“Long John (Long Gone)”


"It's-a Long John, He's long gone, Like a turkey through the corn, With his long clothes on, He's gone, gone." Long John escapes from prison, and uses sundry tricks to avoid capture. He intends to keep moving

Supplemental text

Long John (Long Gone)
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

Lost John

As recorded by Burnett & Rutherford, Columbia 15122-D,
November 6, 1926. Transcribed by Robert Waltz; the recording
is very difficult to understand (a combination of scratchiness
and odd intonation); the questionable lines are marked [?].

Funniest thing you ever seen
Was Lost John going through Bowling Green
No hat on his head, no shoes on his feet
Begging everyone in his stocking feet. [?]
   He's long gone, long gone.

Lost John sitting on the railroad track,
Waiting for a freight train to come back.
Freight train come, never made no stop,
You ought to seen old Long John jump on top [?]
   He's long gone, long gone.

Had an old dog, his name was Will,
He run Lost John to the top of the hill,
They ain't caught Lost John, never will
   He's long gone, long gone.

John ran away from the prison home, [?]
He outrun the message on the telephone
'Long come a policeman, skipping through the mine, [?]
Trying for to catch him with a hook and line. [?]
  Long gone, long gone


The Lomaxes believe this to be based on the story (coming from W. C. Handy's book "Blues"; see page 215 in Handy/Silverman) of one Long John Green, who was known for his ability to move.

When the prison where Green was staying acquired a pack of bloodhounds, they allegedly decided to conduct a test by giving him a head start and then sending the hounds after him. But Green was too fast (he also managed to trick the hounds by catching one in a trap), and escaped them.

I have my doubts, though -- neither the Courlander text nor the Burnett & Rutherford recording shows the prison plot details found in the Lomax texts. I can't help but wonder if this might not be another Lomax retouch job, influenced perhaps by Handy's blues piece. - RBW

It's hard to tell pending full scrutiny of the field recordings, but it looks like the Lomaxes didn't mess with them as much as has been suggested. Some of the field recordings, at any rate, are as muddled as the Lomaxes' published versions. - PJS

Cross references


  • Allen Brothers, "Long Gone from Bowling Green" (Vocalion 02817, 1934)
  • Richard Brooks & Riley Puckett, "Long Gone" (Brunswick 273, 1928)
  • [Richard] Burnett & [Leonard] Rutherford, "Lost John" (Columbia 15122-D, 1927; rec. 1926; on BurnRuth01, KMM)
  • Ted Daffan's Texans, "Long John" (Columbia 20358, c. 1947; Columbia 37823, 1947; rec.1942)
  • Cousin Emmy [Cynthia May Carver], "Lost John" (Decca 24216, 1947)
  • Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston & Sonny Terry, "Lost John" (on Struggle2)
  • Sam Hinton, "Long John" (ABC-Eagle ABC-230, 1950)
  • J. H. Howell's Carolina Hillbillies, "Lost John" (Bluebird B-7162, 1937)
  • Charlie Jackson, "Long Gone Lost John" (Paramount 12602, 1928; Broadway 5076 [as Charlie Carter], c. 1930)
  • Ray Logan, "Lost John Blues" (Paramount 12310, 1925)
  • Bascom Lamar Lunsford, "Lost John Dean" (Brunswick 227/Vocalion 5246, 1928; on Times1 [as Bascom Lamar Lundsford])
  • Mose "Clear Rock" Platt, "Long John" (AFS 2644 A2, 1939)
  • Prison farm work group "Lost John" (on NPCWork, DownHome)
  • Oliver Sims, "Lost John" (Columbia 15103-D, 1926)
  • Southern Moonlight Entertainers [possibly pseud. for the Stripling Bros.] "Lost John" (Vocalion 5372/Vocalion 5460, c. 1930; rec. 1929)
  • Stripling Bros. "Lost John" (Vocalion 5441, c. 1930; rec. 1929)
  • Vernon Sutphin & J. C. Sutphin, "Lost John" (on Stonemans01)
  • Sonny Terry, "Lost John" [instrumental with whooping] (AFS, 1938; on LCTreas); "Lost John" (on Terry01, DownHome)
  • Texas state farm prisoners, "Lost John" (on NPCWork)
  • Merle Travis, "Lost John Boogie" (Capitol 1737, c. 1951)
  • Henry Whitter, "Lost John" (OKeh 40391, 1925)
  • Unknown artists, "Long Gone" (AFS CYL-7-2, 1933)


  1. Lomax-FSNA 287, "Long John" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Lomax-ABFS, pp. 75-79, "Long Gone" (1 extended text, 1 tune)
  3. Courlander-NFM, pp. 102-103, "(Lost John)" (1 text); p. 261, "Long John" (1 tune, partial text)
  4. Scarborough-NegroFS, p. 268, "Long Gone" (1 text, a reproduction of a printed version from 1920)
  5. Handy/Silverman-Blues, pp. 200-202, "Long Gone" (1 text, 1 tune, heavily adapted)
  6. Silber-FSWB, p. 68, "Long John" (1 text)
  7. ST LoF287 (Full)
  8. Roud #11520
  9. BI, LoF287


Alternate titles: “Lost John”; “Long Gone from Kentucky”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1920 (print reproduced by Scarborough)
Found in: US