Arlo Guthrie – City of New Orleans

If I could meet any performer I wanted to…Arlo would be one of them. He seems like the most laid back guy in the world. His father was the great singer-songwriter, Woody Guthrie. Arlo wrote some very good songs but he didn’t write this one. City of New Orleans was written by Steve Goodman. Steve did a great job writing this song. Its structure and imagery are fantastic.

Arlo released this in 1972 and it peaked at #18 in the Billboard 100 and #11 in Canada.

Arlo said he ignored his mother’s advice.  She said if he wanted to play music that was fine…but learn something else as a fallback. He said if he would have learned something else, in the hard times he would have done something else instead of music.

“I’ve quoted my dad a lot of over the years. One of my favorite things he said is: ‘It’s better to fail at being yourself than to succeed at being somebody else’.”

From Songfacts about the writer Steve Goodman

Goodman wrote the lyrics on a sketch pad after his wife fell asleep on the Illinois Central train, where they were going to visit his wife’s grandmother. Goodman wrote about what he saw looking out the windows of the train and playing cards in the club car. Everything in the song actually happened on the ride.

After he returned home, Goodman heard that the train was scheduled to be decommissioned due to lack of passengers. He was encouraged to use this song to save the train, so he retouched the lyrics and released it on his first album in 1971.

The City of New Orleans

Riding on the City of New Orleans
Illinois Central Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders
Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail
All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
Rolls along past houses, farms and fields
Passin’ trains that have no names
Freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles

Good morning America how are you?
Don’t you know me I’m your native son
I’m the train they call The City of New Orleans
I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done

Dealin’ cards with the old men in the club car
Penny a point ain’t no one keepin’ score
Won’t you pass the paper bag that holds the bottle
Feel the wheels rumblin’ ‘neath the floor
And the sons of Pullman porters
And the sons of engineers
Ride their father’s magic carpets made of steam
Mothers with their babes asleep
Are rockin’ to the gentle beat
And the rhythm of the rails is all they dream

Good morning America how are you?
Don’t you know me I’m your native son
I’m the train they call The City of New Orleans
I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done

Nighttime on The City of New Orleans
Changing cars in Memphis, Tennessee
Half way home, we’ll be there by morning
Through the Mississippi darkness
Rolling down to the sea
And all the towns and people seem
To fade into a bad dream
And the steel rails still ain’t heard the news
The conductor sings his song again
The passengers will please refrain
This train’s got the disappearing railroad blues

Good night, America, how are you?
Don’t you know me I’m your native son
I’m the train they call The City of New Orleans
I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done

Author: badfinger20

Guitar, Bass, song writer,

71 thoughts on “Arlo Guthrie – City of New Orleans”

  1. Great song. Have you ever seen Arlo in concert? I haven’t. A friend of mine did and said that he talked half the time. Can recall the first time I heard this song- late at night- I was at my grandparents house. I’d go to bed with a ballgame on. After the ballgame I switched it to music and heard this song. Loved it immediately. Odd that his biggest hit- was written by someone else.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No and it’s a regret of mine…him and John Prine I’ve missed. Arlo seems like a good fellow.
      I thought he wrote it for years. I liked it the first time I heard it also. You can see what he is singing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You have to see Prine if he is nearby- doesn’t he live in Nashville? My sister in law has called Prine “Her Beatles” she is such a fan. I am too but only one Beatles. I once drove to Indianapolis to see him I think that is the longest distance I’ve went to see a concert.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I know…I really need to see him. I know he is a humble guy. I have a buddy who went to see Prine and he had to jump start Prine’s car in the parking lot…in the 80s. He said he was really grateful and talked alot.
        I love his writing so yea I agree… The longest distance I ever traveled was to Birmingham to see U2…but that wasn’t too bad.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Los Lobos opened for Prine that night- I didn’t know who was the opener. My brother is a big Prine fan also he went with me. On the way home it was five hours driving in a driving rain- but it was worth it.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. That would have been a good show. I need to start checking around and see when he is playing next. Since he lives here he could play something a little more regular.
        Since I don’t listen to regular radio much I don’t hear about concerts coming anymore. I missed Roger McGuinn and The Zombies a couple of years back.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. pollstar.com is a good site to check on upcoming concerts…. congrats on the Dodgers moving on. looks like the best teams are winning in the playoffs.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Thank you! I never knew of that site.
        Thanks…The Brewers will be tough…they handled the Dodgers well through the regular season. The Dodger starting pitching is better but the Brewers bullpen is much better. Should be a good series.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Dodgers in 7! btw thanks for that baseball song list the other day- it has me listening to my baseball albums and searching on the internet for other songs- it is crazy how many baseball songs there are- trying to narrow it to a Top 40.

