CASEY JONES - The Man/the myth  

 

With the wild success of the song, interest in the backstory of the "doughty hero"  began to appear in print being as much the result of fevered fakelore imaginings of night desk reporters as the bits and pieces of actual facts. 

Edison Phonograph Monthly
July, 1911

One of the most lavish print features on Casey Jones appeared in the 1911 St. Louis Post Dispatch. The lure and lore of Casey Jones was still radiating  interest decades after both the disaster and the song's mainstream popularity, in the 1928 Billings Gazette which fully envelopes fact and fiction in its reportage. 

St. Louis Post Dispatch Sunday, September 10, 1911

 
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The Billings Gazette

Sunday, February 19, 1928

 

yet DESPITE THE popular  SUCCESS OF CASEY JONES, not everyone liked the song and, not surprisingly, that included those closest to the late engineer. Sim Webb (1874- 1957) Jones' loyal fireman and, part of the song narrative, indicated his indifference to the song as part of the PR he received in conjunction with an NBC radio appearance (a copy of which, has never turned up which is sad given that Phillips Lord was a prolific writer/producer of such popular shows as Gangbusters.)

Perhaps the most damaging of the received truths about Casey Jones concerned his widowed wife Janie Brady Jones (1866-1958) who is represented in the song as a cunning opportunist while, in reality,  she was so devastated by the loss of her young husband that she never remarried and was haunted by the disloyalty assertion to her dying day.  How Janie Jones went from "devoted widow" as reported in the New Orleans Times Democrat on May 1, 1900, to the duplicitous wife in the earliest known lyrics from 1903, is unclear. 

1937 Daily_News_Mon__Nov_22__1937_ copy
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New York Daily News Monday November 22, 1937 

The New York Times November 22, 1958

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© 2020 by Henry Sapoznik

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