher and a bad role model.“ (quoted in: Gianluca Tramontana, „Steve Earle,“ Dirty Linen , Oct./Nov. 1999. p. 20.)  

At age nineteen, he moved to Nashville. After work, he wrote songs and played bass for Guy Clark. On Clark‘s CD Old Nr. 1. Earle played bass and sang backup with Emmylou Harris. Music publisher Sunbury Dunbar took Earle under contract as a staff songwriter for $75 a week. After a short period back in Texas, he entered a brief second marriage with a cocaine dealer. Soon he married a third time and with his new wife‘s help, was able to reduce his drug consumption.  

Steve Earle‘s reputation as a songwriter was growing, but it took a long time to establish himself as a singer. His first LP, Guitar Town , was not released until 1986, but the record shot to number one on the country charts. He was was nominated for two Grammies and compared favorably not only to country singers Dwight Yoakam and Randy Travis, but also to rock singers John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen. His second LP, Exit O , was well-received and earned him two further Grammy nominations. With Copperhead Road Earle began to attract a rock audience and became a star in Europe, among other reasons, because of a recording with the Pogues.  

This new-found success was not to last long. The record company which released Copperhead Road went bankrupt and Steve had numerous personal problems, such as a conviction for assault and battery, a paternity suit, and ever worsening drug abuse. His 1990 CD The Hard Way , received critical praise, but it did not sell. After a conflict with his record company, MCA, his contract was not renewed. During the next four years, Steve Earle, addicted to cocaine and heroin, dropped out of sight, pawned his guitars and hit bottom. ( In 1992, Steve Earle turned down an offer to join Lynyrd Skynyrd. ) In 1994, he was arrested for possession of heroin and sentenced to a year in jail. He spent a part of that year in a rehabilitation center and after 26 years as an addict managed to get clean.  

In 1995, he was released from the clinic and with the help of Roy Husky, Jr., Peter Rowan, Norman Blake, and Emmylou Harris recorded the acoustic Train A Comin‘. The recording received a Grammy nomination for Best Contempory Folk Album. With I Feel Alright in 1996, he reestablished himself in the music business, also in the country field. In 1999, the bluegrass CD The Mountain , with the Del McCoury Band was released. As The Ghost of Tom Joad had done for Bruce Springsteen, The Mountain demonstrated clearly that Steve Earle had deep roots in the traditional music of America. In the liner notes to the CD, Steve wrote, „This is my interpretation, to the best of my ability and with all my heart (as well the assistance of the best bluegrass band working today) of the music that Bill Monroe invented.“  

In addition to his musical endeavors, Steve Earle is politically active, supporting native rights, welfare rights, and joining protests against Senator Jesse Helms. He has been particularly adament in opposing the death penalty and sits on the board of Journey of Hope, an organization of murder victims‘ families who oppose the death penalty. His activism does not make him friends in Nashville, „a town where a musician having strong opinions is still seen as having a major character flaw.“ (Gianluca Tramontana, „Steve Earle,“ Dirty Linen , Oct./Nov. 1999. p. 23.)  

In 2002, Steve Earle released the ambitious Jerusalem , a CD filled with topical songs summing up the troubled times of the present, calling for listeners to, „resist such corrosive cultural forces as consumerism, xenophobia, and apathy.“(review on Much in the tradition not only of Woody Guthrie but also Bruce Springsteen, he paints pictures of people caught at the bottom of society.  

Prior to the 2004 presidential election, Earle released The Revolution Starts…Now as his comment on the state of the nation.

