Midnight Special

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The Midnight Special
"The Midnight Special" is an early twentieth century traditional ballad recorded by many artists. There are many variations.


"Pistol Pete's Midnight Special"/ "Midnight Special"[edit]

Transcribed from original recordings by Dave Cutrell (1926) and Otto Gray's Oklahoma Cowboys (1929). Copyrights not renewed. Both recordings were by the same band (see Otto Gray and his Oklahoma Cowboys). Cutrell's "Pistol Pete's Midnight Special" was recorded May 1926 and released on OKeh (45057)[1]. Otto Gray's "Midnight Special" was recorded March 1929 and released on Vocalion (5337)[2]. Both were re-released by the British Archive of Country Music (CD D 139) in 2006. The score can be found in Cohen's Long Steel Rail, page 478. Only Pistol Pete's version includes verse 3 and the comedy relief verses 4 and 5.

1

Wake up in the morning, hear the ding dong ring,
Go a marching to the table, there's the same old thing
Chorus:
Let the Midnight Special shine her light on me.
Let the Midnight Special shine her ever-loving light on me.

2

Yonder comes my woman. How do you know?
I can tell her by her apron and the dress she wore.
Unbrella on her shoulder, piece of paper in her hand.
A marching down to the captain, she says, "I wants my man."
Chorus

3

I never had the blues so, in all my life before,
Than when my baby left me, at the jailhouse door.
Oh, she left me crying, the tears rolled down her face.
Says, "I'd rather see you dead, boy, than in this place."
Chorus

4

Now, Mister McGinty is a good man,
But he's run away now with a cowboy band.
Chorus

5

Now Otto Gray, he's a Stillwater man,
But he's manager now of a cowboy band.
Chorus

6

When you go to the city, boys, you better have the kale,†
Or the law, they'll arrest you, and they'll put you in jail.
The judge he'll fine you, they'll shake you down,
If you haven't got the money, boys, you're jailhouse bound.
Chorus:

7

If you got a good man, woman, you better keep him at home,
For those city women won't leave him alone.
They'll paint and powder, they sure look swell,
And the first thing you know, woman, your man's gone to -uh- singing
Chorus:

Kale, in vernacular, refers to money (in reference to the green color of American paper currency).

"The Midnight Special Blues"—Sam Collins[edit]

Transcribed from original recording by Sam Collins (1927). Copyright not renewed. "Midnight Special Blues" was released in 1927 on Gennett (6181). Oliver transcribes the woman's name in the song as "Miss Nora"[3], none-the-less, it is "Little Nora". It was re-released by Yazoo Records on Jail House Blues (CD 1079, track 14) in 1990.


Let the Midnight Special shine your light on me.
Let the Midnight Special shine your ever-living lights on me


When you get up in the morning when the ding dong ring - lordy
You make it to the table, see the same old thing.
Ain't nothing on the table, but the pots and the pans - lordy
Say anything about it, have trouble with the man


Let the Midnight Special shine your light on me.
Let the Midnight Special shine your ever-living lights on me


Yonder comes a Little Nora. How do you know?
I know her by the apron, and the dress she wear.
Umbrella on her shoulder, piece of paper in her hand,
Looking for some sergeant to release her man.


You get up in the morning when the ding dong ring.
You make it to the table, see the same old thing.
If you say anything about it, have trouble with the man


Let the Midnight Special shine your light on me.
Let the Midnight Special shine your ever-living lights on me


(Instrumental interlude)


Yonder comes a Little Nora. How do you know?
I know her by the apron, and the dress she wear.
Umbrella on her shoulder, piece of paper in her hand,
Looking for some sergeant to release her man.


Let the Midnight Special shine your light on me.
Let the Midnight Special shine your ever-living lights on me.


Let the Midnight Special shine your ever-living lights on me.

References[edit]

  1. Russell, Country Music Records, p. 240
  2. Russell, Country Music Records. p. 379
  3. Oliver, Songsters and Saints, p. 248

Bibliography[edit]

  • Cohen, Norm. Long Steel Rail: The Railroad in American Folksong. University of Illinois Press (2nd ed), 2000. ISBN 0252068815
  • Oliver, Paul. Songsters and Saints: Vocal Tradition on Race Records. Cambridge University Press, 1984. ISBN 0521269423
  • Collins, "Crying" Sam. "Midnight Special Blues". Jailhouse Blues, 14. Yazoo, CD, 1990.
  • Otto Gray's Oklahoma Cowboys. "Pistol Pete's Midnight Special" by Dave Cutrell acc. by McGinty's Oklahoma Cow Boy Band. Early Cowboy Band. British Archive of Country Music, CD D 139, 2006.
  • Russell, Tony. Country Music Records: A Discography, 1921-1942. Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN 0195139895


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was legally published within the United States (or the United Nations Headquarters in New York subject to Section 7 of the United States Headquarters Agreement) before 1964, and copyright was not renewed.
For Class A renewals records (books only) published between 1923 and 1963, check the Stanford Copyright Renewal Database and the Rutgers copyright renewal records.
For other renewal records of publications between 1922 - 1950 see the Pennsylvania copyright records scans.
For all records since 1978, search the U.S. Copyright Office records.

Works published in 1926 would have had to renew their copyright in either 1953 or 1954, i.e. at least 27 years after it was first published / registered but not later than 31 December(31 December) in the 28th year. As it was not renewed, it entered the public domain on 1 January 1955(1 January 1955).