Appalachia Music

Desperados Waiting For A Train

Like Desperados

According to his website: “Guy Clark was born in Monahans, Texas, on November 6, 1941 and grew up in a home where the gift of a pocketknife was a rite of passage and poetry was read aloud.”

As a songwriter, Clark is famous for songs which offer slices of real life set to music. Over the years, Clark’s songs have become hits for various artists including:

  • Johnny Cash – Texas 1947
  • Bobby Bare – New Cut Road
  • Ricky Skaggs – Heartbroke
  • Vince Gill – Oklahoma Borderline
  • John Conlee – The Carpenter
  • Brad Paisley – Out In The Parking Lot

Clark’s song-Desperados Waiting For A Train grabs your heart from the first line: “I’d play the Red River Valley He’d sit out in the kitchen and cry.”

Clark wrote the song in the late 1960s about an oilfield worker who stayed at his grandmother’s hotel. The song was most notably covered by The Highway Men. The Blind Pig Gang has been doing the song for almost a year-if you’ve heard us do it live then I’m sure you’ll remember Pap’s speech about wildcaters who drill for oil on their own.

I hope you enjoyed the song-I thought you might like Pap’s ad libing at the end. The song is a tear jerker-it makes me think of:

  • learning to play Red River Valley on the piano-how one note seemed sweeter than all the others
  • sitting in the kitchen making music with Pap and Paul
  • all the people who’ve sat in Pap’s house and made music over the years
  • Paul telling me I could find the chords in the song better than most of The Highway Men.
  • Papaw Wade and his tobacco
  • Pap and his snuff that used to leave stains on his chin every once in a while-he’s been quit for years now
  • A 14 year old Deer Hunter pulling a loaded horse trailer home from Cataloochee because everyone else was too drunk to drive
  • the impression we each make on others-even when we don’t know we’re making it



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  • Reply
    February 14, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    Memories!!! I don’t remember singing Desperadoes, but I do remember singing Red River Valley in grade school which was in one of the last one room school houses in the nation where the teacher did everything from teaching, to fixing our hurts, to getting milk in for our lunches, to loading the furnace with coal, to sweeping or shoveling snow off the front steps each day. I took grades 4-6 in that school, and her name was Mrs. Crandall. She was amazing!!!
    I remember too back in the old days how the ladies of the family, house, neighborhood, etc., sat around the kitchen table over a cuppa coffee talking about everything under the sun. Now that I’m an older lady, I wish we still did that. Nowadays it takes place in the sitting room or the family room or not at all. What a sad thing!!!
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Peggy Lambert
    February 10, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    Tipper, hope you are better today.
    That was a great song.
    Peggy L

  • Reply
    February 10, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Good job and liked hearing the base. First heard this song in the album “The Highway Men” with Willie N., Johnny C., Waylon J., and Kris K. Loved to listen to those guys.Some of country’s greats.

  • Reply
    Richard Moore
    February 10, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Guy Clark is a favorite. My wife and I went to an Emmy Lou Harris concert on our second date in 1976.
    Jerry Jeff Walker opened for her and did “Like a Coat From the Cold” and raved about the songwriter Guy Clark. Then Emmy came on and raved some more about Clark and did several of his songs including “Desperadoes Waiting for a Train.”
    We left the show and went to a record store and bought copies of Clark’s “Old No. 1” album that has so many great songs and we’ve had the pleasure of hearing him perform live. He is an American treasure! Thanks for the wonderful rendition.

  • Reply
    February 10, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    That’s a fine version of an old favourite of mine. Thanks muchly.

  • Reply
    February 10, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Loved the song, and I could hear
    that bass keeping time just like
    Johnny Cash. I guess I am one of
    the lucky guys that have heard
    the Blind Pig Gang do it in person.
    Trains always fascinated me. Even
    when I was a kid, our gang would
    walk a long ways just to get to
    hobo the train. The old Cabboose
    guy tried his best to goudge us
    off with a stick, but there was
    too many of us and pretty soon we
    were all onboard. Then we’d steal
    his fuzzees holding up the windows
    to rob jacket nests. We fished

  • Reply
    February 10, 2013 at 2:05 pm


  • Reply
    February 10, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    I love the song and the way your family did it. I haven’t heard it for a while. Thank you for all you share with everyone.

  • Reply
    February 10, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    I don’t know any of the artists you mention but I loved Clark’s song so much! It’s amazing how many memories a song can trigger! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    February 10, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Started my day off just right! Pap was purely enjoying that one, wasn’t he! I see more than a bit of a sly wit there. Love picking in the kitchen.

  • Reply
    February 10, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Nicely done! I enjoyed that! Is your migraine gone? Maybe the song helped! Happy Day!

  • Reply
    Brian Blake
    February 10, 2013 at 10:13 am

    For a train robber’s personal account, see “Holding Up A Train,” a short story in “The Complete Works of O. Henry” (Doubleday & Co., NY, 1953), 831. Tulsa Jack Blake, my non-de-plume, a 1st cousin once removed, was a bank and train robber with the Doolin Gang in Oklahoma the 1890s. We have a biography and a poem about him.

  • Reply
    February 10, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Thank you, Tipper. That was beautiful! Shared it with my husband this morning & we both really enjoyed it. Nothing like good music to soothe the soul. Have a blessed day!

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    February 10, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Tipper, I loved the song this morning. The title reminded me of my brother. When he was around 14 he and a buddy hopped on a boxcar of the train that would stop near the house we lived in when we were young. They had the big idea that they would see what it was like to be a hobo. They rode about 15 miles until the next stop where they snuck off the train and had to find a phone to call dad to come get them. Daddy was pretty upset but also sort of proud of them too. I was in awe of him for actually having the guts to do it. He has always reminded me of a desperado waiting on a train because he never stays put too long anywhere.
    P.S. I hope you are feeling better!

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    February 10, 2013 at 8:55 am

    Tipper: A great post for a chilly day! Your fellows did a great performance! I needed a break from the EARLY Sunday morning writing process. But thanks to Ethelene, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Oops I should not leave out Jim, who solves my computer problems in great style. Stay ‘tuned’ for “The Fiddler of the Mountains” coming in the SPRING – maybe.
    The best,
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Tim Mc
    February 10, 2013 at 8:05 am

    Wow,, don’t think I’ve ever heard this one, very good job..

  • Reply
    February 10, 2013 at 7:45 am

    Pap and Paul do a fine rendition of this song. I so love the way their voices blend together.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Ormond Paul
    February 10, 2013 at 7:11 am

    Love the song. Are you feeling better today?

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