Appalachia Music Pap

Blue Yodel

Blue Yodel

Trains have been on my mind for the last few days-actually ever since I read this post on the Old Red Barn Co. Blog.

Every time I travel through the Nantahala Gorge I always notice the big steel rails that run alongside the river. The tracks that go through the gorge-used to continue all the way to Murphy. Well they still do-but trains haven’t run to Murphy in years. Seems there’s always talk about getting the train running again but so far it’s only talk.

A few years ago, Pap and I were talking about the train that used to stop in Murphy. He told me him and his Mother rode it to see his father in Newport News VA. Pap’s father, Wade, had one leg that was shorter than the other-so he was turned down for service in WWII but he did go to VA to work in the ship yards. (Papaw Wade fell off a cabin when he was a boy and broke his leg-I guess it wasn’t set right)

Pap told me one other story about the train and his Mother. They were attending church in Factory Town-a little community in the city limits of Murphy. He said as they sat on the bench she poked him gently in the arm and pointed with her head out the window. Pap was only about 3 years old and almost had to stand up in the pew to see what she was pointing at-it was the train. I’m not sure why I think that little memory is so sweet-but I do. Somehow it conveys the feeling of those personal glances and looks we sometimes give those we love-you know when you know each other so well no words are needed just a nudge or a raised eyebrow.

I’ve never ridden a train-but I do like a good train song. We filmed Paul playing this old Jimmie Rodgers song a few years ago when we gave the guitar in the video away here on the Blind Pig

Sounded good didn’t it? If you’ve got a favorite train song-leave me a comment and tell me about it.


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  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    March 4, 2021 at 11:31 am

    I enjoyed Paul’s rendition of Blue Yodel. My favorite train song is Roy Acuff singing Wabash Cannonball, especially with an old battery-powered AM radio fading in and out

  • Reply
    September 22, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    My Daddy sang and played the old train songs. When he played Blue Yodel, he yodeled the part- (as he did in many songs) one of his specialties, along with doing a full-throated steam whistle! Paul does a beautiful job with his pickin.
    Thanks for the lovely memory :-).
    ps: The City of New Orleans is also a personal favorite.

  • Reply
    September 22, 2014 at 12:36 am

    I’ve been fortunate enough to have fired a steam locomotive, and both Linda and I took turn-a-bout at the controls of an aged GP-9 Diesel locomotive one night delivering pulpwood to the papermill in Cottonton AL, an 18 mile trip each way. ‘Twas something that few people get to enjoy.
    The first train song that I can remember would have been “Freight Train Blues”; I don’t remember who sung it for that was back when phonograph needles were steel and records were made of shellac. One that I particularly liked was “The Wreck Of The FFV”; a sad,sad song about what was said to be a true story about a train wreck on the C&O in West Virginia. Do I have a favorite? Not really, there are/were so many; Arlo Guthrie’s “Little East Texas Red” piques my interest but I think that’s because of the hot licks he plays on the lead-in.

  • Reply
    September 22, 2014 at 12:06 am

    The only train song that flashed in my mind was a comical one by Vaughn Monroe (Wikipedia says in 1956 which would be about right in my mind), “In The Middle Of The House” which use to make us laugh and laugh when we were kids. It was one of those catchy tunes that when you started humming or singing it, it was hard to stop.
    Funny memories…anyone else remember this one?
    One house we lived in was right across the street from the tracks in Cary, NC, and I gotta tell ya, if we were talking to someone on the phone when a train went by, they’d quiet on the other end of the line, and one said, “My God, are you talking to me in the middle of railroad tracks” which also made me laugh and laugh.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    September 21, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    I remember a train ride I took when I was twelve. You’ve prompted me to write a post about that. Have to do that this week 🙂 Thanks for the idea, Tipper!

