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Hank Snow’s Been Everywhere

As usual, everything I thought about a song turned out to be wrong. I’ve Been Everywhere (above) — a song that essentially is a list of cities strung together as a hitchhiker talks with a trucker who picks him up — wasn’t written by Johnny Cash. He only covered it — and so did Hank Snow.

It was written by for Australian singer with the great stage name (I hope) of Lucky Starr. The details are at the Wikipedia link above.

The song has an interesting lyric twist. The first verse of the American version, according to Wikipedia, lists these cities: Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota, Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota, Wichita, Tulsa, Ottawa, Oklahoma, Tampa, Panama, Mattawa, La Paloma, Bangor, Baltimore, Salvador, Amarillo, Tocopilla, Barranquilla and Padilla.

The town of “Padilla” is quickly followed by an almost swallowed line: “I’m a killer.” Cash, Snow and Starr all sing it. It casts the song in a whole new light: This hitchhiker is on the run and is giving the trucker a warning. It’s a good explanation for why he has seen so many cities.

Snow was terrific. His bio starts out with what for a New Yorker — and perhaps a Brit — is a confusing paragraph:

Clarence Eugene “Hank” Snow was born on May 9th, 1914 in the sleepy fishing village of Brooklyn, Queens County, on Nova Scotia’s beautiful South Shore, just down the tracks from Liverpool. (Continue Reading…)

Below is I’m Movin’ On, another important hit for Snow:

Ernest Tubb invited Hank to the Grand Ole Opry on January 7, 1950. He performed at the Opry for 46 years. His first few appearances received only luke-warm appreciation, until he wrote and recorded the song “I’m Movin’ On”, which became the top country song of 1950 and still holds the country music record for number of consecutive weeks at the number one chart position.

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Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.