John Henry-Henry Johnson

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John Henry-Henry Johnson
Vestapol tuning, with a slide
NOTE: Dashes indicate places in which the guitar replaces the vocal line

SUNG: John Henry, he was a little bitty boy, settin’ on his mama’s knees
The last thing I heard that poor boy say, he says,
“The women’ll be the death o’ -------
Uh, he said, “The women’ll be the” ------
He say, “The women’ll be the death o’ me”, he said,
“The women’ll be the” ----------

SPOKEN: You know, one day, you know, I was walkin’ out on the railroad there down where John Henry lived, he lived down in a little old shack down on the railroad, you know. And he had a woman who was named Polly. And, you know, he was livin’ down there for a lo-o-ong time, you know.

And so, one day, you know, poor John Henry took sick, you know. And the poor boy had to go to bed. And so when they had to go to bed, you know, his work stopped. And ‘bout that time, you know, Polly looked over at him, said, “Now listen, darlin’, you don’t have to worry about your job.”, say, “I go up and take your job, oh.” He said, “Okay, old lady,”, said, “Now when you go up there,”, said, “Now, don’t try to show out on me, or do I have to get up out of this b-e--d, and show you a trick.”

And ‘bout that time, you know, they’s livin’ in a little two-room shack, you know, one part where they sleep and the other ‘un where they cook and eat, you know. And ‘bout that time, you know, she switched off into the kitchen in the little old part where they cook and eat at, you know, ‘cause he kept his hammers, you know, settin’ over in the corner, you know, right side o’ the thing what they cook on they called the stove, you know.

And ‘bout that time, you know, when she got over there, she picked among John Henry’s hammers, you know, and she got the lightest thing the poor man had, that little light five-pound hammer. And ‘bout that time, you know, she puttin’ on a show and she come switchin’ back through the little old part where they sleep at, you know, and she told him , said, “Now, listen, daddy,” sayin’, “I’m goin’ to bein’ doin’ your work, and I’m gonna take your job over, this mornin’." He says, “Okay, darlin’, don’t forget what I told you,” said, “Do I have to get up out of this b-e-d and show you a trick?”

She said, “Okay, darlin’”, and ‘bout that time, you know, you know how women is when they think they got you covered, you know, she switched out of the little old thing what open and shut and called it the door, you know, and ‘bout that time she went out there and went switchin’ up a rail, walkin’ like this, you know, switchin’, she thought she had him covered, she said: (guitar imitates Polly’s switchin’). Switchin’!

And ‘bout that time, you know, she got up there where she’s supposed to go to work at, you know. And so she forgot about what John Henry had told her, you know. And so, about that time, you know, she had raised the little old hammer, that little old light five-pound hammer, you know, and when she raised it up, you know, she commenced to hittin’ down on the rail like this, you know, just like this, she said: (guitar plays melody) Do it, Polly! Yeah! Umm hmm!

And ‘bout that time, you know, poor John Henry crep’ up out the b-e-d and put his shoes on. And when he crep’ up out the bed and put his shoes on, you know, he went in there in the little old part where they cookin’ at, they call it the kitchen,you know,and so he looked over there among his hammers behind the little old thing, they called it the stove, you know, and so he got that big nine, the one he roll off his shoulder, you know. And so, poor John Henry come out, you know, and then he went out the little old thing what open and shut, and called it the door, you know, and so when he walked out there the poor boy been sick, he went up the rail kind o’ limpin’, he said: (guitar imitates limpin’) Limpin’!

And ‘bout that time, you know, he got up there where she was, you know, he said, “Now listen, old lady,” say, “I told you, don’t try to do that, do it, I have to get up out of this b-e-d and show you a trick.” She say, Okay, daddy”, say, “I just tryin’ to get the work done.” He said, “That’s all right, you just stand right over there, stand right over there, out of my way, you know.”

And ‘bout that time, you know, poor John Henry walked up there with that big nine, the one he rolled off his shoulder, and he commenced to hittin’ it like this, you know, he said: (guitar plays melody) Do it, John Henry! Yeah! Umm hmm!

And ‘bout that time, he asked her a question:

SUNG: Who gon’ shoe them pretty ---?
Who goin’ to glove your hand?
Tell me, who gon’ kiss them rosy cheeks, baby,?
Who gonna be your ----?
Baby, who’s gonna ---?
Baby, who’s gonna be your man?
Baby, who’s gonna be -----?

(Laughter)

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