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Origin: Nine Hundred Miles

DigiTrad:
NINE HUNDRED MILES
REUBEN TRAIN
REUBEN'S TRAIN


Related threads:
900 Miles/500 miles (50)
(origins) Origins: Reuben's Train - who was Reuben? (20)
Lyr/Chords Req: Reuben's Train (40)
(origins) Origins: One Hundred Miles (27)
Origins: 900 Miles - origin and history? (3) (closed)
Lyr Req: Five hundred miles away from home (9)


stock6@mtco.com 25 Jan 99 - 01:17 PM
Joe Offer 25 Jan 99 - 02:26 PM
Cara 25 Jan 99 - 02:49 PM
Joe Offer 25 Jan 99 - 03:10 PM
Cara 25 Jan 99 - 04:39 PM
Steve Parkes 26 Jan 99 - 08:05 AM
Barry Finn 26 Jan 99 - 08:42 AM
rick fielding 26 Jan 99 - 06:30 PM
Uncle Frank the Singing Insurance Guy 28 Jan 99 - 12:58 AM
Joe Offer 28 Jan 99 - 02:47 AM
rick fielding 28 Jan 99 - 12:06 PM
GUEST,me;) 29 Mar 10 - 12:39 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 29 Mar 10 - 12:54 PM
GUEST 22 Apr 10 - 12:32 PM
GUEST,Doc John 22 Apr 10 - 03:56 PM
GUEST 22 May 14 - 02:30 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 22 May 14 - 09:00 AM
The Sandman 22 May 14 - 01:14 PM
GUEST,Person who asked about the Tenneva Ramblers 22 May 14 - 02:51 PM
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Subject: nine hundred miles
From: stock6@mtco.com
Date: 25 Jan 99 - 01:17 PM

What is the history behind this song? When was it written


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Subject: ADD: Reuben Blues
From: Joe Offer
Date: 25 Jan 99 - 02:26 PM

Click here for lyrics.
The UTK Song Index has this song listed in nine different books in the University of Tennessee Library. The best history I could find is in Best Loved American Folk Songs [Folk Song: U.S.A.], by John and Alan Lomax (1947). Here's what it says:
In its present form, this is a hillbilly blues. However, Woody Guthrie, the Okie balladeer and guitar-picker, learned it from a Negro shoeshine boy in his home town of Okema, Oklahoma. The tune has appeared in many disguises and has relations all over the South. In the tidewater country of Virginia, they call it the "Reuben Blues" and they sing:

REUBEN BLUES

When old Reuben left home, he wasn't but nine days old, When he come back he was a full grown man.
When he come back he was a full grown man.

They got old Reuben down and they took his watch and charm,
It was everything that poor boy had.
It was everything that poor boy had.

In the backwoods, further west, the sharecroppers, white and black, dedicate the tune to a full belly, and sing:
I got my chickens in my sack and the hounds are on my track.
But I'll make it to my shanty 'fore day,
And I'll keep my skillet good and greasy all the time.

Up in Kentucky and Tennessee, they tell the story about a train that ran around a notorious coal mine, where convict labor was used in the old days:
The longest train that I ever seen,
Run around Joe Brown's coal mine,
The engine past (sic) at six o'clock,
And the last car passed by at nine.

Perhaps the oldest of all versions is the Southern mountain song of the dark girl:

Black girl, black girl, don't lie to me,
Where did you stay last night?
In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines,
And I shivered where the cold wind blew.

