George Davis was known as the ‘singing miner.” After suffering an injury as a young man he left the mines and became a musician and songwriter supporting the cause of miners against operators. He appeared on radio and, with his Martin D-28, he traveled throughout eastern Kentucky singing for people struggling to get by. The song “Sixteen Tons” by Merle Travis may have come from a remarkably similar written by Davis called “Nine to Ten Tons”. Davis claimed that Travis stole his song.
The National Recovery Act (NRA) provided various labor reforms including guaranteeing the right to organize and setting minimum wages for specific industries. Probably no industry benefited more from this than mining. The NRA’s mascot was the Blue Eagle and it was displayed proudly by its supporters. The NRA was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and Davis wrote this song mourning its passing.