Orange Blossom Special (song)

Orange Blossom Special (song)
"Orange Blossom Special"
Single by Bill Monroe
Genre Bluegrass/Folk
Label Columbia Records
Writer(s) Ervin T. Rouse

The fiddle tune "Orange Blossom Special", about the passenger train of the same name, was written by Ervin T. Rouse (1917-1981) in 1938. The original recording was created by Ervin and Gordon Rouse in 1939. It is considered the best known fiddle tune of the twentieth century and is often called simply The Special.[citation needed] It has been referred to as "the fiddle player's national anthem".



By the 1950s, it had become a perennial favorite at bluegrass festivals, popular for its rousing energy. For a long time no fiddle player would be hired for a bluegrass band unless he could play it.

For many years, Orange Blossom Special has been not only a train imitation piece, but also a vehicle to exhibit the fiddler's pyrotechnic virtuosity. Performed at breakneck tempos and with imitative embellishments that evoke train wheels and whistles, OBS is guaranteed to bring the blood of all but the most jaded listeners to a quick, rolling boil.
 — Norm Cohen, author, Long Steel Rail: The Railroad in American Folksong


Other musicians, including Robert Russell "Chubby" Wise, have claimed authorship of the song. As Chubby tells the story, one night, after he and fellow musician Ervin made their usual rounds, they decided to visit the Jacksonville Terminal in Florida and see what the fuss over the Orange Blossom Special train was all about . .

. . even though it was about three in the morning we went right into the Terminal and got on board and toured that train, and it was just about the most luxurious thing I had ever seen. Ervin was impressed, too. And when we got done lookin' er over he said, 'Let's write a song about it.' So we went over to my place . . and that night she was born. Sitting on the side of my bed. We wrote the melody in less than an hour, and called it Orange Blossom Special. Later Ervin and his brother put some words to it.

Rouse copyrighted the song in 1938 and recorded it in 1939. Bill Monroe, regarded by many as "the father of bluegrass music," recorded the song (with Art Wooten on fiddle) and made it a hit. Since then countless versions nave been recorded, among them Chubby's own, as an instrumental in a 1969 album, Chubby Wise and His Fiddle. And that version, said Chubby, "is the way it was written and the way it's supposed to be played."[1]


Look a-yonder comin'
Comin' down that railroad track
Hey, look a-yonder comin'
Comin' down that railroad track
It's the Orange Blossom Special
Bringin' my baby back

Well, I'm going down to Florida
And get some sand in my shoes
Or maybe Californy
And get some sand in my shoes
I'll ride that Orange Blossom Special
And lose these New York blues

"Say man, when you going back to Florida?"
"When am I goin' back to Florida? I don't know, don't reckon I ever will."
"Ain't you worried about getting your nourishment in New York?"
"Well, I don't care if I do-die-do-die-do-die-do-die."

Hey talk about a-ramblin'
She's the fastest train on the line
Talk about a-travellin'
She's the fastest train on the line
It's that Orange Blossom Special
Rollin' down the seaboard line


  • Johnny Cash named his 1965 album after the song. While bluegrass performers tend to play it as strictly an instrumental, Cash sang the lyrics, and replaced the fiddle parts with two harmonicas.
  • The Moody Brothers' Grammy nominated country instrumental "The Great Train Song Medley" featured their father Dwight Moody playing fiddle on Orange Blossom Special.[2]
  • Florida-native Vassar Clements also often played it during his live performances.
  • A version by Doug Kershaw peaked at #9 on the RPM Country Tracks chart in Canada in 1970.
  • Noted session artist Tim Watson is famous for performing the song with his band, Black Creek, in imitation of a semi-trailer truck rather than a locomotive. The interpretation includes a mock truck horn (rather than a steam whistle), a police car, and a collision with a rather unfortunate opossum.
  • The song was covered by Swedish instrumental rock band The Spotnicks in 1961 and released on their first album, The Spotnicks in London – Out-a-Space!. In 1962 the Spotnicks recording entered the British Top 30.
  • It was the official theme song (1949-1977) for the Texas Cowgirls basketball team who barnstormed playing men's basketball rules against male opponents. Decked out with boleros, western hats, holsters and pistols over their basketball uniforms, the team entered the courts to the tune, dropping an article of western fashion with each fancy layup.
  • The song was covered by award-winning fiddler Wayne Masters and his band, the Back Creek Valley Boys, on their 2010 album "Back Creek Valley Express".
  • Steve Martin and his band the Steep Canyon Rangers played the song at the 2011 A Capitol Fourth Concert on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

See also


Further reading

  • Randy Noles (2007). Fiddler's Curse: The Untold Story of Ervin T. Rouse, Chubby Wise, Johnny Cash, and The Orange Blossom Special. Anaheim Hills, CA: Centerstream. ISBN 978-1574242140. 
  • Betsy Carter (2006). The Orange Blossom Special. New York: Dell. ISBN 0-385-33976-3. 


External links

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