Swannanoa Tunnel

DESCRIPTION: "Asheville Junction, Swannanoa Tunnel, all caved in, baby, all caved in." About the life of a steel driver: "This old hammer Killed John Henry, Couldn't kill me." The singer hopes for relief from the hard work and a chance to see his woman.
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1916 (Cecil Sharp collection); +1913 (JAFL26)
KEYWORDS: railroading work separation death
REFERENCES (11 citations):
BrownII 280, "John Henry" (2 texts plus 5 fragments, 1 excerpt, and mention of 1 more, but the "H" text and "I" excerpt are this piece and most of the rest, except the "A" text, are "Take This Hammer")
BrownSchinhanIV 270, "John Henry" (7 excerpts, 7 tunes, of which "A," "A(1)," and perhaps "C" appear to be "John Henry"; "E," "G," and "J" appear to be "Take This Hammer," and "H" appears to be "Swannanoa Tunnel")
Lunsford31, pp. 34-35, "Swannanoa Tunnel" (1 text, 1 tune)
JonesLunsford, pp. 235-236, "Swannanoa Tunnel" (1 text, 1 tune)
Combs/Wilgus 256, p. 166, "The Yew-Pine Mountains" (1 text, which omits the "Swannanoa Tunnel" lyrics but is otherwise so similar I have to believe it the same. It may well be a fake; it was supplied by Carey Woofter, suspected or faking materials he gave to Combs and Cox)
Bronner-Eskin1 33, "Swannanoa Tunnel" (1 text, 1 tune)
SharpAp 91, "Swannanoa Town" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Warner-Eastern, pp. 52-53, "Asheville Junction, Swannanoa Tunnel" (1 text)
Botkin-SoFolklr, p. 749, "Swannanoa Tunnel" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 45, "Swannanoa Tunnel" (1 text)

Roud #3602
Bascom Lamar Lunsford, "Swannanoa Tunnel" (on BLLunsford01) (on BLLunsford02)
Dellie Norton, "Oh Lord Ellie" (on OldTrad1, FarMtns4)

cf. "Drivin' Steel" (theme, lyrics)
cf. "Take This Hammer" (floating lyrics)
cf. "If You Meet a Woman in the Morning" (form, lyrics)
NOTES [83 words]: The connection between this song and "Take This Hammer" (Nine Pound Hammer) is very strong; there are so many intermediate versions that we can hardly draw a clear distinction. But the extreme versions are sufficiently different that I have listed them
separately. - RBW
Sharp's versions mention neither the tunnel nor a cave-in, but I put them here for simplicity's sake, using the mention of Swannanoa as the dividing line from "Take This Hammer." You should check out that entry too, though. - PJS
Last updated in version 4.4
File: CW166

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