Rock Island Line (song)

Rock Island Line (Song)

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Rock Island Line (song)

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"Rock Island Line" is an American blues/folk song first recorded by John Lomax in 1934 as sung by inmates in an Arkansas State Prison, and later popularized by Lead Belly. Many versions have been recorded by other artists, most significantly the world-wide hit version in the mid-1950s by Lonnie Donegan. The song is ostensibly about the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad.

The chorus to the old song reads:

<blockquote><i>The Rock Island Line is a mighty good road <br>The Rock Island Line is the road to ride <br>The Rock Island Line is a mighty good road <br>If you want to ride you gotta ride it like you find it <br>Get your ticket at the station for the Rock Island Line</i></blockquote>

The verses tell a humorous story about a train operator who smuggled pig iron through a toll gate by claiming all he had on board was livestock


  • In 1964, "The Penguin Book Of American Folk Songs", compiled and edited, and with notes, by Alan Lomax, was published in Britain; it was subsequently reprinted in 1966 and 1968. On page 128 it includes the song "Rock Island Line" with the following footnote: "John A. Lomax recorded this song at the Cumins State Prison farm, Gould, Arkansas, in 1934 from its convict composer, Kelly Pace. The Negro singer, Leadbelly, heard it, rearranged it in his own style, and made commercial...... ...
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