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Sixteen Tons, song lyrics

Song: Sixteen Tons
Lyrics: Merle Travis or George S. Davis(1)

Music: Merle Travis or George S. Davis(1)
Year: 1946 or c.1930's(1)
Genre:
Country: USA


(Merle Travis Version recorded in 1946)

CHORUS:
You load sixteen tons and what do get?
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.

(Spoken introduction)
This song was originally posted on protestsonglyrics.net
Yes there's many a Kentucky coal miner, who pretty nearly
owes his soul to the company store. He get's so far in debt
to the coal company he's working for that he goes on sometimes
for years without being paid one red cent in real, honest to
goodness money. But he can always go to the company store and
draw flickers or scrip. You know that's little brass coins
that you can't spend nowhere, only at the company store.
So they add that against his account. And every day he gets a little
farther in debt. That sounds pretty bad, but even that's got a
brighter side to it.

Now some people say a man's made out of mud,
But a poor man's made outta muscle and blood.
Muscle and blood, skin and bones;
A mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong.

(CHORUS)

Well, I was born one morning, When the sun didn't shine,
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine.
Loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal,
And the straw boss hollered, "Well, bless my soul."
This song was originally posted on protestsonglyrics.net
(CHORUS)

Well, I was born one morning, it was drizzling rain.
Fighting and trouble is my middle name.
I was raised in the bottoms by a mama hound;
I'm mean as a dog but I'm as gentle as a lamb.

(CHORUS)

WeIl, if you see me a-comin' you better step aside.
A lotta men didn't and a lotta men died.
I got a fist of iron, and a fist of steel.
If the right one don't get you, then the left one will.

(CHORUS)



(George S. Davis Version recorded in 1966 but claimed it had been written in the 1930's. The style of this version of the song does seem to reflect more of an earlier style.)
This song was originally posted on protestsonglyrics.net
CHORUS:
I loaded sixteen tons and what do I get
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter don't call me cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store.

I was born one morning, was a drizzling rain
A fussing and fighting ain't my middle name.
Well they raised me in a corner by a Mammy hound
I'm as mean as a dog but I'm as gentle as a lamb.

(CHORUS)

Well I got up one morning, the sun didn't shine,
I picked up my shovel and I went to the mine,
I loaded sixteen ton of that number four coal
The face boss said, "Well bless my soul!"

(CHORUS)

I loaded sixteen tons, I tried to get ahead,
Got deeper and deeper in debt instead.
Well they got what I made, and they wanted some more, And now I owe my soul at the company store.
This song was originally posted on protestsonglyrics.net
(CHORUS)

Well I went to the office to draw some script
The man, he told me "was a wreck in the dip."
To clear the tracks would be a week or more
But your credit's still good at our company store.

(CHORUS)

If you see me coming, step aside.
A lot of men didn't and a lot of men died
I got a fist of iron, I got a fist of steel,
The left one don't get you then the right one will.

(CHORUS)


Notes:

1 - While Merle Travis took and generally gets the credit for this song when he recorded it in 1946, there is a dispute with plenty of claims from both sides that he had heard it from George S. Davis in the 1930's and took credit for it. This authorship issue is discussed on the Sixteen Tons page in Wikipedia

2 - Both versions transcribed in May 2012.

3 - Please check out these references for a bit more on the script system and company stores from Tennessee 4 Me, Truck System wages. and The British Truck System in the Nineteenth Century, (20 pages), George W. Hilton, Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 65, No. 3 (Jun., 1957). Of course this system of extreme worker exploitation and debt bondage existed well into the early 20th century in some industries.

4 - For an 1895 song about this subject see" The Company Store.