Wherever this melody has turned up, it has been a vehicle for melancholy, for a yearning toward faraway places and toward things that are lost and irretrievable. In "Nine Hundred Miles," it has become the most haunting of railroad blues.
It would be interesting to see how many songs we have in the database that are related to this song by tune or by lyrics.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: nine hundred miles
From: Cara
Date: 25 Jan 99 - 02:49 PM

Apologies for veering off the folk path, but the last version of that song that Joe mentioned was reprised by Nirvana in the early 90's on their acoustic album "Unplugged in New York". There, it's titled "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" and while it is grungily angst-ridden, it's also rather haunting as sung by Cobain and actually quite good>


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Subject: RE: nine hundred miles
From: Joe Offer
Date: 25 Jan 99 - 03:10 PM

It might bring beads of sweat to Bill D's brow, Cara, but can you post the Nirvana lyrics? It would be interesting to see the correlation. Click here and here for the two versions of "In the Pines" that we have. I am getting error messages when I try to access the database, so you may not be able to get the lyrics for a while.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: nine hundred miles
From: Cara
Date: 25 Jan 99 - 04:39 PM

This is all I can remember right now-I seem to think that there are more. I'll check it out tonight and post more tomorrow (if there are more to be posted)

My girl, my girl, don't lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night?

In the pines, in the pines where the sun don't ever shine
I would shiver the whole night through

My girl, my girl, where will you go?
I'm going where the cold wind blows

Her husband was a hard workin' man
About a mile from here
His head was found in a driving wheel (?)
But his body never was found

My girl, my girl, don't lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night?


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Subject: RE: nine hundred miles
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 26 Jan 99 - 08:05 AM

Cara, that's the same lyric Leadbelly sang. "Driving wheel" or "driver wheel" is correct. It's a form of underworld execution that never caught on in Britain for some reason: you take your gang and your victim down to the railway line and hold up a freight train (too many witnesses on a passenger train!); you shove the victim's head between the spokes of one of the driving wheels and make the driver move the train forward a couple of feet; the connecting rod or coupling rod then separates the victim's head from his or her body.

In view of the labour-intensive nature of the method, and the involvement of witnesses - driver, fireman, guard (I should say engineer, ... conductor, shouldn't I?), in a land where you can buy firearms over the counter, I can only assume that it was used (a) for fun and (b) pour encourager les autres.

This ought to be included in the 'Orrible murder thread!

Steve


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Subject: RE: nine hundred miles
From: Barry Finn
Date: 26 Jan 99 - 08:42 AM

Steve this driver was beheaded in a train wreck. In some versions this comes out coal mining troubles where there had been a bit of fighting but I wolud think that the miners had plenty of tools at hand that could be converted into a weapon if need be.

"My husband was an enginneer, the best in this whole damn whole.
The only thing he done was wrong was to miss just one little curve.

His head was found in the driving wheel, his body was never found."
Barry


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Subject: RE: nine hundred miles
From: rick fielding
Date: 26 Jan 99 - 06:30 PM

You should hear Woody fiddle "900" miles on an old Asch collection put out by Smithsonian Folkways. It's driving and wild! Same tune that the bluegrassers call "Train 45". Pete Seeger does a nice mandolin version on The Weavers at Carnegie Hall as well.


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Subject: RE: nine hundred miles
From: Uncle Frank the Singing Insurance Guy
Date: 28 Jan 99 - 12:58 AM

Rookie Mudcat member observes this thread seems to involve two different songs. By chance had records with both of them once. 900 Miles was a Cisco Houston piece, nice song, still sing it. The other song was Black Girl and was on a Lead Belly record I had. Both records circa 1950, Folkways I suppose, a more erudite respondent could cite the actual titles.


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Subject: RE: nine hundred miles
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 Jan 99 - 02:47 AM

Well, Frank, it's none other than John and Alan Lomax who said the songs are related, but I think the relationship between "900 Miles" and "Black Girl" is mostly in the tunes. Now, where does "In the Pines" fit in, or does it just share a line with "Black Girl"? I have to say this is not as direct a relationship as we've seen in other songs.
From what I understand, Woody Guthrie recorded "900 Miles" long ago, but it was the Cisco Houston recording of the song in a minor key that was popular during the 1960's. I haven't been able to find the Woody Guthrie recording, so I don't know how different his tune was.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: nine hundred miles
From: rick fielding
Date: 28 Jan 99 - 12:06 PM