  • Reply
    September 21, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    I’m itchin’ to go on a train ride now! Just before Mom and Dad moved out here with us I had been planning a train trip for my older two granddaughters. I had wanted to make an eastern or western loop but it was much more expensive than I expected so was down to considering, maybe, a trip east and west across Texas. Perhaps we can again consider this in a few more years.
    As a child, I had a few train rides between the tip of Texas and Kansas. I loved the ride even if we did have to sleep in our seats. I thought it was fascinating to watch folks going about their business alongside the tracks. – and there was something soothing about the swaying jostle of the train and the clatter of the metal against metal.
    It was always a sad time when we went and Mom would be teary eyed part of the way. We only traveled by train when there was a death in the family and Dad had to tend crops so couldn’t share the driving with Mom – and, he didn’t like the idea of her and my sister and I on the road by ourselves – the train was thought to be the quickest and safest way.
    As for train songs, the only ones that come to mind right now are the children’s song “Little Red Caboose” and “The Chattanooga Choo-Choo”. Then there’s “Bo- Jangles” – – I always associate that song with a Hobo on a train. Another ‘not country’ – – Clickety Clack . . . sorry just not thinking “country” today. But have enjoyed reminiscing.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    September 21, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    My Mama loved trains. She taught me “The wreck of Old Number Nine” and several more. Perhaps her love for old trains was because her daddy was a bossman on the train that ran from Asheville to Murphy. He died
    before I was born but thank goodness he had a good job and took care of 16 youngins, and during the Great Depression years at that…Ken
    PS: You mentioned the railroad
    tracks that runs along the
    Nantahala river. Near the Swinging Bridge, there are 3
    Indian Caves beside the railroad
    and can be seen when the leaves
    are down. I’ve been in ’em.

  • Reply
    Kristin Iden
    September 21, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Ahhhh, I found the bob dylan recording online… much preferred, he captured the wandering spirit of the train…
    the video is not matched, but it is the recording

  • Reply
    Kristin Iden
    September 21, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    The song is called ‘I was young when I left home’ by Bob Dylan. It was an old recording, released in 2007 on the ‘Bootleg’ series so I can’t find the original on you tube for you but this guy does a good cover.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 21, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    You’ve never been on a train and I’ve never been on a plane, so we are even.
    Nope I lied, I was on a plane at an airshow once but it never left the ground.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 21, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    I found this in the Morganton New Herald. Readers near enough who are Revolutionary War buffs might be interested.
    “Enjoy the crisp autumn weather and soak up some history and fun while attending Historic Burke Foundation’s Revolutionary Weekend, Sept. 27-28.
    The festivities will commemorate the 234th anniversary of the Overmountain Men and their march through Burke County to the Battle of Kings Mountain. Revolutionary War leaders Charles and Joseph McDowell gathered the Overmountain Men at their home at Quaker Meadows on Sept. 30, 1780. These Patriot soldiers met under a giant oak tree that became known as the “Council Oak” and laid plans to find and defeat the Loyalists under British Major Patrick Ferguson who had threatened to “lay waste the land.” The Overmountain Men found Ferguson in the coming week and defeated him in the Battle of Kings Mountain on Oct. 7, 1780. This victory was a turning point in the War for Independence.”

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 21, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    I have a fascination with trains. Back in the 80’s I lived over in the town on Connelly Springs. My place was on the top of the hill right above the old coal chute and water tank where the old steam trains used to take on coal and water. The old trains were gone of course but there is still plenty of coal scattered on the ground. The concrete pilings where the water tank stood are still there. Maybe too the ghosts of hobos getting on and off the train.
    An old steam excursion train used to come through there every fall heading to Asheville to look at dead and dying foliage. You could hear that steam whistle for miles and miles. It gave me time to get down over the coal chute and out to the tracks to watch it go by. Or if I was clothed enough, get in the car and go “train chasing.” Train chasing is when you know the area well enough that you can watch it go by, then outrun it to another crossing and watch it again. Over and over again til you run out of steam.
    I always planned to ride that train but I don’t think it runs any more. I have been on the one that runs up through the Nantahala Gorge a couple of times. And little Tweetsie. It is a kiddy park ride now but was once a real working train. I used to take my kids there as an excuse to look at the train.

  • Reply
    September 21, 2014 at 11:39 am

    You must ride a train. I love trains because they take you through small towns and places you don’t get to see from the interstate. We could see the train tracks from my grandmother’s house and my brother and I were always excited to see a train. My husband and I are about 5 blocks from the train tracks, and when the wind blows the right way, it sounds like the train is coming down the middle of our street.

