Ok, I knew of Tennessee Ernie Ford as a religious singer but had never heard this song till watching a “Mad Men” episode. This song really stayed with me. I ended up ordering his old 45 and play it in our Wurlitzer jukebox often. Here is some info on the songs origins.
Ford scored an unexpected hit on the pop charts in 1955 with his rendition of Merle Travis’ “Sixteen Tons”, a sparsely arranged coal-miner’s lament that Travis wrote in 1946, based on his own family’s experience in the mines of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. Its fatalistic tone contrasted vividly with the sugary pop ballads and rock & roll just starting to dominate the charts at the time. With a unique clarinet-driven pop arrangement by Ford’s musical 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.