To Thread - Forum Home

The Mudcat Café TM
13 messages

Origin: Hobo Bill's Last Ride

10 Jun 99 - 11:43 PM (#85753)
Subject: Hobo Bill's Last Ride
From: SeanM

Hello all... I'm trying to track down background info on a song... the particular is 'Hobo Bill's Last Ride'. I have it lised as being written by Waldo Lafayette O'Neil. I have full lyrics, I'm just trying to fulfill my deep curiousity.


10 Jun 99 - 11:51 PM (#85756)
Subject: RE: Hobo Bill's Last Ride

I have a cassette of Jimmie Rodgers doing that song. The notes credit it to Waldo O'Neal. This particular recording is made in 1929, and I think it is one of the best things Rodgers has done. According to the notes, the song was written for Rodgers.


11 Jun 99 - 12:55 AM (#85779)
Subject: RE: Hobo Bill's Last Ride
From: catspaw49

You may be right about Jimmie Rodgers best. I've always loved railroad songs and Jimmie did so many, but "Hobo Bill" is up there in the top group!


11 Jun 99 - 01:27 AM (#85790)
Subject: RE: Hobo Bill's Last Ride
From: Frank of Toledo

This is a true railroad classic, I can listen to Jimmie Rodgers singing this over and over and I also really like Cisco Houston's 1953 version, which is quite like Jimmie Rodgers'. Cisco shows his great admiration for the singing breakman. On a mid seventies recording Merle Haggard pays tribute to Jimmie Rodgers on the Capitol Release, "Sam Train, Different Time", and his version of Hobo Bill's Last Ride is a classis in its own right. I love to sing this song; but the only problem for me is I get pretty carried away and even try to yodel....Oh Well Jerry Jeff couldn't yodel either.......

11 Jun 99 - 12:51 PM (#85899)
Subject: RE: Hobo Bill's Last Ride
From: Tiger

Listen to "Night Rider's Lament" and you'll see that Jerry Jeff can yodel fine. BTW, I concur on the Jimmie Rodgers version of Hobo Bill.

11 Jun 99 - 01:58 PM (#85915)
Subject: Lyr/Chords Add:HOBO BILL'S LAST RIDE (J Rodgers)
From: Gene

Didn't see it in the database...
Here's what it sounds like to me...

Recorded by: Jimmie Rodgers
Writer: Elsie McWilliams and Jimmie Rodgers

Yodel: [C] Ho-o-[G7] bo-o [C] Bil-ly!

[C] Riding on an east bound freight train
[F] Speeding thru the [C] night
[F] Hobo Bill, a [C] railroad bum
Was [D7] fighting for his [G7] life
The [C] sadness of his eyes revealed
The [F] torture of his [C] soul
He [F] raised a weak and [C] weary hand
To [G7] brush away the [C] cold.

Yodel: [C] Ho-o-[G7] bo-o [C] Bil-ly!

No warm lights flickered around him
No blankets there to fold
Nothing but the howling wind
And the driving rain so cold
When he heard a whistle blowing
In a dreamy kind of way
The hobo seemed contented
For he smiled there where he lay.

Yodel: Ho-o-bo-o Bi-ll!

Outside the rain was falling
On that lonely boxcar door
But the little form of Hobo Bill
Lay still upon the floor
While the train sped thru the darkness
And the raging storm outside
No one knew that Hobo Bill
Was taking his last ride.


It was early in the morning
When they raised the hobo's head
The smile still lingered on his face
But Hobo Bill was dead
There was no mother's longing
To soothe his weary soul
For he was just a railroad bum
Who died out in the cold.


1975 RCA records ANL1-1052

11 Jun 99 - 02:16 PM (#85925)
Subject: RE: Hobo Bill's Last Ride
From: Frank of Toledo

I really like Jerry Jeff's Night Rider's Lament, and it was kind of a " kind' joke about his yodeling. Jerry handles the yodel just a bit different than a lot of folks. Mike Burton's composition was done by many people and every one of them is good.....Bok, Muir & Trickett, Suzy Boggus and on the Nancy Griffith version Don Edwards puts the emphasis on yodeling. No offense Tiger, I have quite a few of Jerry's older albums and I play them quite often. Also Ian Tyson covered that song........

12 Jun 99 - 05:37 AM (#86120)
Subject: RE: Hobo Bill's Last Ride

I think the train whistle is a lot harder than the yodel! I saw a video with Pete Seeger singing the Blues Yodel #1 ("T for Texas"). He does a nice job; but he ruins it by the unsucessful attempt to make a train noise. I don't think Rodgers had a train whistle in that one anyway.

By the way there is a video with Rodgers singing three songs. He has a beautiful little Martin guitar with his name inlaid on the fingerboard. He sings three songs: "Waiting for a Train" which is good train song, "Daddy and Home", which is one of his soppy sentimental ones, and "Blues Yodel #1", which I think is one of the better blues yodels.

The name of the video is "Times Ain't Like They Used To Be" put out by Yazoo.


16 Aug 12 - 11:33 PM (#3391213)
Subject: RE: Origin: Hobo Bill's Last Ride
From: katlaughing

Just found a great version of this on youtube, by Merle Haggard. The images are very evocative, too.

17 Aug 12 - 01:28 AM (#3391231)
Subject: RE: Origin: Hobo Bill's Last Ride
From: Mrrzy

I had this by Cisco Houston, I believe, on the same album as Railroad Bill (he never worked and he never will). One of those not-full-sized but not 45-sized or -speed records, vinyl or whatever came earlier.

17 Aug 12 - 01:02 PM (#3391427)
Subject: RE: Origin: Hobo Bill's Last Ride
From: catspaw49

Funny thing.....This very song went through my head just yesterday. Mudcat synchronicity again! I had the 45 and I was probably only 5 or 6. My Mom hated it for any number of reasons but I still got to play it.

I miss Murray...........


17 Aug 12 - 02:31 PM (#3391462)
Subject: RE: Origin: Hobo Bill's Last Ride
From: Mark Ross

I learned it from Hazel Dickens 40 years ago.

Mark Ross

19 Nov 12 - 06:01 AM (#3438524)
Subject: RE: Origin: Hobo Bill's Last Ride
From: GUEST,Chuck Sears

When we bought our first wind-up Victrola in 1928 we bought a few 78 rpm records with it, and "Hobo Bill's Last Ride" was one of them. I don't know the singer's name, or the brand of the record. Most of them were RCA Victor, Brunswick, or Columbia, but this one may have been something else.

I loved the song. And I loved the lonely, sad sound of the train whistle. It wasn't a vocal imitation, it was an actual recording of a train whistle. It was so much like the train whistle we could hear late at night when the freight train approached the crossing about 2 miles from our house, 'way out in the country.

The lyrics offered by Gene, above, 11 Jun 99, are very close to what I remember. I suspect ours was the original Jimmie Rodgers recording. The one from 1975 may have been a different recording that had some slight changes in the lyrics. I can offer one possible minor correction. I don't think he raised a weak and weary hand to brush away the cold. I think it was to brush away the coal. Listening, it's hard to tell. I may be wrong.

Several years ago at the Senior Center in Yuma, Arizona, a local musician entertained us during lunch, and one of the songs he sang was "Hobo Billy" (as it is sometimes called). He sang the words exactly as I remember them, and in a good imitation of the same style so I assume he must have learned the song from the same original recording. He was selling cassettes which included his rendition of "Hobo Bill's Last Ride" and I could kick myself for not buying one. I don't know his name. But the experience encourages me to believe that there are survivors of the original Jimmie Rodgers recording out there somewhere.