Take This Hammer


As we’ve had a little technical issue with this one I’m without a comment from Jon, so will have to take this one on myself and ask Jon to comment below. Apologies too if you have the podcast and were expecting Sailor’s Rest as this is Take This Hammer, a prison work song from the USA first recorded by Leadbelly in 1942. It was collected by Alam Lomax and the earliest record of it seems to be 1915. Wiki is the best on this having a fairly impressive list of those that have recorded the song and also linking it to Nine Pound Hammer and Swannanoa Tunnel. It’s been a while since we’ve had a good Mudcat thread, so I’m happy to report that there’s one here that adds extra verses and all sorts, well worth a few minutes of your time.



29 Responses to “Take This Hammer”

  1. Jane Ramsden says:

    Wonderfully well sung, Jon! Your rendition rivals the man himself, as seen live in 1945 on this YouTube link:


    I only know Leadbelly from Pick A Bale Of Cotton, which must come from Lonnie Donegan’s cover. You can find both versions on YouTube, and an interesting cover of today’s song by Long John Baldry from his Leadbelly tribute album!

  2. John Wigley says:

    That might be my favourite of the whole project so far. Fantastically sung.

  3. Simon Dewsbury says:

    there I was listening to Curtis Mayfield singing ‘People Get Ready’ this morning, thinking about Jon’s renditions of some of the American songs on AFSAD and wondering how he’d sound singing it – and I think I now have my answer. Great stuff again.

  4. amanda says:

    My favourite so far… keep singing… Amanda.

  5. Joy Toole says:

    Beautifully sung!

  6. Simon says:

    I don’t know whether you all see the updates and comments that come in on old posts, so just in case I’ll draw your attention back to 5th January and the Apple Tree Wassail as there’s a link been added to a fairly comprehensive web page, which has links off to YouTube clips and so forth. I’ve had to go in and fix it, as it didn’t work properly, so it’s in the last comment. To save you rewinding, it’s here too, if you are interested. I know that strictly it doesn’t belong here, but I’m sure those of you who like to delve will appreciate it anyway.

  7. Muzza(NW Surrey.UK) says:

    @Admin Simon (is that beard growing by the day/)….I usually dive back 6 days maximum to see if there are further comments……is there a facility that flags up on my email if comments are made way back?
    :mrgreen:…colour change to take my sterotyped mind off chippies and takeaways.

  8. Simon says:

    It lurks below in the small print, ar at least in theory. You’ll spot at the foot of this (white text) is Comments (RSS). I’ve just clicked on that and it’s added a folder to my Firefox menu bar on. If I click on that folder it displays a list of all of the recent comments and if I click one of those it takes me to it.

  9. Diana says:

    Another well sung one. I think all the above comments cover it better than me.

    Muzza how clever, absolutely brilliant, how did you manage to change colour. Why are thinking about food? 😀

  10. Diana says:

    There is no Mainly Norfolk site today – this is unusual.

  11. Jane Ramsden says:

    Thankee again, Skyman, for the reply to Muzza’s question above. It has only taken about a year and a half for me to even notice that Comments(RSS) with direction! So, not only can I not remember half of what I’ve researched and posted here over that period of time, but I’m unobservant to boot! And why did I not think to ask, like Muzzy? Because I is not techie whizz enough to think it was possible and, being a too-proud Yorksher woman to ask for help, I always have to do things the hard way! Lesson learnt ref me and sense, I hope, and not a case of never the Twain shall meet!

    Still a great song though but…

  12. Simon says:

    Don’t worry Jane, I didn’t really know either until I tried it, hence my rather ‘paint it by numbers’ instructions. On the other subject, my eternal frustration is that I forget to forget what I’ve forgotten, which really would solve all in an ignorance is bliss sort of way. Just as all of the stuff that I didn’t know I didn’t know is now stacked up in a jumble of lose ends, red herrings and general mental flotsam that might take years to sink in, or wash up on some deserted beach at the back of my mind.

    And Diana, just to put things straight, here’s Reynard. Either this has been added after the post went up or I didn’t think it added much at the time and as I recall, the Mudcat thread was enough to wade through. Still you can always rely on ‘the fox’ to sniff out a titbit and I notice the Sandy & Johnny entry, which intrigues.

  13. Reynard says:

    Simon used links to my site quite often when the contents was suitable and interesting enough. But neither did he pay me for following AFSAD nor did I pay him to advertise for my site (and anyway, I preferred to spend my money on all the wonderful albums Jon introduced us to that I didn’t know of or have before :-)) I had no page for this song before AFSAD and the contents is more of a filler and quite boring so I’d guess it was better for him to leave me out this time.

  14. Diana says:

    Thank you Simon. I was expecting you to do a Jack Nicholson and say “Here’s Johnny”, a saying with which nearly everyone seems familiar.

