JOHN HARDY WAS A DESPERATE LITTLE MAN

Posted on Posted in Breedloves's Folk Songs
JOHN HARDY WAS A DESPERATE LITTLE MAN
“John Hardy” is a traditional American folk song based on the life of a railroad worker in
West Virginia. The historical John Hardy killed a man during a craps game, was found
guilty of murder in the first degree, and was hanged on January 19, 1894. The first known
recording is by Eva Davis on Columbia Records in 1924. As with other folk songs, lyrics
change from version to version. Early folk historians confused the ballads of John Hardy
and John Henry. This lead to a mixing of stories related to the outlaw and the steel driver.
Investigation into the John Henry myth helped separate these figures.
John Hardy was a desperate little man
He carried two guns every day
He shot down a man on that West Virginia line
You ought a seen John Hardy getting away
You ought to seen John Hardy getting away
John Hardy stood in that old barroom
So drunk that he could not see
And a man walked up and took him by the arm
He said Johnny, come and go along with me Poor boy
Johnny, come and walk along with me
John Hardy stood in his old jail cell
The tears running down from his eyes
He said I’ve been the death of many a poor boy
But my six-shooters never told a lie
No, my six-shooters never told a lie
The first one to visit John Hardy in his cell
Was a little girl dressed in blue
She came down to that old jail cell
She said Johnny, I’ve been true to you God knows
Johnny, I’ve been true to you
The next one to Visit John Hardy in his cell
Was a little girl dressed in red
She come down to that old jail cell
She said, Johnny, I had rather see you dead
Well, Johnny, I had rather see you dead
I’ve been to the East and I’ve been to the West
I’ve traveled this wide world around
I’ve been to that river and I’ve been baptized
So take me to my burying ground
So take me to my burying ground