24 “Kassie Jones” by Furry Lewis


June 11, 2009 by gadaya

Furry Lewis’s World

Lewis_FurrywebWalter “Furry” Lewis, born in Greenwood, Mississippi in 1893 was a superb country blues singer and a versatile guitar player with a relaxed and sponatenous style. He spent most of his life in the city of Memphis, Tennessee, which was a rich musical center for african-americans in the first decades of the 20th century. He learned his skills on the road with medecine shows, on mississippi riverboats, streets and clubs, playing music with W.C Handy’s orchestra, but settled down in Memphis after loosing one leg as he was hopping a train. On Beale street he would meet and play with many fine Memphis musicians like Gus Cannon,members of the Memphis Jug Band, Jim Jackson etc…He recorded more than 20 sides between 1927 and 1929 but as the Depression put a stop to record sales, he returned to work as a street sweeper around Beale Street. Like Mississippi John Hurt, he had a “second career” in the sixties, thanks to the “Anthology” and the Folk/Blues revival. It was Samuel Charters, the great music researcher and writer, that found him and record him first a the end of the Fifties.When Charters first met with Furry, he hadn’t play music for more than 20 years and dind’t even own a guitar. But when the “Blues” is in you, it stays forever and when he returned to play, his natural talent for playing and singing the Blues was unchanged, maybe he was a little bit slower on the guitar but  his music gained in emotion and power with age. He would fingerpick or play with a bottleneck, depending on his mood and the song, the music flowing from him, in a natural and almost improvisationnal way.He became a prominent figure on the Blues and Folk festivals, made numerous new recordings,opened shows for the Rolling Stones and other rock stars and was the only country blues singer of his generation gaining popular attention, without changing his repertoire, deeply rooted in the african-american tradition of rags and blues. He died in 1981, at the age of 88.

-For more details on his biography, go here or here

-For a complete discography, go here

-To read a fine article (in pdf format) Playboy magazine made on Furry in 1970, click here

-Here are the 25 sides he recorded at the end of the 1920’s for the Vocalion and Victor record companies. Be sure to check the other recordings Furry made in the 60’s and 70’s for various labels. (Many are available on cd format)

01 – Everybody`s blues
Furry Lewis02 – Mr. Furry`s blues
02 – Mr. Furry`s blues
03 – Sweet papa moan
04 – Rock Island blues
05 – Jelly roll
06 – Billy Lyons and Stack O`Lee
07 – Good looking girl blues
08 – Why don`t you come home blues?
09 – Falling down blues
10 – Big chief blues
11 – Mean old bedbug blues
12 – Furry`s blues
13 – I will turn your money green (tk. 1)
14 – I will turn your money green (tk. 2)
15 – Mistreatin` mama
16 – Dry land blues
17 – Cannon ball blues
18 – Kassie Jones – part 1
19 – Kassie Jones – part 2
20 – Judge Harsh blues (tk. 1)
21 – Judge Harsh blues (tk. 2)
22 – John Henry (The steel driving man) -1
23 – John Henry (The steel driving man) -2
24 – Black gypsy blues
25 – Creeper`s blues



-Let’s see the man in action with this beautiful footage clips  found on Youtube:

First, here’s Furry doing his version of “Kassie Jones”

And let’s end with this masterpiece performance of “When I lay my burden down”. See how he’s relaxed with the guitar and make his wonderful tricks, reminescences maybe of the medecine shows of his youth


The Casey Jones Variations

“FATAL WRECK – Engineer Casey Jones, of This City, Killed Near Canton, Miss. – DENSE FOG THE DIRECT CAUSE – Of a Rear End Collision on the Illinois Central. – Fireman and Messenger Injured – Passenger Train Crashed Into a Local Freight Partly on the Siding-Several Cars Demolished.” Jackson, Tennessee Sun newspaper, april 30, 1900.

Soon after the fatal train collision that killed engineer John Luther Jones (he was nicknamed “Casey” because he was from the town of “Cayce”, Kentucky) on april 30, 1900, heroic tales of his death started to be told across the South. When he was living, Jones already had a growing reputation among railroad folks for his trademark whistle (every engineer at this time could make his own whistle) and for his aptitude at being always on time. After his death, he became a real heroic figure and the song about him helped to carry his memory over the years.Like “Frankie and Albert” , the story of the Casey Jones ballad goes back and forth between the folk and popular music worlds. It originally started with Wallace Saunders, a black engine wiper who worked on a railroad shop in Canton. Saunders was known for his ability to make songs about people and singing or whistling them as he was working. The song he made up about Casey Jones, derived from an older african-american “Blues ballad” called “Jimmy Jones”. It had a very catchy tune and people along the railroad line started to sing it. Illinois Central Engineer William Leighton loved the song so much that he told about it to his two brothers Frank and Bert, who were vaudeville performers. The Leighton brothers re-arranged the song with a chorus they added and sang it in theatres around the country. Finally two other vaudeville performers Lawrence Seibert, singer and Eddie Newton, composer, took the credit for the song and published it in 1909 under the title “Casey Jones , the brave engineer”. From then it became a very popular piece and althought it described a tragedy, the song had a humorous feel and a catchy melody that pleased everyone. Recordings were made of the “vaudeville” Casey Jones” and this version enterred as well the oral folk tradition where it could be mixed with older songs. Many parodies and other songs were also made, using the “Casey Jones” melody.

