Casey jones - THE song

The earliest known printed version of Casey Jones uncovered during the research on this project —  appeared three and half years after the disaster in the June 20, 1903 Paducah, Kansas News-Democrat in a column dedicated to railroaders on the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis line (N.,C.&St.L.)  The unsigned article radiates an enthusiastic immediacy, festooned with typos and breathless inaccuracies (the author claims the  crash had occurred the year before.)  Half of these earliest known lyrics survived nearly intact into the Siebert-Newton version, while the lost text offers a refreshing insight into the song's incremental development and period railroader argot. 

By early 1909 southern California was already seeing local/regional performances of something called  "Oh, You Casey Jones" while a dancehall in Tonopah, Nevada advertised itself as the home of the "Casey Jones Two-Step" but no mention of Siebert and Newton.

Though the original action of "Casey Jones"  takes place in the Illinois Central/Mississippi Delta, Seibert and Newton shift the action to the Transcontinental Divide lines and something familiar to its originally intended West Coast audiences.  That, and the song’s infectious, irresistible chorus.  . 

Southern California Music Company, (SCMC) a pioneering Los Angeles music store which dealt in musical instruments and phonographs ​(primarily an Edison distributor) started publishing in the spring of 1910 with " Casey Jones The Brave Engineer." distributing it nationally through a handmade network of modestly sized music stores listed on its cover (below)  Its popularity was boosted by selling as a budget sheet (25c) at a time that regular sheets were 75c and more. 

 Southern California Music Company kept "Casey Jones"  in their catalog until the 1930s when it was acquired by New York publisher Shapiro-Bernstein which is still in business. 

CASEY JONES SHEET

The nearly simultaneous issue of the sheet music with the first recordings for Edison and Victor would imply a thought through coordinated outreach but, outside of the lone mention in the Edison catalog that Southern California Music was an affiliate of the Edison company (below)  no subsequent editions of the sheet were published to feature the recording artist's picture -- nor tie-in the recordings in any way -- both very common period marketing methods.) 

Los Angeles Herald

Sunday April 4, 1910

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The San Bernadino County Sun

Sunday, February 14, 1911

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Variety,  February 25, 1912

© 2020 by Henry Sapoznik

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