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5/21/10 – The History of “Midnight Special”, 7-way Cat Fight & More

Posted: May 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Blues, Pop, R&B, Rock n' Roll | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments »

Friday Night Cat Fight Show


History Of

“Midnight Special”

The “Midnight Special” is a traditional folk tune about a passenger train that roared past a prison every night.  The singer of the tune dreamed of the freedom that waited just outside his prison walls.  It was first committed to paper in 1905, but didn’t appear on record until 1926 when Dave “Pistol Pete” Cutrell recorded it for Okeh with some new lyrics that referenced his band.  Leadbelly popularized the song after he let Alan Lomax record him singing it for the Library Of Congress in 1934.  The song entered the R&B charts as an instrumental in 1948 with Tiny Grimes cutting it for the then new Atlantic Label.  In 1952, The Weavers had a small hit with is, but it didn’t hit the Rock n’ Roll Era until Big Joe Turner cut it in 1957.  From there, it became a pop hit for Paul Evans in 1960 and Johnny Rivers in 1965.  Credence Clearwater Revival included their inspired version of “Midnight Special” on their 1969 LP, “Willie & The Poor Boys”.  This week, 7 versions of the tune (Leadbelly to CCR) will be competing for YOUR Vote.  For historical purposes, I do include the original 1926 recording by Dave Cutrell.

I’ll also take a look at some of the popular songs that were recorded on THIS DAY (5-21-10) in rock n’ roll history.

So listen, VOTE and DIG the “Midnight Special” Cat Fight With Matt The Cat.

Which One Do You DIG The MOST? - "Midnight Special"

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9 Comments on “5/21/10 – The History of “Midnight Special”, 7-way Cat Fight & More”

  1. 1 Prowlin' With Matt The Cat » Blog Archive » Cat Fight Over The History Of “Midnight Special” said at 10:09 am on May 21st, 2010:

    […] Click HERE to Listen To The Cat Fight Podcast Friday Night Cat Fight […]

  2. 2 Sierra said at 10:18 am on May 21st, 2010:

    This week I’ll have to go with the 2 latest versions, with CCR getting my vote. I also liked Rivers’ version, but can’t say anything about the old-timey ones. I love oldies; it’s what addicted me to the 50’s on 5 in the first place, but that’s a bit too old for me. Sure did like the show altogether though, as always, even though I know as well as I know my own name, that the 2 latest Midnight Specials won’t be special to most prowlers. That’s okay though, great show.

  3. 3 Yum Yum said at 11:33 am on May 21st, 2010:

    Paul Evans the old timey one !! Yum Yum !!P.S. A charter member of The Old Timers group being that i get Social Security and ill be 65 on June 20th !! So a Shout Out to all the Old Timeys and to Sierra Madre who will be there One Fine Day !! The Chiffons on Laurie Records !!

  4. 4 Ken said at 4:11 pm on May 21st, 2010:

    Well I’m as old as Yum Yum but this wasn’t even close for me – CCR all the way. When listening to LeadBelly’s version I kept hearing Walk Right In in the guitar work. I also like the Johnny Rivers version and never liked the Paul Evans version. Thanks again Matt, always enjoy them.

  5. 5 HTD III said at 4:50 pm on May 21st, 2010:

    I just had to vote for Tiny Grimes because the instrumental playing was so incredible, but this is an example where I wish that I could have several votes. Ledbelly’s and Big Joe Turner’s singing were both incredibly soulful, but CCR also kicks but with their version.

  6. 6 Virginia said at 5:26 pm on May 21st, 2010:

    Since I only get one vote it will be for CCR, I also just love Big Joe Turner’s version. I can hardly wait a whole week for the next episode of “The Juke in the Back” thanks again Matt for all the entertain you provide us with.

  7. 7 Pinball Wizard said at 12:47 pm on May 22nd, 2010:

    T. Grimes was excellent but I couldn’t tell if he was doing Midnight Special or Night Train.

    I really liked the drums & guitar in the Paul Evans version.

    When I first heard the lineup, I assumed that I would be voting for Joe Turner. That is just a wonderful, rocking record.

    But after listening to all of them, I went with CCR. A great performance. Interestingly the recording lets you hear the room more than most. Normally I might consider this to be a flaw but in this case IMO it is appropriate & actually adds to the atmosphere of the record.

    All great records this week & therefore a tough choice. Thanks for this wonderful show.

  8. 8 Bruce said at 2:04 am on May 23rd, 2010:

    On this Cat Fight CCR takes the low key approach and they get my vote for doing it. The elemnts of tempo, vocal delivery and arrangement blend together to make for the hit that it deservedly was.

    Pistol Pete Cutrell, while not in contention, gets my second place vote for his blatant self promotion (much like Al Dexter in Pistol Packin Mama, only better).

  9. 9 Sierra said at 10:24 am on May 25th, 2010:

    Referring to my previous comment, guess I don’t know my own name very well… (LOL)! Can’t believe CCR has taken the lead here so far. I’d never heard the Weavers’ version or anything quite like it, and am not surprised that it’s coming in zero so far.

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