Long John (Long Gone)

DESCRIPTION: "It's-a Long John, He's long gone, Like a turkey through the corn, With his long clothes on, He's gone, gone." Long John escapes from prison, and uses sundry tricks to avoid capture. He intends to keep moving
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1920 (print reproduced by Scarborough)
KEYWORDS: prison freedom escape floatingverses
REFERENCES (9 citations):
Boswell/Wolfe 44, pp. 77-79, "Long John Green" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSNA 287, "Long John" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-ABFS, pp. 75-79, "Long Gone" (1 extended text, 1 tune)
Jackson-DeadMan, pp. 202-215, "Crooked-Footed John" (7 texts, 4 tunes; some of these sound like direct descendents of the commercial recordings, but others have been heavily adapted for prison life and may even incorporate other songs)
Courlander-NFM, pp. 102-103, "(Lost John)" (1 text); p. 261, "Long John" (1 tune, partial text)
Scarborough-NegroFS, p. 268, "Long Gone" (1 text, a reproduction of a printed version from 1920)
Handy/Silverman-Blues, pp. 200-202, "Long Gone" (1 text, 1 tune, heavily adapted)
Silber-FSWB, p. 68, "Long John" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Harold Courlander, _A Treasury of Afro-American Folklore_, Crown Publishers, 1976, pp. 407-409, "Lost John" (1 text)

ST LoF287 (Full)
Roud #11520
Allen Brothers, "Long Gone from Bowling Green" (Vocalion 02817, 1934)
Louis Armstrong, "Long Gone (from Bowlin' Green)" (on "Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy," 1954)
Eldon Baker & his Brown County Ramblers, "Lost John" (Vocalion 04217, 1938)
Richard Brooks & Riley Puckett, "Long Gone" (Brunswick 273, 1928)
[Richard] Burnett & [Leonard] Rutherford, "Lost John" (Columbia 15122-D, 1927; rec. 1926; on BurnRuth01, KMM)
Convicts at the Ramsey & Retriece State Farms, "Lost John" (on ClassAfrAm)
Ted Daffan's Texans, "Long John" (Columbia 20358, c. 1947; Columbia 37823, 1947; rec.1942)
Cousin Emmy [Cynthia May Carver], "Lost John" (Decca 24216, 1947)
Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston & Sonny Terry, "Lost John" (on Struggle2)
Sam Hinton, "Long John" (ABC-Eagle ABC-230, 1950)
J. H. Howell's Carolina Hillbillies, "Lost John" (Bluebird B-7162, 1937)
Charlie Jackson, "Long Gone Lost John" (Paramount 12602, 1928; Broadway 5076 [as Charlie Carter], c. 1930)
Ray Logan, "Lost John Blues" (Paramount 12310, 1925)
Bascom Lamar Lunsford, "Lost John Dean" (Brunswick 227/Vocalion 5246, 1928; on Times1 [as Bascom Lamar Lundsford])
Mose "Clear Rock" Platt, "Long John" (AFS 2644 A2, 1939)
Prison farm work group "Lost John" (on NPCWork, DownHome)
Oliver Sims, "Lost John" (Columbia 15103-D, 1926)
Southern Moonlight Entertainers [possibly pseud. for the Stripling Bros.] "Lost John" (Vocalion 5372/Vocalion 5460, c. 1930; rec. 1929)
Stripling Bros. "Lost John" (Vocalion 5441, c. 1930; rec. 1929)
Vernon Sutphin & J. C. Sutphin, "Lost John" (on Stonemans01)
Sonny Terry, "Lost John" [instrumental with whooping] (AFS, 1938; on LCTreas); "Lost John" (on Terry01, DownHome)
Texas state farm prisoners, "Lost John" (on NPCWork)
Merle Travis, "Lost John Boogie" (Capitol 1737, c. 1951)
Henry Whitter, "Lost John" (OKeh 40391, 1925)
Unknown artists, "Long Gone" (AFS CYL-7-2, 1933)

cf. "Old Rattler"
Lost John
Long Gone from Kentucky
NOTES [228 words]: The Lomaxes believe this to be based on the story (coming from W. C. Handy's book "Blues"; see page 215 in Handy/Silverman) of one Long John Green, who was known for his ability to move.
When the prison where Green was staying acquired a pack of bloodhounds, they allegedly decided to conduct a test by giving him a head start and then sending the hounds after him. But Green was too fast (he also managed to trick the hounds by catching one in a trap), and escaped them.
I have my doubts, though -- neither the Courlander text nor the Burnett & Rutherford recording shows the prison plot details found in the Lomax texts. I can't help but wonder if this might not be another Lomax retouch job, influenced perhaps by Handy's blues piece. - RBW
It's hard to tell pending full scrutiny of the field recordings, but it looks like the Lomaxes didn't mess with them as much as has been suggested. Some of the field recordings, at any rate, are as muddled as the Lomaxes' published versions. - PJS
And the versions in Jackson support this. Several of these versions involve a prisoner who had heels on the front of his shoes, fooling the pursuers. I am still inclined to suspect that several songs have been combined here (Jackson is of the opinion that it has swallowed a song beginning "This old tree..."). It's just that the combination probably predates the Lomaxes. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.3
File: LoF287

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2018 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.