        Liked by 2 people

      8. I’m really looking forward to your list…I looked up your Baseball cd you posted today… a great one… songs I completely forgot…
        In 7 sounds good to me!

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Not that they need anything at this time to focus them or give them more motivation- but Bregman spoke out about the whole putting all the Red Sox- Yankees games on prime time and overlooking the Astros making them play in the day– it’s all about $$$$$$$ of course.

        Liked by 1 person

      10. I agree with him completely. MLB is probably fearing an Astros – Brewers… I would love it…well not with the Dodgers losing but you know what I mean.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. They surely would love a Yankees Dodgers series… or Dodgers- Red Sox as a second choice… Astros -Brewers would be a nightmare for them lol…. I look at the Brewers as what the Pirates could have been a few years ago- the Brewers went for it in the off-season adding to what they had… the Pirates in 2014-15 sat with what they had when adding a couple key players would have been the difference.

        Liked by 1 person

      12. Yes i see the similiarities I’ll never forget those Pirates because the stadium was electric…you could feel it at home. You have to take a chance when you have it…they did miss a window there. Of course I so wanted them to beat the Giants in that wildcard game

        Liked by 1 person

      13. They suffered this year at the gate- nearly 2.5 million 3 years ago- 1.4 this year. The fans were turned off by the cheapness of ownership for the most part. The team wasn’t great but better than anyone expected.

        Liked by 1 person

      14. 2.5 million is great for that market…I didn’t realize it was that high then but I do remember those games. Well they have something to build off of… The Pirates and the Reds need to be good for baseball. They are two of the cornerstones to me…I’ve read some about Nutting. He talks the talk but doesn’t do much.

        Liked by 2 people

      15. There seems to be no thought of selling- he said a few years ago he plans on leaving the team to his daughters… They could win back some fans with a couple good free agent signings-but as usual Pirate fans are getting Nutting for Christmas…

        Liked by 1 person

      16. Man I just almost spit out my water I was drinking when I read your last sentance.
        I have to recover from that.
        I will never forget the article I read about him…to paraphrase it… he throws nickels and dimes around like manhole covers.

        There comes a point where MLB needs to step in…They have one of the top stadiums in MLB and a loyal fanbase.

        Liked by 1 person

      17. Yes someone wore a t-shirt to the ballpark a few years ago- with that on it- and was removed from the stadium. bottom line is $$$$ for him- I know its a business and he deserves to make some money but they have been a very- well you said it he throws nickles and dimes like manhole covers… they did come up with a good bargain signing with Dickerson last year but- that is what they will try again next year- hit on some bargains- players coming off bad years- and hope to strike gold.

        Liked by 1 person

      18. I can’t believe they threw the person out. That is the worse thing you can do in a way…it draws more attention.
        The problem is you will not hit gold everytime. I like Hunnington from what I’ve read about him… but with no commitment you can’t do much. I agree he deserves to make money but put some back in the team.

        Liked by 1 person

      19. A lot of people in Pittsburgh find fault in Huntington- I think he is solid- you work with what you have- if he were the GM of the Red Sox and they were floundering that would be one thing. … Yes I agree its best to ignore that- no one would have known but a handful- you do that and its a news story. Crazy.

        Liked by 1 person

      20. I read about the petition that has gathered 53,000 names for Nutting to sell the team. Like I said MLB needs to step in. He is getting 50 million from the Disney deal plus revenue sharing… Fans don’t mind a rebuild as long as you keep some of the players and add to them when needed.

        Liked by 1 person

      21. He is raking in the money no question. I don’t know what the team salary will look like next year but a few of the bigger Pirate salaries of recent years are off the books. It’s hard to sell a rebuilt to long suffering fans who have only a few years since 1992 to be happy about.

