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The Ballad of Casey Jones

Traditional American Folk Song

"The Ballad of Casey Jones" is a traditional song about railroad engineer Casey Jones and his death at the controls of the train he was driving. It tells of how Jones and his fireman Sim Webb raced their locomotive to make up for lost time, but discovered another train ahead of them on the line, and how Jones remained on board to try to stop the train as Webb jumped to safety. It is song number 3247 in the Roud Folk Song Index.

The song helped preserve the memory of Jones' feat down through the years in its 40 plus versions and enhanced Casey’s legendary status to the extent that he has even become something of a mythological figure like Pecos Bill or Paul Bunyan to the uninformed. Books and pulp magazines about the railroad and its heroes helped to perpetuate his memory as well.

Soon after Casey’s death, the song was first sung by engine wiper and friend of Casey’s named Wallace Saunders to the tune of a popular song of the time known as "Jimmie Jones."[1] He was known to sing and whistle as he went about his work cleaning the steam engines. In the words of Casey’s wife: "Wallace's admiration of Casey was little short of idolatry. He used to brag mightily about Mr. Jones even when Casey was only a freight engineer." But Saunders never had his original version copyrighted, and thus there is no way of knowing precisely what words he sang.

As railroaders stopped in Canton, Mississippi, they would pick up the song and pass it along. Soon it was a hit up and down the I.C. line. But it was up to others with a profit motive to take it and rework it for a nationwide audience. Illinois Central Engineer William Leighton appreciated the song's potential enough to tell his brothers Frank Leighton and Bert Leighton, who were vaudeville performers, about it. They took it and sang it in theaters around the country with a chorus they added. But apparently even they neglected to get it copyrighted.

Reportedly, Saunders received a bottle of gin for the use of the song. Nothing more was heard from him after this time and he passed into history as the man who helped to make Casey Jones an integral part of American folklore.

Finally, with vaudeville performers T. Lawrence Seibert credited with the lyrics and Eddie Newton with the music, it was published and offered for sale in 1909 with the title "Casey Jones, The Brave Engineer". As their intent was to entertain, it was hailed on the cover of the sheet music as the "Greatest Comedy Hit In Years" and "The Only Comedy Railroad Song." This version was the one that was strenuously objected to by Casey's wife for making her appear to have been unfaithful to Casey. The offending lines read: "Mrs. Jones sat on her bed a sighing/Just received a message that Casey was dying/ Said go to bed children and hush your crying/Cause you got another papa on the Salt Lake line." This is similar to a line in the song "Duncan and Brady". She spent her remaining years refuting those lines, once saying "That devil hasn't shown up in 58 years!"

By World War I, dozens of versions had been published and millions of copies were sold, securing the memory of a new American folk hero. Poet Carl Sandburg called the song "Casey Jones, the Brave Engineer" the "greatest ballad ever written". Casey Jones figures in many railroad songs, such as "Freight Train Boogie", by the Delmore Brothers.


Songbooks, Arrangements and/or Media

Displaying 1-2 of 2 items.


Jill Gallina : For The Boys - A Collection of Songs for Boys' Voices : 2-Part : 01 Songbook : 654979082156  : 00-SVBM04001

Jill Gallina : For The Boys - A Collection of Songs for Boys' Voices

This collection of songs is designed to give you a special selection of repertoire your boys will want to sing. The arrangements are creative and singable and are super appealing. It includes lesson materials to make this more than just a performance collection.

Songlist: The Boatman Dance, Buffalo Gals, The Ballad of Casey Jones, The Drunken Sailor, The Erie Canal, Funiculi, Funicula, John Henry, Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning, Paddy Works on the Railway, Sweet Betsy from Pike, Strategies for Teaching

More details
Voicing: 2-Part | 7291b | Songbook | $8.95


Various Composers : Ultimate Singalong! 100 Requests : Unison : 01 Songbook : 073999614183 : 0881881341 : 00361418

Various Composers : Ultimate Singalong! 100 Requests

This book provides hours of singalong fun around the piano!

Songlist: Put Your Hand In The Hand, Alexander's Ragtime Band, America, The Beautiful, Anniversary Song, The Anniversary Waltz, Any Time, Are You Lonesome Tonight?, Auld Lang Syne, Ballin' The Jack, The Bare Necessities, Beer Barrel Polka (Roll Out The Barrel), The Best Things In Life Are Free, A Bicycle Built For Two (Daisy Bell), Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home, The Brady Bunch, Button Up Your Overcoat, By The Beautiful Sea, Bye Bye Blues, California, Here I Come, The Candy Man, Carolina Moon, The Ballad of Casey Jones, Charley, My Boy, Collegiate, Cruising Down The River, Crying In The Chapel, Daddy's Little Girl, Dinah, Easter Parade, Edelweiss, and more

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Voicing: Unison | 5539b | Songbook | $18.95


Individual Folios

Displaying 1-2 of 2 items.


The Ballad of Casey Jones : 2-Part : Russell Robinson : Songbook : 15-2463H : 9781429102414

Russell Robinson : The Ballad of Casey Jones

Get on board with train conductor Casey Jones and his classic story in this energetic setting of the American folk song, ideal for young and developing choirs. Each part has ample opportunity to sing the melody and Part II's vocal ostinatos help build confidence for those groups just beginning part-singing.

Arranger: Russell Robinson | Country: American Folk

More details
Voicing: 2-Part | Sheet Music | $2.10 | With Piano |
(Minimum order 4 copies)
| 15-2463H


The Ballad of Casey Jones : 2-Part : Jill Gallina : Sheet Music : 35028207 : 884088625764 : 1458419738

Jill Gallina : The Ballad of Casey Jones

This traditional American folk song about railroad engineer Casey Jones includes new music and original words that tell of the fabled story. Rhythmic accompaniment, vocal speech, and the familiar melody of this favorite tune combine to create a fun selection for your young singers. Available: 2-Part; StudioTrax CD.

Arranger: Jill Gallina

More details
Voicing: 2-Part | Sheet Music | $1.95 | With Piano |
(Minimum order 4 copies)
| 35028207 | Showtrax CD Available

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