Tennessee Ernie Ford and Merle Travis performs “Sixteen Tons” Live On Hee Haw 1977.

Travis recorded the song for the first time on August 8, 1946. But the best-known version is the one that Ernie Ford recorded in 1955 for the Capitol label. I reached number one on December 17, 1955.

YouTube When The Cowboy Sings Channel
YouTube When The Cowboy Sings Channel

Sixtenn tons :

Cover Merle Travis
Cover Merle Travis

 

A song written by Merle Travis, Travis recorded the song for the first time at Radio Recorders Studio B in Hollywood, California on August 8, 1946. But the best-known version is the one that Ernie Ford recorded in 1955 for the Capitol label. I reached number one on December 17, 1955.

Story behind the song:

Ep Cover Version U.K ( 1956 )
Ep Cover Version U.K ( 1956 )

The song is based on life in coal mines in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. According to Travis, the phrase “another older and more indebted day” of the choir was a phrase often used by his father, a coal miner. This and the line “I owe my soul to the store of the company” are a reference to the truck system and debt bondage. Under this writing system, workers were not paid in cash; instead, they were paid with non-transferable credit bonds that could only be exchanged for products sold in the company’s store.

Single cover John Neher ( Bell Records 1955 )
Single cover John Neher ( Bell Records 1955 )

This made it impossible for workers to accumulate savings in cash. The workers also used to live in dormitories or houses owned by the company, whose income was automatically deducted from their salary. In the United States, the truck system and associated debt bondage persisted until strikes by newly formed United Mine Workers and affiliated unions forced the end of such practices.

 

Single Harry Nilson ( Tower Records 1964 )
Single Harry Nilson ( Tower Records 1964 )

Versions:
John Neher 1955 (Bell Records)
Red Sovine 1955 (Decca)
Eddie Arnold 1956 (RCA)
Harry Nilsson 1964 (Tower Records)
Hank Thompson 1967 (Warner)
The Don Harrison Band 1976 (Atlantic Records)
Johnny Cash 1988 (Mercury)
Eric Burdon 1990 (Empire Records)
LeAnn Rimes 2011 (Curb Records)
Cousin Harley 2017 (Little Pig Records)
… and many more.

Tennessee Ernie Ford – Sixteen Tons Lyrics

[Verse 1]
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

[Chorus]
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

[Verse 2]
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”

[Chorus]
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

[Verse 3]
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

[Chorus]
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

[Verse 4]
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

[Chorus]
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

Single Tennessee Ernie Ford ( Capitol 1955
Single Tennessee Ernie Ford ( Capitol 1955

Miquel Batlle
mbatllegarriga@gmail.com