Tennessee Ernie Ford sang "Sixteen Tons" in 1955:
If you see better step aside
A lot of men didn't a lot of men died
One fist of iron, the other of steel
If the right one don't get you, then the left one will.
You load I6 tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt
St. Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store.
The Merle Travis-penned megabit was an instant success on country and crossover pop and has sold over 20 million records, according to Burt Folkart, L.A. Times writer, in The Courier-Journal, October 18, 1991.
Who would have thought that the super-tough coal miner portrayed in "Sixteen Tons" would be brought to life by a radio announcer turned country/gospel singer. Ford charmed us with his down-home barnyard style on "The Ford Show" in the '50s and '60s and on later TV specials. He was nominated for eight Grammys and won on his Great Gospel Songs album. He was honored, just three months ago, for Country's Lifetime Achievement Award.
We'l1 miss o1' lovable Ern. As he would have signed off: "Bless your little pea-pickin' heart."