Holmes told Songfacts: "At the time, I was working on an arrangement of 'Sixteen Tons
,' the Tennessee Ernie Ford hit from the '50s, for an artist named Andy Kim
. While I was working on the arrangement, there was a cooking show on the TV in the kitchen. It was called The Galloping Gourmet with Graham Kerr
. It's on in the background and I'm singing the lyrics to '16 Tons,' playing it to a kind of vamp sort of like 'Proud Mary
,' and I sing:Some people say a man is made out of mud
A coal man's made out of muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that's weak and a back that's...
And I think, you know, that almost sounds like a recipe - muscle and blood and skin and bones, bake in a moderate oven for two hours, top with Miracle Whip. I had seen the movie Suddenly Last Summer
about a week earlier on TV, and it had a revelation about cannibalism in it, and I thought, If it's good enough for Tennessee Williams, it's good enough for The Buoys. So I thought, Cannibalism during a mining disaster, that'll get banned. It's not like I'm really telling people to go out and eat someone, this is just this dark, horrible thing that happened in this story. So I write this lyric: 'Timothy, Timothy, where on Earth did you go?' It's about three boys who are trapped in a mine with water but no food for maybe a week. When they're pulled free, they don't remember what happened, but they know they're not hungry. One of them is missing, and that's Timothy. We record this on the weekend and I don't think about it again."