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The Orange Blossom Special
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Written by Paul D. Race for Family Garden Trains(tm) ,
Big Indoor Trains(tm), and Creek Don't Rise(tm)

Orange Blossom Special, a Classic Train Song from Family Garden TrainsTM

The Orange Blossom Special ran between New York and Miami between 1925 and 1953, with a long break during WWII. Rich folks who wanted to escape to a warmer climate in the winter especially appreciated the deluxe Pullman-manufactured cars and restaurant-style meals. The train was the Seaboard line's greatest claim to fame, even though it was operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad north of Washington DC.

The song written about this train is notable for several reasons. Best know as an instrumental fiddle tune, it really did have words when it was written back in 1938 by Ervin T. Rouse. (Later, "Chubby" Wise also claimed to have contributed, but according to old time "Blue Grass Boy" Gene Christian, the song was already copyrighted by Rouse before Wise even encountered it.). It is unique in that the song changes keys between the verse and the chorus. It typically starts in E major, so the fiddler can squeeze in some bluesy train-whistle sounds. If the words are sung, the song stays in E for them. But when it's time for the toe-tapping instrumental chorus, the song steps down to A major, until it's time for more verses or train whistles.

Johnny Cash tinkered with tradition in 1965 when he recorded the song, not only with the words, but also with harmonicas instead of a fiddle. Yes, that's plural. One harmonica doesn't have all the notes you need to do the melody justice, but two harmonicas, a fourth apart, do. In the video below, you can see Johnny glancing at the harp in his hand to make certain he's starting out with the right one.

To see sheet music for the traditional fiddle part, click here

If you have a favorite train song, or a favorite performer that I've left out, please contact me and I'll try to track him or her down. Also, if you don't see the link for a particular song, hit refresh - it seems like Amazon can never populate all of the links at the same time.

    Well look a-yonder comin'
    Comin' on down the trackClick to learn about our newsletter for Americana and related music styles
    Well look a-yonder comin'
    Comin' on down the track
    It's the Orange Blossom Special
    Bringin' my baby back

    Well talk about her ramblin'
    She's the fastest train on the line
    Well talk about her travellin'
    She's the fastest train on the line
    She's the Orange Blossom Special
    Rollin' down the Seaboard line

    Well, I'm going down to Florida
    Get some sand in my shoes
    Or maybe California
    Get some sand in my shoes
    I'll ride the Orange Blossom Special
    And lose those New York blues

MP3 clips from Amazon

The point of this section and the You-Tube Link section below is to give you a sense of how various artists attack this song. If you like one of the clips in this section, it doesn't cost that much to download it.

When I started these pages, I set up a bunch of little widgets here that would let you play clips right on the Amazon site without leaving the page. But every time a publisher changed the product number of the album they linked to, the widget would break and something silly would show up in the links instead. So I've changed things so the clips will play regardless, and if you like what you hear, the orange button should take you to that song's page on Amazon. If it doesn't, you can always search the "Digital Downloads" section by the artist and song name, and chances are you'll find wherever the publisher has moved it this time. Sorry for any confusion.

    Orange Blossom Special - Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys
    Bill's interpretation was the best known version for many years, featuring fiddler Art Wooten.
    Click to here a sample clip of this song.
    Click to see this song on
    Orange Blossom Special - Charlie Daniels
    The fiddle's on fire in this live performance - a serious toe-tapper.
    Click to here a sample clip of this song.
    Click to see this song on
    Orange Blossom Special - Johnny Cash
    A harmonica-centered version with the words, and the Tennessee Three's persistant backing. Taped live at Folsom Prison
    Click to here a sample clip of this song.
    Click to see this song on
Amazon has dozens more great sound clips of this song by first-tier artists. But they keep moving them around, which breaks the links, and the more I load, the more time I have to spend in maintenance. So if you want to browse more clips for yourself, please click the following link:

You-Tube Videos of This Song

I used to have several links here that would play right from this page, but YouTube changed the way that works so often I couldn't keep up. Plus the links come and go as one publishing company or another files a cease and desist order. So now, I'll just post the links and tell you what they will take you to.

The first link will take you to a recording of Flatt & Scruggs' band playing this song with a slideshow of group photos. Sorry I don't know which fiddle player this was for sure. The second link will take you to Mikayla Roach, who was nine when the video was made, playing the most common version of the fiddle solo. The third link will take you to Johnny Cash's famous San Quentin performance. Johnny sings the words, then plays the fiddle solo on harmonicas. The fourth video is Charlie Daniels' band riffing on the fiddle tune.

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