ON THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL

Latest update on 22/03/2018

Artist: Greening's Dance Orchestra
Author: Irving King
Label: Imperial
Year: 1926

English dance orchestra. Different melody altogether; only Lionel Rothery's sparse vocal line more than halfway through the performance taps from the same source as all the American Midnight Specials: "On the Midnight Special, Shine a light on me..." The English melody is credited to Irving King, which is an alias for Jimmy Campbell and Reginald Connelly, authors of Try A Little Tenderness and If I Had You (see there). The melody of the Midnight Special (Blues) and the shape of the chorus may have derived from an old spiritual, as witnessed by close cousins Let The Church Roll On (Norfolk Jubilee Quartet - '26) and ragtime march Creole Belles (see there). Mississippi John Hurt still sang it as My Creole Belle during the blues revival; Jim Kweskin, Arlo Guthrie and Taj Mahal knew it through him.

Covers:

1926:

Mimosa Dance Orch. [instrumental for kids; the same orchestra as the (o) but for the Mimosa label]

1926:

Dave Cutrell & McGinty's Oklahoma Cowboy Band [as Pistol Pete's Midnight Special; for OKeh in St. Louis, which was the depot station for a real Midnight Special on the line coming from Chicago]

1927:

Sam Collins [as Midnight Special Blues; less than five copies survived]

1927:

Watts & Wilson [as Walk Right In Belmont]

1929:

Otto Gray & his Cowboy Band [vocal: Owen Gray]

1929:

Romeo Nelson [as 11.29 Blues (The Midnight Special)]

1933:

Bill Cox

1934:

Jesse Bradley [Lomax recording]

1934:

Lead Belly [as Midnight Special; Lomax recording in Angola, LA]

1934:

Fiddlin' John Carson [as Stockade Blues]

1935:

State Street Boys [with Big Bill Broonzy]

1935:

Jazz Gillum

1940:

Lead Belly & The Golden Gate Quartet

1945:

Delmore Brothers

1946:

Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie & Cisco Houston

1948:

Tiny Grimes

1952:

Weavers [with the Gordon Jenkins Orch.]

1953:

Ken Colyer's Jazzmen [with Lonnie Donegan and Chris Barber]

1954:

Ken Colyer's Skiffle Group [with debutant Alexis Korner on guitar]

1956:

Big Joe Turner [as Midnight Special Train]

1957:

Josh White

1958:

Andy Griffith [in Stijn Conix film Marina in '13]

1960:

Paul Evans [top 20 US]

1961:

Harry Belafonte [as Midnight Special Blues; title track album]

1961:

Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee

1963:

Hoyt Axton

1963:

Odetta

1965:

Johnny Rivers

1966:

Spencer Davis Group

1967:

Van Morrison [Bang recording]

1969:

Duffy Power

1970:

Creedence Clearwater Revival

1971:

Little Richard

1971:

Mungo Jerry

1974:

CCC Inc.

1975:

ABBA [for charity and in '78 as B-side of Summernight City]

1978:

Ferre Grignard

1982:

Drukwerk [as Schijn Een Lichtje Op Mij]

1988:

Paul McCartney [on his Russian lp]

1992:

Buckwheat Zydeco

1998:

Van Morrison-Lonnie Donegan-Chris Barber

2016:

Billy Bragg & Joe Henry

In Lead Belly's version the Midnight Special is the train (the Golden Gate Ltd.) servicing the Houston-San Antonio line, coming past the Texas State Prison in Sugarland where he first served time and learned this song. According to local legend, the cell window that was lit by this night train's headlight, housed the next prisoner to be released. Hope is a beautiful thing, but not to be confused with fantasy: in Big Joe Turner's version the Midnight Special train even carried prostitutes to inmates who behaved. Anyway, the Midnight Special became one of the most popular prison songs in the whole South. Another prison song, If You Ever Go To Jackson, uses the same melody. Sodarisa Miller's Midnight Special (1925) was an answer song to The Sunshine Special.

Contact


If you noticed blunt omissions, mis-interpretations or even out-and-out errors, please let us know by contacting us:

Arnold Rypens
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B-2840 Reet (Rumst)

info@originals.be

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