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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 1/21/2011 "John Hardy"


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/197241

WGE - Posted - 01/21/2011:  03:30:58


“John Hardy was a desperate little man…,” so begins the classic folk ballad of the life, times, and ultimate end of a convicted murderer. This folk song has many variations and has been covered by the likes of Clarence Ashley in the 20’s, Leadbelly accompanying himself on the accordion, the Carter family in 1928, all the way to Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead in San Rafael, CA in May, 1987. First recorded by Eva Davis in 1924, this has become both a Bluegrass, blues, jazz, and old-time favorite.

January 19, 1894: Hanging of John Hardy

Two of West Virginia's most popular folk songs are often confused with one another even though they tell very different stories. The song "John Henry" chronicles the epic struggle between man and machine. John Henry won his contest over a steam-powered drill but the effort cost him his life.
Like Henry, John Hardy was a black railroad worker, but he met his death in a less than heroic fashion. Hardy joined thousands of laborers in southern West Virginia's booming coalfields in the 1890s. McDowell County was not prepared to handle the population explosion and stories of murder, drinking, gambling, and prostitution became legendary.
One of these stories became the basis for the folk song "John Hardy." In the song, Hardy guns down a man who beat him at poker. Governor William MacCorkle later called it a classic tale of "women, cards and liquor." Hardy was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. A large crowd gathered at the McDowell County seat of Welch on January 19, 1894, to witness the spectacle. Like many condemned prisoners, Hardy is said to have experienced a religious conversion. Before the noose was placed around his neck, Hardy delivered a moving speech from the gallows in which he showed remorse for his crime (see photo below).
Although passed down as a folk song, "John Hardy" has been played by bluegrass, blues, country, jazz, and rock musicians. The song has been recorded by a wide array of performers, including Leadbelly, Pete Seeger, Earl Scruggs, Duke Ellington, Manfred Mann, and Uncle Tupelo.
African- American railroad worker John Hardy was hanged at Welch, McDowell County, on January 19, 1894. Hardy later became the subject of a popular folk song.

LYRICS AS REPRINTED IN ALAN LOMAX, FOLK SONGS OF NORTH AMERICA, GARDEN CITY, 1960, pp. 271-273:
John Hardy was a brave little man,
He carried two guns ev'ry day.
Killed him a man in the West Virginia land,
Oughta seen poor Johnny gettin' away, Lord, Lord,
Oughta seen poor Johnny gettin' away.
John Hardy was standin' at the barroom door,
He didn't have a hand in the game,
Up stepped his woman and threw down fifty cents,
Says, "Deal my man in the game, Lord, Lord...."
John Hardy lost that fifty cents,
It was all he had in the game,
He drew the forty-four that he carried by his side
Blowed out that poor Negro's brains, Lord, Lord....
John Hardy had ten miles to go,
And half of that he run,
He run till he come to the broad river bank,
He fell to his breast and he swum, Lord, Lord....
He swum till he came to his mother's house,
"My boy, what have you done?"
"I've killed a man in the West Virginia Land,
And I know that I have to be hung, Lord, Lord...."
He asked his mother for a fifty-cent piece,
"My son, I have no change."
"Then hand me down my old forty-four
And I'll blow out my agurvatin' [sic] brains, Lord, Lord...."
John Hardy was lyin' on the broad river bank,
As drunk as a man could be;
Up stepped the police and took him by the hand,
Sayin' "Johnny, come and go with me, Lord, Lord...."
John Hardy had a pretty little girl,
The dress she wore was blue.
She come a-skippin' through the old jail hall
Sayin', "Poppy, I'll be true to you, Lord, Lord...."
John Hardy had another little girl,
The dress that she wore was red,
She came a-skippin' through the old jail hall
Sayin' "Poppy, I'd rather be dead, Lord, Lord...."
They took John Hardy to the hangin' ground,
They hung him there to die.
The very last words that poor boy said,
"My forty gun never told a lie, Lord, Lord...."

I have heard many renditions of this song in a wide variety of styles but I will stay within the old-time realm. I was first prompted to learn this tune after hearing the Tommy Jarrell version, track #9 on County CD 2726, “The Legacy of Tommy Jarrell, Volume 3, Come and Go With Me.” (As a side note, this CD also has “John Henry,” track #1. Tommy’s version is quite similar to that played by Glen Smith on Clawhammer Banjo, Volume Three (Country CD 2718) track #5 which incidentally ALSO has Glen Smith doing “John Henry” on track #13. Those two Johns always seem to go hand in hand. I have a version on my home page based on both the Tommy Jarrell version and the tab out of G tuning in Miles Krassen’s “Clawhammer Banjo” book, page 45. I play it on my 13-inch Romero, nylon strung, and tuned to eBEG#B.

There of course are many YouTube videos available but the one I like best is done by Sutphin and Baugus youtube.com/watch?v=plP7rU-8WMg with Kirk on fiddle and Riley on banjo belting out the lyrics. This is really cool!

So, watch out for the deadly combination of cards, women, liquor and guns, or someday you may inspire a modern-day version of this sad lament.





John Hardy


tombriarhopper - Posted - 01/21/2011:  05:38:50


First, he does not appear to be a little man, unless those in the picture with him are really short.

Second, Imadoofus...what does "TOTW" mean? Truth of The Words? Again, Imadummy and thanks.

slabounty - Posted - 01/21/2011:  05:50:44


"TOTW" - Tune of the Week.

This is one of my favorite tunes also. Thanks for this one.

Non-old-time version favorites are George Thorogood and Uncle Tupelo.

Scott

mojo_monk - Posted - 01/21/2011:  06:00:14


You can never go wrong with a classic!

