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FREIGHT TRAIN BLUES

(John Lair) (Original Lyrics) (Bob Dylan's version)


Bob Dylan (with "Greenbriar Boys"Ralph Rinzler & John Herald), 1961 (John Cohen)

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© 1935


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Recorded by Bob Dylan -- with alternate lyrics -- Columbia Studios, NYC, NY, Nov 22, 1961, released on "Bob Dylan."

JOHN LAIR: I just remembered down there in the mountains where I came from that a freight train whistle at night is an awfully lonesome sound. In a quiet country where you don't hear many sounds, if you've ever heard a few trains go through these mountain passes, you never forget them. I wrote this song especially for Red Foley. I took Red to Chicago for the first time and introduced him to radio.

Interview, Renfro Valley, KY, Aug 22, 1973; reprinted in DOROTHY HORSTMAN, SING YOUR HEART OUT, COUNTRY BOY, New York, 1976, p. 362.


Lyrics as reprinted ibid., pp. 362-363.
I was born in Dixie in a boomer shack,
Just a little shanty by the railroad track.
The humming of the drivers was my lullaby
And a freight train whistle taught me how to cry.
CHORUS:
I got the freight train blues,
Lawdy, Lawdy, Lawdy,
Got them in the bottom of my ramblin' shoes,
And when the whistle blows, I gotta go.
Oh! Lawdy! Guess I'm never gonna lose
The freight train blues.

My daddy was a fireman and my mammy dear
Was the only daughter of an engineer.
My sweetie is a brakeman, and it ain't no joke,
It's a shame the way she keeps a good man broke.

Aeroplanes and autos always leave me cold,
The moaning of a steamboat never stirs my soul.
The only thing that makes me want to navigate
Is a wildcat whistle on a southbound freight.

I know I'm old enough to quit this running 'round,
I've tried a hundred times to stop and settle down.
But every time I find a place I'd like to stay,
I hear a freight train holler, and I'm on my way.


ALTERNATE LYRICS as recorded by Bob Dylan, Columbia Studios, NYC, NY, Nov 22, 1961,
released on "Bob Dylan."
Transcribed by Manfred Helfert.

I was born in Dixie in a boomer shack,
Just a little shanty by the railroad track.
Freight train whistle taught me how to cry,
Hummin' of the drivers was my lullaby.
I got the freight train blues,
Oh Lordy, mama, I got 'em in the bottom of my ramblin' shoes.
And when the whistle blows I gotta go,
Baby, don't you know,
Well it looks like I'm never gonna lose
The freight train blues.
Well, my daddy was a fireman and my mama here
She was the only daughter of an engineer.
My sweetie was a brakeman, and it ain't no joke,
Shame the way she keeps a good man broke.
I got the freight train blues,
Oh Lordy, mama, I got 'em in the bottom of my ramblin' shoes.
And when the whistle blows I gotta go,
Oh mama, don't you know,
Well it looks like I'm never gonna lose
The freight train blues.
Well -- the only thing that makes me laugh again
Is a southbound whistle on a southbound train;
Every place I wanna go
I never can go because you know
I got the freight train blues,
Oh Lordy, mama, I got 'em in the bottom of my ramblin' shoes.


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