About The Song

In September 1953, Herman “Junior” Parker entered Sun Studios in Memphis to record the follow-up to “Feelin’ Good”, which had been a top five R&B chart hit for him earlier that year. Parker, 21, was a gifted singer, harmonica-player and songwriter who had been discovered by Ike Turner (then a talent scout and jobbing guitarist).

Turner had failed to produce a hit with Parker, so Sam Phillips, the visionary engineer, producer and Sun Records founder, took over. “Feelin’ Good” had broken through, but the September session — which produced two songs, “Love My Baby” (featuring guitarist Pat Hare in dynamic form) and “Mystery Train” (released under the name of Little Junior’s Blue Flames) — didn’t. “Mystery Train”, though, would go on to have a resounding impact on pop music.
Parker’s original is indeed a mysterious song. The track’s shuffle rhythm lets Parker emulate train whistles on his harmonica before he bemoans the 16 carriages that have carried his baby away. But he never describes the train (beyond its length) or why/where it is taking his lover. His expressive harmonica — aided by Phillips’ reverb-heavy production — adds an eerie atmosphere.

If “Mystery Train” didn’t scale the charts, it gained at least one significant admirer. On July 11 1955, Elvis Presley recorded it, with Phillips again producing/engineering (and adding his name to the publishing credit). Accompanied by Presley’s band (Scotty Moore on guitar, Bill Black double bass, Johnny Bernero drums), the quartet rip through Parker’s song with Moore employing Hare’s guitar riff from “Love My Baby” to create a rockabilly classic, more hot-rod than train. Elvis sings with supreme confidence and this, his fifth single released on Sun (paired with the country song “I Forgot to Remember to Forget”), took him into the country charts for the first time. Anyone listening knew that a star was born, and in November RCA paid Phillips $40,000 for Presley’s contract/masters.

See also  Elvis Presley - Burning Love (Live in Honolulu, 1973)

Video

Lyric

🎵 Let’s sing along with the lyrics! 🎤
Train I ride, sixteen coaches long
Train I ride, sixteen coaches long
Well that long black train got my baby and gone
Train train, comin’ ’round, ’round the bend
Train train, comin’ ’round, ’round the bend
Well it took my baby, but it never will again
No, not againTrain train, comin’ down, down the line
Train train, comin’ down, down the line
Well it’s bringin’ my baby, ’cause she’s mine all, all mine
She’s mine, all, all mineTrain train, comin’ ’round, ’round the bend
Train train, comin’ ’round, ’round the bend
Well it took my baby, but it never will again
Never will again
(Ooh, woah)

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