        Liked by 1 person

      22. That is why the Cole deal surpirsed me so much…Andrew I could see (Not really but) because he was fading…but he was the Pirates face…and a great guy to have.
        Btw David Freese has just been great. At first I was thinking…the Dodgers have enough 3rd basemen… He is playing better than I expected.

        Liked by 1 person

      23. Andrew was in his last year they weren’t going to re-sign him so they wanted to get something for him I could understand that one- the Cole deal-if they were going to trade him they certainly needed a good return. I don’t think they got it.

        Liked by 1 person

      24. … On social media I am already hearing the whining of entitled Yankee fan- Boone has to be fired- maybe Cashman too- trades have to be made yada yada yada. They lost to a team that won 108 games not the Baltimore Orioles.. firing Boone would be a move The Boss would have made. The better team won! I guess entitled Yankee fan will just have to wait another year for a World Series. I am glad the Red Sox won that series now….. yes the thing about that trade that really got me was- the Astros minor league system is loaded they didn’t even get a top 5 prospect for Cole.

        Liked by 1 person

      25. That is crazy about Cole. I told you before when it happened I was shocked because they got nothing…it was like they owed Houston a favor.
        I just can’t believe no one else would not have given any better.

        Yep the Yankee fans…it’s their birthright to win…not anymore with todays game…but Cashman has built a good team.

        Liked by 1 person

      26. The thing about Cole was- he wasn’t in the last year of his deal. That was the deal that really had me shaking my head. The McCutcheon trade- last year of his contract you can understand why they didn’t bring in a big haul- Cole should have brought back either the Astros best hitting prospect or best pitching prospect. They gave him away for spare parts.

        Liked by 1 person

      27. With Cole yes they should have waited til the trading deadline if that is all that was offered. The Yankees probably would have given more than that.

        Liked by 1 person

      28. You were right about the Yankees Cashman has built a good club- they need more pitching- but the frightening thing about the Astros- Red Sox and Yankees is the young home grown talent..

        Liked by 1 person

      29. Yes they were built very well. If George would have been alive he would have traded half the players….
        That is why I was happy when Friedman took over the Dodgers… with Seager, Bellinger, Buehler, Joc Pederson etc they are doing it right finally.

        Liked by 1 person

      30. Yes you can add players to help- but the core guys need to be the young home grown ones you build around. For a period of time the Dodgers seemed to be just going out and trying to buy a championship team- and not doing a good job at that. Like the 80’s Yankees buying parts that didn’t fit.

        Liked by 1 person

      31. That was Ned Colletti and the new ownership…and to get fans back from the McCourt era…and I’m happy they are under the tax line and they pour their money in development. Friedman has not given out a 100 million dollar contract.
        For a while they were paying 80 million for players that were not playing for them.

        Liked by 1 person

      32. That trade where they took the Red Sox trash was crazy. I thought I could hear the laughter from them here- they were stuck with those bad contracts and the Dodgers said please give them to us! I have played fantasy baseball since the mid 80’s- and I always thought Carl Crawford was one of those players who was a better fantasy option than a real life player on your real team option… and then there are players who are better in real life than on fantasy- who do things that aren’t measured that lead to wins.

        Liked by 1 person

      33. Yea Colletti did that because the owners told him to and he was shocked but they wanted Adrian G. The owners told Ned that hey…we know we have bad contracts but with the TV contract being negotiated they wanted a star there.
        The Stan Kasten came out and said…we have no budget…then he said but it won’t always be this way…we have to rebuild the farm club etc… McCourt just let it rot.
        They got Friedman to build it back up…all of that was about the TV contract and appeasing the fan base because attendance was really low…then they hired Friedman and now they are on track.

        Liked by 1 person

      34. I think where the Giants are in trouble is- their players who won those series are now for the most part gone or on their way out- and their farm system is one of the worst in baseball… this season was a last ditch let’s try one more year with the veterans type thing bringing in McCutchen and Longoria… didn’t come close to working. They need to blow things up and start over..

        Liked by 1 person

      35. They really do… but how many moveable parts do they have? All the stars get paid more so much that they would not get much for them. Bumgarner is one big trade they could make…he could rake in some prospects.
        I have to give this to the Giants…they were loyal to their players…

        Liked by 1 person

      36. They kind of remind me of the Steelers in the 70’s- they kept the same bunch a little too long- they were loyal to the guys who won those Super Bowls… Yes they really need to built up their farm system- their fans are going to have to be patient.

