Country Blues > SOTM - Song Of The Month

Railroad Bill

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Johnm:
Hi all,
I thought to start a thread with transcriptions of different versions of "Railroad Bill".  We already have one by Frank Hutchison in the Frank Hutchison Lyrics thread, and I'll copy that one over here.  One of the earliest recorded versions was done by Will Bennett.  I don't know where he came from, and I don't believe he recorded many titles, but I particularly enjoy his version.  I first heard it on the old Origin Jazz Library record, "Let's Go Riding", an especially fine re-issue with a wonderful photo of a steamboat on its cover. 
Will Bennett backed himself out of C position in standard tuning for his version of "Railroad Bill", with a simple boom-chang accompaniment.  His version never goes to the E7 to F change that most recorded versions include, and in listening to him do the song, I don't miss the change at all, though I like it fine when other players do it.  Perhaps it gives his version an earlier feel.  I'm having a hard time hearing the lyrics in his last two verses and would really appreciate some help with them.  I have some phonetic approximations in bent brackets there, but they don't really make sense.  Here is a video of Will Bennett's performance for you:



Railroad Bill ought to be killed
Never worked and he never will
REFRAIN: Now I'm gon' ride, my Railroad Bill

Railroad Bill done took my wife
Threatened on me that he would take my life
REFRAIN: Now I'm gon' ride, my Railroad Bill

Goin' up on the mountain, take my stand
.41 derringer in my right and left hand
REFRAIN: Now I'm gon' ride, my Railroad Bill

Goin' up on the mountain, goin' out west
.41 derringer stickin' in my breast
REFRAIN: Now I'm gon' ride, my Railroad Bill

Buy me a gun just as long as my arm
Kill evahbody ever done me wrong
REFRAIN: Now I'm gon' ride, my Railroad Bill

Buy me a gun with a shiny barrel
Kill somebody 'bout my good-lookin' gal
REFRAIN: Now I'm gon' ride, my Railroad Bill

Got a .38 Special on a .44 frame
How in the world can I miss him when I've got dead aim?
REFRAIN: Now I'm gon' ride, my Railroad Bill

Then I went to the doctor, asked him what the matter could be
"If you don't stop drinkin', son, it'll kill you dead."
REFRAIN: Now I'm gon' ride, my Railroad Bill

Gonna drink my liquor, drink it in the wind
Doctor said it kill me, but he never said when
REFRAIN: Now I'm gon' ride, my Railroad Bill

If the river was brandy and I was a duck
I'd sink to the bottom and I'd never come up
REFRAIN: Now I'm gon' ride, my Railroad Bill

Honey, honey, do you think I'm mean?
Just because I'm livin' on porks and beans
REFRAIN: Now I'm gon' ridfe, my Railroad Bill

The you talk about your honey, you oughta see mine
She's hump-backed, bow-legged, crippled and blind
REFRAIN: Now I'm gon' ride, my Railroad Bill

Honey, honey, do you think I'm a fool?
Think I'm gonna quit you while the weather is cool?
REFRAIN: Now I'm gon' ride, my Railroad Bill

Honey, honey, couldn't, what you mean?
Goin' through the world, in my heart to steal
REFRAIN: Now I'm gon' ride, my Railroad Bill

Goin' to the mountain, gravest thing
Pull to the world in the Natchez Queen
REFRAIN: Now I'm gon' ride, my Railroad Bill

Edited 5/5 to pick up corrections from Gumbo

All best,
Johnm

Johnm:
Hi all,
Frank Hutchison recorded "Railroad Bill" at his session in New York City on July 9, 1929, a very productive day in the studio that also yielded "The Chevrolet Six", "Cumberland Gap", "The Deal", "Johnny and Jane, Parts 1 and 2", "Cannon Ball Blues" and "K. C. Blues".  He played "Railroad Bill" out of C position in standard tuning, like everybody else.  His rendition has his characteristic timing, which I've come to think derived partially from his habit of intermittently omitting downbeats from his alternating bass and just hitting upbeats.  In some of his solos, there's a nifty patch where he slides up two frets into a D chord, a move that most people playing "Railroad Bill" don't employ.  Frank Hutchison sang a Spoonerism at the end of the second line of the fourth verse, something you don't hear all that often.  I would appreciate help with the bent bracketed word in verse three.

