Ballad Of Casey Jones

Lyrics: Traditional (Mississippi John Hurt)
Music: Traditional (Mississippi John Hurt)

Not to be confused with the Hunter/Garcia song "Casey Jones." This is a traditional song, with Jerry playing the version recorded by Mississippi John Hurt.

The Dead played this song in some acoustic sets in 1970, and Jerry played it with the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band as well as with John Kahn and David Grisman. This is the version Jerry played with the Dead and the JGAB:

Casey Jones was an old engineer (note 1)
Called for his fireman, tonight he will fear
All I need is my water and coal
Look out the window, see my driving wheel roll

One Sunday morning, in the driving rain
Around the bend came a passenger train
In the cabin stood Casey Jones
Noble engineer but he's dead and gone (note 2)

Mrs Casey when she heard the news
Sitting on her bedside, she was lacing up her shoes
Children, children now hold your breath (note 3)
You will draw a pension at your Papa's death

Children, children now get your hat
Tell me Mama what do you mean by that?
Get your hat, put it on your head
Go down town, see your daddy is dead (note 4)

Casey said before he died
Fix the blinds so that the bums can't ride (note 5)
If they ride, let them ride the rods
Put their trust in the hand of God

Casey said just before he died
Two more roads that I want to ride
People said, what roads can they be?
Old Colorado and the Santa Fe
(1) Jerry omitted this verse in the version recorded on "Shady Grove" with David Grisman
(2) the lyrics with Shady Grove have this as "mobile engineer ..." but I'm sure that's a mistake
(3) Jerry sometimes sang "... now get your breath" or "... catch your breath
(4) Jerry sometimes sang "... see your father's dead" or "... see your papa's dead"
(5) the lyrics with Shady Grove have "... so the bums can ride", but it surely should be "... can't ride." For more on this see below

Grateful Dead Recordings
     15 May 1970 Road Trips Vol 3 No 3 (late show)
Jerry Garcia Recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
     28 Oct 1987 On Broadway: Act One Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band
     31 Oct 1987 Pure Jerry 2: Lunt-Fontanne Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band
      4 Dec 1987 Almost Acoustic Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band
      9 Feb 1991 Shady Grove Garcia/Grisman
Other Recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
     2011 The Wheel: A Musical Celebration of Jerry Garcia Jesse McReynolds, David Nelson et al

David Dodd's Annotated Lyrics Site has more on the background to the (true) story of Casey Jones. Another good source is Robert Mitchell's page on this song.

Jerry follows the Mississippi John Hurt version pretty closely - the original can readily be found on CD reissues of his recordings.

Furry Lewis recorded a version under the title "Kassie Jones" in 1928, a few years before Mississippi John Hurt's version. Lewis's is much longer, and contains a lot of verses that don't relate to Casey Jones: Hurt seems to have stripped down Lewis's version, keeping much the same tune and feel.
I woke up this mornin', four o'clock
Mister Casey told his fireman, get his boiler hot
Put on your water, put on your coal
Put your head out of the window, see my drivers roll
See my driver roll
Put your head out of the window, see my driver roll

Lord, some people say that Mister Casey couldn't run
Let me just tell you what Mister Casey has done
He left Memphis, it was quarter to nine
Got to Newport News, it was dinnertime
It was dinnertime
Got to Newport News, it was dinnertime

I've sold my gin, I've sold it straight
Police run me to my woman's gate
She comes to the door, she nod her head
She made me welcome to the foldin' bed
To the foldin' bed
Made me welcome to the foldin' bed

Lord, the people said to Casey "You're runnin' over time"
"You'll have another loser with the one-o-nine"
Casey said, "This ain't in mind
I'll run it in close just to make my time"
Said to all the passengers, "Better keep yourself hid
Naturally gonna shake it like Chainey did"
Like Chainey did
Naturally gonna shake it like Chainey did

Mister Casey run his engine within a mile of the place
Number four stared him in the face
The depot told Casey "Well, you must leave town"
"Believe to my soul I'm Alabama bound"
"Alabama bound"
"Believe to my soul I'm Alabama bound"

Missus Casey said she dreamt a dream
The night she bought her sewin' machine
The needle got broke, she could not sew
She loved Mister Casey, 'cause she told me so
Told me so
Loved Mister Casey, 'cause she told me so

There was a woman name Miss Alice Fry
Said, "I'm gonna ride with Mister Casey 'fore I die"
I ain't good looking but I take my time
A rambling woman with a rambling mind
Got a rambling mind

Casey looked at his water, water was low
Looked at his watch, his watch was slow

On the road again
Natural born Eastman on the road again

Lord, there's people tell by the throttle moan
The man at the fire's Mister Casey Jones
Mister Casey Jones

Mister Casey said, before he died
One more road that he wants to ride
People tells Casey, "Which road is he?"
"The Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe
Santa Fe"

This mornin' I heard someone was dyin'
Missus Casey's children on the doorstep cryin'
Mama, mama, I can't keep from cryin'
Papa got killed on the Southern line
On the Southern line
Papa got killed on the Southern line

"Mama, mama, how can it be
Killed my father and you weren't the first to grieve?"
"Children, children want you to hold your breath
Draw another pension from your father's death
From your father's death"

On the road again
I'm a natural born Eastman on the road again

Tuesday mornin', it looked like rain
Around the curve came a passenger train
Under the boiler lay Mister Casey Jones
Good old engineer, but he's dead and gone
Dead and gone

On the road again
I'm a natural born Eastman on the road again

I left Memphis to spread the news
Memphis women don't wear no shoes
Had it written in the back of my shirt
Natural born Eastmen don't have to work
Don't have to work
I'm a natural born Eastman, don't have to work
More on 'blinds' and 'rods'
The description below of "blinds" and "rods" comes from Alan White. It makes it clear that "blinds" were the desirable place for a hobo to travel, whereas the "rods" were a dangerous place. So a conductor who did not want hoboes on his train would fix the blinds so they couldn't ride there, and force them to ride on the rods instead.
Once he had climbed on board, in itself a very dangerous task, a hobo would try and make his way to the 'blinds' if he could. These were the baggage cars next to the tender, which were 'blind' having no end door so the conductor or railroad police could not walk through the train to the first vehicle, behind the locomotive. Hence it was a relatively comfortable safe haven. More dangerous, but out of sight and unreachable by the railroad workers, was to perch on the brake rods that ran beneath the freight cars. Risking his life he might try to worm his way across these, finding a means of balancing precariously there, or he might carry a small board to throw across the rods and then lie on it in the narrow gap between them and the underneath of the rail car.

Further Information
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography
For online chords and TAB see
For sheet music, see:
          Shady Grove (guitar TAB)


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