Mudcat Café message #671019 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #45408   Message #671019
Posted By: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
17-Mar-02 - 08:17 PM
Thread Name: JOHN HENRY solved????
Subject: RE: JOHN HENRY solved????
My first reaction was that vulcanized was meant, but to galvanize means to subject to an electric current (as well as to treat iron with molten zinc). Maybe there is such a thing as galvanized rubber (or is it just overactive rubber?).
I must have 25 or so versions of John Henry. None of them mentions a "white house." The closest to that stanza that I have is one in Lomax:

Dey took John Henry to de graveyard,
An' dey buried him in de san',
An' every locomotive come roarin' by,
Says, "Dere lays a steel-drivin' man,
Lawd, Lawd, dere lays a steel-drivin' man."

But all of these conjectures are wrong! John Henry was from Colorado (You can investigate the story when you get there, Kat).

When John Henry was a baby
Sittin' on 'is mother's knee,
He said, O the Colorado Mountains
Will be the death of me.

Reported in White, N. L., 1928 (1965), American Negro Folk Songs, p. 190, Ms. of B. A. Wooten, heard in Marengo Co., Alabama.

But it was John Henry's "little woman" who did the real work and deserved the credit, not her lazy, no-count John:

John Henry had a little woman,
And her name was Polly Ann;
John Henry took sick and had to go to bed,
And Polly drove steel like a man.

Same reference, Ms of J. C. Hay, 1915-1916,heard in Huntsville, Al.
Haven't got any Canadian John Henry's yet. But they probably would be Chinese or Irish.