Wayne Raney - "Lost John Boogie" (King 719)
The origins of the folk song "Lost John" have been discussed for a long time. Although not as popular as other early folk songs, "Lost John," "Long Lost John," or "John Dean from Bowling Green" (as this tune is also called), it was recorded by a number of different artists. Famous blues composer W.C. Handy published a version in 1920 on sheet but it's probable that the song dates back to the 19th century and originated as a negro folk song. The story of a prisoner, who was chosen to be a victim for a test of new blood hounds but ran too fast for the dogs obviously seemed to had a bearing on the song's lyrics. Handed down through generations of black prisoners and farmers, many lyrical variations developed.
Wayne Raney possibly learned it in that way. "Lost John" was a popular tune among the black and white rural population in Raney's home state Arkansas and his mentor Lonnie Glosson also cut two or three versions of the song during his career. The first recording was probably made by the duo of Dick Burnett and Leonard Rutherford, an old-time duo from Kentucky (where the song was even more popular), in 1926 for Columbia. Blind Dick Burnett was a folk song collector and learned it likely from other musicians. After their recordings, other versions followed by Bascom Lamar Lunsford, DeFord Bailey, the Allen Brothers, and other both old-time and blues musicians.
"Lost John" is today a not as popular as other folk songs and was forgotten during the folk revival. Merle Travis recorded another version of "Lost John Boogie" in 1951 on Capitol, while Arkansas native Kenny Owens released a rock'n'roll version in the 1960s. Even the Beatles did an unissued version, but somehow "Lost John" was left by the roadside.