Singer tells of ranch-owner Diamond Joe, who mistreats his workers, talks too much, and lies. Singer has tried to quit three times, but Joe has talked him out of it. When he dies, "Give my blankets to my buddies And give the fleas to Diamond Joe"
This should not be confused with "Diamond Joe (II)", a river shanty with the distinctive chorus, "Diamond Joe, better come and get me, Diamond Joe." "Diamond Joe (I)" has no chorus, although most verses end with the name of Diamond Joe. Some have speculated that Cisco Houston and/or Lee Hays adapted the song from "The State of Arkansas," but there is no evidence. - PJS
This is one of those really confusing things. There is a third "Diamond Joe" song, also about a ranch owner, for which see DIAMONJO in the Digital Tradition. It's not the same song as this one, to my mind (the singer doesn't like his work, but it's more because of loneliness) -- but it's a Lomax item, and who knows what the Lomaxes did to produce it? - RBW