John Hardy (4:17)

Cover of The Best of Leadbelly

From The Best of Leadbelly and 69 other releases

John Hardy is a traditional American folk song based on the life of a railroad worker in West Virginia. The historical John Hardy killed a man during a craps game, was found guilty of murder in the first degree, and was hanged on January 19, 1894. The song has been performed by Roscoe Holcomb, Leadbelly (Huddie William Ledbetter), the Carter Family, Tommy Jarrell, Bob Dylan, Silver Apples, Uncle Tupelo, The Gun Club, George Thorogood, Pete Seeger , Woody Guthrie (who called the song “John Harty”), Jerry Reed, Tony Rice, Bill Frisell (both as a solo artist and with Petra Haden), Chris Smither, Martin Simpson, Burl Ives, banjo player Dock Boggs, and Austin Singer/Songwriter Michael Fracasso among others.

The first known recording is by Eva Davis on Columbia Records in 1924. As with other folk songs, lyrics change from version to version.

Early folk historians confused the ballads of John Hardy and John Henry. This lead to a mixing of stories related to the outlaw and the steel driver. Investigation into the John Henry myth helped separate these figures.


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  • RAY7654321

    The King and absolute Master of the Blues. Pink Anderson and Huddie Ledbetter rule this genre.

    1 Aug 1:26am Reply
  • littlelouie1

    This song is about the movie The Grapes of Wrath which Woody Guthrie wrote this song & the sound track for the movie. Great movie which everyone should see. Woody Guthrie wrote all the songs in one night with one jug of wine. True story.

    1 Jul 9:11am Reply
  • analogmikke

    Hey RAYMOND7654321 - I would like to drink a beer wirh you - because - your musik is verry , verry good !!!!!

    21 Aug 2013 Reply
  • QuarkZangsun

    love the squeez box ... goes up to 11 for me

    5 Dec 2011 Reply
  • hanstone

    "4 Points from 10"? Is that 6 or 4? I'm confused. I give it an 11.

    2 Sep 2011 Reply
  • andyvonmusik

    4 Points from 10

    22 Jul 2011 Reply
  • hankjay

    Thought the tune sounded familar....check out 'Tom Joad' by Woody Guthrie

    5 Jan 2011 Reply
  • glucosamine

    This is cool. Very nautical.

    18 Oct 2010 Reply
  • Nickc55

    Try Clifton Chenier - Bon Ton Roulet is definitely bluesy

    4 Jun 2010 Reply
  • Desidirius

    I don't know if I've ever heard accordion blues before ... kinda weird ... zydeco-y?

    30 Apr 2010 Reply
  • davidcomp55

    Kind of amazing that you can hear a recording of someone born in 1888.

    25 Apr 2010 Reply
  • muzakdecharles

    leadbelly at his best

    20 Jan 2010 Reply
  • xavier-the-bear

    Aha, 'No good, too old'. Music criticism at its best.

    10 Dec 2009 Reply
  • RichardDonne

    I think this might be my favourite Leadbelly... It'll probably change though!!

    4 Dec 2009 Reply
  • taigataiga

    I love this. "No good. Too old." WTF?????!

    10 Apr 2009 Reply
  • Oppressotron

    Wow, its not the squeez-box version anymore. Now we get the 12 string version; which as far as I'm concerned is the better of the two.

    1 Apr 2009 Reply
  • RandomlyMixt

    Organblues! Such a different instrument from the six-string. Cool.

    10 Mar 2009 Reply


    4 Feb 2009 Reply
  • hhdgflarsen

    no good - to old

    30 Jan 2009 Reply
  • MaunderandJape

    Wierd squeez-box version!? Wadaya know

    30 Jan 2009 Reply
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