Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Ballad of Thunder Road

The makings of a folk legend come from many sources, generally from dimly-remembered sources. However, this one came relatively late in mountain legends. It was definitely helped by a movie popular in the Deep South some years ago starring Robert Mitchum. There's an interesting story behind this legend. But here's the lyrics to the ballad, originally sung by Robert Mitchum:

 Let me tell the story, I can tell it all;
About the mountain boy who ran illegal alcohol.
His daddy made the whiskey, the son he drove the load;
And when his engine roared they called the highway "Thunder Road".


Sometimes into Asheville, sometimes Memphis town.
The Revenuers chased him but they couldn't run him down.
Each time they thought they had him his engine would explode.
He'd go by like they were standing still on "Thunder Road"

.
And there was thunder, thunder over "Thunder Road",
Thunder was his engine and white lightening was his load.
And there was moonshine, moonshine to quench the devil's thirst.
The law they swore they'd get him but the devil got him first.


It was on the first of April, Nineteen-Fifty-Four
The federal man sent word he'd better make his run no more.
He said "200 agents were covering the state;
Which ever road he tried to take they'd get him sure as fate."


'Son' his daddy told him, 'make this run your last.
The tank is filled with 100 proof; you're all tuned-up and gassed.
Now don't take any chances, if you can't get through.
I'd rather have you back again than all that Mountain Dew.'


And there was thunder, thunder over "Thunder Road",
Thunder was his engine and white lightening was his load.
And there was moonshine, moonshine to quench the devil's thirst.
The law they swore they'ed get him but the devil got him first.


Roaring out of Harlan; revving up his mill.
He shot the Gap at Cumberland and streamed by Maynardville.
With G men on his tail light; road block up ahead,
The mountain boy took roads that even angels fear to tread.


Blazing right through Knoxville, out on Kingston Pike,
Then right outside of Bearden, they made the fatal strike.
He left the road at 90; that's all there is to say,
The devil got the moonshine and the mountain boy that day

.
And there was thunder, thunder over "Thunder Road",
Thunder was his engine and white lightening was his load.
And there was moonshine, moonshine to quench the devil's thirst.
The law they never got him 'cause the devil got him first.


But it comes across really good in the Robert Mitchum song from the movie Thunder Road:



Too bad you can't watch the movie in a drive-in now! It was popular some 50-60 years ago in the Appalachian South: the home turf for the moonshiners and the moonshine runners.



10 comments:

Linda Kay said...

I never think of Robert Mitchum as a singer, but he really does a good job with the song. Such a fun story of those moonshine days.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

That was a good old movie. Thanks for all the lyrics!

Big Sky Heidi said...

Driving Thunder Road can be interesting. From the obvious start in Harlan, KY south. Somehow you wind up on Papermill Road, and turn left at Kingston Pike. I'd do dinner at Dead End Barbecue to end it all! Best barbecue in Knoxville!

Cloudia said...

Thank you for sharing this. It strikes me that the 'mob' up north [Boardwalk Empire / Sopranos] is the same source of strange 'outsider' pride and memory as the moonshiners of the south. We're ALL Americans!




ALOHA
ComfortSpiral
=^..^=

Leroy said...

Violating unpopular laws regarding alcohol goes as far back as the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania.

Anonymous said...

It is better sung.

Mike said...

If the moonshine doesn't get you the devil will.

John Hill said...

Great story!
White lightning and Thunder Road!

Duckbutt said...

I remember that it sometimes was the late movie on T.V. as well as at the drive-ins.

Bilbo said...

900 posts! Congratulations, Angel ... I think I speak for all of us when I say we're looking forward to the next 900! Well done!