Let’s have some kick ass music for the Hump Day Video. Sixteen Tons is dedicated to working men everywhere, especially those from the coal mines of Kentucky and West Virginia.

Sixteen Tons is the Tennessee Ernie Ford classic from 1955.

Ford scored an unexpected hit on the pop charts in 1955 with his rendering of “Sixteen Tons”, a sparsely arranged coal-miner’s lament, that Merle Travis first recorded in 1946 reflecting his own family’s experience in the mines of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. The song’s authorship has been claimed by both Travis and George S. Davis. Its fatalistic tone contrasted vividly with the sugary pop ballads and rock & roll just starting to dominate the charts at the time: You load sixteen tons, what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. Saint Peter, don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go; I owe my soul to the company store…

With Ford’s snapping fingers and a unique clarinet-driven pop arrangement by Ford’s music director, Jack Fascinato, “Sixteen Tons” spent ten weeks at number one on the country charts and eight weeks at number one on the pop charts, and made Ford a crossover star. It became Ford’s signature song.

Wikipedia

Its also worth noting that in the late 1940s and early 1950s songs about “workers” were often considered subversive. Musicians ran the risk of being considered Communist sympathizers. People were imprisoned for less. The FBI at one point advised some radio stations not to play Sixteen Tons. Have things really changed that much?

Making a successful cover of such a classic is never easy, but Jeff Beck and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top do a masterful job on this one. Perfectly arranged and a performance that totally rocks.

Turn the volume to 11.

Further Reading….

How Sixteen Tons Happened