Casey Jones (I) [Laws G1]

DESCRIPTION: Casey Jones's train is late with the mail. He is pushing the train as fast as he can when he sees another train ahead. There is no time to stop. Casey tells his fireman to jump; he himself dies in the wreck
AUTHOR: Original text by Wallis/Wallace/Wash Saunders/Sanders (?); "Official" text copyrighted 1909 by Newton & Siebert
EARLIEST DATE: 1909 (copyright)
KEYWORDS: death train wreck
Apr 30, 1900 - Death of John Luther "Casey" Jones, of the Illinois Central Railroad, near Vaughan, Mississippi
REFERENCES (26 citations):
Laws G1, "Casey Jones"
Cohen-LSRail, pp. 132-157, "Casey Jones" (4 fairly complete texts plus many tunes an the cover from the 1909 sheet music, 1 tune)
Neely, pp. 167-171, "Casey Jones" (2 texts)
Morris, #53, "Casey Jones" (1 text, tune referenced)
BrownII 216, "Casey Jones" (1 text plus mention of 1 more)
Hudson 87, pp. 214-215, "Casey Jones" (1 text, quite dissimilar to the popular version, focusing on the bad conditions and Casey's heroism)
Hubbard, #190, "Casey Jones" (1 text)
Friedman, p. 309, "Casey Jones" (7 texts, mostly fragmentary)
Sandburg, pp. 366-368, "Casey Jones" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSUSA 75, "Casey Jones" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSNA 301, "Casey Jones" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Lomax-ABFS, pp. 34-36, "Nachul-Born Easman" (1 text, 1 tune)
Scarborough-NegroFS, pp. 249-250, "Casey Jones" (1 text, 1 tune)
Spaeth-ReadWeep, pp. 106-109, "Casey Jones" (1 text, 1 tune)
JHJohnson, pp. 90-92, "Casey Jones" (1 text)
Courlander-NFM, pp. 185-186, "(Casey Jones)" (1 text, 1 tune)
LPound-ABS, 59, pp. 133, "Casey Jones" (1 text)
JHCox 48, "Mack McDonald" (1 text, clearly "Casey Jones" even though the engineer's name has been changed)
Cohen-AFS1, pp. 335-336, "Casey Jones" (1 text plus a 1911 sheet music cover)
Darling-NAS, pp. 209-213, "Casey Jones"; "Casey Jones"; "Kassie Jones" (3 text, with the first two being here"Joseph Mica" and the third being the full "Kassie Jones" text of Furry Lewis)
Geller-Famous, pp. 231-234, "Casey Jones" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fireside, p. 142, "Casey Jones" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fuld-WFM, p. 165+, "Casey Jones"
ADDITIONAL: Richard M. Dorson, _Buying the Wind: Regional Folklore in the United States_, University of Chicago Press, 1964, pp. 403-405, "Casey Jones" (1 text)
Harold Courlander, _A Treasury of Afro-American Folklore_, Crown Publishers, 1976, pp. 396-397, "Casey Jones" (1 text)

Roud #3247
Arthur "Brother-in-Law" Armstrong, "Casey Jones" (AFS 3987 B4, 1940)
DeFord Bailey, "Casey Jones" (Victor 23336, 1932/Victor 23831, 1933; rec. 1928)
Al Bernard, "Casey Jones" (Brunswick 178, 1927/Supertone S-2044, 1930)
Fiddlin' John Carson, "Casey Jones" (OKeh 40038, 1924; rec. 1923)
Arthur Collins & chorus, "Casey Jones" (CYL: Indestructible 3163, 1910)
[Arthur] Collins & [Byron] Harlan "Casey Jones" (Columbia A907, 1910)
Elizabeth Cotten, "Casey Jones" (on Cotten03)
County Harmonizers, "Casey Jones" (Pathe Actuelle 020670, 1921) (Pathe 20670, 1921) [these are separate issues; the Actuelle is a lateral-cut record, while the other is vertical-cut]
Vernon Dalhart, "Casey Jones" (Oriole 454 [as Dick Morse], 1925) (Victor 20502, 1927; rec. 1925)
K. C. Douglas, "Casey Jones" (on ClassAfrAm)
Jesse James, "Southern Casey Jones" (Decca 7213, 1936)
Fred Kirby & the WTB Briarhoppers "Casey Jones" (Sonora 3040, n.d. but post-World War II)
Wingy Manone & his orchestra, "Casey Jones (The Brave Engineer)" (Bluebird B-10266, 1939/Mongomery Ward M-8354, 1940)
John D. Mounce et al, "Casey Jones" (on MusOzarks01, ClassRR)
Billy Murray w. the American Quartet, "Casey Jones" (Victor 16843, 1910) (CYL: Edison 10499, 1911) (CYL: Edison [BA] 1550, 1912) (CYL: Edison [A] 450, 1910)
Riley Puckett, "Casey Jones" (Columbia 113-D [as George Riley Puckett], 1924)
George Reneau, "Casey Jones" (Vocalion 14813, 1924)
Bob Skiles Four Old Timers, "Casey Jones" (OKeh 45225, 1928)
Pete Seeger , "Casey Jones" (on PeteSeeger13)
Gid Tanner & his Skillet Lickers, "Casey Jones" (Columbia 15237-D, 1928; rec. 1927)
Wilmer Watts & the Lonely Eagles, "Knocking Down Casey Jones" (Paramount 3210, 1930; on TimesAint02)
Fred Wilson, "Casey Jones" (Harmony 5118-H, 1930)
Jack & Tom Wilson, "Casey Jones" (Diva 2480-G, 1927)

