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).
Even if only for his pioneering production work with one of my guitar heroes, Duane Eddy (e.g., using a gigantic grain tank as an echo chamber), let it be known that Hazlewood, while himself not a hotshot guitarist, co-wrote some of Eddy’s best tunes (including half of his excellent 1965 album, Duane-a-Go-Go), as well as penned a fair number of surf classics for other artists: “Baja“; “Movin'” and “Batman” for The Astronauts, plus all of Al Casey’s best instrumentals – “Surfs You Right”; “The Hearse“; “Surfin’ Hootenanny”; and “Guitars, Guitars, Guitars.”
Is Hazlewood’s 1961 instrumental – five years before Neil Hefti’s “Batman Theme” – the first musical tribute to the Caped Crusader?
Clink on link to hear Lee Hazlewood’s “Batman” as interpreted by The Astronauts
One of my favorite Link Wray tunes is one that humorously fuses our two American national anthems – “Dixie” and “Yankee Doodle”:
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 Link, 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.