“'31 Depression Blues”


Coal miner tells of hard times in the Depression. Miners go to work hungry, ragged and shoeless and are cheated of their pay. The Supreme Court rules the National Recovery Act unconstitutional. The singer urges listeners to join the U.M.W.

Long description

Singer, a coal miner, tells of hard times in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Miners go to work hungry, ragged and shoeless; when they go to the office for scrip, they're told they're behind and owe the company as the scale boss cheats them of their pay. The National Recovery Act offers hope, but the Supreme Court rules it unconstitutional. Roosevelt declares a bank holiday; John L. Lewis wins the miners' battle; the singer urges listeners to join the U.M.W., saying the Depression is now gone


Well, we have a conundrum here. I'd be prepared to suggest that the Sturgill song is based on the Three Stripped Gears' recording, but not having heard the latter, I refrain for now. If this turns out to be the case, I suppose it should get its own listing.

Sturgill's last verse incorporates lines from Merle Travis's "Sixteen Tons." - PJS

Same tune

  • Three Stripped Gears, "1931 Depression Blues" (OKeh 45553, 1931)

Cross references

  • cf. "Bright Sunny South" (tune)
  • cf. "Sixteen Tons" (lyrics)


  • New Lost City Ramblers, "'31 Depression Blues" (on NLCR15, NLCRCD2)
  • Ed Sturgill, "'31 Depression Blues" (Big Pine 677M-7157, n.d.)


Author: Credited to Ed Sturgill
Earliest date: 1968 (recording, New Lost City Ramblers)
Found in: US(Ap)