Nine Pound Hammer

Lyrics: Traditional [Merle Travis]
Music: Traditional [Merle Travis]

Played by Jerry Garcia with the Black Mountain Boys in March 1964 (sometimes listed on tapes as "Roll On Buddy"). He also played it with the Hart Valley Drifters in November 1962, and with the Wildwood Boys at the Monterey Folk Festival in 1963. Recorded by Garcia and Grisman some 30 years later, though never played live. Also played in 2012 by Ross James with Phil Lesh & Friends.

This is the Hart Valley Drifter's version:

See this nine pound hammer
Is a little too heavy
For my size
For my size

Chorus
Now roll on buddy
Don't you roll so slow
How can I roll
When the wheels won't go

I'm going on a mountain
To see my baby
And I ain't coming back
No I ain't coming back

[chorus]

It's a long way to Harlan
It's a long way to Hazard
Just to get a little booze
Just to get a little booze

[chorus]

Well one of these day
And it won't be long
You can call my name
And I'll be gone

[chorus]

This nine pound hammer
Is a little too heavy
For my size
For my size

[chorus]
The Black Mountain Boys' version omitted the verses "It's a long way to Harlan" and "Well one of these days" but included an additional verse:
Ain't one hammer
In this tunnel
That rings like mine
That rings like mine
The Garcia/Grisman version is essentially the same as the 1960's versions, though with a slightly different structure:
Chorus
Roll on buddy
Don't you roll so slow
How can I roll
When the wheels won't go

This nine pound hammer
Is a little too heavy
Buddy, for my size
Buddy, for my size

[chorus]
[chorus]

I'm going on a mountain
Gonna see my babe
And I ain't coming back
No I ain't coming back

[chorus]
[chorus]

[chorus]

This nine pound hammer
Is a little too heavy
Buddy, for my size
Buddy, for my size

I'm going on a mountain
Gonna see my babe
And I ain't coming back
And I ain't coming back

[chorus]
Ross James' version with Phil Lesh and Friends includes one additional verses:
Now when I'm long gone
You can make my tombstone
Out of number nine coal
Out of number nine coal
Jerry Garcia Recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
     fall 1962 Folk Time Hart Valley Drifters
     199? Been All Around This World Garcia/Grisman


According to Matt Schofield:
One theory of the evolution of this song is given in Tennessee Strings by Charles K Wolfe. Charles Bowman, the fiddler with the Hill Billies, claimed to have learned some of the song from railway construction gangs in East Tennessee in 1905. He added to it and with Al Hopkins, also of the Hill Billies, arranged it for a recording session in 1927. It is this arrangement that has become the 'traditional' song of the present day.

Futher Information
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography

 


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