“Freight Train”: Duane Eddy + Steam

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.

Choo Choo BopRusty 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 – backed with “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” (which features 6-string bass) – would bubble under at #110 in 1970.

Duane Eddy Train 45Link to other train songs profiled on Zero to 180.

Duane Eddy’s Twang + Strings

In 1965 Duane Eddy released 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.

Duane a Go Go LPDuane Does Dylan LP

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” — a song that would give Tommy Tedesco a run for his money:

Duane Eddy     “South Phoenix”     1965

Musician Credits for Duane a Go-Go

  •           Bass:   Buddy Wheeler & Jimmy Simmons
  •           Drums:   Jim Troxel
  •           Elec. Guitar:  Duane Eddy & Jimmy Gray
  •           Guitar:   Donnie Owens
  •           Harmonica:   Larry Knechtel
  •           Piano:   Don Robertson & Jimmy Wilcox
  •           Saxophone:   Jim Horn

Duane Eddy 45“South Phoenix” found 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).

Tommy Tedesco’s Twangin’ Guitar

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.

Tommy Tedesco     Twangin’ Twelve Great Hits     1962

Twangin' with Tedesco-cover-1Twangin' with Tedesco-cover-2

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

How fun to see the Tedesco closes an album of older standards with a classic string bender — “Rebel Rouser” — from the original twang master (actually, Eddy in collaboration with Lee Hazlewood).

When Earth Tones Ruled

Tommy Tedesco at NAMM with Dale Zdenek & Joe Diorio

Tommy Tedesco

Music that Bridge Nations: “Dixie Doodle”

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.