Now there was a song : Sammi Smith

ZZ Sammi Smith

Sammi Smith/photo submitted

By Doug Davis

This week in 1973: over 90% of U.S. gas stations closed voluntarily in order to save fuel; Britain cut its work week to three days in order to save its fuel supply; the twin towers of The World Trade Center were completed in downtown Manhattan at a cost of $750 million; and a singer from Orange, California had her 13th hit record!

According to Steve Goodman, the song “The City Of New Orleans” was better journalism than songwriting! Goodman commented, “My wife and I were riding The City of New Orleans train on the Illinois Central line. She went to sleep and I was just looking out the window and I began writing down everything I saw – the small towns with no signs, the junkyards, etc.”

“Just outside Chicago, we passed a group of old men who were warming themselves around barrels with fires in them. It was April but it was a very cold morning and the men were waving at the train.”

“When we got back to Chicago, I showed what I had written down to a friend of mine and he told me that the train was being taken off the line in a few months if passenger traffic did not improve. He told me I should write about what I had seen on that train.  So I sat down and wrote the second verse about the card game and the paper bag. The lines in that song about Memphis, Tennessee were strictly from memory.”

Sammi Smith’s Mega Records single of “City Of New Orleans” came on the country charts September 29th, 1973 and peaked at number 44. It was her 13th charted song and was on the charts for 12 weeks. This came three years after Sammi’s smash hit of Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night.”

“City of New Orleans” made it to number one for Willie Nelson in 1984.

To subscribe to our free “Country Music Classics” email newsletter – send a blank email to:

Leave a Reply