The first “Southern Pacific” railroad in the U.S.A. was not the one that originated in San Francisco CA. The first “Southern Pacific” railroad originated in NE Texas, near Marshall, TX, in 1856. In that year the “Texas Western” railroad changed its name to the “Southern Pacific” railroad. This railroad was then sold to the newly formed “Texas & Pacific” railroad in 1872. At that time, the Texas & Pacific RR began to lay new tracks from the hub near Marshall, TX, moving South to Houston and Galveston, TX, and West to Dallas, Ft. Worth and San Antonio, TX. The pine forests of NE Texas supplied the RR ties for the new track being laid. The steel rails were delivered from Mississippi river steamboats.

As the new track was laid from the NE Texas hub, many logging and lumber camps, sawmills, and turpentine camps suddenly appeared, quickly followed by cheap housing for the workers, alongside saloons, dance halls, honky-tonks and barrel houses, all following the newly laid track. Black piano players flocked to these entertainment places up and down the tracks. They got from one barrel house to the next by hopping on and off the trains. They incorporated the rhythm of the steam locomotives and the moans of the steam whistles into the new music they were playing in the new places along the new tracks. In the process, Boogie-Woogie, first known as “Fast Western”, forever changed American music, as the piano players transformed their instrument into a polyrhythmic RR train. This is the way that the new music got around all over Texas, and in time, to New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago, and across the U.S.A. It was no accident that the title of Meade Lux Lewis’ first Boogie-Woogie hit record in the 1930s was “Honky-Tonk Train Blues”. The Boogie rhythm was quickly appropriated by all American popular and gospel musicians, including of course the musicians who created Rock & Roll music from 1954 through 1959. Consider the following lyrics from these historic Rock & Roll tunes:

From “Mystery Train”, Elvis Presley (1955), verses 1 through 4: Train I ride, 16 coaches long…well that long black train got my baby and gone…Train, Train, comin’ ‘round the bend… well it took my baby, but it never will again…Train, Train, comin’ down the line… well it’s bringin’ my baby ‘cause she’s mine all mine… Train, Train, comin’ ‘round, ‘round the bend…well it took my baby, but it never will again

From “Folsom Prison Blues”, Johnny Cash (1955), verses 1 and 4: I hear the train a comin’, it’s rollin’ ‘round the bend, and I ain’t seen the sunshine, since I don’t know when, I’m stuck in Folsom Prison, and time keeps draggin’ on, but that train keeps a rollin’, on down to San Antone…well if they freed me from this prison, if that railroad train was mine, I bet I’d move it on a little farther down the line, far from Folsom Prison, that’s where I want to stay, and I’d let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away

From “Johnny B. Goode”, Chuck Berry (1958), verse 2: He used to carry his guitar in a gunny sack, and sit beneath the tree by the railroad track, oh the engineers would see him sitting in the shade, strumming with the rhythm that the drivers made, people passing by would stop and say, oh my that little country boy can play!

Rock on!

Honky Tonk Train Blues – Meade Lux Lewis (from Victor 25541) (1937)
Choo Choo Ch’boogie-Louis Jordan & Tympany Five-Decca 78 RPM No. 23610 (1946)

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