cf. "Joseph Mica (Mikel) (The Wreck of the Six-Wheel Driver) (Been on the Choly So Long)" [Laws I16]
cf. "Casey Jones (II)" (bawdy parody)
cf. "Casey Jones (IV) (Casey Jones the Union Scab)"
cf. "Casey Jones the Miner"
cf. "Ben Dewberry's Final Run" (lyrics, theme)
cf. "J. C. Holmes Blue" (form, lyrics)
cf. "Steamboat Bill" (tune)
cf. "Duncan and Brady" [Laws I9] (lyrics)
cf. "Peggy Howatt" (tune)
cf. "The Big Combine" (tune)
cf. "E. P. Walker" (tune)
Casey Jones (IV) (Casey Jones the Union Scab) (File: FSWB102)
Come On You Scabs If You Want to Hear (by Odell Corley) (Greenway-AFP, p. 138)
Casey Jones the Rooster (Pankake-PHCFSB, pp. 109-110)
The Big Combine (on Thieme03)
Tenor solo, "Casey Jones" [Ku Klux Klan lyrics] (Special K-1, rec. c. 1924)
W. R. Rhinehart, "The Klansman's Friend' (100% K-5, rec. 1924)
NOTES: John Luther Jones was brought up in Cayce, Kentucky (hence his nickname).
Joe Hill (pseud. for Joseph Hillstrom, born Joel Hagglund) wrote a parody of this song, entitled "Casey Jones the Union Scab," based on the Southern Pacific strike of 1911. -PJS
This piece shows the power of song: Mrs. Jones, who died in 1958 at the age of 92, spent half a century disclaiming the accusations of infidelity in the song. Fireman Simeon Webb lasted almost as long, dying in 1957 at age 83.
In reading Laws's notes to "Casey Jones" and "Joseph Mica" [Laws I16], it seems clear to me that there is no true distinction between the ballads. Laws files the more complete forms here, and the fragments and related pieces under "Joseph Mica." How does one decide which pieces to put where? I'm really not sure.
To make matters worse, Laws has garbled the entry and the information about Lomax and Sandburg. I did the best I could, but one should check "Joseph Mica" for additional versions.
Cohen offers a reasonable explanation for this: There was an existing train song, possibly "Jay Gould's Daughter," which Saunders adapted to apply to Casey Jones -- but it was a blues ballad, without a strong plot. The 1909 version converted this to a true ballad -- but, fragments being what they are, it's not really possible to distinguish the two.
Cohen also lists several alternate nominees for the title of the "original" Casey Jones.
Laws distinguishes "Jay Gould's Daughter" as a separate song (dI25); I think this distinction hopeless; it is just another worn down version, and should be filed with "Joseph Mica." - RBW
It should be noted that Furry Lewis' "Kassie Jones" is a fragmentary stream-of-consciousness incorporating a single verse from "Casey Jones" and many floating verses, including a couple from "On the Road Again". - PJS
Cohen (whose main text is the Lewis version) notes that Lewis recorded the song ten times, with none of the texts being entirely the same.
According to Gwenda Beed Davey and Graham Seal, A Guide to Australian Folklore, Kangaroo Press, 2003, p. 231, there is an Australian parody, "Billy Sheehan," which so far I have not seen, but in which "Sheehan tried to outrun the Spirit of Progress express in a steam train but the steam train's boiler explodes, killing him and the fireman." Sort of Casey Jones meets John Henry. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.1
File: LG01

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