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Steve Earle in internet: 

Ain't Ever Satisfied: The Steve Earle Collection, HIP-CD 40006, CD
BBC Live, Windsong
Early Tracks, KOCH-CD 7903, CD
El Corazon, Warner Bros., CD 46789, CD
Essential Steve Earle, MCA
Guitar Town, MCA
The Hard Way, MCA
I Feel Alright, Warner Bros., CD 46201, CD
Johnny Too Bad, E-Squared
Just an American Boy, E-Square/Artemis ARTCG
The Revolution Starts…Now, E-Square/Artemis ARTCG
Shut Up and Die Like an Aviator, MCA
Train A Comin' , Warner Bros., CD 46355, CD

(with Del McCoury Band)
The Mountain , Glitterhouse Records GRCD 453, CD

(about Steve Earle)
The Search for the Real Steve Earle, edited by Steve Lustgarten and Earle G. Harris. Mass Market Paperback, 998.
Hardcore Troubadour: The Life and Near Death of Steve Earle , by Lauren St. John, Fourth Estate; 1st edition (February 1, 2003)
Steve Earle - Fearless Heart, Outlaw Poet, David McGee, Backbeat Books, 2005.
Gianluca Tramontana, „Steve Earle,“ Dirty Linen, Oct./Nov. 1999.
John Kruth. “Steve Earle's Bloodless Revolution,” Sing Out! Vol. 48. No. 4.

Mountain, 1999.
Steve Earle Songbook, by Hemme Luttjeboer. Hal Leonard Corporation (March 1, 2002)

(by Steve Earle)
Karla, by Steve Earle. A screenplay.
Doghouse Roses: Stories, by Steve Earle. Houghton Mifflin Company (June 1, 2001)

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River of the Big Canoes
Bob Dyer

You can see her in the mountains in the melting snow,
See her in the falling rain.
See her dancing through a thousand valleys;
She's got at least a thousand names.  

She's the spawn of the ice of another age
The river of the big canoes,
And she's rolling on down from the Rocky Mountains,
Carrying the Great Plains' news.

From the Yellowstone, the Musselshell,
The Milk and the Little Mo,
The James, the Grand, the White and the Bad,
The Cheyenne and the wide Moreau.

When the Frenchmen found her, she was Pekitanoui,
A muddy river, wild and free.
Gave her the name of the Indians who lived there,
The people called it Missouri.

She's been a river of coal, a river of fur,
A river of crazy schemes,
Steamboat wrecker, and a river of gold,
She's been a river of broken dreams.

She's the ghost in the night when the moon is full,
The spirit in the mist of dawn;
She's the light in the eye of the painter's mind,
The music in the poet's song.

recordings of “River of the Big Canoes”:
Bob Dyer, Songteller, Big Canoe Records BCR 6785, CD
Ed Trickett, People Like You, Folk Legacy C-92. Cas  

River of the Big Canoes  

Bob Dyer tells how the river got its name: „ Before the white man came, its banks were the dwelling place of many Indian tribes who had names for it that usually meant something like “Muddy Water‘ or “Smoky Water.“ One of these Indian names, Pekitanoui,“ appears on an early French map of the river. In the early 1700‘s, Father Marest, a French priest, was apparently one of the first to give it the name “Missouri“ or “Oumessourit“ after a tribe of Indians dwelling on its banks. These Indians, who called themselves the “‘Niutachi,“ meaning “People Who Dwell at the Mouth of the River,“ were given the name “ Missouri “ by the Illinois Indians. The word, which comes from the Algonquin family of Indian languages, means something like “canoe people“ or “wooden canoe people“ or “big canoe people.“ And that is the source for the title of my song.“ (Bob Dyer, Big Canoe Songbook. Ballads from the Heartland. Pekitanui Publications. Boonville, Missouri, 1991, p. 4.) 

„Spawned“ during the last ice age from the melting ice, the Missouri River begins in Montana where the Madison , the Gallatin and the Jefferson rivers flow together. With its 2500 miles, it is the longest river in the United States . Because of the enormous amounts of sediments it carries, coloring the water brown, it is known as the „Big Muddy“. The sediment is the „good news“ which creates the fertile bottomlands. The Missouri is a natural highway between the Midwest and the Northwest and had been used as such by the peoples of America from the beginning. Already in the 18th century, French voyageurs reached the eastern edge on the Rocky Mountains. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark used the Missouri to carry out Thomas Jefferson's orders to explore the recently purchased Louisiana Territory and seek a waterway to the Pacific Ocean .

