Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: In Roy Acuff's famous hit, “Wabash Cannonball,” there's a verse about a “Daddy Claxton.”

Do you know anything about this Daddy Claxton? And what's the story behind the rest of the verse? It sounds like an interesting story, if true.

This has been bugging me for many years.

I asked Roy Acuff personally about this when he gave a show here around 30 years ago, and he said he didn't know anything about Daddy Claxton.
—Jerry Seligman, South Hill, Wash.

DEAR JERRY: First, for those who are not familiar with “The Wabash Cannonball — one of the most famous train songs of all time — let's review the entire verse in question:

“Here's to Daddy Claxton, may his name forever stand
Long to be remembered in the courts throughout the land
His earthly race is over, and the curtains round him fall
We'll carry him home to victory on the Wabash Cannonball”

Slight variations in the lyrics can be found, depending on whose version is being heard. Some, for example, sing His earthly “reign” is over, while others substitute Daddy Claxton with Boston Blackey.

“The Wabash Cannonball” first became a hit in 1938 for Roy Acuff (Vocalion 4466) — the follow-up to perhaps his best-known tune, “The Great Speckle Bird.”

As originally written, with several additional verses, Daddy Claxton is the engineer of the Wabash Cannonball. Still, we know of no authenticated, real-life events involving anyone named Claxton. It just might be railroad fiction.

Coincidence no doubt, Roy Acuff's middle name is Claxton and some historians believe that is why the name is respectfully included in “The Wabash Cannonball.”

Those who disagree contend that a man named Claxton was a friend of the Acuff clan, and that is where Roy's middle name came from. If so, there would be no connection to the use of the name in the song.

Though he may not have known anything about Daddy Claxton, I'm a bit surprised he didn't mention the connection to his middle name when you and he spoke.

DEAR JERRY: My father passed away two years ago, leaving behind a large classical music collection. He had many LPs, CDs, and 78s.

I have since donated the collection to a local university. Now, I need to assign a value to the collection.

I have been told to look up a representative sampling of albums in the collection in a record price guide. Does your “Official Price Guide to Records” contain listings of classical albums?
—Lisa Melillo via e-mail

DEAR LISA: Occasionally, it is necessary to answer with a negative, and this is one of those times.

None of our reference publications have ever included classical music, nor have we ever seen such a guide by anyone.

Condition and collectibility of the collection notwithstanding, you can safely justify values roughly equal to past or present retail prices.

This would put the LPs in the $5.00 to $10 range, the CDs at $10 to $20, and the 78s at about $1 each.

DEAR JERRY: Help! I need your music wisdom to identify the title of a record I owned in the 1970s, but have long since lost.

It is something like “(You're the One) I Want to Say Good Morning To.”

I think the singer is either Jimmy Dean, or George Hamilton IV, but I can't find anyone who knows anything about such a song by either of these two.
—Grant Lawrence, Chicago, Ill.

DEAR GRANT: Now you have.

The singer is indeed Jimmy Dean, though the title is slightly different than you recall. It is “The One You Say Good Morning To” (RCA 0600), a Top 40 C&W hit in early 1972.

IZ ZAT SO? Talk about a dry spell. After his Top 5 hit, “Bumming Around,” in 1953, Jimmy Dean didn't chart again with any of his releases for nearly nine years.

The lack of any hits is even more peculiar considering Dean hosted a CBS-TV variety show circa 1957, thus giving him nationwide exposure weekly.

When he finally returned to the charts, in late '61, he did so with a monster hit — the mining tale of “Big Bad John.”

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