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Origins: City of New Orleans

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CITY OF NEW ORLEANS


Related threads:
Lyr Req: New York parody of 'City of New Orleans' (3)
Lyr Req: 4th verse? City of New Orleans (18)
City of New Orleans (61)
Chords Req: City of New Orleans (20)
Lyr Add: The City of New Orleans (6) (closed)


GUEST,BobJovi 13 Mar 15 - 11:29 AM
Greg F. 13 Mar 15 - 12:02 PM
pdq 13 Mar 15 - 12:34 PM
Dennis the Elder 13 Mar 15 - 02:55 PM
breezy 13 Mar 15 - 05:00 PM
GUEST,Ray 13 Mar 15 - 05:18 PM
Joe_F 13 Mar 15 - 05:28 PM
Jerome Clark 13 Mar 15 - 07:47 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 14 Mar 15 - 02:04 AM
GUEST,Phil 14 Mar 15 - 03:32 AM
Joe_F 14 Mar 15 - 05:11 PM
Mysha 14 Mar 15 - 07:00 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 15 Mar 15 - 02:23 AM
Joe Offer 15 Mar 15 - 03:22 AM
Brakn 15 Mar 15 - 03:58 AM
Backwoodsman 15 Mar 15 - 04:19 AM
Mysha 15 Mar 15 - 06:06 AM
GUEST,henryp 15 Mar 15 - 06:44 AM
Mr Red 15 Mar 15 - 03:06 PM
GUEST,A passenger who refrained 15 Mar 15 - 04:14 PM
GUEST,Phil 15 Mar 15 - 04:15 PM
GUEST,Stim 16 Mar 15 - 04:25 PM
Uncle Phil 16 Mar 15 - 05:21 PM
GMGough 16 Mar 15 - 05:50 PM
Thompson 16 Mar 15 - 06:51 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 17 Mar 15 - 03:23 AM
Mr Red 17 Mar 15 - 03:29 AM
GUEST,henryp 17 Mar 15 - 09:07 AM
GUEST,# 17 Mar 15 - 09:19 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 17 Mar 15 - 01:51 PM
Mysha 17 Mar 15 - 03:50 PM
GUEST,henryp 17 Mar 15 - 08:01 PM
Uncle Phil 19 Mar 15 - 11:38 AM
Joe Offer 19 Mar 15 - 12:26 PM
Uncle Phil 19 Mar 15 - 01:06 PM
GUEST,Phil (no relation) 19 Mar 15 - 08:36 PM
GUEST,ralph 05 Oct 17 - 07:15 PM
Jeri 05 Oct 17 - 07:42 PM
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Subject: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: GUEST,BobJovi
Date: 13 Mar 15 - 11:29 AM

Can someone help me out? I am once again singing "City of New Orleans" with my students. I am not singing it the way I learned it as "freight yards full of old black men". Instead, I am substituting "grey" for black, as the many versions that I have heard use that version--I thought I had misheard black years ago.

I went back recently and saw that Steve Goodman used the work "black", and thought he must have meant stained with coal dust or something of the like. Then I started looking into the history of the Pullman Porters, and learned that it was this profession that was responsible for the creation of a black middle class--at least according to Wikipedia.

I sometimes think about how homogenous we are becoming as a nation. Societally, we have turned John Henry into a white person, and I worry that we are currently in the process of doing as much with Martin Luther King. Am I doing a discredit to the intent of Steve Goodman's song by changing one word?


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: Greg F.
Date: 13 Mar 15 - 12:02 PM

Yes. Sing it the way it was written.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: pdq
Date: 13 Mar 15 - 12:34 PM

I suspect it was John Denver who changed it to "old gray men".

That seems to be the way it is usually sung in the PC World.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: Dennis the Elder
Date: 13 Mar 15 - 02:55 PM

The song was copywrited in 1970 by John Goodmen with the phrase "Old Black Man" and Willie Nelsons version contains this phrase and I am convinced that Arlo Guthries hit in 1972 also contained this phrase. I also believe that no harm was meant by the phrase just an observation as what was seen.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: breezy
Date: 13 Mar 15 - 05:00 PM

I go with Greg


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 13 Mar 15 - 05:18 PM

The three versions I'm familiar with are -
1) that by Steve Goodman, who wrote it, and uses the phrase "old black men"
2) the version by John Denver (the first version I heard) where black is substituted with grey, and
3) probably the most popular version by Arlo Guthrie which also refers to "black" men.