In 1819, the first steamboats navigated the Missouri and in 1832 an American Fur Company steamboat reached the Yellowstone River . For several years, Fort Benton in Montana was the landing port for steamboats bringing supplies without which the first settlements could not have survived.  

The river gradually lost its function as emigrants heading for Oregon left the river at the place where Kansas City stands today and traveled overland. The construction of the transcontinental railway ended the history of the Missouri as the great highway to the West.  „When Meriwether Lewis and William Clark explored the Missouri in 1804, they found a dynamic river of meandering channels, thousands of islands and sandbars, and a rich floodplain of wetlands, grasses, and forests. Today, Lewis and Clark would not recognize the Missouri River and many of the wildlife species that filled their journal pages may soon disappear forever.“  

The Missouri River which Lewis and Clark navigated at the beginning of the 19 th century is no more. Six major dams have altered it very nature. During the 20 th century, 90% of the river's wetlands were destroyed.   „Historically, the seasonal rise and fall of water levels defined life along the Missouri. Snowmelt and rain increased water levels in the spring, building sandbars and cueing fish like the federally endangered pallid sturgeon to begin spawning. In the summer, the waters receded, exposing sandbars where birds like the federally endangered interior least tern and the federally threatened piping plover made their nests. These low flows were also critical for young sturgeon and other fish, which depend on easy access to shallow, slower-flowing water.“ (

The controlled flow and the 735 miles of the lower river which have been channelled to create a barge highway between Sioux City and St. Louis , have destroyed wildlife habitat, ( yet are not of any great economic significance. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Corps of Engineers, barges transport on 0.3% of the grain harvested in Nebraska , Iowa , Kansas , and Missouri .   In November 2000, the Fish and Wildlife Service called for a change in the operation of the river dams, recreating artificially a springtime rise in the water level. Such a measure would make the river more hospitable for wildlife, more attractive for recreational activities, generate income for riverside communities, and prevent the extinction of endangered species. The Corps of Engineers as well as the wildlife agencies of the seven states involved have concurred that the new policy would be of benefit. Many farmers‘ organizations are opposed. The Bush administration has put off a decision.  

Bob Dyer: „I wrote this song in 1975 at the request of a film-maker acquaintance who was doing a documentary on the Missouri River . He decided not to use the song, but I am grateful to him for giving me the occasion to write it.“ (booklet: Bob Dyer, Songteller. CD BCR 6785-CD, Big Canoe Records, 1991.)

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Bob Dyer  

Bob Dyer was born in 1939 on the banks of the Missouri River, in Boonville, Missouri, where he still lives today. He attended the University of Missouri and taught English there for nine years. But his great passion is the history of his home state and the river which flows through it. He has published a history of his hometown as well as one about Jesse James' role in the Civil War. Together with Hans von Sachsen-Altenburg he wrote Duke Paul of Wurttemberg on the Missouri Frontier. A collection of Dyer's poetry, Oracle of the Turtle, has also appeared. After the great flood of 1993, Bob Dyer edited an anthology of stories and poems about the event. He has also directed a film about the life of the poet John Neihardt, Performing the Vision. Dyer's songs reflect his live of Missouri and the river. They can be heard on the CDs Songteller and River Runs Outside My Door and have been published in the Big Canoe Songbook . Together with Cathy Barton and Dave Para, Bob Dyer has also released two CDs of songs from Missouri during the Civil War period, Johnny Whistletrigger and Rebel in the Woods. Bob Dyer combines all his talents in order to present programs about the history of Missouri in schools, at folk festivals, in theaters and on other occasions. He has served as „Artist in the Schools“ for the Missouri Arts Council. His songs have been heard in several films about Missouri.

