Skip Navigation

Sign In or Register


John Henry: The Steel Drivin’ Man

John Henry in Song


No doubt the large family of songs about John Henry have been the most important conduit of his story. The earliest mentions of John Henry occurred in work songs sung by coal miners and railroad workers in the late 19th century. In 1911 folklorist Josiah Combs obtained a complete version of the song in eastern Kentucky that specifically mentioned the Big Bend Tunnel on the C&O Railroad. Folklorists at the Library of Congress have called it the most researched folk song in the United States and possibly the world. Fiddlin’ John Carson (pictured) performed one of the earliest known recordings of a John Henry song in 1924. There are hundreds of recordings in every conceivable musical genre.

Click the image to hear Fiddlin’ John Carson play John Henry.

Related Articles

Other Exhibits

West Virginia Humanities Council | 1310 Kanawha Blvd E | Charleston, WV 25301 Ph. 304-346-8500 | © 2024 All Rights Reserved

About e-WV | Our Sponsors | Help & Support | Contact Us The essential guide to the Mountain State can be yours today! Click here to order.