This week Jim Adams has prompted us with choosing songs involving A Song with a Harmonica for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday.
“Orange Blossom Special” is known as a fiddle tune, but Johnny Cash with the Tennessee Three took it to a whole new level with Johnny’s harmonica playing, coming in loud and clear at San Quentin Prison! The first video shows him playing both harmonica parts.
At the bottom of this post is an interesting story about the authorship of the song. Chubby Wise claimed the song for years and played it on the Grand Ole Opry every week. Ervin Rouse (the writer) and Wise took a trip to Jacksonville, Florida, boarding and touring the train, Orange Blossom Special at the Jacksonville Terminal. The train, Orange Blossom Special was a luxurious passenger train on the Seaboard Air Line Railroad connecting New York City and Miami that began on November 21, 1925 by SAL President S. Davies Warfield who wanted to capitalize on the development in Florida. Warfield took note in the success that Henry Flagler was having by attracting travelers to Florida with his railroad and the Orange Blossom Special was born.
Many have covered the song over the years, but I thought this young lady nailed it! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Check out the book “Orange Blossom Boys: The Untold Story of Ervin T Rouse, Chubby Wise and the World’s Most Famous Fiddle Tune” on Amazon.
Look a-yonder comin' Comin' down that railroad track Hey, look a-yonder comin' Comin' down that railroad track It's the Orange Blossom Special Bringin' my baby back Well, I'm going down to Florida And get some sand in my shoes Or maybe Californy And get some sand in my shoes I'll ride that Orange Blossom Special And lose these New York blues "Say man, when you going back to Florida?" "When am I goin' back to Florida? I don't know, don't reckon I ever will." "Ain't you worried about getting your nourishment in New York?" "Well, I don't care if I do-die-do-die-do-die-do-die." Hey talk about a-ramblin' She's the fastest train on the line Talk about a-travellin' She's the fastest train on the line It's that Orange Blossom Special Rollin' down the seaboard line Source: LyricFind Songwriters: Ervin Thomas Rouse Orange Blossom Special lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management
Rouse copyrighted the song before the Orange Blossom Special train ever came to Jacksonville. Other musicians, including Robert Russell “Chubby” Wise, have claimed authorship of the song. Wise did not write it although he claimed for years that he had. Rouse, a mild mannered man who lived deep in the Everglades never contested the matter. Years later, Johnny Cash learned of Rouse and brought him to Miami to play the song at one of his concerts. In a video on YouTube, Gene Christian, a fiddler for Bill Monroe who knew both men, confirms that Rouse wrote and copyrighted the song. Christian says in the interview that Chubby Wise popularized the song by playing it weekly on the Grand Ole Opry.
… even though it was about three in the morning we went right into the Terminal and got on board and toured that train, and it was just about the most luxurious thing I had ever seen. Ervin was impressed, too. And when we got done lookin’ ‘er over he said, “Let’s write a song about it.” So we went over to my place … and that night she was born. Sitting on the side of my bed. We wrote the melody in less than an hour, and called it Orange Blossom Special. Later Ervin and his brother put some words to it.
Rouse copyrighted the song in 1938 and recorded it in 1939. Bill Monroe, regarded by many as “the father of bluegrass music”, recorded the song (with Art Wooten on fiddle) and made it a hit. Since then countless versions have been recorded, among them Wise’s own, as an instrumental in a 1969 album Chubby Wise and His Fiddle. And that version, said Wise, “is the way it was written and the way it’s supposed to be played”.
Leon “Pappy” Selph says that he was the author of The Orange Blossom Special in this interview in 1997. He states that he wrote it in 1931.