Casey Jones

Jackie Merritt - Bones

Jerron Paxton - Guitar

a film by Frank Matheis @

4:38 minutes

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Hampton, Virginia

The bones are considered one of the oldest instruments known to mankind, except for the human voice. In the mid 1800’s, minstrel players in Blackface were bones players before banjo. Twenty-five years ago, I was fortunate enough to learn from the legendary Mr. Richard “Bones” Thomas and Mike Baytop at the original Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Barbershop, in Northeast, DC. Because it’s such a personal instrument, it’s style of playing varies from flashy, flamboyant to conservatively subtle. I consider my playing as more minimalist. Mr. Bones style was, in my mind, quite flashy and Baytop’s more conservative. I think my style reflects my many years of being a bass player, holding down the bottom in a song. My style of playing is more subtle, but solid and in the pocket of a song.


This video captures me and Jerron Paxton performing “Casey Jones.” There are many, many different versions of this song from traditional folk artists to the Grateful Dead. What I think is important about this tune is that it was written by Wallace Saunders, a Black engine wiper who worked with Mr. Jones for many years. He admired/idolized the larger-than-life legend of his time, Casey Jones. Unfortunately, like so many artists of that time, his work was not copyrighted and he never received a dime for his music.


I hope you like this version; these lyrics are by Jerron Paxton.

View on YouTube