  15. Muzza(NW Surrey.UK) says:

    @Admin Simon…..thanks for the Rss hint…..checking the “Reynard link” I saw the name Johnny Silvo (My brother Silvest”..he died quite recently.
    @Diana…little green man on AdminSimon’s list………and lots of little yellow fellows tend to run chippies &takeaways.

  16. Reynard says:

    re “died quite recently”: I read on Mudcat that Rosemary Tawney passed away yesterday. I knew her just from a few mail exchanges about Cyril’s albums but she was a very nice and classy old lady.

  17. Diana says:

    @ Muzza – sorry to hear about your brother.

    I take your point about the chippies and takeaways – there are no british ones anywhere near here and I find the chips soggy and greasy anyway.

    There is a strange face on the list we downloaded the other day on “smileyes” so here goes :mrgreen:

  18. Muzza (N.W.Surrey-UK) says:

    @Diana………….yep….Brother Silvest fell in the lake and was weighed down by the row of medal ribbons on his chest…tragic innit!

  19. Diana says:

    Muzza were you pulling my leg or were you serious? Only I know you have mentioned your brother before. Was my sympathy misplaced?

  20. Muzza(N.W.Surrey. UK) says:

    @Diana………Muzza hav no Brudder…….
    Silvest…he subject of song sung by Johnny Silvo..folk singer who died 6thJan 2012..
    sorry that you misunderstood…
    here he is in action (Unfortunately,not brother Silvest)

    and here is the chorus to Silvest

    That was my brother Sylvest’ (What’s he got?)
    A row of forty medals on his chest (big chest!)
    He killed fifty bad men in the west; he knows no rest.
    Think of a man, hells’ fire, don’t push, just shove,
    Plenty of room for you and me.
    He’s got an arm like a leg (a ladies’ leg!)
    And a punch that would sink a battleship (big ship!)
    It takes all of the Army and the Navy to put the wind up Sylvest’.

  21. Muzza (N.W.Surrey-UK) says:

    Oh Joy………Apart from learning the wonderful English folk songs at school…
    American prison songs were my introduction to grown-up folk, via Lonnie Donegan and skiffle….Great songs like ‘Rock Island Line’ and ‘midnight Special’….
    Have just had a chuckle at a recollection prompted by the foregoing….bear with….
    At 15 I joined a bible group purely to be near a ‘young lady wot ‘ad cort my fancy’.
    We all went to a ‘retreat’ at Farnham castle and were asked to bring a favourite record. In the historic library we sat round for a serious discussion and then, one by one, the favourite records of the group were played…….
    after an hour of the likes of Brahms/Chopin/Beethoven……..my turn came and I tentatively handed over my treasured copy of Lonnie singing ‘Rock Island Line’……..
    Lonnie did his bit……the majestically, sombre mood of the occasion was shattered,
    the learned pastoral figure grimaced….a deafening silence ensued….I was on the next bus home!
    Even today I am still putting my foot in it! 😉

  22. Diana says:

    Got good old Lonnie singing Rock Island Line and a few other good ones. A nice change from the classic composers. They should have enjoyed the respite.

  23. Diana says:

    A good song, sung well if a little slower than I am used to.

  24. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    I’m really enjoying re-reading all the old comments…..it’s as if you were all here again…and another chance to chuckle at my Bible retreat episode….if the old memory isn’t jogged we forget all these things!.. thick fog Darn Souf today…
    aaaarrrggghh….just realised that I have committed the cardinal sin of listening to todays song and it’s only the 12th!!!!!

  25. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    Just had another go at clicking on the ‘Comments RSS’ thingy at the foot of the page….yep….it works but it’s all me!!.and I’ve just ticked the two boxes on LH side at foot of the page……wonder if they will work.

  26. old Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    Every day….I re read the comments and revive old memories….chuckling again at the Farnham Castle retreat anecdote of many years ago, but this time with a tinge of sadness. as the young lady to whom I referred sadly died last August.

  27. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Awwwwww memories….AFSAD is akin to writing a diary when you re read the comments
    Just filled in my 2021 Census form online…in anticipation that I will still be around on census day 21stMarch.

  28. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Ha….still here…..clinging to the wreckage ( I know Lindy Lou is out there somewhere) and poor Yorkshire Jane ( the Bradford cat botherer ) is making a long and painful recovery from a serious road accident on 22nd Jan. Hang in there Jane!

  29. OldMuzza(NW Surrey UK) says:

    My AFSAD diary brings back so many lovely memories.
    Ha my daughter 62 today……one of the joys of having my family at an early age….not good for her though…still having to worry about a doddery old tosser who should have only managed three score years and ten!!!!!

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