Read about my first encounter with the bluegrass State of Kentucky
6 September 2016 Central City Kentucky
Time to get outta Nashville. I’ll be back in two weeks, for a bumper Americana Festival time, so I need to move to other things.
Now, today I remembered that I had a sheet music book, containing The Monkees‘ many big hits. This is going way back, black and white photos and probably a spin-off from their very successful TV series. There were stories about how they were the first composite band, recruited for their personalities and dependent on others for song-writing and even playing in the studio. Whatever, they were memorable times and terrific songs.
Take ‘Last Train to Clarksville’.
A great guitar riff, a precious hook melody and love story with an urgency. Now, it was in fact the stellar debut single by the band, released in 1966. The song was written by the great team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart who wrote a few more tunes that charted. Some have said that it has some similarity to ‘Paperback Writer’ by The Beatles which had been, just a few weeks before, number one in the US charts.
But, folks, what is the song about? The lyrics tell of a man calling the woman he loves, urging her to meet him at a train station in Clarksville (Tennessee) before he must leave, possibly forever. The Vietnam War was then going on, and perhaps the song was about a soldier about to depart for conflict.
However, according to songwriter Hart on Wikipedia, it was not specifically written with that town in mind:
We were just looking for a name that sounded good. There’s a little town in northern Arizona I used to go through in the summer on the way to Oak Creek Canyon called Clarksdale. We were throwing out names, and when we got to Clarksdale, we thought Clarksville sounded even better. We didn’t know it at the time, [but] there is an Army base near the town of Clarksville, Tennessee — which would have fit the bill fine for the story line. We couldn’t be too direct with The Monkees. We couldn’t really make a protest song out of it — we kind of snuck it in.
Well, as Jimmy Stewart once said in one of the greatest Western movies of all time – The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, directed by the larger-than-life John Ford and starring Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O’Brien, John Carradine, Woody Strode and Lee Van Cleef.
Ransom Stoddard: You’re not going to use the story, Mr. Scott?
Maxwell Scott: No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
Today I arrived in Clarksville Tennessee with the sole intention of checking out the train station, and here it is. Contrary to the sign, it was not open:
What is also interesting to me is the history of The L&N. The John Mayall song ‘Ridin’ On The L&N’ springs to mind. Short for Louisville and Nashville Railroad in fact.
So, on to Kentucky. Chris Stapelton was playing on the radio which whetted my appetite for two days hence. There were two helicopters as well, turns out there is a flying school close by. My destination for two nights was Central City, a small town in Muhlenberg County with a population of around 6,000 and famous as the home of The Everly Brothers.
A nice dinner at Sara-Michaels. Recommended. I met Rachel Shelton who kindly showed me around the restaurant and gave me help with the next part of the journey.
Tomorrow, it will be further north to Owensboro Kentucky.
September 10, 2016
Cool entry – love the Monkees. I recently watched this video of Louie Shelton who played the original guitar part on Last Train to Clarksville. I thought you might be interested:
September 10, 2016
Hey thanks for that. I did
not appreciate the guitar layers on that record. That what makes the song so memorable I guess. I wonder if the chords are similar to Paperback Writer?