As was often the case ,Woody played his 900 miles with a minor scale over major chords. Listen to his "Pastures of Plenty", or "House of the Rising Sun". Leadbelly also did this on a number of his songs like "Out on the Western Plains". It's a disconcerting sound when you first hear it, but once you get used to the "modal" feel, it's bloody marvelous. One of the best examples of how this approach affects a song is in Flatt and Scruggs' "Foggy Mt. Breakdown". The original Mercury recording had Flatt playing an E major chord (when asked about this, he bristled at the suggestion that he didn't know an E minor chord!) and the tune was electric! In later versions they used E minor and to my ears, it was far less exciting.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Nine Hundred Miles
From: GUEST,me;)
Date: 29 Mar 10 - 12:39 PM

i need help. im doing a report for choir on the history and background of this song and the internet is giving me nothing. can yall help?


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Subject: RE: Origin: Nine Hundred Miles
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 29 Mar 10 - 12:54 PM

Read the other threads linked at the top of this one. Much information in them.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Nine Hundred Miles
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Apr 10 - 12:32 PM

thank u Q!


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Subject: RE: Origin: Nine Hundred Miles
From: GUEST,Doc John
Date: 22 Apr 10 - 03:56 PM

Woody Guthrie recorded 900 miles as a fiddle piece with Cisco Houston and Bes Hawes in April 1944. Earlier that year he had recorded it (possibly two takes) as a vocal with Cisco Houston and Sonny Terry; however there is much confusion over the discographical correlation as it is also titled Lonesome Train and Rail Road Whistle. He made a solo recording for the BBC in July of that year similar to that made famous by Cisco Houston; that's a hard title to get! Cisco recorded the well known version for Asch at an unknown date and again for Vanguard in 1960 but a rather over produced version. He also recorded it for the BBC in 1960, again a wonderful version if you can get it!
I first heard Bing Crosby sound-a-like, Liverpool singer Michael Holliday sing this - but now 10,000 miles - as a popular song way back.Nothing to do with Nic Jones's song of the same title.
Hedy West's 500 miles is obviously a variation of the 900 miles song and a superb one too


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Subject: RE: Origin: Nine Hundred Miles
From: GUEST
Date: 22 May 14 - 02:30 AM

Hi,
I noticed that when the Tenneva Ramblers recorded "The Longest Train I Ever Saw", they included a verse about a mourning turtledove. It reminded me of a similar verse in "10,000 Miles" (Mary Chapin Carpenter) which I know is based on an old English song. Is this a coincidence, or might the two verses be related?


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Subject: RE: Origin: Nine Hundred Miles
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 22 May 14 - 09:00 AM

The ancestor of 900 miles is "Reuben" recorded first by Kentuckian Emry Arthur c. January 1930 and issued on Paramount 3237. It was covered by others including Wade Mainerin 1940.

Another branch of the same song is "Train 45," first recorded by North Carolinian G.B. Grayson with Henry Whitter, Oct 10, 1927 and sometimes recorded as "Ruben;s Train, or "Riding On That Train 45."

The Woody Guthrie "900 Miles" is a distinct version first recorded 1944 as noted above. I am pretty sure all subsequent versions are more or less covers of these.

The real mystery is where Emry Arthur found his version and whether he put it together himself or learned it as is. I believe some album notes have been written on the subject (perhaps in the JEMF set of Paramount old-time recordings), but can't find them now (am laid up with a bum foot & hard to get around), but you could check on that.

Great old song.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Origin: Nine Hundred Miles
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 May 14 - 01:14 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86e90MwKRAQ


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Subject: RE: Origin: Nine Hundred Miles
From: GUEST,Person who asked about the Tenneva Ramblers
Date: 22 May 14 - 02:51 PM

Isn't Fiddlin John Carson's "I'm Nine Hundred Miles from From Home" considered part of this family? There are some definite lyrical similarities with "900 Miles" and "Train 45", so I've considered it an ancestor of them. If I remember correctly, it predates 1930 by several years.


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