Sandy Brown Jazz

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On A Night Like This, The Story Is Told ...

Freight Train Blues

Sidney Bechet


Sidney Bechet looks back to a time in the early 1920s when he too was in his early twenties and had been playing with Clarence Williams. He was returning to New Orleans from Galveston:




'My brother on different occasions had been able to get familiar with hoboing and, from what I'd told him about how I came to Galveston, he was thinking I had experience at it too, so he told me he wanted to hobo it back. He didn't have enough money to get us both back to New Orleans as passengers, and he had to leave some money with his wife till he could send for her, so he was figuring to catch a freight and ride it free.

Well, I couldn't tell him I didn't really know the first thing about it, and I figured I'd just watch what he did and do the same things - that ought to come out about right - so after we were all fixed to leave I went down to the freight yard with him and we waited around till he'd picked out the right freight, and just as it started to move we ran for it. My brother jumped on and I saw how he did it and I took a jump after him and I made it all right, but just then my clarinet fell out. I was wearing these braces and I had my clarinet inside one of the straps where it would stay, and what do you know but a button had come off, and there'd gone my clarinet. Well, my brother had seen what it was and he shouted to me to Freighthoppingstay on, to never mind the clarinet. "Don't jump," he shouted, "you can get hurt." But I wasn't listening at all and I jumped off. I had just got to have that clarinet.

Well, I got off all right and I picked myself up and I went back to about where I thought it was and right off I saw the case between two bushes and I picked it up and looked at it and was some relieved to find nothing wrong with it. I was just closing the case when my brother came along. He grabbed my arm and ran me out of there fast before some detective would come busting along and he got me out of the yard and gave me a long talking to about such damn' foolishness. But he's seen already that I've never really hoboed it, that I wasn't so all experienced, because someone, if they're travelling that way, the only thing important is to catch that train and stay on it .......

..... Then my brother decided I'd best go passenger. He'd got just about enough money for one passenger ticket, and he took me to the station. He figured it was better to put me on the passenger train than worry about it. Once he'd sent me on, he said, he could look out for himself all right. So he bought me this ticket and we waited around in the station two or three hours trying to get dry near the stove while we waited for this train. Then he put me on it and said good-bye.

And that's how it was I got back to New Orleans the first time after I left my brother at Galveston. Only I hadn't even got out of the train at New Orleans before I saw my brother waiting for me. There's this place on a passenger train up between the baggage car and the coal tender and when somebody jumps up in that place he's said to be going blind baggage. That's how my brother had done: he'd ridden all the way into New Orleans with me on the same train.'

From Treat It Gentle by Sidney Bechet

Nearly twenty years later, Sidney Bechet recorded Freight Train Blues in a band that featured blues singer Trixie Smith. Her band on 26th May 1938 included Charlie Shavers (trumpet), Sidney Bechet (clarinet/soprano sax), Sam Price (piano), Teddy Bunn (guitar), Richard 'Dick' Fulbright (bass) and O'Neil Spencer (drums). Listen to their recording of Freight Train Blues:




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The Jaffes Of Preservation Hall
Times At Plunketts
Blind Willie Johnson
Count Basie - By The Time We Reached Kansas City

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