Bob Dyer died on April 11, 2007.

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Songteller, Big Canoe Records BCR 6785, CD
River Runs Outside My Door, Big Canoe Records BCR 6788-CD

(with Cathy Barton and Dave Para)
Johnny Whistletrigger – Civil War Songs from the Western Border , Big Canoe Records BDR 6796-CD
Rebel In the Woods - Civil War Songs from the Western Border , Big Canoe Records Volume II CD 5130, CD

The Discovery String Band (with Cathy Barton, Dave Para, Paul and Win Grace)
Most Perfect Harmony , Big Canoe Records

Big Canoe Songbook. Ballads from the Heartland , Bob Dyer Boonville, Missouri : Pekitanoui Publications, 1991.
Oracle of the Turtle.
Boonville: An Illustrated History.
ising Waters: Reflections on the Year of the Great Flood Winning the West: General Stephen Watt Kearney 's Letter Book 1846-1847
Duke Paul of Wuerttemberg on the Missouri Frontier: 1823, 1830 and 1851

Matt Watroba, “The Discovery String Band. Exploring Lewis and Clark.” Sing Out! Vol. 48 No. 2.  

Big Canoe Records
513 High Street
Boonville , Missouri , 65233


Big Canoe Records in internet 

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John Prine

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recordings of “ Paradise ”:
Guy Carawan, Telling Takes Me Home, Curnon CNL-722, LP
Country Gentlemen, Country Gentlemen, Vanguard VRD 79331, LP
John Denver, Rocky Mountain High, RCA CD 5190
Eleven Strings, 11 to 12, Bluebird Café Berlin Records, CD 01-0011
Jesse McReynolds and the Virginia Boys (with John Prine), New Horizons, Pinecastle Records
Jim and Jesse (Reynolds), High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music, CMH CD-8007, CD
John Prine, German Afternoons, Oh Boy CD003, CD
John Prine, The John Prine Anthology Great Days, Rhino R2 71400, CD
Jim Ringer, Waiting for the Hard Times to Go, Folk Legacy FSI-047, LP
Seldom Scene, Act Two, Rebel CD1520, CD


When John Prine was a child, his family spent their summers at an uncle's house in Paradise, Kentucky. His grandfather and his father had grown up there and his grandfather still lived there. The town was situated on the Green River, ten miles northeast of Greenville, in eastern Muhlenberg County. It had two general stores and looked like, says John Prine, a Disney town. Only one black man lived there, Bubby Short, a friend of his grandfather's. They were fishing buddies. The town had been settled in the nineteenth century as Stum's Landing. It is no longer known how the town received the name Paradise. In 1850, the Old Aidrie Iron Works were built next to Paradise. They were never a prison, but were used as temporary housing for prisoners from Eddyville Prison while they labored to built a stone quarry for the prison. The Paradise post office opened in 1852.

While Prine was stationed as a soldier in Germany, his father sent him a newsclipping about how the Peabody Coal Company had bought the whole town. The post office closed in 1967 and the coal company completely destroyed Paradise. The town site is now occupied by a coal-fired electric plant of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

As Wendell Berry, who taught English at the University of Kentucky at the time, described it, „In the name Paradise, Kentucky, and its desecration by the strip miners, there is no shallow irony. It was named paradise because, like all of Kentucky in the early days, it was recognized as a garden, fertile and abounding and lovely; some pioneers saw that it was good. But the strip miners have harrowed paradise, as they would harrow heaven itself were they to find coal there. Where the little town once stood in the shade of its trees by the river bank, there is now a blackened desert. We have despised our greatest gift, the inheritance of a fruitful land. And for such despite – for the destruction of Paradise – there will be hell to pay.“ (quoted in: Guy and Candie Carawan, Voices from the Mountains. New York: Alfred. A. Knopf, 1975. p. 33.)

