ROCK ISLAND LINE

Posted on Posted in Breedloves's Folk Songs
  • ROCK ISLAND LINE
    “Rock Island Line” is an American blues/folk song performed and first recorded by Lead
    Belly in the 1930s. Versions have been recorded by other artists. The song is ostensibly
    about the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. Lead Belly and John and Alan
    Lomax supposedly first heard it from [a] prison work gang during their travels in
    1934/35. It was sung a cappella. Lead Belly sang and performed this song, finally settling
    on a format where he portrayed, in song, a train engineer asking the depot agent to let his
    train start out on the main line.
    Lonnie Donegan‘s recording, released in 1955, signaled the start of the UK skiffle
    craze. Donegan “did nothing to credit Lead Belly as the author, even though he simply
    copied Lead Belly’s entire arrangement”. However, although it only featured Donegan,
    Chris Barber on double bass and washboard player (Beryl Bryden), it was a band
    recording so he made no money from it beyond his original session fee. Pete Seeger
    recorded a version a cappella while he was chopping wood, to demonstrate its origins,
    and many others have recorded this tune as well.
    Now this here’s the story about the Rock Island Line.
    Well the Rock Island Line she runs down into New Orleans.
    There’s a big toll gate down there and you know if you got certain things on board when
    you go through the toll gate – Well you don’t have to pay the man no toll.
    Well the train driver he pulled up to the toll gate and the man hollered and asked him
    what all he had on board and he said,
    “I got live stock, I got live stock, I got cows I got pigs
    I got sheep I got mules I got … all live stock”.
    Well he said “you all right boy, you don’t have t’pay no toll.
    You can just go right on through”.
    So he went on through the toll gate
    And as he went through he started pickin up a little bit of speed,
    pickin up a little bit of steam.
    He got on through he turned he looked back to the man he said
    “Well I fooled you, I fooled you I got pig iron I got pig iron I got all pig iron”.
    Down the Rock Island Line she’s a mighty road
    The rock Island Line it’s a road to ride
    The rock island line it’s a mighty good road
    Well if you ride you got to ride it like you find it
    Get your ticket at the station for the Rock Island Line.
    Oh cloudy in the west and it looked like rain.
    Around the curve come a passenger train,
    north bound train on the south bound track.
    He did alright leaving but he won’t be back.
    Well the Rock Island Line she’s a mighty road
     The rock Island Line it’s a road to ride
    The rock island line it’s a mighty good road
    Well if you ride you got to ride it like you find it
    Get your ticket at the station for the Rock Island Line.
    Oh I may be right and I may be wrong but you gonna miss me when I’m gone.
    Well the engineer said before he died that there where 2 more drinks that he’d like to try
    Conductor said “what could they be” – A hot cup of coffee and a cold glass’a tea.
    Well the Rock Island Line she’s a mighty road
    The rock Island Line it’s a road to ride
    The rock island line it’s a mighty good road
    Well if you ride you got to ride it like you find it
    Get your ticket at the station for the Rock Island Line.