  • Reply
    eva nell wike, PhD
    September 21, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Oh my gosh, Tipper! You have shared some wonderful details about trains and Murphy – which I did not know. BUT that train use to come right on up to Hayesville – way back before I was born – at least I never saw it. Now that Aussie downunder struck a fine note of interest to me. When I had ‘run away’ to Australia, to get over a broken heart, I took a trip toward Perth but touched down at Ayers Rock. I was so chicken, I climbed half-way to the top of the Rock. Can’t believe I was so chicken! But I was traveling alone and didn’t know a soul in the outback. But I made it BACK ok.
    Thanks for a wonderful POST!
    Eva Nell
    p.s. WE WENT DOWN TO PICKENS, S.C. for a wonderful visit and a fantastic book signing event. Those folks down there are SERIOUS authors!

  • Reply
    Gina S
    September 21, 2014 at 9:35 am

    As always, your brother does a grand job picking and singing. Two of my favorite train songs are The City of New Orleans by Arlo Guthrie and Wabash Cannonball. Trains fascinate me. I was lucky enough as a child to have enjoyed several train trips back when WNC still had passenger rail service. One sound I often hear is that of the horn at crossings as a train passes through the Swannanoa Valley. John Ehle wrote a novel, The Road, about the building of the line up Old Fort Mountain into the valley. In the book, he quotes from a telegram sent to Governor Vance, “Daylight entered Buncombe County today through the Swannanoa Tunnel.” (March 11, 1879) Many lives were lost in building the line up the mountain. Think of the changes to Western North Carolina that were facilitated by rail service.

  • Reply
    Ken Ryan
    September 21, 2014 at 9:17 am

    I enjoyed the train songs this morning, both the Jimmy Rogers song and the Slim Dusty song submitted by Gary. Is fall in the air over in the mountains yet?

  • Reply
    September 21, 2014 at 8:28 am

    I love the idea of riding on the train. I have only ridden on a train twice, once as a small child and then again once as an adult. There’s just something about the click/clack as rumbles along the track. Maybe now it doesn’t rumble, but glides and speeds to get one to its destination.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    September 21, 2014 at 7:46 am

    I don’t have a train song, but I won that guitar. It has never sounded that good in my hands!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 21, 2014 at 7:28 am

    Tipper–Even though Australia was one of the focal points of study for me in my graduate school history studies, I must admit I have never delved into the country’s musical heritage. Accordingly, thanks to Gary Ballard for introducing me to Slim Dusty. I enjoyed his “Indian Pacific” and then listened to several more of his tunes. The fiddling in “Indian Pacific” is outstanding and really conveys the rhythm of a train rolling down the line.
    Also, add another song to my train favorites mentioned in an earlier post, “The Wreck of Old Ninety-Seven.”
    The wreck on which the song is based took place in the area where my wife grew up and all you have to do is ride up White Oak Mountain to see how the train “got away” as it went down to Danville.
    Jim Casada

    • Reply
      Garry Ballard
      July 17, 2020 at 9:32 am

      I’m glad you liked it Jim, Slim Dusty was a huge country music star here in Australia.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 21, 2014 at 7:21 am

    That was a fine song and Paul really showed the capability of that guitar you gave away.
    Thanks Garry, I enjoyed Slim’s song!

  • Reply
    Garry Ballard
    September 21, 2014 at 6:06 am

    G’day from Australia Tipper,
    I love trains and enjoyed Paul’s song. Here’s a song about Australia’s greatest train, the Indian Pacific, sung by Australia’s greatest ever country singer, the late Slim Dusty.
    The train travels right across Australia from Sydney on the Pacific Ocean to Perth, the world’s most remote city, on the Indian Ocean. It also stops at Adelaide on the Great Southern Ocean, a distance of 2,704 miles. Part of the trip has the longest straight track in the world!
    More info about this train can be found here:
    I really enjoy your posts but have been a bit busy to reply much lately.
    Bless you
    Garry Ballard

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