When someone else sings it, you can usually tell wh they nicked it from as the Arlo Guthrie version uses the wrong tune for the phrase "gone 500 miles".


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: Joe_F
Date: 13 Mar 15 - 05:28 PM

FWIW, The Country Gentlemen, on their 1973 LP (VMS 73123), made it "gray". There were some other repellent touches on that side of the disc, and I have made a note to skip it.

As BobJovi points out, that is one of two casual mentions of the taboo subject of Race in the song, the other being the Pullman porters. They are part of its charm, for which I have coined the word "illicitude". We also get the paper bag that cheats the club car of its monopoly prices on drinks, the scandalously petty public gambling, and the conductor's mildly naughty song.

I doubt if the poor old men in the freight yards would appreciate being bleached.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: Jerome Clark
Date: 13 Mar 15 - 07:47 PM

The Country Gentlemen's version was learned from John Denver, who also rewrote the last verse in a ham-handed direction. The Gents, who ought to have known better, copied Denver lame-ass word for lame-ass word.

I was acquainted with Steve Goodman when he was playing the folk clubs in Chicago before anybody knew "City of New Orleans" beyond the audiences that sat in front of him when he sang it. He sang "old black men." Anybody who thinks that's racist is an idiot.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 14 Mar 15 - 02:04 AM

Of course, Steve should have simply said "old men", but wait a minute! Why even mention "old"!
And, come to think of it! Why mention "men".
Let's just call them people!
Crazy, isn't it!


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: GUEST,Phil
Date: 14 Mar 15 - 03:32 AM

Sing it like ain't nobody listenin'. The usage of "black" at all was fairly recent and short-lived.

If the "old black men" are in the "freight yard" they probably aren't porters but coalers, switchmen and other yard labourers.

Guthrie and others moved away from the death of the steam engine theme (passing trains with no names) that underpinned the Goodman version. It's harder to understand just what is dying out (...their father's magic carpet made of steam.) After all the 'road itself is still going strong as part of the CN line.

One of the Illinois Central's first lawyers was Abe Lincoln and 115 years ago they had an Engineer by name of Casey had a few songs wrote about him too.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: Joe_F
Date: 14 Mar 15 - 05:11 PM

Phil: There is no reason to suppose that the old black men were porters; the porters are mentioned independently ("the sons of Pullman porters"). It is not mentioned explicitly that they were all black; I think we are expected to know that.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: Mysha
Date: 14 Mar 15 - 07:00 PM

Hi,

And being a foreigner, and basically hardly having any concept of dividing up the human race, I never had that association. The "Old black" men for me are like the man in Train Time, though that's a small depot, rather than a freight yard. The "Pullman porters" to me are the people who make the train come alive, whereas the engineers make it go. To their sons it's their dads' train, a magical moving platform that makes the landscape move past.

I like Guthrie's version of the melody, BTW, but I prefer the original lyrics.

Bye,
                                                                Mysha


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 15 Mar 15 - 02:23 AM

I heard Steve's - original - version first, and, as a result, the "melody change" in Arlo's version sounds gimmicky and unnecessary!


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: Joe Offer
Date: 15 Mar 15 - 03:22 AM

I know Steve Goodman wrote the song, but who recorded the song first - Steve Goodman or Arlo Guthrie? I heard the Arlo recording long before I even knew who Steve Goodman was. My younger brother was a booking agent and was booking Steve Goodman as an opening act for other performers for years before I ever heard of Steve Goodman. My brother said Steve always stole the show, even though he was usually just the opening act.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: Brakn
Date: 15 Mar 15 - 03:58 AM

You Tube

I saw this Steve Goodman clip before I ever knew Arlo Guthrie had recordd it.

How many get this bit wrong?

And the sons of poor men porters and the sons of engineers
Ride their father's magic carpet made of steel
Mothers with their babes asleep rockin' to that gentle beat
And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel

And the sons of Pullman porters and the sons of engineers
Ride their daddy's magic carpet made of steam
And mothers with their babes asleep, go rockin' to the gentle beat
And the rhythm of the rails is all they dream


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 15 Mar 15 - 04:19 AM

Wonderful clip, Brakn. The best version of them all AFAICS - great singing and nice playing. 👍

Very interesting to see a clear Pickguard on the bass-side of the soundhole on that lovely old D-28.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: Mysha
Date: 15 Mar 15 - 06:06 AM

Hi Tunesmith,

I don't know what exactly you refer to with '"melody change", in Arlo's version'. However, I like that version musically because it has more direction to it. Steve Goodman's version has better lyrics, but the music seems to wander more, which is not something trains are wont to do. His live versions appear to do that a bit less, though; don't why.

