Night Train (composition)

Night Train (composition)
"Night Train"

Label of the original Jimmy Forrest single. Note the misspelling of Forrest's name.
Single by Jimmy Forrest
Released March 1952
Recorded November 27, 1951
Genre R&B
Length 2:50
Label United
110
Writer(s) Oscar Washington
Lewis P. Simpkins
Jimmy Forrest
"Night Train"

1964 UK re-release on Sue
Single by James Brown
from the album James Brown Presents His Band/Night Train
B-side "Why Does Everything Happen to Me"
Released 1962
Format 7" single
Recorded February 9, 1961, at King Studios, Cincinnati, OH
Genre R&B, rock 'n' roll
Length 3:38
Label King
5614
Writer(s) Oscar Washington
Lewis P. Simpkins
Jimmy Forrest

"Night Train" is a twelve bar blues instrumental standard first recorded by Jimmy Forrest in 1951.

Contents

Origins and development

"Night Train" has a long and complicated history. The piece's opening riff was first recorded in 1940 by a small group led by Duke Ellington sideman Johnny Hodges under the title "That's the Blues, Old Man". Ellington used the same riff as the opening and closing theme of a longer-form composition, "Happy-Go-Lucky Local", that was itself one of four parts of his Deep South Suite. Forrest was part of Ellington's band when it performed this composition, which has a long tenor saxophone break in the middle. After leaving Ellington, Forrest recorded "Night Train" on United Records and had a major rhythm & blues hit. While "Night Train" employs the same riff as the earlier recordings, it is used in a much earthier R&B setting. Forrest inserted his own solo over a stop-time rhythm not used in the Ellington composition. He put his own stamp on the tune, but its relation to the earlier composition is obvious.

Like Illinois Jacquet's solo on "Flying Home", Forrest's original saxophone solo on "Night Train" became a veritable part of the composition, and is usually recreated in cover versions by other performers. Buddy Morrow's trombone solo chorus from his recording of the tune is similarly incorporated into many performances.

Lyrics

Several different sets of lyrics have been set to the tune of "Night Train". The earliest, written in 1952, are credited to Lewis P. Simpkins, the co-owner of United Records, and guitarist Oscar Washington.[1] They are a typical blues lament by man who regrets treating his woman badly now that she's left him. Douglas Wolk, who describes the original lyrics as "fairly awful", suggests that Simpkins co-wrote (or had Washington write) them as a deliberate throwaway in order to get part of the tune's songwriting credit; this entitled him to substantial share of "Night Train"'s royalties, even though it was most often performed as an instrumental without the lyrics.[2]

Eddie Jefferson recorded a version of "Night Train" with more optimistic lyrics about a woman returning to her man on the night train.

Notable recordings

"Night Train" has been recorded by numerous performers over the years:

  • Jimmy Forrest's original version of "Night Train" was a #1 R&B hit in 1952. Forrest later recorded a Spanish Tinge version titled "Night Train Mambo".
  • Rusty Bryant also had a an R&B hit in 1952 with "All Nite Long", an uptempo version recorded live that also incorporated the riff and audience chorus from Joe Houston's "All Night Long".
  • A pop version recorded by Buddy Morrow and His Orchestra reached #27 on the charts, also in 1952. This version features a classic and oft quoted trombone solo by Buddy Morrow himself.
  • Louis Prima released a version in his album The Wildest!, released in 1957. It features Sam Butera on saxophone and begins with a "C. C. Rider" segment.
  • Chet Atkins performed "Night Train" as a guitar-lead big band instrumental on Teensville, 1960.
  • The rock and roll instrumental group The Viscounts recorded the tune twice, once in 1960 and again in 1966 in a version where they used their instruments to imitate the sound of a train.
  • James Brown released a version of "Night Train" in 1962 that reached #5 on the R#B charts and #35 on the pop charts. His performance replaced the original lyrics of the song with a shouted rough list of the stations on the Seaboard Air Line Railroad's Silver Meteor service and many repetitions of the song's name. A live version of the tune was the closing number on his breakthrough 1963 album Live at the Apollo.
  • Jazz pianist Oscar Peterson recorded "Night Train" with his trio on a 1962 album of the same name.
  • Bill Doggett, famous for his own instrumental "Honky Tonk", released a version of "Night Train" in 1964 as a two-part single.
  • The tune was part of the repertoire of the British rhythm and blues group Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames during their residency at the legendary Flamingo Club in London's Soho in the early 60's (with Fame mimicking the list of train stations used by James Brown). It featured on their 1964 live album Rhythm and Blues at the Flamingo. It featured again on the 1998 album The Very Best of Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames.
  • The World Saxophone Quartet recorded a version on their album Rhythm and Blues (1989).
  • Ska band The Toasters covered the song on their 1992 album New York Fever
  • Kadoc released a dance/electronic track "The Nighttrain" with samples from the James Brown recording.
  • Public Enemy also released a version of Night Train which took samples from the James Brown version.
  • Saxophonist Lou Donaldson recorded a version on his 1995 album Caracas
  • The group Reverend Organdrum (featuring Jim "The Reverend Horton Heat" Heath) performs "Night Train" on their 2008 album Hi-Fi Stereo.
  • Wes Montgomery & Jimmy Smith's version appears on the album Jazz Like You've Never Heard It Before.

Appearances in film

Other appearances

References

  1. ^ Marv Goldberg's R&B Notebooks - REGALS
  2. ^ Wolk, Douglas. (2004). Live at the Apollo, 97. New York: Continuum Books.

External links

Preceded by
"3 O' Clock Blues" by B.B. King
Billboard Best Selling Retail Rhythm & Blues Records number-one single
March 15, 1952
Succeeded by
"Booted" by Roscoe Gordon

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