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 (Merle Travis, spoken:) Yes, there's many a Kentucky coal miner who pretty nearly owes his soul to the company store. He gets so far in debt to the coal company he's working for that he goes on sometimes for years without being paid one red cent in real, honest-to-goodness money. But he can always go to the company store and draw flickers or scrip. You know that's little brass coins that you can't spend nowhere, only at the company store. So they add that against his account. And every day he gets a little farther in debt. That sounds pretty bad, but even that's got a brighter side to it. Now, some people say a man is made outta mud But a poor man's made outta muscle and blood Muscle and blood and skin and bones A mind that's weak and a back that's strong You load sixteen tons ... Well I was born one mornin' when the sun didn't shine I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal And the straw boss a-hollered "Well, bless my soul" Sixteen tons ... Well I was born one mornin', it was drizzlin' rain Fightin' and trouble are my middle name I was raised in the bottoms by a mama hound I'm mean as a dog but I'm as gentle as a lamb (Tennessee Ernie Ford alternate lyrics: I was raised in the canebrake by an ol' mama lion Can't no-a high-toned woman make me walk the line) You load sixteen tons ... Well if you see me comin', you better step aside A lotta men didn't, and a lotta men died One fist of iron and a fist of steel If the right one don't a-get you, then the left one will You load sixteen tons ...
recording: Merle Travis (1947 album) [YouTube]
background: song history [Tennessee Ernie Ford]
recording: Tennessee Ernie Ford (1956, The Dinah Shore Show; introduced in 1990 by Dinah Shore with Ernie Ford) [YouTube]
recording: Merle Travis (late 1950s jukebox video) [YouTube]
notes: lyrics from Ernie Ford [Yale]