The Monkey and the Engineer, and Jack the Baboon

Do you ever wonder where songs with peculiar lyrics come from? There is usually a story behind the story. The Grateful Dead had a song by Jesse Fuller they used to perform called The Monkey and the Engineer that has been played here on Folk Alley. It is one of those songs that cries out for a story behind the story to me. Well, it could just be a story that was totally made up, I never heard that Jesse Fuller ever told where he got the idea for the song. However, there really was a baboon named Jack that became a signalman’s assistant in South Africa when the man lost his legs in a train accident. He worked for years actually switching the tracks for his master. Although it is a different story than the song, I have always been struck by the common thread that runs through both stories.

Jack’s story: http://www.earthfoot.org/lit_zone/signalmn.htm

What songs with unusual story lines strike you with wonder about the story behind the story?

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