Rock Island Line (song)


Rock Island Line (song)

Song infobox
Name = Rock Island Line
Type = Song first recorded
Artist = Lead Belly
alt Artist =
Album =
Published =
Released =
track_no =
Recorded = 1937
Genre = Blues, Folk, Skiffle, Country
Length = 2-4 minutes
Writer = Lead Belly
Composer =
Label = Asch Recordings
Producer =
Misc = Extra album cover
Upper caption =
Type =


Lower caption = Cover of the Leadbelly compilation "Rock Island Line: Original 1935-1943 Recordings"
Extra album cover
Upper caption =


Lower caption = Johnny Cash's 1970s album, "Rock Island Line"

"Rock Island Line" is an American blues/folk song performed and first recorded by Lead Belly in the 1930s. Versions have been recorded by other artists. The song is ostensibly about the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad.

The chorus to the old song reads:

The Rock Island Line is a mighty good road
The Rock Island Line is the road to ride
The Rock Island Line is a mighty good road
If you want to ride you gotta ride it like you find it
Get your ticket at the station for the Rock Island Line

The verses tell a humorous story about a train operator who smuggled pig iron through a toll gate by claiming all he had on board was livestock.

History

According to Harry Lewman Music,

* Lonnie Donegan's recording, released in 1955, signalled the start of the UK "skiffle" craze. Donegan "did nothing to credit Lead Belly as the author, even though he simply copied Huddie's entire arrangement". [Ibid., Harry Lewman Music] However, although it only featured Donegan, Chris Barber on double bass and washboard player (Beryl Bryden), it was a band recording so he made no money from it beyond his original session fee.

* Pete Seeger recorded a version while he was chopping wood, to demonstrate its origins. [Ibid., Harry Lewman Music]

Versions

"Rock Island Line" has been recorded by:

1930s – 40s

*Lead Belly recorded the song at Washington, D.C. on June 22, 1937, the first of many recordings of it he made during his career, the last being live at the University of Texas on June 15, 1949. [ [http://cycad.com/cgi-bin/Leadbelly/discog/ The Leadbelly Web Discography] ]
"Rock Island Line" appears in the Lead Belly compilation "" (released 2003 [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:5lfjzfa7eh2k] ), among many others.

1950s

*Odetta as part of the duo Odetta and Larry "The Tin Angel" 1954

*Lonnie Donegan - single (1955)::"In July 1954, Donegan recorded this fast-tempoed version of "Rock Island Line", with Chris Barber's Jazz Band, featuring "John Henry" on the B-side. It was the first debut record to go gold in Britain, and reached the top ten in the United States."

*Bobby Darin - single (1956)::"Bobby Darin's debut single was a 1956 recording of "Rock Island Line", with 'rhythm accompaniment directed by Jack Pleis', featuring "Timber" (written by Darin, Don Kirshner and George M. Shaw) on the the B-side. It was released on the Decca Records label."

*The Weavers - "The Weavers' Greatest Hits" (1957) [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:hjfrxqy5ldje]

*Johnny Cash - "Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar" (1957)

*Johnny Horton - "1956-1960" (1957) [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:3jfwxqq5ldse]

::"Recorded in 1957, released posthumously."

1960s

*The Brothers Four - "The Brothers Four in Person" (1962) [http://wm02.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:fjfoxqr5ldte]

*Stan Freberg - "The Best of Stan Freberg" (1963) [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:m0yvad3ky8w3] ::"In Freberg's typical style, this is a "twisted" parody version."

*Ramblin Jack Elliot - "Young Brigham" (1968)

1970s

*Johnny Cash - single on the album "Rock Island Line" (1970) [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&token=&sql=10:6227gjqr86ib] , see ::"This single reached #93 (US Singles Chart), and #35 (US Country chart)."
*John Lennon - acoustic and unreleased version found on the bootleg, "The Lost Lennon Tapes".

1980s

*The Knitters - "Poor Little Critter on the Road" (1985)
*Mano Negra - "Patchanka" (1988)
*Little Richard & Fishbone - "Folkways: A Vision Shared -- A Tribute To Woody Guthrie And Leadbelly" (1988)

1990s

*Devil in a Woodpile (with Jane Baxter Miller) - single (1999)::"On the album "Poor Little Knitter on the Road - A Tribute to the Knitters"."

2000s

*Odetta - "Looking for a Home" (2001) [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:cy1m96bojep8]
*Dan Zanes and Friends - "Family Dance" (2001) [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:kqk0ikvabb39] ::"A children's version recorded with the Rocket Ship Review."
*Eleven Hundred Springs - "Bandwagon" (2004) [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:k2kbiknsbb59]
*Peter Donegan Band - "Live at the Elephant" (2006) [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:0zftxqyrldke]
*Kickin Grass - "On The Short Rows" (2006) [http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&token=ADFEAEE4791BDD4EAE7620CE881F47C5B172E01ADD42EA8B0D6E495AD1A962599E396FEC57E295CBAEF87CAB7BAFFF29E85B05D1C9E455FDCC0640&sql=10:a9fexqrdld0e ]
*The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band - "The Gospel Album" (2007)
*The Yorkshire Teabags - "Have a Cup of Skiffle!" (2007)

In popular culture

* Lonnie Donegan's recording of "Rock Island Line" was featured in an advert for the Vauxhall Astra Twintop and Tigra in 2006 in the UK.

* The 2005 computer game Civilization IV uses the lyric "I fooled you, I fooled you, I got pig iron, I got pig iron, I got all pig iron." when a player successfully gains the Railroad technology, the line is read by Leonard Nimoy.

* The 1999 film "The General's Daughter" featured the song in the closing credits.

ee also

*List of Leadbelly songs

External links

* [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=17:1300063~T00C "Rock Island Line" on the All Music Guide]
* [http://www.oldielyrics.com/lyrics/lonnie_donegan/rock_island_line.html Oldielyrics.com, Lonnie Donegan's version of "Rock Island Line"]
* [http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/200210/15_bickalj_rockisland/ A Mighty Good Road: Minnesota Public Radio]

References


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