*** The Ballad of John Gordon
Words and music by Tom Lanigan

I came to Rhode Island, not in search of fame,
But the last man executed there, is how they know my name.
My brother called me over, on a dreary Irish day,
So I could know the pleasure, of honest work and pay.
But there were other plans for me, things that I just couldn't see.
The power and the bigotry as at large.
I soon found out that I was framed,
They said I killed a man they named...Amasa,
And his brother let the charge.

Still it's so unclear to me. I know he had some words to speak,
about my brother's store where his workers went, to take the edge off with a drink.
Amasa didn't like to think of working men with power in their minds,
and on a broken New Year's Eve, Amasa met his destiny
Fingers pointed right at me and sent me to my grave.
And so it was they did decide to march me out and hang me high,
"Someone has to pay," they cried, "John Gordon you must die."

It would take more than a century for righteous men to pardon me,
But no one saw my innocence in time.
In the court room where I met my fate, they cleared my name though far too late,
I'll thank you all on the other side.
I just hope that you will learn from me and use the law with dignity
And never let emotions run the way, for when dealing with the lives of men
The facts must speak and only then will we escape the tragedies we make.
Can we escape the tragedies we make?
We must escape the tragedies we make.

Copyright 10/01/2011
Tom Lanigan,
Warwick, Rhode Island

After the pardon of John Gordon, Tom Lanigan wrote this ingenious ballad which encapsulates the story of John Gordon's life, conviction and pardon.

It was first played at the celebration of the pardon at St. Mary's Cemetery in Pawtucket, RI.

I later met Tom [and Jen Wheland] at a Saint Patrick Day gathering at Patrick Conley's club in Providence where they were performing. I was invited to bring my harmonicas from my car and to 'sit in' with them. This led to my continuing to join them {and later, a fiddle player, Kate Chen, at many of their public gigs.

We played on a regular basis for a couple of years, at places including:
  • McBrides in Providence
  • Tara's in Matunuk
  • O’Rourke’s in Pawtuxet
  • The Fastnet Pub in Newport
  • Murphy's Law in Pawtucket
  • RiRa in Providence
Ballad c of John Gordon

Me, Jen Whelan and Tom_Lanigan at O'Rourke's in Pawtucket
Songs Performed with the Tommy Lanigan Band

I met Tom on March 18, 2012 at an event at Patrick Conley's in Providence. I was given an opportunity to 'sit in' with his band for two songs at that event. Tom liked my harmonica playing offered me an opportunity to add a track for the recording of 'The Ballad of John Gordon' in their studio. I used a Hohner 'tremelo' tuned harmonica in the key of 'C'. It blends with the fiddle and flute which are also on the recording.

These are the list of songs that I have played with the band. It is by no means the limit of what the others regularly play. This is a work in process for me. As I am able to improve each of these recordings, I will update this page. As I learn the songs, I will get the piano music and record a version on my Yamaha Clavinova. I invite you to stop back occasionally and watch my progress.

Song Name Key Sample Lyrics
Wild Colonial Boy [D] Clancy Brothers Lyrics
Dirty Old Town [G] The Dubliners Lyrics
Black Velvet Band [G] The Dubliners Lyrics
Wild Rover [G] The Dubliners Lyrics
And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda D Liam Clancy
John McDermott
Eric Bogle
Charlie on the M.T.A A Kingston Trio
Jackson [D] Johnny Cash & June Carter Lyrics
Folsom Prison Blues [G] Johnny Cash Lyrics
Wagon Wheel C Old Crow Medicine Show Lyrics
Future Songs      
Somewhere Over the Rainbow G Eva Cassidy Lyrics
Whiskey in the Jar G The Dubliners Lyrics
Fields of Anthenry C Paddy Rielly
Brian Kennedy
Try a Little Tenderness C Jimmy Durante Lyrics