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Lyr Req: Billy Richardson's Last Ride

GUEST,WVGuitarPicker 21 Apr 00 - 06:20 PM
Dale Rose 21 Apr 00 - 06:32 PM
GUEST,Gene 21 Apr 00 - 06:51 PM
catspaw49 22 Apr 00 - 12:34 AM
raredance 22 Apr 00 - 01:41 AM
GUEST,Gene 22 Apr 00 - 02:12 AM
catspaw49 22 Apr 00 - 02:22 AM
raredance 22 Apr 00 - 09:11 AM
Dale Rose 22 Apr 00 - 09:43 AM
Dale Rose 22 Apr 00 - 10:01 AM
catspaw49 22 Apr 00 - 10:05 AM
Dale Rose 22 Apr 00 - 11:31 AM
raredance 23 Apr 00 - 12:30 AM
catspaw49 23 Apr 00 - 12:44 AM
GUEST,WVGuitarPicker 23 Apr 00 - 08:15 AM
GUEST,WVGuitarPicker 23 Apr 00 - 08:26 AM
Dale Rose 23 Apr 00 - 11:01 AM
GUEST,mike pierce 18 May 08 - 02:03 PM
GUEST 02 Dec 09 - 03:18 PM
GUEST,Jonathan Hewlett 27 Jan 10 - 07:19 PM
GUEST,Jim Rumbaugh 18 Aug 10 - 04:18 PM
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Subject: Billy Richardson's Last Ride
From: GUEST,WVGuitarPicker
Date: 21 Apr 00 - 06:20 PM

I am trying to find some lyrics to a song that Grandpa Jones recorded called "Billy Richardson's Last Ride". It is about a seventy-some year old engineer who vowed that he would die no where else but in his engine cab. And he does, when his head hits a mail crane. The event took place about forty-five minutes from my house. I remember some of the first verse if it helps:

Through the West Virginia Mountains came the early morning mail, Old No. 3 was westbound, the swiftest on the rail; She pulled right in at Hinton headquarters on the line, With a Baldwin Mountain engine she'd made the run on time.

I appreciate any help that I can get. John J.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Billy Richardson's Last Ride
From: Dale Rose
Date: 21 Apr 00 - 06:32 PM

Calling all Vernon Dalhart experts! In addition to the Grandpa Jones version, there is a much earlier one available by Vernon Dalhart. I would be much surprised if there are any older than that. I think I have the recording somewhere, but at the moment, I can't place where it might be.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Billy Richardson's Last Ride
From: GUEST,Gene
Date: 21 Apr 00 - 06:51 PM

Index shows I have it by Vernon Dalhart also

will see if i can find it - also have a lot of stuff by GPJones but don't recall that one among them


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Billy Richardson's Last Ride
From: catspaw49
Date: 22 Apr 00 - 12:34 AM

This has little to do with this song, but I am curiuos to the dating and the version when you guys run it down. First, I think I'd like to learn it, but second, I'm curious about the line that WVpicker posted. Hinton as I'm sure picker is aware has always been an important C&O coal yard. Some of the most powerful engines ever used on ANY railroad were used out of Hinton, but also the passenger trains that Chessie ran used fast and powerful engines. The reason I mention this is that Chessie called TWO entirely different engines the "Mountain" type. Just a dumb thing, but I am curious as the times would be different. They first used the 4-6-2 Pacific class at the turn of the century which the C&O called "Mountains" but everyone else called "Pacifics." Later, around the late twenties, they developed a 4-8-2 which Chessie again called "Mountain" type and in this case, so did everybody else. Intersting point is that the majority of the Chessie orders were from Alco and not Baldwin.

Picker-----Do you know any more details on this as to when, where, passenger(probably) or freight? Like I said, just curious.

Spaw


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Subject: Lyr Add: BILLY RICHARDSON'S LAST RIDE
From: raredance
Date: 22 Apr 00 - 01:41 AM

BILLY RICHARDSON'S LAST RIDE

Through the West Virginia mountains came the early morning mail;
Old Number Three was westbound, the fastest on the rail.
She pulled right into Hinton, a junction on the line,
With a Baldwin Mountain engine, they made the run on time.

Billy Richardson at Hinton was called to take the run,
To pull the fastest mail train from there to Huntington.
His fireman he reported for duty on the line,
Then reading their train orders, left Hinton right on time.

Then Billy told his fireman that he would happy be
If he could die while pulling a train like number 3.
"I want to die on duty, right in my cab," said he,
"While pulling eastbound number 4, or westbound number 3.

The fireman then said, "Billy, you now are old and gray,
Your name is on the pension list. You should retire some day."
But Billy said, "Dear fireman, the truth I'm telling you.
I must die right in my engine cab. Nothing else will do."

Then pulling down New River came westbound number 3.
By Thurmond, then by Cotton Hill, no danger could he see.
His head then struck a mail crane while pulling down the line.
He'll never pull his train again, to Huntington on time.

