The Wabash Cannonball

This Country standard joins dozens of other traditional American tunes about trains. Probably the best known is the Orange Blossom Special, the name of innumerable ginger tabbies and of a strong, citrus-flavored tea.

But "The Wabash Cannonball" is hardly the wallflower of the family. This song is often taught to children in music classes in grade school. I still run into to people who burst into song just hearing the title. Boy, are their faces red!

"The Wabash Cannon Ball" was a number-one song for Roy Acuff in 1945. Its music and a verse or two can be found in many collections of American traditional songs. Its author is unknown, and likely no single person can claim authorship.

Just as the Wabash Cannonball was replaced by a streamlined diesel on the rails, the song was joined by a tune called "Streamlined Cannonball," which was also recorded by Acuff.

Inspirational Trains

Songs, movies, and books have been inspired famous trains, and many others use trains as settings.

The Wabash Cannonball
The Orange Blossom Special
The Wreck of the Old 97
The City of New Orleans

Action Movies:
Broken Arrow
From Russia With Love
Under Siege 2

Other Movies:
The General
The Lady Vanishes
Silver Streak

Against a Dark Background
The Great Railway Bazaar
The Great Train Robbery
Murder on the Orient Express
A Suitable Boy
Travels with My Aunt

Have an even better example? Tell us.

The King of Country

Roy Acuff probably sold a million copies of his recording of "The Wabash Cannon Ball," but you don't have to be a train buff to recognize his name.

A musician, performer, and publisher, he inspired countless others as well as giving young musicians a start in the business.

Born in Tennessee in 1903, Acuff attained national recognition in the 1940s. He joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1938 and continued to perform there throughout his career.

Acuff toured for decades and then returned to the Grand Ole Opry, where he performed into the 1970s. He died in 1992.

Rolling's artist database entry for Roy Acuff has biographical information, a discography, and links.


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