-To read the whole story of John Luther “Casey” Jones, go to this Wikipedia page or here and also here

-For a complete study of the Casey Jones ballad i recommend once again the wonderful book by Norm Cohen called  “The Long Steel rail”. Cohen discuss the origins of the song and study the different lyrics of each version.

-Lyrics for the Furry Lewis’s version, as well as the Mississippi John Hurt’s version can be found on this page

-I compiled 50 different versions of “Casey Jones”, from the hundreds that were recorded since 1912. Like the John Henry, Frankie or Stagolee ballads, the song found his place in the major genres of americana music:Pop, Folk, Blues, Jazz, Cajun (wonderful version by The Balfa Brothers) and i tried to represent the best versions in each one.(I didn’t include The Grateful Dead’s rock version because it’s a complete rewriting, both words and melody, of the song) I included also parodies (The Union Scab) and songs that are related to the Casey Jones ballad (Milwaukee Blues, Jay Gould’s Daughter, On the road again, Ben Dewberry’s final run, Freight train Boogie, J.C Holmes Blues).

(The song title is always “Casey Jones” unless where indicated)


Casey Jones Furry Lewis Shake ‘Em On Down
Casey Jones (Edison Cylinder, 1912) Billy Murray Radio & Recording Rarities, Volume 21
Harmonica Medley: Casey Jones / Old Sow Jumped over the Fenc Jule Garrish Between the Sound and the Sea: Music of the North Carolina O
Southern Casey Jones Bob Howard Complete Jazz Series 1937 – 1947
Casey Jones (The Union Scab) Earl Robinson Earl Robinson Sings
Casey Jones The Golden Gate Quartet Gospel Masters: Ballin’ the Jack
Casey Jones Art Sulger 12String
Casey Jones Ken Colyer’s Skiffle Group Vintage Ken Colyer – Vol. 2
Casey Jones Carl Sandburg The Great Carl Sandburg:  Songs of America
Casey Jones Joe Glazer Union Train
Kassie Jones Alice Stuart All the Good Times
Casey Jones Elizabeth Cotten Elizabeth Cotten, Volume 3: When I’m Gone
Casey Jones Gabriel Brown, John & Rochelle French Field Recordings Vol. 7: Florida (1935-1936)
Casey Jones The Skillet-Lickers The Skillet-Lickers Vol. 1 (1926-1927)
Casey Jones Barrel Fingers Barry and The Crazy Guy, Earl Krause Beer Barrel Piano
Casey Jones Wingy Manone Berry Story
Kassie Jones K.C. Douglas K.C. Douglas: A Dead Beat Guitar and the Mississippi Blues
Casey Jones Francis H. Abbot Folk Songs Of America:The Robert Winslow Gordon Collection 1922-1932
K.C. Jones (On The Road Again) North Mississippi Allstars Shake Hands With Shorty
Casey Jones (The Union Scab) Pete Seeger American Industrial Ballads
Casey Jones Jerry Garcia And David Grisman Shady Grove
Casey Jones Gene Pitney and The New Castle Trio Pop Masters: Victory
Casey Jones Mississippi John Hurt The Library Of Congress Recordings Vol. 2 Disc. 1
Casey Jones (The Union Scab) Harry “Haywire Mac” McClintock Haywire Mac
Casey Jones Sidney Bechet Petit Fleur
  1. Furry Lewis, from “Shake ‘Em On Down”
  2. (Edison Cylinder, 1912) Billy Murray, from “Radio & Recording Rarities, Volume 21”
  3. Harmonica Medley: Casey Jones / Old Sow Jumped over the Fence, Jule Garrish, from “Between the Sound and the Sea”
  4. Southern Casey Jones, Bob Howard, from “Complete Jazz Series 1937 – 1947”
  5. Casey Jones (The Union Scab),Earl Robinson, from “Earl Robinson Sings”
  6. The Golden Gate Quartet, from “Gospel Masters: Ballin’ the Jack”WTCasey_2_01
  7. Art Sulger, from “12String”
  8. Ken Colyer’s Skiffle Group, from “Vintage Ken Colyer – Vol. 2”
  9. Carl Sandburg, from “The Great Carl Sandburg:  Songs of America”
  10. Joe Glazer, from “Union Train”
  11. Kassie Jones, Alice Stuart, from “All the Good Times”
  12. Elizabeth Cotten, from “Elizabeth Cotten, Volume 3: When I’m Gone”
  13. Gabriel Brown, John & Rochelle French, from “Field Recordings Vol. 7: Florida (1935-1936)”
  14. The Skillet-Lickers, from “The Skillet-Lickers Vol. 1 (1926-1927)”
  15. Barrel Fingers Barry and The Crazy Guy, Earl Krause, from “Beer Barrel Piano”
  16. Wingy Manone, from “Chu Berry Story”
  17. Kassie Jones, K.C. Douglas, from “K.C. Douglas: A Dead Beat Guitar and the Mississippi Blues”
  18. Francis H. Abbot, from “Folk Songs Of America:The Robert Winslow Gordon Collection 1922-1932”
  19. K.C. Jones (On The Road Again), North Mississippi Allstars, from “Shake Hands With Shorty”
  20. Casey Jones (The Union Scab), Pete Seeger, from “American Industrial Ballads”
  21. Jerry Garcia And David Grisman, from “Shady Grove”
  22. Gene Pitney and The New Castle Trio, from “Pop Masters: Victory”
  23. Mississippi John Hurt, from “The Library Of Congress Recordings Vol. 2 ”
  24. Casey Jones (The Union Scab), Harry “Haywire Mac” McClintock, from “Haywire Mac”
  25. Sidney Bechet, from “Petit Fleur”

