Reflections

Railroads Have Been Big Part Of Our Lives

By Charles Cooper


Hello everyone, I hope your having a good week.  The old-time radio newscaster, Gabriel Heater, always opened his show with, “there’s good news tonight”  
This week I’d like to open Reflections by saying, “there’s good news this week in the Cooper household.  Lupe and I became great grandparents for the second time last Tuesday when little Sofia joined our family. She   is also welcomed by her parents, Elizabeth and Darren; her grandmother, Terri; her brother, Edward, who was three last Sunday; and her great uncle, Jamie and her aunt, Shelby.  
Of course she is beautiful, as well as  healthy and good-natured.  I appreciate the opportunity to  tell about this happy event, and this is where  as usual I change direction: Last week when I wrote about the Illinois Central berry trains, it occurred to me just how the railroads have been a part of all our lives.
 This is particularly true in our country music. starting with The Ballad of Casey Jones, and the Wreck Of Old 97.  Then in the late 1920s, Jimmie Rodgers had Ben Dewberry’s Final Run followed by several of his Blue Yodels such as The Texas Blues. Jimmie had actually worked for about 15 years as a brakeman for the Atlanta and Vicksburg and the Old North Eastern and some other roads until bad health forced him to make a living in the music field and of course as they say, the rest is history.  
Near Sand Mountain, Ala. two brothers, Alton and Rabon Delmore,  worked on the railroad  and practiced all week to make personal appearances on weekends.  They became so good that in 1928 they became regulars on the Grand Ole Opry and their career lasted until 1953 with the death of Rabon Delmore.
They never had a band but  depended on a flat acoustic guitar and a tenor guitar and I recently heard their 1936 recording of “Don’t You Hear That Train,”  and even with the primitive recording techniques they were fantastic.  I  had the pleasure of seeing them live once and their talent was still awesome.  
In the 1940s Roy Acuff had The Wabash Cannon Ball, written by an earlier country legend, A. P. Carter, as well as The Fireball Mail, and Night Train To Memphis.  Then Hank Snow came down from  Canada and gave us I’m Moving On and The Golden Rocket and Hank Williams gave us I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow.  So you see friends, just think of all those country classics that we wouldn’t have but for the railroads.  
The nearest modern theme I know about was when gospel song writer Byron Foust, originally from Oxford, wrote Rocket Ship To The Sky, probably inspired  by our space program.  Last week, country super star, Jack Greene died at age 83 and although  I don’t think he recorded anything about trains, his “There Goes My Everything” is still considered one of the greatest country songs of all time.  
In fact in recent years they put gospel lyrics to the music.  I saw Jack in concert once and though I didn’t get to meet him, they say he was a Christian gentleman and definitely a great singer.  
Yes readers, next week we’ll get back to more of a Water Valley based column so don’t forget to send your suggestions or memories to my email address cncooper1@hotmail.com  or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, TN 38101 and have a great week.

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