        Liked by 1 person

      37. With three World Series in recent past…it should buy them some time. Most of the fans on the forums wanted them to blow it up last year.

        Liked by 1 person

      38. I see fans saying Bochy must go etc- like it is his fault. He manages what he is given.. yes if the Pirates won 3 World Series in this decade I could live with rebuilding. No question. I’d even be happy with 1 WS. Not greedy.

        Liked by 1 person

      39. Yes he just turned stupid overnight. I don’t get that with fans and managers.
        Sometimes…a team needs something different… like Matt Williams getting axed in Washington… but a lot of the times it’s just fans being impatient.

        Liked by 1 person

      40. Its always the managers fault. Stengel before he took the Yankee job was an ‘idiot’ but then became a genius- same thing with Torre- most managers are as good as their talent on the team.. a few are better than others. a few are worse… under this thinking every team should change their manager if they don’t win the series…no patience. i think its a lot worse now with social media.

        Liked by 1 person

      41. Yea it started with talk radio but social media is crazy. Only a few made dramatic differences… Billy Martin is the one that we have talked about…but it wouldn’t last because he would anger everyone and himself in 3 years or so.

        Some Dodger fans wanted Roberts gone in the first of the season. They want a scapegoat.

        Liked by 1 person

      42. I think Roberts is doing a fine job- watching of course from a distance- with all the injuries to the pitching staff this season if they get to the Series- a fine job. … of course Pirate fans think Hurdle is an idiot but they were I believe 82-79- if Tony LaRussa were the manager maybe they win another couple games at most? I can’t imagine Billy Martin today- the way he was. He would have to be different today to even get a job- of course in today’s world maybe he would have gotten help for his drinking problem.. he was a great manager between the lines. I always found it funny that Maury Wills tried to mess with the batters box- when they were playing Martin’s A’s- like you are going to fool the man who knows every trick in the book lol

        Liked by 1 person

      43. Billy would be fired today before the first week was up. Drinking yes… also he was just paranoid. The paranoid part made him good also because he envisioned the worse and planned for it.
        I think Roberts is fine also. I think the hardest part is handling the bullpen and he does a good job…my only gripe was leaving Yu in too long for the 7th game… He has the players respect.
        LaRussa really changed the game…him and Duncan… the closer for one inning and using the bullpen more effectively.

        Liked by 1 person

      44. The thing Yankee fans or some of them anyway fail to see is- Boone is a rookie manager without any prior managing experience- he will get better… Yes LaRussa and Duncan were a great team. Interesting how Duncan turned down chances to manage other teams over the years. Maybe he was just happy doing what he was doing… I know with the Steelers Mike Munchuk pulled out of the running for the Arizona Cardinal job because his family is happy in Pittsburgh and he likes being the offensive line coach. He had done the head coaching thing before with Tennessee and once was enough..

        Liked by 1 person

      45. Yes when Don Mattingly took over he made rookie mistakes…because he was a rookie. Just like Gabe Kapler with the Phillies…I think he will be good…he just made some again rookie mistakes.
        People want things now and dont’ want to wait. Same with quarterbacks. Good Grief give them a little time to mature.
        It can be a thankless job and there is a high percentage you will get fired.

        Liked by 1 person

      46. True- I think you are right on Kapler- improve his team and they will do better next year. No patience you are supposed to walk in as a QB and be great- Bradshaw it took him until season 5- and that season Joe Gilliam and then Terry Hanratty got shots at starting before Bradshaw.. Bradshaw wouldn’t make it today no one would have given him that much time. Bradshaw had a one sided feud with Chuck Noll- for years- Noll of course would have no part of it- because Noll wasn’t his buddy… I think it is safe to say having Chuck Noll as a head coach made Terry Bradshaw’s life- no super bowls- no tv for decades no millions of dollars without Chuck Noll. Bradshaw has never understood that. A lot of other coaches would have given up on him- certainly by 1974 most steeler fans did- I remember in a 1973 game he got hurt and was coming off the field and the home crowd was going wild because Terry Hanratty was coming in and Bradshaw was leaving the game.

