What was the number one song in the UK on 20th January 1956?

By Hayley Beasley Dye

Ernie’s back again! This times with a song about coal mining- Sixteen Tons, which was number one for 4 weeks.

Now, I like this one, much more than I did Give Me Your Word. I think his voice suits this songs much better. It has a foot tapping beat to it and I love the double bass, which is the main instrument throughout the song (along with an occasional clarinet and Ernie’s finger snapping). It’s a very ‘stripped back’ song and it is its simplicity that is its main asset.

Wikipedia

“Sixteen Tons” is a song written by Merle Travis about a coal miner, based on life in coal mines in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. Travis first recorded the song at the Radio Recorders Studio B in Hollywood, California, on August 8, 1946. Cliffie Stone played bass on the recording. It was first released in July 1947 by Capitol on Travis’s album Folk Songs of the Hills. The song became a gold record.

The line “You load sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt” came from a letter written by Travis’s brother John.[1] Another line came from their father, a coal miner, who would say: “I can’t afford to die. I owe my soul to the company store.”

A 1955 version recorded by Tennessee Ernie Ford reached number one in the Billboard charts, while another version by Frankie Laine1956 was released only in Western Europe, where it gave Ford’s version competition.

Lyrics

“Some people say a man is made outta mud
a poor man’s made outta muscle and blood
muscle and blood and skin and bones
a mind that’s a-weak and a back that’s strong
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
I was born one mornin’ when the sun didn’t shine
i picked up my shovel and i walked to the mine
i loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
and the straw boss said “well, a-bless my soul”
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
I was born one mornin’, it was drizzlin’ rain
fightin’ and trouble are my middle name
i was raised in the canebrake* by an ol’ mama lion
cain’t no-a high-toned woman make me walk the line
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
If you see me comin’, better step aside
a lotta men didn’t, a lotta men died
one fist of iron, the other of steel
if the right one don’t a-get you, then the left one will
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”

The Playlist

Relive, enjoy and share every song and keep following Talk About Pop Music for more Number One posts!

Every UK Number One Song

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