Breedloves's Folk Songs


“The Wabash Cannonball” is an American folk song about a fictional train, thought to
have originated sometime in the late nineteenth century. Its first documented appearance
was on sheet music published in 1882, titled The Great Rock Island Route” and credited
to J. A. Roff. There are many theories of the origin of “The Wabash Cannonball”. Utah
Phillips states that hobos somewhere imagined a mythical train called the “Wabash
Cannonball” and created the lyrics and music to go with the myth. Another theory states
that the song is based on a tall tale in which Cal S. Bunyan, Paul Bunyan‘s brother,
constructed a railroad known as the Ireland, Jerusalem, Australian & Southern Michigan
Line. After two months of service, the 700-car train was traveling so fast that it arrived at
its destination an hour before its departure. Finally, the train took off so fast that it rushed
in to outer space, and for all is known, it is still traveling through space. When the hobos
learned of this train, they called her “The Wabash Cannonball” and said that every station
in America had heard her whistle. The Carter Family made one of the first recordings of
the song in 1929, though it was not released until 1932. Another popular version was
recorded by Country Music Hall of Famer Roy Acuff in 1936.
Listen to the jingle the rumble and the roar as she glides along the woodland
ore the hills and by the shore
hear the rush of the mighty engine hear the lonesome hobos call
he’s riding through the jungle on the Wabash cannon ball
now the western states are dandies so the southern people say from Chicago
and St. Louis
and Peoria by the way
to the lake of Minnesota where the rippling waters flow no chances to be
taken on
the Wabash cannon ball
she pulled in to the station one cold December day
as she rolled up to the platform you could hear all the people say
now theirs a gal from Birmingham she’s long and she’s tall she came down
from Georgia
on the Wabash cannon ball
now here’s to daddy claxton may his name forever stand
and always be remembered in the courts of all the land
his earthly race is over and as the curtain falls
we’ll carry him back to Dixie on the Wabash cannon ball
Wabash Cannonball


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