        Liked by 1 person

      47. I read a few books on their relationship or lack of one…he just didn’t see the full picture. Knoll wasn’t warm and fuzzy but that isn’t what Bradshaw needed.
        You are right other coaches would have given up. He had the perfect coach and didn’t know it… I think Stabler had the perfect one for him.

        Liked by 1 person

      48. Madden was the perfect coach for those Raiders. Crazy stories there. Yes Noll wasn’t a warm and fuzzy guy with anyone. He felt a coach shouldn’t be buddy buddy with the players because sooner or later you had to let them go.. Bradshaw has always been a strange character. He still seems needy after all the success he’s had..

        Liked by 1 person

      49. Madden did great with the crazy owner he had bringing more crazy players…
        Bradshaw is an odd guy. He was fortunate to have Noll(I want to use a K so bad) there as well as players like Mean Joe who looked after him.

        Liked by 1 person

      50. Mean Joe- the GOAT Steeler!! Yes I don’t know how Madden handled Oakland Al and those players. The perception at the time was Madden was just Davis’s puppet today we know that wasn’t the case…I’d have loved to have spent a year on that team.

        Liked by 1 person

      51. I have to recommend “Badasses” because it is a fun read about those teams. I read that and “The Last Headbangers”…and Their Life’s Work all three in a row. I was living 70s football for a few months.
        Madden was fair as you can be…he also tightened down when he needed to…He has a good sense of humor

        Like

      52. I expected every game in the series to be close ones–I think the two best teams in each league are facing each other now- hopefully two good series.

        Liked by 1 person

      53. congrats to badfinger’s LA. I still think Milwaukee will beat them in 6 or 7 then lose to Boston in WS but for his sake I wouldn’t mind seeing dodgers win

        Liked by 2 people

      54. I tell you…Houston is going to be tough to beat for the Sox if the Sox finished this out against the Yanks.
        The Dodgers will have to get to the Brewers starters before the bullpen comes in.

        Like

  2. Love that song! One of my childhood favorites. Apparently Johnny Cash had a country hit with it too, only found that out recently. I like trains too, and about 2 years ago there was a whole issue of a railroad magazine devoted to the song and the train it was based upon. Sadly, by the time the song was a hit, IC had already stopped running that one and I believe Amtrak never renewed the run

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have a tourist train but no Amtrack here. I wish we did because I would love to ride on a long trip. I also love trains.
      Willie Nelson also had a hit with it. A great written song.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve always loved this song. About 10 years ago, I took the ‘City of New Orleans’ from Chicago to NOLA to a meeting. It was a long ride, but fun to say I’d ridden that train. Arlo was here a couple of years ago. I wouldn’t have missed that concert for anything. My impression was that he was going to stop touring after that, but I read recently that he’s starting a new tour now. His daughter performs with him. She’s really talented.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have never seen him…always wanted to. He seems like such a great laid back guy.
      Every Thanksgiving I try to watch the movie and I always listen to Alice’s Restaurant…it’s part of it.
      I always loved this song…I thought he wrote it for years. That is really cool that you got to ride on that. After reading about your trip earlier…. I told my wife we must get on a train soon. We would have to drive to Memphis or Knoxville I believe but it would be worth it.

      Like

      1. I too thought for years that he wrote this song. Listening to Alice’s Restaurant on Thanksgiving is a necessary part of Thanksgiving. 🙂

        That’s great you are thinking about a train trip. I agree it would be worth it. In ’07, I drove 4+ hours to Hastings, NE to catch the Zephyr that goes through the Colorado mountains and on to northern California. That’s too far to drive, for it to be a regular form of transportation for me to get to Colorado. But it was a bucket list ride through the mountains. The scenic views lived up to the hype. My brother was envious, so a couple years later, he made that trip. I hope to do it again someday.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Memphis and Knoxville are only 4 hours away respectively so it would be worth it…that Colorado trip would be great through the mountains. That had to be beautiful.

        Yes it is part of Thanksgiving as the turkey…also Trains, Planes and Automobiles

        Like

      3. John Candy I love in that movie…and of course Steve Martin.
        We are going to do it. we are planning this spring. Funny thing is I don’t care where it goes…just to ride.

        Liked by 1 person

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