About the song

If you love country music, you probably know the song “City of New Orleans” by Willie Nelson. But do you know the story behind this classic tune? In this blog post, we’ll explore the history of this song, from its origins as a folk ballad to its success as a country hit.

The song was written by Steve Goodman, a Chicago-based singer-songwriter who was inspired by a train ride from Chicago to New Orleans on the Illinois Central Railroad. He wanted to capture the feeling of nostalgia and Americana that he experienced on the journey, as well as the changing landscape of the country. He performed the song for Arlo Guthrie in a bar in Chicago, and Guthrie liked it so much that he recorded it for his 1972 album Hobo’s Lullaby. The song became a hit for Guthrie, reaching #18 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

However, it was Willie Nelson who made the song a country classic. He recorded it for his 1984 album City of New Orleans, which was produced by Chips Moman. Nelson’s version had a more upbeat tempo and a richer arrangement, featuring harmonica, piano, and guitar. It also had some minor lyric changes, such as replacing “the sons of Pullman porters” with “the sons of engineers”. Nelson’s version reached #1 on both the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart and the RPM Country Tracks chart in Canada. It also won a posthumous Grammy Award for Best Country Song for Goodman, who had died of leukemia in 1984.