  1. Knocking Down Casey Jones ,Wilmer Watts and His Lonely Eagles, from “Times ain’t like they used to be vol.1”
  2. The Balfa Brothers, from “J’ai vu le Loup, le Renard et la Belette”
  3. Dave Van Ronk, from “Somebody Else, Not Me”
  4. Isaac “Uncle Boo” Curry, from “Virginia Traditions: Non Blues Secular Black Music”
  5. Spider John Koerner, from “Star Geezer”
  6. Mance Lipscomb, from “Trouble In Mind”
  7. Chris Smither, from “Leave the Lights On”
  8. Uncle Charlie Osborne, from “The June Appal Recordings”
  9. Spike Jones and His City Slickers, from “The Essential Spike Jones and His City Slickers, Vol 3”a9145fe6-7020-407e-a421-44a0a1392e88
  10. Elizabeth LaPrelle, from “Lizard In the Spring”
  11. Casey Jones Blues, Blanche Calloway and Her Joy Boys, from “Classic Jazz – The World’s Greatest Jazz Collection 1917-1932: Vol. 71”
  12. The Ghost Of Casey Jones, Rod Morris, from “Country Train Classics”
  13. Someday Baby, from “Backbone Move”
  14. Southern Casey Jones, Jesse James, from “Harry Smith’s Anthology Of American Folk Music, Vol. 4”
  15. Fiddlin’ John Carson, from “Vol. 1 (1923-1924) – Complete Recorded Works In Chronological Order”
  16. Walter McNew, from the Digital Library of Appalachia
  17. John Lozier, from the Digital Library of Appalachia
  18. Herb Richardson, from the Digital Library of Appalachia
  19. Taking Casey Jones, Mississippi John Hurt, from “The Library Of Congress Recordings Vol. 1 Disc. 1”
  20. On The Road Again, Memphis Jug Band, from “Times Ain’t Like They Used To Be – Volume 1”
  21. Jay Gould’s Daughter,Pete Seeger, from “American Favorite Ballads, Vol. 5”
  22. Milwaukee Blues, Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers, from JSP Box set
  23. Freight Train Boogie ,Doc and Merle Watson, from “Elementary Doctor Watson”
  24. Ben Dewberry’s Final Run, Jimmie Rodgers, from “Recordings 1927 – 1933”
  25. J.C. Holmes Blues,Bessie Smith, from “Bessie Smith 1924-1925”




7 thoughts on “24 “Kassie Jones” by Furry Lewis

  1. Noel Bush says:

    Hey, I am *loving* this blog of yours. Really wonderful. I am amazed at what you’ve pulled together.

    Thought you might like my “Casey Jones” too:



    • gadaya says:

      I love your version,well done… I like your repertoire also, i have to take the time to listen more of your work…

  2. no-ah says:

    thanks for the wonderful music

  3. Seb says:

    Thank you for this lovely music. I love to read your reviews and anecdotes on the history surrounding the music too.

  4. […] 24 “Kassie Jones” by Furry Lewis « THE OLD, WEIRD AMERICAThe Casey Jones Variations … “FATAL WRECK – Engineer Casey Jones, of This City, Killed Near Canton, Miss. – DENSE FOG THE DIRECT CAUSE – Of a Rear End Collision on the Illinois Central. … -To read the whole story of John Luther “Casey” Jones, go to this Wikipedia page or here and also here… […]

  5. Lutzklose says:

    Part 1 of the variations are off line. could you please reup these collection.

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