When „Paradise“ was recorded in New York, Prine was accompanied by his brother David and his friend Steve Goodman. In Muhlenberg County and the surrounding area, „Paradise“ was a hit. One store sold 800 records in only three weeks and the radio played the song constantly. Many miners called in before they had to go to work and requested „Paradise.“

When „Paradise“ was recorded in New York, Prine was accompanied by his brother David and his friend Steve Goodman. In Muhlenberg County and the surrounding area, „Paradise“ was a hit. One store sold 800 records in only three weeks and the radio played the song constantly. Many miners called in before they had to go to work and requested „Paradise.“


John Prine

John Prine was born on October 10, 1949 in Maywood, Illinous, a suburb of Chicago . His parents came form western Kentucky . Many relatives still lived there. His grandfather played guitar with Ike Everly, father of the Don and Phil. To avoid working in the mines, John‘s father, William Prine, had gone to Chicago, where he became president of the steel workers' union. John Prine spent many summers with relatives in Paradise, Kentucky . There he heard the music and the stories that were to form him.

Prine's eldest brother, Dave, urged him to learn to play the guitar. At age fourteen, John began to write songs. Two out of that early period, „Sour Grapes“ and „Frying Pan,“ were later recorded for the album Diamonds in the Rough . After graduation, John went to work for the post office, but he was drafted into the army. During 1966 and 1967, he was stationed in Germany . After the army, he went back to the post office.

John Prine sang in public for the first time in 1970, in the Chicago club Fifth Peg. He quit his job at the post office and soon met Steve Goodman. In the summer of 1971, Goodman opened for Kris Kristofferson. He sang a John Prine song that impressed Kristofferson and later took Kris to hear Prine. Soon thereafter, Prine and Goodman went to New York to make demo tapes. At a gig by Kristofferson, Prine was asked to sing three of his own songs. Jerry Werder of Atlantic Records was in the audience. On the following day, Prine signed a recording contract. Before the end of the year John Prine was on the market and became one the legendary albums of all time, with a series of classics like „Paradise,“ „Hello in There“ and „Angel from Montgomery.“ Prine was hailed as the new Bob Dylan.

During the fifteen years that followed, John Prine recorded eight albums with new songs, but none met with the critical or commercial success of his first outing. He seemed cursed by his early success. Prine continued to switch record companies until he founded his own „O'Boy“ label in the early eighties. During the mid-eighties, Prine considered giving up music. He had remained a name for insiders and though cherished by his colleagues and a small group of loyal fans, he never achieved a breakthrough.. A second marriage failed and the death of his friend Steve Goodman hit him hard.

Not until 1992 did a new CD, The Missing Years, appear. The recording won a Grammy as the best contemporary folk CD and suddenly John Prine was back. His next CD, Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings , was also well-received. In 1999, he released a recording of duets with female country singers, In Spite of Ourselves.

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John Prine in internet

Aimless Love, Oh Boy CD002, CD
Bruised Oranges, Oh Boy CD006, CD
Common Sense, Atlantic CD18127, CD
Diamonds in the Rough,
Atlantic CD7240, CD
Fair and Square, Oh Boy, 2005
German Afternoons,
Oh Boy CD003, CD
In Spite of Ourselves, Oh Boy UTCD 008, CD
John Prine, Atlantic CD19156, CD
The John Prine Anthology Great Days, Rhino R2 71400, CD
A John Prine Christmas
John Prine Live,
Oh Boy, CD005, CD
Live on Tour, Oh Boy, CD015, CD
Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings,
Oh Boy, CD013, CD
The Missing Years, Oh Boy, CD009, CD
Pink Cadillac, Oh Boy, CD007, CD
Prime Prine,
Atlantic-CD18202, CD
Storm Windows,
Oh Boy, CD008
Sweet Revenge, Atlantic -CD7274, CD

"John Prine. One of 'The Good Guys,'" John Kruth, Sing Out! Vol. 49 #4.

John Prine - Live from Sessions at West 54th (2001)


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