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Tennessee Ernie Ford Sixteen Tons

Country Music

Sometimes songs from different genres move people in a certain way so that the categories don’t matter at all. Even if you had never worked in a coal mine or had to buy goods from the employer’s store, the sentiment of “Sixteen Tons” of being another day older and deeper in debt is universally understood.

The song is credited to country singer Merle Travis, although there are other claims. Anyway, it was released in 1947 on his box set album Folk Songs of the Hills in 1947. While the number of covers is extensive and an extraordinary testament to the song’s popularity, the best-selling version (bless his pea pickin’ heart) was by Tennessee Ernie Ford. In 1955 his record went to #1 on the Country & Western Chart and then in 1956 crossed over to go to #1 on the Pop Chart, where it remained for weeks. Ford would often snap his fingers to set a tempo for a song. When the producer Lee Gillette heard Ford do that during the recording of “Sixteen Tons,” Gillette said, “Leave that in.” It was great 50s music and is great today.

Here are the lyrics:

“Some people say a man is made outta mud
A poor man’s made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that’s a-weak and a back that’s strong

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin’ when the sun didn’t shine
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine
I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
And the straw boss said “Well, a-bless my soul”

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin’, it was drizzlin’ rain
Fightin’ and trouble are my middle name
I was raised in the canebrake by an ol’ mama lion
Cain’t no-a high-toned woman make me walk the line

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store

If you see me comin’, better step aside
A lotta men didn’t, a lotta men died
One fist of iron, the other of steel
If the right one don’t a-get you

Then the left one will

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store”

For More Golden Oldies Music       

The Daily Doo Wop Rec Room has daily featured doo wop, rock and roll, R&B, or rockabilly songs that were hits during the first era of rock and roll (that is, from about 1952 until the British invasion in 1964). After a song is featured, it then goes into the juke box. You are welcome to listen to any of the 40+ selections there. Every weekend, there is a Golden Oldies Juke Box Saturday Night, and the juke box is full of song requests from the 1950s and 1960s.

Please click here for the Daily Doo Wop YouTube channel, to which you can subscribe. Thank you for stopping by The Daily Doo Wop. Hope you enjoyed “Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford.

1 Comment

  1. bob says:

    Good song – since we’ve had “16 Candles” and “16 Tons”, is Johnny Burnette’s “You’re 16 next”?

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