Amazingly enough, Eva Davis' 1924 version is on Youtube: youtube.com/watch?v=gJKj12xm_tk. Played in a two-finger, up-picked banjo style (thumb-lead).

My two favorite cuts of this song come from Austin Harmon of Maryville, TN and Theophilus Hoskins of Hyden, KY. Here are the mp3s:

Austin Harmon [banjo tuned eBEGB, rec 4-24-1939 by Herbert Halpert]: box.net/shared/cf8o6umxl5

Theophilus G. Hoskins [fiddle tuned AEae, rec 10-3-1937 by Alan Lomax]: box.net/shared/ad9paauazz



-Sean
2ftlbanjer.wordpress.com/


Edited by - mojo_monk on 01/22/2011 06:55:49

championofnorthhuron - Posted - 01/21/2011:  06:53:55


Here's my favorite version- youtube.com/watch?v=Otrqcw4_KRI . Hillbilly Gypsies. Kind of crosses over from the O.T. into bluegrass with the use of C.H. banjo... in a driving 'knock-the-barn-door-down' sort of way. They also have a top-notch Scruggs picker in the band, but I really like the H.G.'s stuff where they use that rowdy C.H. style.

Thanks for the history on John Hardy. I had no idea that he had existed as a real-life hanged murderer.


Edited by - championofnorthhuron on 01/21/2011 07:02:39

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 01/21/2011:  07:19:52


quote:
Originally posted by championofnorthhuron

Here's my favorite version- youtube.com/watch?v=Otrqcw4_KRI . Hillbilly Gypsies. Kind of crosses over from the O.T. into bluegrass with the use of C.H. banjo... in a driving 'knock-the-barn-door-down' sort of way. They also have a top-notch Scruggs picker in the band, but I really like the H.G.'s stuff where they use that rowdy C.H. style.

Thanks for the history on John Hardy. I had no idea that he had existed as a real-life hanged murderer.

I love this version (wish those guys would stop standing in front of the cute girl though).

As far as it being a true story goes...a lot, perhaps most, of those old murder ballads have their origins in true events. This sort of "crime reportage" songs seem to have been almost completely replaced by crime TV. A pity.

Sundy - Posted - 01/21/2011:  08:13:25


I've read that John Hardy himself wrote the words while sitting in jail and sang them from the gallows before being hanged. That might explain the "little man" description. Others might not call him a little man (being that he looks pretty big) but a repentant murder might refer to himself as a little man.

Chammer - Posted - 01/21/2011:  09:24:32


The Kingston Trio also did a rendition of "John Hardy."

Kitt - Posted - 01/21/2011:  17:49:00


quote:
(wish those guys would stop standing in front of the cute girl though).


Yeah. Kind of dumb to have a singing crowd pleasin' darlin' on the stage and then bury her half the time behind the scruffy hillbilly boyz.

banjoike - Posted - 01/21/2011:  21:01:35


Along with nice versions of the song by The Kingston Trio, and Doc Watson. Chris Coole and Arnie Naiman have a fantastic version of this song. One of my favorites.

John Gribble - Posted - 01/22/2011:  02:18:08


"I've been to the east, I've been to the west,
I've been this wide world 'round,
I've been to the river and I've been baptized
Now take me to my hanging ground, Lord, Lord,
Take me to my hanging ground."

Leadbelly's and the original Carter Family's versions are my favorites.

derwood400 - Posted - 01/22/2011:  03:31:48


quote:
Originally posted by championofnorthhuron

Here's my favorite version- youtube.com/watch?v=Otrqcw4_KRI . Hillbilly Gypsies. Kind of crosses over from the O.T. into bluegrass with the use of C.H. banjo... in a driving 'knock-the-barn-door-down' sort of way. They also have a top-notch Scruggs picker in the band, but I really like the H.G.'s stuff where they use that rowdy C.H. style.

Thanks for the history on John Hardy. I had no idea that he had existed as a real-life hanged murderer.



Yeah! That is really great. I have to agree with Marc's thought also. I have always loved pretty much any version of the song I have ever heard. Thanks for this one.

Kitt - Posted - 01/22/2011:  15:49:51


Since Arnie and Chris's John Hardy was mentioned I thought it would be nice to post an mp3 of them playing the tune. It's different or 'unique' from most versions. Chris plays banjo and sings, Arnie is playing guitar. The banjo is tuned: eEG#BC#

It's on Five Strings Attached With No Backing

merriweather.ca/albums.aspx?ID=9

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 01/22/2011:  18:35:14


quote:
Originally posted by Kitt

Since Arnie and Chris's John Hardy was mentioned I thought it would be nice to post an mp3 of them playing the tune. It's different or 'unique' from most versions. Chris plays banjo and sings, Arnie is playing guitar. The banjo is tuned: eEG#BC#

It's on Five Strings Attached With No Backing

merriweather.ca/albums.aspx?ID=9

Thanks for the link....that really IS good...REALLY good!

banjo_brad - Posted - 01/22/2011:  20:00:33


Yeah, this one's on my list, too.

I particularly like the version by Paul Brown on his "Red Clay Country" CD.

-B-

blanham - Posted - 01/23/2011:  03:52:51


The Library of Congress Banjo Collection contains a version played and sung by Austin Harmon. It has a minor key feel to it, and the melody is different from the more common version.

The banjo is tuned to eBEGB (gDGA#D tuned down 3 tones). The entire album is available at "Times Ain't Like They Used to Be".

timesaintliketheyusedtobe.blog...tion.html

cfs1 - Posted - 01/23/2011:  10:21:43


since we are sharing favorites, here is one of my favorite versions of this song. got it from the link blanham provided also. its from the john miller lp.



john hardy

   

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