May 1 – City of New Orleans

1971

The train they call the City of New Orleans begins journeying the 934 miles from Chicago to New Orleans, LA.

The ride originated with Illinois Central Railroad on Apr. 27, 1947, taking 16-hours. Today it takes 19½ hours.

It inspires one of the great American songs. Chicago-native songwriter Steve Goodman‘s folk song is first released in 1971.

Good morning America how are you?
Don’t you know me I’m your native son,
I’m the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.
 
Dealin’ card games with the old men in the club car.
Penny a point ain’t no one keepin’ score.
Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle
Feel the wheels rumblin’ ‘neath the floor. — ▷Lyrics ▹

Arlo Guthrie (Goodman had to buy him a beer to get him listen to it) has his only top-40 hit with it (US#18) in 1972 (on album Hobo’s Lullaby).
▷Songfacts ▹

Willie Nelson‘s 1984 single scores him a USC&W#1 (found on his City of New Orleans album). That wins Goodman a posthumous 1985 Grammy. Of course there are many other stirring covers.

 ( Goodman site  ( Guthrie site  ( Nelson site

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