This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
Little Tommy Rush from New Hampshire (as he once called himself on record) started out as a folkie and an interpreter of blues songs. He began his career in Boston, as he majored in English at Harvard. He became a regular on the folk circuit of the time and is still performing to this day.
Way back, there was a train that ran between Chicago and New Orleans that had no name, or maybe it was called “The train that ran between Chicago and New Orleans”.
In 1911, in honor of the anticipated opening of the Panama Canal, this train was named the Panama Limited. In 1974, this train had a name change to the City of New Orleans (named after the song).
However, it's the Panama Limited we're interested in and it was still called that when Tom recorded the song early in his career. Tom actually got the source of the train wrong in the song – he said it was Washington rather than Chicago. That doesn't spoil a good song.
Way back in the sixties, some time before Bob Dylan went electric, Tom recorded a (semi-) rock album that nobody commented on at the time except me who thought it was brilliant. I still do.
The album was "Take a Little Walk With Me". If you don't have it, search it out; it's one the finest albums ever recorded.
Side one had Tom backed by a rock band and side two was more traditional, except that he had Bruce Langhorne playing very tasteful lead electric guitar behind him.
So, putting on side one, we find that Tom covered songs by Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly and others, as well as one of his own in the same vein. I've chosen Who Do You Love.
This has been recorded many times over the years. One of the interesting ones was by Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks (The Hawks later left Ronnie and became The Band).
Another was by Quicksilver Messenger Service who devoted a whole side of an album to the song. As much as I like Quicksilver, that was a tad too much. There was also the original by the great Bo Diddley.
Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, says that Tom's is the best version because she can understand the words. I don't know if that's a good thing in a rock song but we're going with it.
Turning the record over we have several contenders for inclusion. The one I've chosen is Joshua Gone Barbados written by Rick Von Schmidt.
I can't help myself; I'm flipping the record back to side one. The song that Tom wrote is called On the Road Again. There have been quite a few songs with that title but this is the best of them.
As a youth I decided to teach myself to play guitar. I learnt the chords, even some of the more esoteric ones - diminished, thirds, sixths and so on. I even managed to change chords without hesitation.
However, whenever I played an album of Tom's, instead of it inspiring me to practise harder and get better, I'd say, "Oh, I'll never be able to do that" and not play for a month or two.
That's why I'm writing this column rather than heading the bill at some guitar fest or other.
Recently (recently in terms of most of the readers of this column), Tom brought out an instructional DVD showing how he played a dozen or so of his best known tunes.
I bought it, not because I wanted to play them - by that stage my arthritis had reached the stage where I couldn't play for more than five minutes or so before it got too painful. No, I bought the DVD because Tom also played those songs right through just accompanying himself on guitar.
I've now given up entirely trying to play guitar. Fortunately, Tom hasn't. From that DVD we have a song and a tune he originally recorded on his "Circle Game" album, No Regrets and Rockport Sunday, joined into a single track.
Tom was a discoverer of talent before anyone else. He was the first to record songs by Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Jackson Browne even before they had recorded albums themselves. It's been said that Tom is the only male who should be allowed to record any of Joni's songs.
I originally had a couple of hers penciled in but alas, hers got the chop. As did Jackson's. James managed to survive with one of his earliest songs, Something in the Way She Moves.
I gather from what Tom says about it that Child’s Song is one of his favorites. It was written by Murray McLauchlan and Tom's version first appeared on an album called "Tom Rush" that was the one that came out in 1970 - there was an earlier album with the same name.
Like quite a few others, Tom recorded a country(-ish) album called "Ladies Love Outlaws" that included that song, but I won't. A more enjoyable one from my point of view is one called Jenny Lynn.
Getting right up to date, I'll finish with a couple of songs from his most recent album "What I Know" and after all this time in the business, Tom should know quite a bit.
One of those songs is East of Eden, which as far as I can tell has nothing to do with the Steinbeck novel or the film.
Another song from the album, and one very appropriate for this website, is What an Old Lover Knows.
These days I've noticed that new albums occasionally have a bonus track. I think that rather strange.
Okay, if they rerelease an old album there may be some songs that weren't originally included that deserve seeing light of day. However, if it's a new one why call it a "bonus" rather than another track? Well, if they can do it so can I.
Here's a bonus track, suitable for all of us reading this called Remember Song.