Friday Five: Philadelphia

Juli Thanki | January 21st, 2011

So the boys of Old Crow Medicine Show caught a ride and a smoke from a Philly trucker, Mark Knopfler and James Taylor wrote about the creation of the Mason-Dixon Line in “Sailing to Philadelphia,” and Robert Earl Keen’s Philadelphia stay in “The Great Hank” includes a drag version of Hank Williams. ( Here are a few more of my favorite country songs about my favorite city.

  • The Legendary Sun Classics5. “Philadelphia” – Charlie Rich

    Before Rich released smooth country tracks like “Behind Closed Doors,” he recorded rockabilly songs like this one about catching a train in order to get back to the city where he and his girl will have a “rock and roll affair.” The chorus, with its “click-click-click-click-clickety-clack” mimic of a speeding train, is the best part of the song, and it’s near impossible to resist singing along to it.

  • Dark Bar and a Jukebox4. “Rainin’ in Philly” – J.B. Beverley & The Wayward Drif

    Beverley sure can write a sad song. This one, from 2006’s Dark Bar and a Jukebox, is one of his saddest, as he’s left to wander the city’s rainy streets while the woman he loves is with someone new. At least he’s got Ronnie McCoury, who contributes some pretty excellent mandolin to the recording.

  • All-Time Greatest Hits3. “The Philadelphia Fillies” – Del Reeves

    Reeves ain’t talkin’ baseball in this ’71 single (it went to #9), but rather those Center City gals in pretty dresses. Sure, he liked an angel in California and some “nice looking twins” in Minnesota, but he keeps coming back to those Philadelphia because that’s where he can “bat a thousand” with the ladies.

  • Point Breeze2. “Streets of Philadelphia” – Marah

    This Philadelphia band turned the Springsteen ballad into a roots rock tune; but if bluegrass is more your thing, there’s a decent version to be found on the Springsteen volume of the Pickin’ On series.

  • This Land is Your Land: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 11. “Philadelphia Lawyer” – Woody Guthrie

    It’s never a good idea to get involved with a woman who’s married to a gun-toting cowboy named Wild Bill, as a Philadelphia divorce lawyer learns. Lots of artists—such as the Maddox Brothers and Rose, Merle Haggard (recorded as “Reno Blues”), and Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper—have their own versions of the classic folk song.

    Watch on YouTube

  1. Jon
    January 21, 2011 at 6:48 am

    First version I ever heard is still my favorite, albeit for nostalgic reasons: it’s the one Bonnie Owens does on Haggard’s Live In Philadelphia album, where she forgets the words and tries to tell the story instead. Check out also the great bluegrass version on the Bluegrass Holiday album credited to J.D. Crowe in reissue – none better!

  2. Barry Mazor
    January 21, 2011 at 8:12 am

    Nice. I want to put in a word, also, for Tom T. Hall’s “The Trees in Philadelphia,” as someone who lived there for a while a long, long time ago, and Nashville now. It points out that the places are not utterly unrelated, which a lot of people spend a lot of time for various reasons suggesting that they are.
    Not very easy to find right now though.

  3. Dave D.
    January 21, 2011 at 8:33 am

    Thanks for nothing, Juli, as your list has caused Elton John’s Philadelphia Freedom to get stuck in my mind this morning. ;-)

    Will Kimbrough’s Philadelphia, Mississippi is the only other (admittedly marginally) related song I can think of.

  4. Juli
    January 21, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Jon: I hadn’t heard the Bonnie Owens live version before, but it put a smile on my face this morning.

    Barry: Looks like I’ll have to hit up the record stores this weekend. Here’s a Patti Page version for anyone who’s interested:

    Dave: Ha! It was stuck in my head for about three weeks after I heard him sing it on the Ben Franklin Parkway during a July 4th concert.

  5. Paul W Dennis
    January 21, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Good list. Like Jon, I remember fondly the Bonnie Owens version on the FIGHTING SIDE OF ME (Live At Convention Hall) album, but my favorite version was done by the Maddox Brohers and Rose

  6. brz
    January 21, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    great call on the J.B. Beverley track!

  7. t.scott
    January 21, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    The Rose Maddox version is the best ,because of the evil laugh……

  8. luckyoldsun
    January 21, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    I think Marty Stuart sang something about Philadephia, Miss.

  9. Rick
    January 21, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    I like the Maddox Brothers and Rose version of “Philadelphia Lawyer” the best just because its Rose Maddox! We Californians are proud of that spirited pioneer of the Central Valley Hillbilly/Bakersfield Sound movement. Rose is still posthumously waiting patiently to gain entry into the Country Music Hall of Fame some day…

  10. Stephen H.
    January 22, 2011 at 2:47 am

    It’s too bad no country artist has covered “Motown Philly” as that’d be #1 in my book. ;-)

  11. J.R. Journey
    January 23, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    A Philadephia Friday Five with no mention of the awesomeness of authentic Philly cheese steaks?

  12. Cutting the Treacle
    January 24, 2011 at 9:09 am

    J.R. Journey: “A Philadephia Friday Five with no mention of the awesomeness of authentic Philly cheese steaks?”

    Me: or wooter ice

  13. Juli
    January 25, 2011 at 7:24 am

    Hey, I’m counting the days until Rita’s Wooter Ice opens back up ;-) And I suppose I should give some love to Robbie Fulks’ “Scrapple Song” while we’re on the subject…

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