Anatomy of a Song # 4

By Gary:

“I have been reading and planning for about 3 days now, so I know basically what I wish to write about tonight.  I will take a look at a song from 1971 and one from 1955, both really uneventful.

Let’s look at the 1971 song written by Steve Goodman, believe it or not about a train, yes a train song, has absolutely no controversy around, I just love the song.  Steve wrote the song, put it on his album and one night in Chicago at the Quiet Knight Bar in Chicago he played it and sold the idea to Arlo Guthrie who agreed to add it to his repertoire. 

Well add it he did and in 1972 he recorded it and to his surprise it reached #18 on BB.  I just love the song, but I had to wait until 1984 to hear the best version (in my opinion) by one of my country favourites, Willie Nelson and that version I love and play today. 

The song was never a huge hit on BB but it was recorded by a number of very significant artists and here are just a few.

City of New Orleans
written by Steve Goodman in 1971

1971 / Steve Goodman /

This was the first version I heard in 1972 by Arlo Guthrie / 1978 performance and 1972 recording /
This is “My” (Gary) favourite version from 1984 by Willie Nelson /  a great video of Willie and Sheryl Crow
and his 1984 # 1 Country hit.
Jerry Reed, Truly one of the great guitar pickers of all time / I love this version /
Not my favourite version but a very big artist / Johnny Cash at the Opry
and  with June Carter Cash
Absolutely the best instrumental version was by the Country Gentleman, Chet Atkins /
Lonestar /
Farm Aid / Old Crow Medicine Show /

Now I will take you back to 1955 and look at a song that has been added to Library of Congress’s Recording Registry both the A & B side, Bo Diddley and I’m a Man.  The self titled song was recorded in Chicago April 1955 and released on the Chess subsidiary Checker Records. 

I will go a little further and look at who it influenced to write a song with that “Hambone” beat.  Let’s look at the original by Ellas McDaniel or Bo Diddley.

Bo Diddley
written by Ellas McDaniel or Bo Diddley
1955/ Ed Sullivan /Bo Diddley /


and another great version in 1965 /
One of my favourite singers Buddy Holly was listening in Lubbock Texas in 1955 and wrote this song in 1957 with the same Hambone beat. It was the B side of “Oh Boy”… Not Fade Away /
Fast forward one year to 1958 and a very talented musician, Johnny Otis, singer, songwriter wrote a big Hit called “Willie and the Hand Jive“, same Hambone beat /
1989 / Presidential Inaugural Concert / (Fantastic with great musicians)

There are others, but I will just leave it in my favourite era, the 50’s, yes “Not Fade Away” was a hit for the Rolling Stones, but that’s another story.

6 responses to “Anatomy of a Song # 4

  1. I loved this entry; especially the Sheryl Crow/Willie Nelson “City of New Orleans” video, and the “Bo Diddley” 1955 one. As a guitarist (mainly), Diddley is absolutely required listening!

  2. Bo Diddley was a deputy sheriff in New Mexico. He showed me and Ken Greer his badge when we gigged with him for a week. He said” In case you guys were thinking of doing anything illegal, don’t do it around me”. and then he pulled out his badge.That was his sense of humour. Great guy.

  3. Great post!

    As for the “hambone”, another was Dee Clark’s “Hey Little Girl” which had more than a little to do with “Bo Diddley”

  4. Gordon Lightfoot used the hambone beat in his song ‘Spin Spin’.

    As far as I know, the song never appeared on any albums but it was the flip side of his single release of ‘For Lovin’ Me’ in 1966. Both CFUN and CKLG played it in Vancouver and I used to own the single. I always liked Spin Spin and still play it quite a bit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.