   Railroad Bill got so bad
   Stole all the chickens the poor farmers had
   Well, it's get back, old Railroad Bill

   Railroad Bill went out West
   Shot all the buttons off a brakeman's vest
   Well, it's get back, Railroad Bill

   Railroad Bill got so fine
   Shot ninety-nine holes in a shilver shine
   Well, it's ride, Railroad Bill

   Railroad Bill, standing at the tanks
   Waiting for the train they call Hancy Nanks
   Well, it's ride, Railroad Bill

   Railroad Bill, standing at the curve
   Gonna rob the mail train but he didn't have the nerve
   Well, it's get back, Railroad Bill

   Railroad Bill, he lived on the hill
   He never worked or he never will
   Well, it's ride, Railroad Bill

   Railroad Bill went out West
   Shot all the buttons off a brakeman's vest
   Well, it's get back, Railroad Bill

Edited 4/21 to pick up correction from uncle bud

All best,
Johnm

roig:
Will Bennett was from  Loudon, Tennessee according to most, if not all sources. He only made one record. The other side "Real Estate Blues" is rather interesting.

Johnm:
Hi all,
Frank Hovington recorded "Railroad Bill" a couple of times, first on July 5, 1975 at his home in Frederica, Delaware and again in 1980, two years before he died.  He is one musician who I wish had been recorded so much more than he was.  He has a seemingly endless supply of verses, many of which I've never heard anyone else sing, and he adds a little bridge section, the "If I lose" part, that I've not heard anyone else do in the song.  His guitar playing is beautiful and he has a lot of personal touches, including the melody taking the bass for a ride in the "If I lose" section.  I'm attaching a video of his 1980 version, which has most of the same verses as the 1975 version, with some slightly altered.  I've transcribed the 1975 version.



Railroad Bill, where have you been?
Been around the wold, Lord, I'm going back again
Let him ride, ride, Railroad Bill

Railroad Bill got so mean
Ran all the people out of New Orleans
He's a bad, bad outlawed man

Railroad Bill, waiting for a freight
Poor Railroad Bill, Lord, he is just too late
Let him ride, ride, Railroad Bill

Railroad Bill, waiting for a train
Looked around the corner, well he spied the St. James
He's a bad, bad outlawed man (Spoken: What he say?)

If I lose, let me lose, I don't care
If I lose, let me lose, I don't care
Lose many dollars tryin' to win one dime
We gamblers fall some hard luck sometime

Railroad Bill a bad, bad man
Shot the lantern out of the engineerman's hand
Let him ride, ride, Railroad Bill

Railroad Bill, going out west
Had nothing on but his coat and his vest
Let him ride, ride, Railroad Bill

Mama, oh Mama, how can it be?
Killed all the hustlers, ain't never killed me
Let him ride, ride, Railroad Bill

Rubber-tired a-buggy, double-seated hack
Goin' down to the graveyard, bring your girlfriend back
Let him ride, ride, Railroad Bill

Railroad Bill, where have you been?
Been around the world, child, I'm going back again
Let him ride, ride, Railroad Bill (Spoken: What he say?)

If I lose, let me lose, I don't care
If I lose, let me lose I don't
Lose many dollars tryin' to win one dime
We gamblers fall some hard luck sometime

All best,
Johnm

jostber:

--- Quote from: roig on May 03, 2014, 01:26:32 PM ---Will Bennett was from  Loudon, Tennessee according to most, if not all sources. He only made one record. The other side "Real Estate Blues" is rather interesting.

--- End quote ---

Love that one! A favorite.

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