“Drivin' Steel”


"If I could drive steel like John Henry, I'd go home, baby, I'd go home." Of the troubles of a steel driver: "This old hammer killed John Henry/Bill Dooley, Can't kill me...." "I'm goin' home and tell Little Annie, No mo' trials, baby, no mo' trials."


I suspect this piece is a variant of "Swannanoah Tunnel," but the tunes are slightly different and I have yet to find common verses, except for the floater about the hammer that killed John Henry, so for the moment I am keeping them separate. - RBW

Cross references

  • cf. "Swannanoah Tunnel" (theme, lyrics)
  • cf. "Take This Hammer" (theme, lyrics)


  1. Sandburg, p. 150, "Drivin' Steel" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Roud #790
  3. BI, San150


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1927 (Sandburg)
Keywords: work railroading
Found in: US(Ap)