Jack Guthrie: Freight Train Blues
Last week, I wrote about how my father’s child memories led me to discover western swing for myself. And last week, we learned in the comments that some people love pictures of trains. So this is a two-for-one special.
Growing up, I remember my father singing Freight Train Blues all over the house at odd moments. I don’t know if this is the version my father remembered, but Jack Guthrie sings it the same way my father did. So what made such an impression on my father, that he could still sing the song forty years later? I think it may have been the first time he ever heard yodeling.
Jack Guthrie was a cousin of Woody, and Jack was the more popular of the two during the short span of his career. Jack Guthrie and his family migrated from Oklahoma to California in the Dust Bowl years, and there he began to perform in public. Jack had his first success performing songs inspired by his memories of Oklahoma for transplanted Oklahomans. It is likely that this music found its way onto the radio in Oklahoma, where my father would have heard it.
Jack Guthrie’s career only lasted from 1944-48. He performed and recorded almost until his dieing day; this kept him from seeking treatment for his tuberculosis until it was too late.