Sixteen Tons – Tennessee Ernie Ford (1955)

I ♥ this song and I ♥ Tennessee Ernie Ford! I get it honest because my beloved Grandmother (RIP) would watch the “The Ford Show” (NBC Primetime TV from 1956-1961) and let little me stay up falling asleep on her lap while she watched it.

As Wiki correctly states, Ford’s TV program was notable for the inclusion of a religious song at the end of every show; Ford insisted on this despite objections from network officials who feared it might provoke controversy. He earned the nickname “The Ol’ Pea-Picker” due to his catch-phrase, “Bless your pea-pickin’ heart!” He began using the term during his disc jockey days on KXLA. (And my Grandma used this terminology too – LOL)

And of course I watched and loved the “Cousin Ernie” character on “I Love Lucy”.

Ernie had such a beautiful, clear, soulful voice that you can’t help but love anything he sang. I own a collection of hymns by Ernie and it is a treasured favorite in my music collection. I had the cassette for a long time and had to hunt long and hard to find it on CD, but eventually I did.

The Man

Ernest Jennings Ford (February 13, 1919 – October 17, 1991), better known by the stage name Tennessee Ernie Ford, was a pioneering U.S. recording artist and television host who enjoyed success in the country & western, pop, and gospel musical genres.

The Song

“Sixteen Tons” is a song about the misery of coal mining, written in 1947 by U.S. country singer Merle Travis. It has been covered by a wide variety of musicians. In fact this version of Ernie’s is a cover as well : it was on the b-side of “You Don’t Have to Be a Baby to Cry.

It was Ford’s “Sixteen Tons” that reached number one in the Billboard charts, besting the performance of the competing version by Johnny Desmond.

On October 17, 1955 it was released and, by October 28, it sold 400,000 copies. On November 10, a million copies had been sold. It hit Billboard’s Country Music charts in November and it held the #1 position for ten weeks, then crossed over and held the #1 position on the pop music charts for eight weeks. The record had sold two million copies by December 15.

Another competing version by Frankie Laine was released only in the UK where it gave Ford’s version some stiff competition on the charts.

Read more about the song from the source of italics.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

Published in: on October 29, 2007 at 7:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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