Dalhart moved to NYC in 1910 hoping for an opera career, then began recording in 1916. The song about the Sep 27 1903 derailment of a Southern Railway Fast Mail train near Danville, VA — written, it later turned out, by David Graves George — is country’s first million-seller and the first Southern song to become a national success, selling an unheard-of 7M copies.
In the same year he records The Prisoner’s Song; it spends 12 weeks at US#1 in 1925-26. Both songs will be covered by many later, major stars.
See also: Henry Whitter