When Wallace Saunders, the black engine wiper at Canton, MS, composed the Ballad of Casey Jones, he did so as a tribute to the brave engineer.
The ballad grew from Saunder's simple yet genuine desire to honor the memory of his lost friend. Originally, Wallace Saunders only sang the ballad from memory, occasionally changing and adding verses. At the urging of some railroaders, Saunders wrote down his song. From that point, the ballad spread up and down the railroad and eventually drew the attention of the song writing team of Lawrence Seibert and Edward Newton. Seibert and Newton reworked the song and later copyrighted their version. The ballad spread quickly across the country and became a national rage, in large part due to its popularity in vaudeville. The song then made its way across the seas and became an internationally known tune. Since then, many versions of the ãBallad of Casey Jonesä have been produced. Though no two versions of the ballad are exactly alike, they all have their roots in a simple song created by a man in tribute to his hero. The following is one version of the Ballad of Casey Jones.
Come all you rounders, for I want you to hear
The story told of a brave engineer;
Casey Jones was the rounder's name
On a six-eight wheeler, boys, he won his fame
Caller called Jones about half-past four,
Jones kissed his wife at the station door
Climbed into the cab with his orders in his hand.
Says, 'This is my trip to the Promised Land.'
Through South Memphis yards on the fly,
He heard the fireman say, 'You've got a white-eye.'
All the switchmen knew by the engine's moans
That the man at the throttle was Casey Jones.
It had been raining for more than a week
The railroad track was like the bed of a creek.
They rated him down to a thirty mile gait,
Threw the south bound mail about eight hours late.
Fireman says, 'Casey, you're running too fast,
You run the block signal last station you passed.'
Jones says, 'Yes, I think we can make it through,
For she steams much better than I ever knew.'
Jones says, 'Fireman, don't you fret,
Keep knockin' at the firedoor, don't give up yet;
I'm goin' to run her till she leaves the rail
Or make it on time with the south bound mail.'
Around the curve and a-down the dump
Two locomotives were a-bound to bump
Fireman hollered, 'Jones, it's just ahead
We might jump and make it but we'll all be dead.'
Twas around the curve he saw a passenger train;
Something happened in Casey's brain;
Fireman jumped off, but Casey stayed on.
He's a good engineer but he dead and gone.
Poor Casey was always all right
He stuck to his post both day and night
They loved to hear the whistle of old Number Three
As he came into Memphis on the old I.C.
Headaches and heartaches and all kinds of pain
Are not apart from a railroad train;
Tales that are earnest, noble and grand
Belong to the life of a railroad man.
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