Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Arlo Guthrie: City of New Orleans

When Steven Goodman wrote the “City of New Orleans,” he wasn’t thinking about New Orleans per se. He was singing about the Illinois Central passenger train that traveled from Chicago to New Orleans during the daytime.

It was added in 1947 as a complement to the line’s other train on the same route during the night – “The Panama Limited.” It was roughly a 15 hour train ride from one destination to the other – which was monumental in itself. Amtrak took over the City of New Orleans line in 1972.

When Arlo Guthrie recorded the song and Reprise Records issued it as a single, it became his only Top 40 hit. I know, most people probably know “Alice’s Restaurant” better, but it didn’t perform as well on the charts. “City of New Orleans” appeared on Arlo’s album, “Hobo’s Lullaby.” The song peaked at #18.


  1. And that same train survives today, a happy corollary to a song with a sad ending.