He's pulled the fastest freights. he's pulled the US Mail.
He's pulled the fast excursions to the music of the rail.
He lost his life on duty in his engine cab so free.
He lost his life at Teays, on westbound number 3.


The following verse is not normally part of the song but some singers have added it as a moral.

Now ladies, if your husband is a railroad engineer,
You know he is in danger, and death is ever near.
You know he loves you dearly when he is by your side.
Remember well that his next run may be his farewell ride.

Billy Richardson was killed on December 14, 1910 at Scary, WV about 15 miles west of Charleston. The ballad incorrectly puts the incident at Teays, which is about 4 miles beyond Scary. He apparently had the habit of leaning far out of the cab to look ahead down the track and had even been warned a number of times that he really shouldn't do that. Richardson was a striking figure in his latter years sporting a foot-long bushy white beard. The ballad text above was originally printed in the "West Virginia Reviews" in 1931 in an article written by Charles Carpenter. Carpenter wrote, "This song cannot be more than a few years old, but it is already known in many places away from the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway in West Virginia, the place of its genesis. Of late, the song is frequently heard on radio ballad programs." Later in the article, Carpenter said he tried to find the author and age of the song without success. He wrote that he had not found anyone who had known the ballad more than three or four years (prior to 1931) and he also did not find it previously printed in its entirety. Whoever wrote the ballad was obviously familiar with "The Wreck of the F.F.V." (a.k.a. "The Wreck on the C & O") as there are some parallels in verse structure.

rich r


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Billy Richardson's Last Ride
From: GUEST,Gene
Date: 22 Apr 00 - 02:12 AM

Thanks RICH
Love to read/hear stories about the trains of old...


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Billy Richardson's Last Ride
From: catspaw49
Date: 22 Apr 00 - 02:22 AM

Thanks from me too rich for the story and for clearing up my questions, dumb as they may have seemed. Sometimes the dumbest stuff bothers me and I don't know why I recalled the Pacific/Mountain thing, but thanks again.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Billy Richardson's Last Ride
From: raredance
Date: 22 Apr 00 - 09:11 AM

Here's an update on the song's origin, now that I have had time to check other sources. The following is summarized from the account given by Norm Cohen in "Long Steel Rail". The lyrics were written in 1926 by Cleburne C. Meeks. Meeks worked for the Norfolk & Western from 1926-1962. In 1926 he heard Vernon Dalhart's recording of "Wreck of Old 97" and made a conscious decision that he was going to write the words to a song and get Dalhart to record it. He remembered as a child going out in the yard and waving when Billy richardson and train No. 3 passed by. So he wrote the lyrics. He sent them to Dalhart on August 6, 1926. Dalhart liked them and had Carson Robison (see "Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie" thread) write some music. On August 10, 1926 Carson Robison copyrighted "Billy Richardson's Last Ride" with words credited to C.C. Meeks. Over the next 6 months Dalhart recorded it for Columbia, Okeh, Victor, Pathe, Plaza, Gennett, and Brunswick. Charles Carpenter was obviously unaware of the copyrighted sheet when he wrote his article in 1931 and his sources must have learned the song from the radio and recordings.

Meeks sometime after he wrote the lyrics found out that the fireman, C.S. Lively was actually a cousin of his (but isn't everybody in West Virginia? ;-) ) Meeks wrote at least 5 other songs including "The Wreck Of The C&O Number Five" and "The Wreck of the N & W Cannonball".

Other recordings of the song were done by George Goebel, Bradley Kincaid, Cecil Goodman, Grandpa Jones, and Eddie Nesbitt.

rich r


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Billy Richardson's Last Ride
From: Dale Rose
Date: 22 Apr 00 - 09:43 AM

There ya go, rich, thanks. I was pretty sure it was a Carson Robinson song, but then that would have been a pretty safe bet.

Digging through the boxes, I just now came up with my old First Recorded Railroad Songs, Vernon Dalhart, Mark 56, 1978. Can't say as there is a whole lot to add, but here are the notes by Jim Walsh:

This is another Railroad Song with music by Carson Robison but the music was credited to an obscure poetaster, Cleburne C. Meeks. The story tells of the ambition of an elderly, gray-haired engineer, Billy Richardson, to die at the throttle of "old No. 3" or some other train with which he was familiar, instead of retiring and taking his pension. Billy got his wish. Traveling in the early morning through the West Virginia mountains, Billy vows to take No. 3 from Hinton into Huntington "right on time," but his train becomes involved in a collision at Montgomery, and Billy achieves his ambition by "going to glory" while still engaged in his beloved engineering job. Edison issued this record, paired with another Robison composition, "The Miami Storm," as a "Special" on October 25, 1926.

I wasn't sure what a poetaster was, so I had to look it up. I think I'm going to have trouble working that one into my everyday conversations!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Billy Richardson's Last Ride
From: Dale Rose
Date: 22 Apr 00 - 10:01 AM

Found this:

SCALDED TO DEATH BY THE STEAM, by Katie Letcher Lyle. "True Stories of railroad disasters and the songs that were written about them." With words and music to famous railroad ballads. Includes: Wreck of the Old 97, Billy Richardson's Last Ride, The Hamlet Wreck, The Church Hill Tunnel Disaster, The Wreck of the Royal Palm and more! 212 pages, softbound $12.95 closeout $10.00 (6 left)

at Colorado Railroad Museum Closeout & Specials A good number of other RR books are on the page, with a link to the main page of the Colorado Railroad Museum.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Billy Richardson's Last Ride
From: catspaw49
Date: 22 Apr 00 - 10:05 AM

Thanks Dale for the additional info and the links. In your first post your account says a "collision".....Is that a discrepancy, a different wreck, or an unusual way of descibing Richardson's decapitation?

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Billy Richardson's Last Ride
From: Dale Rose
Date: 22 Apr 00 - 11:31 AM

I noticed that too, should have commented on it. I'd say it was just part of the folk process/sloppy reporting/carelessness. Take your pick.

I thought there was a link to the main page at the bottom of the closeout page, but it was just a link for Email. Sloppy reporting/carelessness, I guess. It is easy enough to get there though, just take off the closeout.htm and you got crrm.org


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Billy Richardson's Last Ride
From: raredance
Date: 23 Apr 00 - 12:30 AM

The account I read did not indicate decapitation. It said the fireman took the train to to the next town that had a hopital, Billy was rushed to the hospital and died there without regaining consciousness

rich r


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Billy Richardson's Last Ride
From: catspaw49
Date: 23 Apr 00 - 12:44 AM

Sorry rich, I really didn't know how he died, but a collision between his head and a stationary object at passenger speeds would have been REALLY significant!!!

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Billy Richardson's Last Ride
From: GUEST,WVGuitarPicker
Date: 23 Apr 00 - 08:15 AM

Thanks, guys, for all the help. You have gone above and beyond my requests. It is greatly appreciated. I always thought that it was an interesting story. Billy Richardson's route ran right through my hometown of St. Albans, as he was travelling through to Huntington WV. And despite previous statements, we aren't all cousins here in WV but we all certainly feel like one big family :) Thanks again, John J.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Billy Richardson's Last Ride
From: GUEST,WVGuitarPicker
Date: 23 Apr 00 - 08:26 AM

If he died at Scary, WV, then it hits home closer than what I thought. Scary is just three miles from here. I live in St. Albans and Scary "Creek" is the next point on the railroad from here. There is a big switch there. Could this be the place where it happened? The accounts say that the fireman realized something was wrong when the train went through a wrong switch. John J.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Billy Richardson's Last Ride
From: Dale Rose
Date: 23 Apr 00 - 11:01 AM

Tying up a few loose ends.

The album I mentioned earlier has some other neat stuff on it, The Runaway Train, The New River Train, The Bum Song No. 2, The Big Rock Candy Mountain, The Wreck Of The Number Nine, The Wreck Of The Norfolk & Western Cannonball, Casey Jones, Got The Railroad Blues, The Wreck Of The 1256, The Lightning Express, and Can I Sleep In Your Barn Tonight, Mister? All were recorded 1925-1929.

It is my understanding that the book I linked to is no longer available, at least not at the Colorado Railroad Museum. It IS available from Barnes and Noble for $10.36. Didn't check, but there are likely other sources as well.

PS, I DO know that it is Carson ROBISON, not Robinson. Just another case of carelessness/sloppy typing/falty profreeding.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Billy Richardson's Last Ride
From: GUEST,mike pierce
Date: 18 May 08 - 02:03 PM

I noticed in the comment from rich r that Billy died either in Teays or Scary. My Dad sang this song and his lyrics were "While pullin in Montgomery on West Bound Number 3". Montgomery, WV is located between Hinton and Scary. I hope this helps.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Billy Richardson's Last Ride
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Dec 09 - 03:18 PM

Billie Richardson was my Great-grandfather and the song can be found at http://webpages.charter.net/dnance/greenfields/songtexts.htm
Side B, Band 4

Paul C


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Billy Richardson's Last Ride
From: GUEST,Jonathan Hewlett
Date: 27 Jan 10 - 07:19 PM

Dale Rose, can you put the album First Recorded Railroad Songs, Vernon Dalhart, Mark 56, 1978 up for download. If not then could you tell me where I may listen to it? This sounds like a great album an I would like to listen to it. Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Billy Richardson's Last Ride
From: GUEST,Jim Rumbaugh
Date: 18 Aug 10 - 04:18 PM

It may be too late to add this.

But I have the line as "Baldwin-Mallet" engine, not Baldwin Mountain engine. A little research revealled there was a series of engines called Baldwin-Mallet (pronounced mal-ay)

I hope this helps


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