Johnny Cash’s Version of “Sixteen Tons”

The Man in Black, Johnny Cash, covered Tennessee Ernie Ford‘s most famous song “Sixteen Tons.” Cash changed the original style of the song. He adapted “Sixteen Tons” into a country version. It was then included on his album Johnny Cash Is Coming to Town.

Check out his version here:

The Original Version

As it was said earlier, this is considered to be Ford’s most famous song. He released his version in 1955, and it reached the top of the country chart. 

tennessee ernie ford johnny cash sixteen tons

Photo Credit: Tennessee Ernie Ford/ magazine.uc.edu

Before knowing who the other artists are aside from Cash, let’s take a look a the history of the song. Merle Travis wrote the song in 1946, and he was the first to record it. Travis was inspired to write the song, where a few lines were taken from his father who’s a coal miner too.

Another day older and deeper in debt

I owe my soul to the company store

“Sixteen Tons,” tells the story of a coal miner who works hard yet, nothing seems to pay off. His whole life doesn’t belong to him, but to his company.

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store

This song has a deeper meaning that a lot of people, not only coal miners, can connect with. It shows us the difficulty of being in a company that sucks everything out of you, leaving you lifeless. There are workplaces that never appreciate the effort of their workers. That is why “Sixteen Tons” appealed to many.

tennessee ernie ford johnny cash sixteen tons

Photo Credit: Coal Miners/ Lewis Hine/ Library of Congress

The Other Versions

There have been a lot of versions released for “Sixteen Tons.” Some were even released exclusively in the UK. Frankie Laine, an American singer, and actor also released his version of the song. His version was only available in the UK and has sold millions of copies. Laine has one of the known successful versions. Other artists who are known to release a version of “Sixteen Tons” were Red Sovine, Eddy Arnolds, Stevie Wonder, and more.

There may be many versions out there but, the story of the song is still the most captivating part of it.