Mystery Train

Jan 18, 2024

Still working my way through 500 songs and got to the first Elvis episode. Up to this point in my life, I'd been pretty anti-Elvis - seeing him mostly as a whitener of black music.

The series so far has made me somewhat more sympathetic to him, cutting him as more of a Led Zeppelin interpreting black music with his own soul, than a Pat Boone replicating songs for sale in white markets.

Though of course it's all muddled together and inseparable.

I really like how the series spends time on the racial dynamics of music, giving thoughtful analysis without being overbearing.

Anyway! The host goes through the history of the song "Mystery Train", which I feel like I recognize somewhere in my musical memory but didn't explicitly remember.

The first version is from Junior Parker, who was performing in Memphis at the same time as young Elvis.

The host points out that it inherits some elements of Worried Man Blues by the Carter family.

Compare Parker's version to Elvis' version, and ask yourself how they're the same and different.

After that, maybe go check out Jerry Garcia ripping through 9:40 of the song in 1976.

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