Special Sub-Topic: American Railroad Songs
|You learned this first in kindergarten. In the song, "Down by the Station", what is standing "all in a row"?|
The little puffer bellies. This song has been recorded by a number of people, but you probably heard it first from your kindergarten teacher.
"Down by the station,
early in the morning,
see the little puffer bellies, all in a row".
"Puffer bellies" refers to the steam engines.
|Another childhood song. According to the lyrics of "I've been working on the railroad,", which young lady was in the kitchen?|
Dinah. "Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah,
Someone's in the kitchen I know, oh, oh, oh,
Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah,
Strumming on the old banjo."
|Probably the most sung-about American railway man was that steel-driving man, John Henry. Where is the monument to John Henry located?|
Talcott, West Virginia. There are almost as many versions of the "John Henry" legend as there are folk singers in America. Some of the people who have sung about John Henry include Leadbelly, Pete Seeger, Harry Belefonte and Bruce Springsteen. Researchers, both amateur and academic, have looked into the legend of John Henry in an attempt to learn how much of the story is based on fact. Regardless of whether or not John Henry was a real person, his determination to test his own strength against that of a machine has touched listeners for generations. A memorial plaque at the entrance of a railway tunnel in Talcott, West Virginia, where John Henry might have
"...told the captain, a man ain't nothing but a man,
but before I let that steam drill whop me down,
I'll die with the hammer in my hand, Lawd, Lawd,", records his story.
|In the 'forties, the Andrew Sisters recorded a finger-popping number called "Chattanooga Choo Choo". According to the song, where will a traveler find himself after reading a magazine?|
Baltimore. "You leave the Pennsylvania Station 'bout a quarter to four,
You read a magazine and then you're in Baltimore,
Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer,
Glad to have your ham and eggs in Carolina.
When you hear the whistle blowing eight to the bar,
Then you know that Tennessee is not very far".
|No quiz about railway songs would be complete without a song by the "Man in Black", Johnny Cash. According to "Folsom Prison Blues", what are the men in the train doing?|
Drinking coffee and smoking cigars. "I bet there's rich folks eating in some fancy dining car,
They're probably drinkin' coffee and smoking big cigars,
Well I know I had it comin', I know I can't be free,
But those people keep on movin', and that's what tortures me"
(Johnny Cash, Hi-Lo Music, 1956)
|"The Train They Call the City of New Orleans" has been described by some as America's best train song. Who wrote it?|
Steve Goodman. Chicago-born Steve Goodman wrote "The City of New Orleans" in 1971. According to Goodman's web site, he met Arlo Guthrie in a bar and asked Guthrie if he could play a song for him. Arlo agreed after Steve bought him a beer, and Steve then played "The City of New Orleans". Guthrie was so impressed with the song that he asked for the rights to be the first to record it. Other singers who have covered the song include Judy Collins, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. Kris Kirstoferson and John Prine described it as "the best damn train song ever". "The City of New Orleans" has been translated into French, and Israeli singer Yoram Gaon sings a Hebrew version of the song. The original goes like this "Good morning American, how are you?
Don't you know me, I'm your native son.
I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans
And I'll be gone five hundred miles before the day is done".
|Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly, wrote one of America's classic train songs. What is it?|
The Rock Island Line. Blues man and ex-convict Huddie Leadbetter composed some of America's favorite songs, chief amongst them is "Goodnight, Irene". Leadbelly's song about a train driver cheating the toll-keeper of his fee starts like this,
"Now here is the story 'bout the Rock Island Line
She runs down into New Orleans.
There's a big toll gate down there.
And you now when you got certain things on board,
Well, you don't have to pay the man no toll".
|American folk music is full of songs about train wrecks. Which famous engineer "took a locomotive to the Promised Land"?|
Casey Jones. Unlike John Henry, whose origins are unclear, quite a bit is known about Casey Jones. He was born John Luther Jones in 1863. He met his death on April 30, 1900 in Vaugnn, Mississippi, when the train he was driving hit a freight train that was stopped on the tracks. Casey heroically refused to jump from the train, and made an exerted effort to stop it. Due to his self-sacrifice, he was the only casualty of the wreck. His friend, engine wiper Wallace Saunders, is credited with writing the ballad in his honor. There are museums dedicated to Casey Jones in Vaugan Mississippi, the site of the crash, as well as Water Valley Mississippi and Jackson, Tennessee. (Wikipedia and a site called "Casey Jones, the Real Story" provided information for this answer.)
|Which American University uses the song "The Wabash Cannonball" as its football team's fight song?|
Kansas State University. "The Wabash Cannonball" was written in 1882 by J.A. Roff and was first recorded by the Carter Family in 1929. Since then, this song about a fictional train has been recorded by a variety of people, including Roy Acuff and Johnny Cash. Kansas State University adopted it as a fight song in 1966 under rather bizarre circumstances. A fire in the music room destroyed all the sheet music with the exception of "The Wabash Cannonball"! The chorus goes like this:
"From the great Atlantic Ocean,
To the wide Pacific Shore,
From the Green ol' Smoky mountains,
To the south lands by the shore,
She's mighty tall and handsome,
And she's known quite well by all,
She's the regular combination.
On the Wabash Cannonball."
(information for this question came from Wikipedia.)
|Blues man Sonny Terry was able to imitate the sound of a train on his musical instrument. Which instrument did Terry play?|
Blues harp. Sonny Terry was born in 1911 and died in 1986. He was one of many authentic blues men "discovered" and recorded by Alan Lomax. He referred to his exuberant style of playing the blues harp as "whooping" the blues. Using his blues harp, he was able to produce a most convincing imitation of a train leaving the station, accelerating, and then slowing down.
I hope you enjoyed this quiz. Please watch your step when leaving the train.
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