But to each his own, I guess. I don't think I could write either version, nor could I play it in either style; I can only enjoy the view as I travel along.


(Brakn: The top one is Arlo Guthrie's version for that part, except for some three mistakes; the bottom is Steve Goodman's version. I'd say most singers-along skip parts in either version; apparently the lyrics aren't as easy as they seem when first heard.)

Bye
                                                                Mysha


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 15 Mar 15 - 06:44 AM

Steve Goodman sings; Passing towns that have no names.

I imagine that the song is about the decline of long distance train services - replaced by air travel.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: Mr Red
Date: 15 Mar 15 - 03:06 PM

If you have never heard Steve Goodman sing - just go to YouTube and fill yer boots.
Cool Hand Leuk (as he spelled it). Any other guy and you would feel there was a great loss for the man, but he exuded life and loved his art.
My favourite - his rendition of "My Old Man". He meant it.
Enjoy.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: GUEST,A passenger who refrained
Date: 15 Mar 15 - 04:14 PM

"I know Steve Goodman wrote the song, but who recorded the song first - Steve Goodman or Arlo Guthrie?" asks Mr. Offer.


Good question. The "Steve Goodman" LP with the song was released in 1972. Arlo Guthrie's LP "Hobo's Lullaby" with the song was also released in 1972. I don't know which one was recorded first but I can definitely say that Arlo learned it from Steve.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: GUEST,Phil
Date: 15 Mar 15 - 04:15 PM

Joe: Goodman's eponymous (Buddah, BDS 5096, Goodman) and Denver's Aerie (RCA, LSP-4607, Goodman-Denver) both came out in 1971. Guthrie's Hobo's Lullaby (Reprise, MS 2060, Goodman) officially released in 1972 so which got heard first depended a lot on location and preferences. Goodman was first recorded-published.

Did your brother book any of the mid-70's Texas shows with Steve Martin? If yes, pass along belated thanks and attaboys.

Not sure how much there was to it but in 'Narlins proper the gripe was just about carpetbagging Amtrak dropping the name for "Panama Limited." Mercy, that's at hat, not a train.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 16 Mar 15 - 04:25 PM

Phil,

Don't be dismissive of "The Panama Limited", it was one of America's premier luxury trains, which is why AMTRAK kept the name (though, regretably, not the level of service) after it took over the operation of passenger trains in 1971. The Panama was all first class, which meant it was an all-sleeper Pullman train, beginning 1911. It was one of the last three all-sleeper trains running in the 60s, tho I am not sure if it was still an all-sleeper at the time of the takeover.

"The City of New Orleans", by contrast, was an all-coach day train, and was, It was a very popular train, in no small part because it made the trip from Chi to NOLA in just a bit shy of 15hrs. If there were sons of Pullman porters on it, they were likely deadheading, because the City of New Orleans never ran sleeping cars(because it ran is full course during daylight hours).

As a point of information, the Pullman Porters would never have been working in Freight Yards, first, because they were on-board services, second, because they worked in passenger service, not freight.

As for the old, black, men: immediately after the Civil War, rail beds were generally built using convict leasing programs(guess what color the convicts tended to be), and for many years, track maintenance crews and and rail shop workers tended to be black. This changed as the much less labor intensive diesel locomotives replaced steam. The City of New Orleans began running in 1947, and was always diesel train--so by the time of the song, the freight yards wouldn't have been filled with any old men, black or not--

And that, to coin a phrase, is the name of that tune...


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: Uncle Phil
Date: 16 Mar 15 - 05:21 PM

The way I had always heard the story was that Steve tried to pitch the song for Arlo right after a show when Arlo was tired. Arlo asked Steve to buy him a beer, and agreed to listen only until he finished the beer. And the rest is history as they say.

According to Arlo that's not exactly true. What Steve actually asked Arlo to do was pitch the The City of New Orleans to Johnny Cash. Arlo did (hey, it's a great song). Johnny Cash passed on the song because he didn't want to typecast as just a singer of train songs, so Arlo recorded it himself.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: GMGough
Date: 16 Mar 15 - 05:50 PM

I heard "the fields" / "auto-mobiles" rhyme

so in the later verse my lazy listening always thought it was:
made of"steel" / rhythm of the rails is all they "feel"

I was wrong.
not a major mondegreen - but my error.

thanks Brakn


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: Thompson
Date: 16 Mar 15 - 06:51 PM

Not American or anything…

…but it seems to me that this is a love song to a lost America. Sons of Pullman porters and sons of engineers would be kids getting a ride on their fathers' workplace. Freight yards full of old black men - maybe people got off the train where they worked and had a bit of a social life in the freight yards…

But the heart of this wonderful song is the journey across America in a train that's soon going to cease to be, a train where ordinary people travel and work.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 17 Mar 15 - 03:23 AM

"Johnny Cash passed on the song because he didn't want to typecast as just a singer of train songs"

Well, Johnny says he passed on the song because he couldn't work out the chords to the song!


