Kenesaw Mountain Landis

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Kenesaw Mountain Landis
ReleaseSmoking Monkey
Release date11-05-2003
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"Kenesaw Mountain Landis" is a song on Jonathan Coulton's first album, Smoking Monkey. The song describes a fictionalized version of baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis handling the Black Sox scandal.


Jonathan has said that this song was influenced by Bob Dylan's Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts: "that kind of crazy long story song with no chorus."

Live performance[edit]

"Kenesaw Mountain Landis" has been played occasionally at Jonathan Coulton concerts. It is performed both with and without Paul and Storm. When played with Paul and Storm, Storm does full background accompanying vocals, while Paul does none.

When performing this song live for the 2006 Second Life concert, Coulton cleaned up the opening lyrics, singing, "Kenesaw Mountain Landis was a bad emmer-effer."

Despite playing three shows in Atlanta near the original Kennesaw Mountain, Jonathan has only performed this song once in the city.


Though most of the song is fictitious, it does contain elements of fact:

  • Kenesaw Mountain Landis was the first commissioner of Major League Baseball. Previously a federal judge, Landis was brought in by the owners of baseball to restore the credibility of the game after the Black Sox Scandal, in which members of the Chicago White Sox baseball team were paid by gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series. This song is a version of that achievement, told in the form of an American myth.
  • There are two different men known as Joe Jackson referenced in this song. One was Joseph Jefferson Jackson ("Shoeless Joe"), a star player for the White Sox who was banned from professional baseball in 1920 for his part in the Black Sox scandal. Despite how the song portrays him, there is some doubt as to how involved Shoeless Joe Jackson was involved in the scandal.
  • The other is Joe Jackson, an English singer whose best known song is the 1979 hit, "Is She Really Going Out With Him?". He comes from the same musical New Wave background as the more well known Elvis Costello. The 'Shoeless Joe Jackson' of this song anachronistically combines the important events in the lives of both.
  • Contrary to the song lyrics, Joe Jackson did win a Grammy, the 2001 award for Best Pop Instrumental Album.
  • Coulton has said in concert that when he spoke with a record producer who has met the musician Joe Jackson, the producer indicated that Jackson really is pretty bitter about being overshadowed by Elvis Costello. video Coulton was not aware that this was true when he wrote the song.
  • The song is one of the six songs listed on the oldest archived version of Jonathan's website.



"Kenesaw Mountain Landis" is available for purchase in the Jonathan Coulton MP3 Store as an individual track or as part of Smoking Monkey. Of course, this song is also included as part of the "Everything" playlist.

Downloadable FLAC versions of the above are available in the Jonathan Coulton FLAC Store


"Smoking Monkey" is available for purchase as a CD here.


Smoking Monkey
1. I'm Having a Party · 2. Bozo's Lament · 3. Kenesaw Mountain Landis · 4. Ikea · 5. I Hate California · 6. Christmas Is Interesting · 7. Over There · 8. Millionaire Girlfriend · 9. First of May · 10. De-Evolving · 11. I'm a Mason Now · 12. Overhead
Best. Concert. Ever.
1. The Future Soon · 2. Ikea · 3. Shop Vac · 4. I'm Your Moon · 5. Baby Got Back · 6. Kenesaw Mountain Landis · 7. Chiron Beta Prime · 8. Tom Cruise Crazy · 9. Code Monkey · 10. Creepy Doll · 11. Still Alive · 12. Mr. Fancy Pants · 13. I Crush Everything · 14. Skullcrusher Mountain · 15. Mandelbrot Set · 16. You Ruined Everything · 17. Re: Your Brains · 18. A Talk with George · 19. I Feel Fantastic · 20. First of May