Donielle Flynn

Weekdays 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

"Truckin', got my chips cashed in/Keep truckin', like the do-dah man/Together, more or less in line/Just keep truckin' on."

Casey Jones was a real person.  He was an engineer.  Casey Jones’ story was first put into song in 1902 as “The Ballad of Casey Jones.”  This is the story of Casey Jones, The Grateful Dead, and the story behind the song.

According to, Casey Jones was a train engineer who gave his life to save the train’s passengers.  According to legend, Casey had one hand on the whistle and the other on the brake when he died.

Casy Jones was born John Luther Jones in Mississippi in 1863.  When he was a boy, his family moved to Cayce, Kentucky, the town that gave him his nickname.  He worked for the railroads most of his life and ended up in Jackson, Tennessee.  On the night of Casey’s death, another engineer was sick and Casey offered to take his place.  The train was also running late so Casey picked up the pace to make up the time.  As the train rounded a curve in Vaughn, Mississippi, it collided with another train, but not before Casey told his fireman to jump to safety.  Casey stayed on the train to try and slow it down to save the passengers.  It worked.  Casey gave his life to save the passengers.  He was the only fatality in the accident.

The songs of Casey Jones started with railroad workers. His story even became a vaudeville act.  In 1950, his home in Jackson became a museum.  Casey Jones’s story was even made into a children’s toy.

Was Casey Jones High on Cocaine?

Not likely.  Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter wrote the line “Drivin’ that train, high on cocaine, Casey Jones you’d better watch your speed,” and put it in his pocket. Initially, he didn’t even consider it a possibility for the song.   Hunter actually tried to find a way around using the word “cocaine” since it was controversial for lyrics in that time period. Hunter tried “whipping that chain,” and “lugging propane” but he couldn’t find anything that really worked so Casey Jones ended up “high on cocaine” as originally written.  Furthermore, from historical accounts, Casey Jones was a devoted family man who didn’t drink or do drugs.

Did Jerry Garcia Get Tired of Hearing “Casey Jones?”

In the book,  Garcia: A Signpost to New Space, Jerry Garcia was asked if he got sick of hearing “Casey Jones.”  Garcia replied, “Sometimes, but that’s what it’s supposed to do. It’s got a split-second little delay, which sounds very mechanical, like a typewriter almost, on the vocal, which is like a little bit jangly. The whole thing is, I always thought it’s a pretty good musical picture of what cocaine is like. A little bit evil. And hard-edged. And also that sing-songy thing, because that’s what it is… A sing-songy thing, a little melody that gets in your head.”

The Grateful Dead were known for their live shows.  They sold an insane amount of concert tickets during their touring days.

These 20 Artists Have Sold the Most Concert Tickets in the Past 40+ Years

Pollstar, a tour industry publication, has released a list of the artists who have sold the most concert tickets since 1980. On that list are some of rock’s most iconic acts.

Topping the concert ticket sales list was U2 with over 26 million tickets sold. Pollstar noted of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame group’s humble early days, “U2’s first show recorded in the archives was a performance for 1,440 patrons at Warfield Theatre in San Francisco on Nov. 29, 1981, during the band’s “October” tour supporting their second studio album. It was the fourth headlining trek in the group’s touring history and ran for about one year, wrapping in August 1982.”

A number of major rock acts are scattered throughout the top 2o of the massive 150 artist ranking. Among them are Bon Jovi, the Eagles, Metallica, Paul McCartney and more.

Scroll below and see which acts made the top 20 of Pollstar’s Top Touring Artists list along with their total touring grosses.

  • 20. Ed Sheeran

    Tickets sold: 11,865,380

  • 19. Tim McGraw

    Tickets sold: 12,266,482

  • 18. George Strait

    Tickets sold: 12,287,930

  • 17. Coldplay

    Tickets sold: 12,532,987

  • 16. Neil Diamond

    Tickets sold: 12,948,499

  • 15. Rod Stewart

    Tickets sold: 13,173,925

  • 14. Jimmy Buffett

    Tickets sold: 13,297,669

  • 13. Aerosmith

    Tickets sold: 13,336,974

  • 12. Phish

    Tickets sold: 13,501,959

  • 11. Trans-Siberian Orchestra

    Tickets sold: 15,276,864

  • 10. Grateful Dead

    Tickets sold: 15,549,243

  • 9. Kenny Chesney

    Tickets sold: 16,410,448

  • 8. Billy Joel

    Tickets sold: 16,973,102

  • 7. Bon Jovi

    Tickets sold: 17,750,044

  • 6. Metallica

    Tickets sold: 19,468,173

  • 5. Elton John

    Tickets sold: 19,756,467

  • 4. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

    Tickets sold: 20,845,687

  • 3. The Rolling Stones

    Tickets sold: 22,137,799

  • 2. Dave Matthews Band

    Tickets sold: 23,279,056

  • 1. U2

    Tickets sold: 26,178,043

Donielle Fynn is a Michigan native with two kids, two dogs, two cats, a love of yoga, and all things classic rock.

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