As my last cover song for 2013 I wanted to do a classic that has influenced and played by many other musicians but still not very well known to most audience. I found what I wanted to play in the 1951 jump blues by Tiny Bradshaw “Train Kept A Rollin”.
Stefanos Alexiou – Train Kept A Rollin
History & Credits
As mentioned above, Train Kept A Rollin was originally recorded in 1951 by Tiny Bradshaw and his band as a vibrant mid-tempo song with a boogie-woogie bass line and a shuffling drumbeat.
Then in 1956, Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio recorded “The Train Kept A Rollin” using a rockabilly/rock and roll arrangement. The Trio’s version features guitar lines in what many historians consider to be the first recorded example of intentionally distorted guitar in rock music. (Reference: Gordon, Vince; Dijkema, Peter (2011). Rockabilly: The Twang Heard ‘Round the World: The Illustrated History)
In 1965 The Yardbirds recorded “The Train Kept A Rollin” during their first American tour. Their version is based on Johnny Burnette’s version, but incorporates instrumental breaks and different guitar parts. It opens with Jeff Beck simulating a train whistle on the guitar.
In 1966, the Yardbirds recorded a hard rock version with Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page on dual lead guitars to be used for their appearance in the 1966 film Blowup, but permission from the song publisher was not coming so singer Keith Relf wrote new lyrics to the band’s new arrangement and called it “Stroll On”.
After Jeff Beck’s departure from The Yardbirds, Jimmy Page kept playing all the guitar parts on the song.
In 1968, when the future members of Led Zeppelin rehearsed together for the first time, the first song they played was “Train Kept A Rollin”. According to John Paul Jones, the room exploded when they kicked it off and they knew they had something together as a band. The song was included in their early performances as the “New Yardbirds” and during Led Zeppelin’s 1968 and 1969 tours, usually being featured as their opening song and was included on several bootleg albums.
In 1974, Aerosmith brought “Train Kept A Rollin” into the hard rock mainstream. Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, and Tom Hamilton had performed the song prior to joining Aerosmith. Joe Perry has said that “Train Kept A Rollin” was the only song we had in common when we first got together.
The Johnny Burnette Rock and Roll Trio rendition of “Train Kept A Rollin” is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s exhibit of the “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll“. Beside the most notable version of the song mentioned above, other musicians that have performed the song during the last several decades include: Jeff Beck, Bon Jovi, Paul Burlison, Dread Zeppelin, Alex Chilton, Hanoi Rocks, Colin James and the Little Big Band, Imelda May, Metallica, Motörhead, The Nazz, Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets, Skid Row, Screaming Lord Sutch, Sugarloaf, Ten Years After, The Tragically Hip, and Twisted Sister.
My version of Train Kept A Rollin: video
My version is based on the Aerosmith’s hard rock version and is done on dual guitars, drums and a regular guitar plugged into a POG-2 pedal to emulate the bass.
Here’s the video of “Train Kept A Rollin” with me playing all instruments: