Pop Archives

The Sonamatics - Sixteen Tons (1966)

(Merle Travis)
Australia Australia
#32 Melbourne

I stole pieces of two Josh White songs and wrote Sixteen Tons.
    – Merle Travis (quoted at The Originals).


Single on Leedon (a K.B. Roberts Production). The Sonamatics were a popular band from the country town of Horsham in Victoria’s Wimmera region. The lead singer was Ferdy Van Der Riet, recruited by the mainly instrumental band in the wake of Beatlemania. Also spelt as Sonomatics (on their second single, for example), apparently in error.

David Thompson, in The Music Goes Round My Head, quotes Keith Glass who recalls that his band The Rising Sons had recorded a demo of Sixteen Tons, only to have their record company share it with a Melbourne deejay who then recommended the song to The Sonamatics.

References, further reading: 1. Chris Spencer et al, Who’s Who of Australian Rock, 5th edition (2002), p. 399. 2. Post at Rock’nRoll Scars Group by Narell Brown quotes an earlier edition of the Who’s Who, giving some background and line-up. 3. David Thompson, The Music Goes Round My Head (2010), p.81. 4. Label shot, details, at 45Cat.com. 5. 1965 image at RedBubble.

 

The Thin Men - Sixteen Tons (1966)

(Merle Travis)
Australia Australia

Single on HMV by Sydney vocal group 1962-1986. The most enduring line-up was of Tony Lee, Johnny Edwards, Johnny Florence and Ron Patrick.

Reference: Chris Spencer et al, Who’s Who of Australian Rock, 5th edition (2002), p. 399.

 


Frankie Laine - Sixteen Tons (1956)

(Merle Travis)
USA USA
#10 UK #1 Adelaide

Unique American baritone (1913-2007), especially popular in Britain, often associated with western-themed songs: Mule Train, Cry Of The Wild Goose, Rawhide (the TV theme)…

See also Jezebel and Answer Me.

On CD: click on image (right).

 

Max Bygraves - Seventeen Tons (1956)

(Travis - Shore)
UK UK
Parody

Single on Columbia by British entertainer and TV star (1922-2012), often on the UK charts from the early 50s, lived in Australia from 2008.


John William - Seize Tonnes (1956)

(Merle Travis - J. Larue?)
France? France?
#1 France

John William: Franco-Ivorian singer (1922-2011), born in Grand-Bassam, Côte d'Ivoire, real name Ernest Armand Huss.


Johnny Desmond - Sixteen Tons (1955)

(Merle Travis)
USA USA
#17 USA

Band and radio singer (1919-1985) who had some chart success in pre-rock’n’roll years of the 50s.

 


Tennessee Ernie Ford - Sixteen Tons (1955)

(Merle Travis)
USA USA
#1 USA #1 UK #1 Sydney #1 Adelaide

Biggest hit by popular country singer, TV star and Grand Ole Opry regular (1919-1991). Earlier in the same year his Ballad Of Davy Crockett was a #5 US hit, one of four charting versions of the TV theme.


Merle Travis - Sixteen Tons (1947)

(Merle Travis)
USA USA
Original version

From Folk Songs of the Hills, a 4-disc 78 rpm collection of traditional and original songs by influential Kentuckian guitarist and songwriter (1917-1983).

Further reading: Content about Merle Travis is easy to find online. For more versions of 'Sixteen Tons' and background, see the song history at The Originals.

On CD: click on image (right).


Ccs - Sixteen Tons (1973)

(Merle Travis)
UK UK
Later version
#41 Melbourne

Single on Rak by Alexis Korner’s superband Collective Consciousness Society, more familiarly CCS. A Mickie Most production.

On CD: click on image (right).

 

Don Harrison Band - Sixteen Tons (1976)

(Merle Travis)
USA USA
Later version
#32 Melbourne #33 Adelaide

Single on Atlantic by rock band led by singer-guitarist-keyboardist Don Harrison. Its line-up included two former members of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford.