Saturday Song: Wabash Cannonball
Today a special segment of this weekly feature at CP. When James came back from Maine recently he brought home some more sheet music. The selections included the classic “Wabash Cannonball”. The standard has been recorded over and over by all sorts of musicians, but holds a special place for those with a fondness for the Grand Ole Opry. This song has been sung in every shower of the homes I have lived in, but I know of no recordings……
The background of the train in this classic song has two different interpretations.
The first railroads traveled through Wabash, Ind., in 1856, linking the city with Toledo, Ohio, and points east. Various trains running busy Midwestern routes took the name of Wabash Cannonball in the heyday of passenger railroading, the late 1800s and early 20th century. In 1950, the name was revived for the Detroit-to-St. Louis run, a 489-mile trip taking about 10 hours. The Wabash Cannonball made its final run on April 30, 1971, when the new Amtrak system dropped it from the new national rail network.
Then there is this version which has a certain appeal.
The Wabash Cannonball was also an imaginary train that catered to hoboes riding to the afterlife with comfortable seating and free meals. According to one of the train’s many fanciful legends, the young bother of Paul Bunyan, Cal Bunyan, built the biggest and longest set of railroad tracks in the world. The plans called for enormous iron rails and an entire redwood tree for a single tie. The trains meant for the route were made up of 700 cars, and the locomotive was so powerful and so speedy the train arrived at its destination an hour before its original departure. One night the train actually lifted off from its tracks and began flying through the night sky, horn blaring and lantern shining. The piercing whistle could still be heard throughout the land on clear nights.
What follows is a variety of styles and moods of those who have claimed the song while recording it over the years. Last, but not least, in the group below is the version that Roy Acuff recorded with The Smokey Mountain Boys. Lets have some fun!
Now the way it sounded from the Carter Family when it was recorded in 1927.
How would Bobby Sherman do the song? With dancers naturally.
The one and only Doyle Dykes picks the guitar as only he can, while making this song really roll down the tracks.
Lawrence Welk makes a mark with the song too.
Mac Wiseman puts the bluegrass mood to the song.
Over the years I think most associate this song with Roy Acuff. Here is the way he did the song the first time he recorded it.