Railroad Bill

(Bob Dylan version)

Words & Music:

Traditional American

Tabbed by Eyolf ¯strem

(From Bob Dylan's ÒMinnesota Party TapeÓ (May 1961))


This fabtab of the Dylan version was so impressive, I had to include it.


Eyolf's performance notes:  "The accompainment here is fingerpicking, but not in its more common, steady-thumbed version. The alternating thumb is there, but played quite irregularly: lots of thumbstrokes are left out, and the accent pattern is reversed, so that the accented strokes are placed on usually unaccented beats, which gives the syncopated feel to the piece. The ground pattern is what is found in the second and third C-major chords in the first line. It's a very neat way of combining a melody in the upper voice, with a syncopated rhythm in the lower (including the index-finger stroke on the 3rd string in the bass line).  Another unusual feature is the mixture of fingerpicking and strumming, especially in the F chord parts. The tab here is just an approximation."



  .   .   .     :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .








  E                                   F

  :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .








  C                 G                 C

  :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .









  :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .








  E                                   F

  :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .








  C                 G                 C

  :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .









Railroad Bill, he ain't so bad,

E                        F

killed his mommy, shot a round in his dad.

C        G        C

Ride old Railroad Bill.


[2 instr. verses, 2nd with harp]


Railroad Bill took my wife.

If I'd said a word, he'd have taken my life

Ride old Railroad Bill.


[harp verse]


Railroad Bill he was comin' down the hill

Lightin' cigars with a ten-dollar bill

Ride old Railroad Bill


[guitar verse + harp verse]


Ten policemen, all dressed in black,

coming out of nowhere, walking down the tracks,

and they're looking for Railroad Bill


[guitar verse]


Railroad Bill, comin' round the fence

Robbin' a passenger train for 16 cents

I'm gonna ride old Railroad Bill


[guitar verse]


Railroad Bill got in a gamblin' game

shot a man down, though he was to blame

when you lose your mind, let it [turn?] loose


[harp verse]


He's down in a jailhouse singin' railer's blues

Same old pants on your passenger shoes

When you lose your mind, let it loose


[wicked harp verse + guitar verse]


Railroad Bill he's a mighty bad man

Shot the lantern from a brakeman's hand

Just to see that man suffer pain.


[two lines of instrumental, then:]

ride, ride, ride, ride.


Additional verses from other versions


Early one morning, standing in the rain

'round the curb come a long freight train


Railroad Bill, a-comin' on soon

Killed McMillen by the light of the moon


Kill me a chicken, send me the wing,

They think I'm working, lord, I ain't doin' a thing


Kill me a chicken, send me the hip

Think I'm workin', Lord, I'm laying in [deep]


Got a great long pistol, 'bout as long as your arm,

I'm gonna shoot everybody ever done me harm


Got a .38 special on a .45 frame.

How can I miss when I got dead aim


Gonna drink my whisky, gonna drink it in the wind

the doctor said it'd cure me, but he didn't say when


Going up on the mountain, going out west.

Thirty eight special sticking out of my vest.


Honey honey, think I'm a fool.

Think I would quit you when the weather is cool.



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