The CD of my Life: “Last Train to San Fernando” – “Johnny Duncan & his Bluegrass Boys”

17 Apr

If you read the introduction to this series that I posted recently you will recall that I mentioned there being an “obvious starting point” – and this is it!

Not, as may SEEM obvious, the song that was Number 1 in the charts when I was born which was Perry Como’s “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes” – which I don’t know, don’t remember and am not, frankly, all that interested in getting acquainted with.

It is the earliest song I can remember and that seems to me to be a much more relevant starting point. Don’t you agree?

Most of what follows has been clipped out of a much longer “work in progress” called “Music and Me!” which has been progressing very, very slowly for some years now and is currently up to about 1968! I’ve then “tweaked” the clipped bit to try to make it stand on its own. Enjoy.

In 1957 when I was about 4 years old I clearly recall (without my mother needing to refresh my memory – which she still tries to do from time to time) standing halfway down our long, narrow back garden, singing!

About 100 yards away across other gardens and parallel to our garden was the main Ipswich to London railway line along which would run the magnificent old Britannia class steam locomotives. I would wait for one of these to pass and then launch into Johnny Duncan & the Bluegrass Boys, “Last train to San Fernando” in a sort of 4 year old bellow! I am told it came out more like “Laaars Tray………Sa F’nando” – probably because I didn’t actually know what the words I was singing really were. You can find it here- While the telling of this story causes at least one of my daughters to exclaim, “Ah, bless!” or something equally gooey, I think it marks the beginning of an important facet of my life – my affinity for music.

Even if we grant my 4 year old self the audio equivalent of a photographic memory, I still had to be exposed to that song several times to even attempt to sing it let alone to get some of the words right. The reason for that is quite simple – Radio.

As far back as I can remember (1956 or thereabouts) there always seems to have been music in the background at home. This may well have been a more common occurrence than today with Television being then not quite the omnipotent and universal medium it seems to be now. I can’t help but think it must have been easier to do the housework while listening than it is now while watching. In fact we didn’t even get a TV set until 1959 so I couldn’t have sat around watching it even if I’d wanted to or if there had been anything much on during the daytime – which there wasn’t!

The choice of radio station was somewhat limited at that time, certainly during the daytime anyway.

There were three BBC stations of which one (The Home Service)dealt entirely with current affairs, another (The Third Programme) was dedicated to classical music (except in summer when it would interrupt this for Test Match Cricket commentary) and the final one, the BBC Light Programme, was the equivalent of the current Radio 2. It would have been this station that my Mother would have had on in the background while she did the normal “housewife and mother” chores of the time.

My later recollection that current songs were only played by the BBC at weekends must have been false as the daily 9 a.m. request show “Housewife’s Choice” seems to have been including some modern stuff amongst the dwindling wartime favourites. If it hadn’t been doing so I wouldn’t have been able to pick up “Last train..!” (a 1957 hit) during 1957, now would I?

It takes me back to an idyllic time – there was no school of any sort to attend yet, little boys such as me were expected to play outdoors with (and in) mud and my little sister was only one year old and not yet mobile enough to be a pest! It was lovely and probably the last year when I had absolutely nothing at all to worry me!

Oh, I should mention that the song itself is one that, on balance, I do like. It is no more or less embarrassing than anything else of that vintage and certainly a lot less so than the example in the previous posting!



Posted by on April 17, 2011 in CD of my Life, Ipswich


3 responses to “The CD of my Life: “Last Train to San Fernando” – “Johnny Duncan & his Bluegrass Boys”

  1. Vincent

    April 19, 2011 at 7:05 am

    I’m DISGUSTED!! MY posting of “Last Train…” is FAR superior to the one you picked from YT. I know – it was the first one that popped up (YT lists them in order of POSTING, not QUALITY) but still…

    To RECTIFY this egregious error – here is MY posting…

    Or, if you want my “MOVIE” version, hit

    • Alfie

      April 20, 2011 at 10:54 pm

      Dear DISGUSTED

      Lovely to hear from you!

      IF you would care to check your email ( you will find that on 16th April I replied to one of your messages AND anticipated this very issue with a VERY nice request that you let me know if this situation should ever occur so that I could correct it to your version outside of the gaze of the “readership”.

      As a very wise person once said – “Yaa, sucks, boo to you!”

      Big smiles.


      PS. If you go back and try the link now you’ll find I have indeed changed it to YOURS.

  2. Cy Quick

    April 23, 2011 at 6:31 am

    I liked Last Train to San Fernando. I still do not know how it relates to Last Train to Clarksville. Nor do I have the gen on the Redcar as featured in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? The freeways and highways soon had it all to themselves.

    However, I did figure Last Train to San Fernando as being vaguely Skiffle (which your ordinary bloke could be part of). Before long I fell out of love with both Skiffle and Trad Jazz, seeing them as (forgive me) outdated. Rock and Roll was the cool modern thing.

    Did you ever manage to sing the “beedy beedy bee bom bom” (or whatever it is) bit? Now I am going to click those U-Tube links.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: