When my son was young, I sure got a lot of mileage out of Buffalo Bop’s bootleg compilation of American train song 45s – Choo Choo Bop.
Rusty Draper’s version of “Freight Train” is only one of many highlights on this packed 29-song set that includes a bonus track of vintage steam train recordings. Striking how many competing versions of “Freight Train” were released in 1957 alone – over a dozen. Even though the song is attributed to two individuals with the surnames James & Williams, the simple truth of the matter is that folk musician & songwriter, Elizabeth Cotten, is the acknowledged author of “Freight Train” – a song written in the early 20th century that only became popular during the British skiffle & American folk revival era.
Duane Eddy would put together his own fetching version with strings in 1969 – produced by Jimmy Bowen and arranged by Glen D. Hardin:
“Freight Train” Duane Eddy 1969
This single – b/w “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” – would bubble under at #110 in 1970.
In 1965 Duane Eddy would release a pair of tuneful albums on the Colpix label that one can now find smartly packaged together as a single compact disc — Duane a Go-Go [and] Duane Does Dylan.
Lee Hazlewood would be Duane Eddy’s chief collaborator on both Colpix albums, and the two of them would co-write five songs for Duane a Go-Go, including my personal favorite, with its magnificent, moody strings — “South Phoenix“:
“South Phoenix” would see release in the US, UK, Australia & New Zealand as the B-side of the album’s kick-off tune, “Trash” — a single that was a Billboard Magazine Spotlight Single “predicted to reach the Hot 100 Chart” for the week of July 3, 1965 (though it appears not to have charted).
The 2008 documentary, The Wrecking Crew – a celebration of the (often unnamed) studio musicians that played on a great many radio hits of the 1960s and 70s – is on tour and coming to a town near me. One such studio musician – bassist, Carol Kaye – has expressed great dismay that the documentary is overly dominated by Hal Blaine and Tommy Tedesco and not more inclusive of other musicians’ perspectives, as the film had originally been pitched. My hope is that Carol Kaye might assemble a documentary team that would help tell the stories that were not a part of The Wrecking Crew – that way we would end up with two films that capture the history of the hard-working session players instead of just one.
Tommy Tedesco Twangin’ Twelve Great Hits 1962 (Dot)
Tommy Tedesco, “the most famous guitarist you’ve never heard of,” has played on countless rock, pop, television & film soundtrack recording dates. One of Tedesco’s earliest albums as a solo artist – Twangin’ Twelve Great Hits from 1962 – would appear to be an attempt by Tommy to give Duane Eddy a run for his money:
“Exodus” Tommy Tedesco 1962
when earth tones ruled:
Tommy Tedesco at Namm with Dale Zdenek & Joe Diorio
One of my favorite Link Wray tunes is one that humorously fuses our two American national anthems – “Dixie” and “Yankee Doodle”:
“Dixie Doodle” Link Wray prob. rec. late 1958
Interesting to learn that, on the strength of his hugely influential top 40 hit, “Rumble” – a menacing instrumental that was actually banned from radio in several markets including, surprisingly, New York City – Link was able to get signed to Epic, an imprint of the almighty Columbia label, who released “Dixie Doodle” in 1959. Thanks to Cub Koda’s liner notes in Rhino’s Link Wray anthology, I also learned that “Dixie Doodle” was an attempt by Link to emulate the “Rebel” sound of Duane Eddy, who was hot in the late 1950s (and, some 50 years later, royally received at Glastonbury in 2011). Fascinating to find out, too, that “Dixie Doodle” ended up on the flip side, even though it was originally pushed to be the A-side, with Confederate money printed as a novelty promotion.
“Dixie Doodle” was released as the B-side to “Rawhide,” which went top 40 in January 1959 (#23) – both songs written by Wray, along with the very able assistance of TV teen dance show host, Milt Grant.
Not to be confused, by the way, with the 8-verse parody of “Yankee Doodle” that was popular in the South during the Civil War.