Two Hobo Songs

Blind Boy Grunt

Here are two songs written a generation apart on the same sad theme. The first is a Jimmy Rogers song that I heard from Cisco Houston on his Folkways album of railroad songs. The second was recorded in the 1960's on Broadside Ballads. The singer was billed as Blind Boy Grunt and he sounded remarkably like Bob Dylan who was under contract at Columbia at the time.

Broadside was a publication founded in the early 60's by Sis Cunningham in New York for the community of protest song writers . Crudely mimeographed on stapled sheets with typewriter type with hand drawn illustrations and music, Broadside featured the likes of Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Malvina Reynolds, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Gil Turner, Mark Spoelstra, Barbara Dane, Allen Ginsberg, Peter La Farge, you name 'em. I loved it.

I had every issue from1963 but, alas, they have been lost. But wait, Broadside lives! Smithsonian Folkways has reissued Broadside Balads and several subsequently released volumes. And best of all, Broadside lives on as a great little web site. Be sure to check out:



Riding on an eastbound freight train, speeding through the night,
Hobo Bill, the railroad bum, was a-fighting for his life.

As the train sped through the darkness, with raging storm outside,
Hobo Bill, the railroad bum, was taking his last ride.

The sadness of his eyes revealed the torture of his soul,
As he raised a weak and weary hand to brush away the cold.

Outside the rain was a-pouring on that lonely boxcar door,
And the little form of Hobo Bill lay still upon the floor.

He heard the whistle blowing in a dreamy sort of way,
The hobo seemed contented, for he smiled there where he lay.

It was early in the morning when they raised the hobo's head,
And the smile still lingered on his face, but Hobo Bill was dead.

There was no mother's longing to think of his weary soul,
He was nothing but a railroad bum who died out in the cold.

As I was out walking on a corner one day,
I spied an old hobo, in a doorway he lay.
His face was all grounded in the cold sidewalk floor
And I guess he'd been there for the whole night or more.

Only a hobo, but one more is gone
Leavin' nobody to sing his sad song
Leavin' nobody to carry him home
He was only a hobo, but one more is gone

A blanket of newspaper covered his head,
As the curb was his pillow, the street was his bed.
One look at his face showed the hard road he'd come
And a fistful of coins showed the money he bummed.

Only a hobo . . .

Does it take much of a man to see his whole life go down,
To look up on the world from a hole in the ground,
To wait for your future like a horse that's gone lame,
To lie in the gutter and die with no name?

Only a hobo . . .

Song sheet: 
C standard