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The Blog Kept A-Rollin’ — Day 1: “Train Kept A-Rollin’” — Tiny Bradshaw & His Orchestra

July 25, 2011

In most of the posts on this blog, I mention cover versions (if any) of the song I’m writing about.  For a change of pace, I’m going to do a series of seven posts, tracking the evolution of a single song through a number of covers. 

The song I’ve chosen is “Train Kept A-Rollin’,”  which has gone through some intriguing transformations as various artists have recorded it over the years.

So, let’s start at the beginning:  Tiny Bradshaw and His Orchestra recorded “Train Kept A-Rollin’” in Cincinnati, Ohio on July 25, 1951 (exactly 60 years ago today).  Myron “Tiny” Bradshaw had been a bandleader since 1934, first playing swing and then, after World War II, Jump Blues—a precursor of both Rhythm & Blues and Rock & Roll.

He had several hit records on the King label but never achieved the massive level of cross-over success that fellow Jump Blues bandleader Louis Jordan did.1 “Train Kept A-Rollin’”, which Bradshaw co-wrote with Howard Kay and Lois Mann, was released by King Records in 1952.  The single was a relatively modest seller at the time. 

Now, let’s go back to the days when people actually traveled across America by train.  All aboard!

Wow!  You can hear all the lyrics (unlike most of the cover versions I’ll be posting).  And dig those crazy lyrics:

“She was a hipster and a gone dame.
She was pretty, from New York City,
And she trucked on down the ol’ fair lane.”2

This usage of the word “trucked” put me in mind of cartoonist R. Crumb.

Just for laughs, I looked up “truck” in the dictionary.  Sure enough, one of the definitions listed is:

“Slang. To walk or stroll, esp. in a jaunty manner: trucking down the avenue on a Sunday afternoon.3

The arrangement is great. I love the call and response between Tiny and the back-up singers. Red Prysock takes a wailin’ tenor sax solo.  Willie Gaddy’s electric guitar is definitely the mellowest one that you’ll hear all week; the familiar riff isn’t there—it came a few years later (more about that tomorrow).

One cool element of the original Bradshaw arrangement has been kept in most of the cover versions; it occurs at the end of the second verse:

“We made a stop at Albuquerque.
She must have thought I was a real gone jerk.
We got off the train in El Paso.
Her lovin’ was so fine Jack, I couldn’t let ‘er go.”4

After “El Paso,” the snare drum snaps, the band stops and Tiny speaks the last line a cappella. 

It sure sounds like they were having a “real gone” time!

Next:  Five years later, the song is resurrected in a Nashville Quonset hut.

  1. I wrote about Louis Jordan in an earlier post:
  2. © 1951 by Bienstock Publishing Company, Jerry Lieber Music, Mike Stoller Music, and Fort Knox Music Inc./Trio Music Co. Inc.
  4. Bienstock Publishing Company etc., op. cit.

From → Pre-1960

  1. Ted permalink

    Welcome back DJ

    Sounds musically like Tiny Bradshaw’s train kept A-rollin past Nat King Cole’s highway that’s the best – Route 66. (but A-Rollin with more fun!)

  2. amosJo permalink

    Welcome Back Mike!
    Woe Bot Doo Day!
    Always learnin somethin new from you…
    This is a fun one, like this tune.
    Will keep posted for next 6 versions.

  3. mason permalink

    Thanks Mike! A cheerful start to the day. Had to get up and dance to that saxophone. Love mason

  4. Great post… Looking forward to the further installments!

  5. Syd NaTanic General permalink

    For Immediate Release:
    Contact – Elliott Ruther 513-484-0505


    Presented by The Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation
    – 60th anniversary of Tiny Bradshaw’s original recording on King Records at 1540 Brewster
    – Starring Philip Paul, original Tiny Bradshaw drummer on Train Kept A Rollin
    – Introducing The Train Kept A Rollin Guitar Army

    WHEN: 60th year to the date – Monday, 7/25/11
    – 5 p.m. Downtown Fountain Square performance (Starring Philip Paul, introducing The Train Kept A Rollin Guitar Army and surprises)
    – 6 p.m. Reception at Historic Herzog Studio (811 Race) and Panel Discussion led by Steve Rosen and featuring Carl Bradshaw, Philip Paul, Brian Powers, and Mr. Rhythm Man

    – Cincinnati gave birth to a song that became a guitarist favorite, a legendary rock and roll standard, which has alumni of Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Johnny Burnette, Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, Kirk Hammett, Slash, Paul Gilbert, Lemmy…
    – This is an efffort to finally lay claim on this song and its Cincinnati origins and celebrate Tiny Bradshaw (who is buried in Price Hill in Union Baptist Cemetary)
    – Legendary King Records session drummer Philip Paul was recruited to Cincinnati by Tiny Bradshaw and drum at the Cotton Club in the West End (before 75 took it out) and continues to play Downtown Cincinnati each weekend at The Cincinnatian. The Syd NaTanists and The Guitar Army are honored to start this jam off with him.

    – The Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation encourages anyone to show up with an acoustic guitar and join the effort and play in a line from Fountain Square (5th and Vine) to Historic Herzog (8th and Race).
    – “Train” will played with a riff of E-G-E//A-G-A//AAA-B-A-G-F#
    – Follow the Generals of The Guitar Army

    5 p. m. Performance
    The Syd NaTanists
    General Ed Vardiman
    General Dave Cupp
    General Scotty Wood
    General Beth Holzerwilson

    6 p.m. Reception (after 5 p.m. Fountain Square Train performance starring Philip Paul)
    – Music and cold beverages

    ************7 p.m. Tiny Bradshaw and Train Kept A Rollin’ Panel Discussion
    *********************Steve Rosen – Curator
    *********************Carl Bradshaw (Tiny Bradshaw’s Grandson)
    *********************Philip Paul

    *********************Brian Powers

    *********************Mr. Rhythm Man

    Open to the public of all ages and styles

    Anonymous Fund of Greater Cincinnati Foundation, CityBeat, Buddy Roger’s, 3CDC, Donors to CUSAMHF

    For more information and press inquiries:
    General in The Syd NaTanists at 513-484-0505

    Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation
    (new 501c3 nonprofit)
    A Bootsy Baby

    Mission: The mission of the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation serves to elevate the region’s rich music heritage and the contributions of the past, present, and future music community through preservation, education and celebration.

    Vision: The Foundation will be an internationally acclaimed organization that serves to preserve and promote the region’s rich music heritage and culture to the nation and the world.

    Founders: Darren Blase, Christopher Burgan, Raymond “Buz” Buse, Bootsy and Patti Collins, Russell Driver, Marvin Hawkins, Sean Rugless, Elliott V. Ruther


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