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: Mr Red
Date: 17 Mar 15 - 03:29 AM

sounds more plausable.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 17 Mar 15 - 09:07 AM

Wikipedia says; Johnny Cash, with June Carter Cash, included a cover on the 1973 album Johnny Cash and His Woman.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: GUEST,#
Date: 17 Mar 15 - 09:19 AM

Cash singing it back in 1974.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 17 Mar 15 - 01:51 PM

I bet Johnny got the chords from "Sing Out" mag.
The song appeared in the mag way back when.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: Mysha
Date: 17 Mar 15 - 03:50 PM

Hi GMGough,

The rhyme "made of steel" "all they feel" is indeed what Arlo Guthrie sings. It is, however, not how Steve Goodman sang it. His lyrics are "made of steam" "all they dream". It's one of the reasons why I prefer that set of lyrics.

Bye
                                                                Mysha


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 17 Mar 15 - 08:01 PM

'Ride their Daddy's magic carpet made of steam'

Despite the fact that the City of New Orleans began running in 1947, and was always a diesel-hauled train.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: Uncle Phil
Date: 19 Mar 15 - 11:38 AM

Thanks to whoever posted the link to the Johnny Cash video - I enjoyed that. The airline style seats in the video looked like the Amtrak version of the City of New Orleans. The Illinois Central version had wooden benches that you could flip over to face forward or backwards.

If you got on in Memphis the trick was to get a seat in the club car before the train left. As long as the train was in Tennessee they wouldn't let underage servicemen in the club car, due to liquor laws I suppose. As soon as the train entered Mississippi where, at that time, all liquor was illegal they let everyone into the club car and sold them drinks. If you're breaking the law anyway... Anyway, all the servicemen crowded in and you were glad you had already secured a nice padded seat for the night.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Mar 15 - 12:26 PM

Wikipedia has a nice article on the train, which started service in 1947. I remember seeing Illinois Central trains when I was a kid. They were sleek and beautiful. Can't say Amtrak trains are beautiful, except for perhaps the high-speed Acela that goes along the coast of New England. Because of the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina, service south of Memphis was cancelled for part of 2005. It's back again. I wanna ride that train, that southbound passenger train...


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: Uncle Phil
Date: 19 Mar 15 - 01:06 PM

I only rode it once after Amtrak took over - round trip between Batesville, Mississippi and Hammond, Louisiana for my sister's wedding. The train was 4 hours late getting into Batesville. The airline seats, coke machine and plumbing you could be use while in the station were nice, but they didn't have the same charm as the old Illinois Central train.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: GUEST,Phil (no relation)
Date: 19 Mar 15 - 08:36 PM

Stim: IC added coaches to the Panama a couple of years before the takeover. It's been awhile but I recall the gripe having to do mostly with City/State pride and corporate marketing. Seemed like the names got dropped, and picked up again with every local newspaper editorial. Not very deep thinking really. They were all pretty good trains for what you needed.

For me Goodman's "City of New Orleans" was the train Guy Clark watched go by in "Texas 1947." Decades later it's Goodman's "era" passing but from the perspective of the rider. Hardly unique to any one transport. Generations of Morans probably groused about "progress" from the Erie "Cun-all" on down but we still got all those big white "M"s buzzing (diesel-electric) about the waterfronts. Every thing in its time and place.

I traded up my nickels smashed flatter than dimes for Cadwelds®. The best stuff was the narrow gauge steam still hanging on in the sugar and lumber mills (with steam-driven works to go with.) Give a modern-day safety monitor a myocardial infarction but they were glorious.


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: GUEST,ralph
Date: 05 Oct 17 - 07:15 PM

john Denver sang it as written. So much for personal presuppositions


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Subject: RE: Origins: City of New Orleans
From: Jeri
Date: 05 Oct 17 - 07:42 PM

Denver sang "steel" and "feel". It's on YouTube. So is Goodman's version with "steam" and "dream". I was lucky enough to have heard both artists perform it. I like the "steel/feel" change.


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