Creek Don't Rise

Can You Find . . . . ?
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Author:  paulrace [ Mon Jun 06, 2016 4:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Can You Find . . . . ?

Every so often I get an e-mail from someone trying to track down a particular song. I'll try to post them in this thread.

Here's a reader request I got a few weeks ago:

I keep looking for information re Rock Island Line, because a long time ago I heard a radio program that had a very old version of a woman, not Bessie Smith, singing it who was interviewed and identified as its composer. All I can find is the Alan Lomax info attributing it to Clarence Wilson in 1929. The recording I heard was old and wonderfully scratchy and when you listen, you know it's hers.


Thanks for getting in touch. I went back through all the recordings I could find of a woman singing this song. I found three versions by the black folk singer Odetta, who recorded it twice on record albums and was taped one time singing it on concert. But those recordings don't fit your description.

Then it occurred to me that maybe you had heard "Freight Train," which was written by Pete Seeger's housekeeper. When Pete found out she was a songwriter, he promoted her on television shows and elsewhere, and there were several live recordings of her performing the song.

Here's one:

I've heard others in which she describes when she wrote the song, some 45 years earlier.

Hope this helps; please let me know if you find something along the line of what you were looking for, and I'll add it to the article - Paul

Author:  paulrace [ Wed Jul 05, 2017 11:02 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Can You Find . . . . ?

A reader writes:

Hi Mr. Race, I am trying to find a harmonica train song (for children) that we listened to sometime in the early 1960's. It may have been on an album that also featured Jim Reeves' Bimbo. My memory is that it was mostly the harmonica, as opposed to singing. I have spent hours trying to find it online with no success. It had to have been a great tune because I still reminisce and yearn for it after 55 years. (I was about 10 years old at the time.)

Any idea what the song is or where I can find it? Many thanks!


I apologize, but I can't find anything along the lines of your request.

I did stumble across and enjoy Jim Reeves' "Waitin' for a Train."

No, it's not the one you wanted, but you might enjoy it.

Have you checked out Johnny Cash's version of "Orange Blossom Special"? He plays the traditional fiddle part on his harmonicas.

Have a great summer,

Paul Race

Author:  paulrace [ Tue Jan 02, 2018 4:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Can You Find . . . . ?

A reader writes:
I am trying to find the lyrics for a children's song I remember from my childhool. It is a train song. All I remember is what I assume is the chorus: I choo, I choo, I choo. I choo, choo, choo, choo, choo. That's all I ever really do is choo, choo, choo, choo, choo.
Do you have any idea what the song title might be or its full lyrics?
I know this is pretty random, but it is driving me nuts that I can't remember! Hope you can help.


This may seem strange, but I found the lyrics in a 1977 Santa Cruz County standard for testing speech and auditory acuity.

The verse they print is:

What do you do with the big black coal I asked the railroad train.
Do you swallow big chunks whole, and does it give you pain?
The train said, no I choo - I choo-choo-choo-choo-choo.
That's all I ever really do is Choo-Choo-Choo-Choo-Choo

They say the song is found on an educational record:

Special songs for children album, #R646-71, Album 1 (Available from Warren's Educational Supplies)
Song Title: Choo-Choo

With THAT information, I tracked the song down to a kids' song blog: ... rains.html

Big Black Train
(from the Out-of-Print Fireside Book of Children's Songs, by Marie Winn, pub. 1966)
(teach kids the chorus to join in with you - use shakers to keep the beat)

Oh, what do you do with the big black coal
I asked the big black train
Do you really swallow the big lumps whole?

The train said, 'No, I choo,
I choo choo choo choo choo
That's all I ever really do,
I choo choo choo choo choo"

Oh what do you do when the fire gets hot
I asked the big black train
If you swallow flames an awful lot
Your tummy must complain

(repeat chorus)

Oh, what do you do with the big black smoke
I asked the big black train
Do you swallow the smoke until you choke
I wish you would explain

(repeat chorus)

Amazon lists used copies of that book here: ... +childrens

If you get one, please take a photo of that page and send it to me, I'd like to see it.

Have a great day,

Paul Race

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