Saturday, February 22, 2014

Show Me Some Identification


Part 1 Of A Series Of 6


Hello and welcome back to Old Highway Notes. We have finally reached the border so that we can leave Tijuana Mexico and Return to the USA and old Highway 101 in San Diego County. As we pull up to the small shack a border patrol agent steps outside to greet us.

Flag at The American Border
(Flickr user Emilio Labrador/CC)

With that, Lee Greenwood's ode to Americanism, "God Bless The USA" with its line "I'm proud to be an American/Where at least I know I'm free" becomes the first addition to this weeks playlist. (As always, click on the text for Amazon download links, the iTunes button before the text will take you to the iTunes store for the track.)

"Hello," he says, "What is your citizenship?"

"I'm proud to be an American." I reply.
  •  God Bless The U.S.A.     A Celebration of Great American Favorites  Lee Greenwood     3:14

We follow up with Roger McGuinn's "America For Me" From The Folk Den. This is a free download from his site that features a whole lot of other free folk music downloads. He released this song onto his blog shortly after 9/11 as tribute although it didn't get the same amount of play as the "God Bless The USA". Etither way I hope this will speed us past the Border Patrol agent and down the road.

  • America For Me     The Folk Den     Roger McGuinn     4:19


The man in the uniform doesn't look impressed. "What was the purpose of your visit to Mexico?" The Border Patrol agent  asks us.
"Tourism. We came to explore Tijuana Mexico in a virtual journey of music and history."

"Do you have any identification?" he asks.

"Well, when this blog was started it went by the name of the Great Historical Bum, until I found a popular Bob Dylan Site was using the same name, but I still have my old ID."

The next track to be added to our playlist is Woody Guthrie's "Biggest Thing Man Has Ever Done" which starts with the line, "I'm just a lonesome traveler, the great historical bum/Highly educated out of history I come." My first version of the Guthrie classic was recorded less than a mile from where I now live in Portland Oregon.  Woody was working on narrating a documentary to promote the dams being built by the WPA on the Columbia River. The documentary was never completed but several of his well known songs were written during this period such as "Roll On Columbia", "Grand Coolie Dam" and this song. The song screams America and celebrates its victories, the INS will have to let me back home into the US when they hear this.

Guy with ID card and liquor bottle
Hey, at least I wasn't looking like this guy...
  • The Biggest Thing That Man Has Ever Done     Columbia River Collection     Woody Guthrie     2:21



We follow that up with Tom Paxton's live and faithful cover that he performed at "The Concert for Woody" that was held shortly after Woody Guthrie died in 1967 from Huntingtons Disease.

  •  Biggest Thing Man Has Ever Done (Historical Bum)     A Tribute To Woody Guthrie  Tom Paxton     1:51



"Uh-huh. Do you have any other form of identification?'

"I want to go back into the USA so I can keep  traveling. Someday I hope to say 'I've been every where.' will that song be valid identification?"

And by now I am sure you can see where this little exchange is taking us. I break out what I thought to be the original version of  the song. "I've Been Everywhere" from Hank Snow in 1962. I follow it up with a variation by Chip Dockery that was apparently popular with soldiers serving in the Vietnam War. I have a nice version from Asleep At The Wheel's first album, 1975's Texas Gold. Then the coup de grace, the version everyone I know seems to think of when this song is mentioned, Johnny Cash.

This is where it gets interesting, Cash's version seems to be the iconic one, yet all my research shows that he did not release his version until 1996. So it must have been the Hank Snow version we remember prior to that. Cash did perform the song on his 1969 TV series  as a duet with Lynn Anderson, who was having some success with the song at the time, perhaps there is some lingering memory involved. I don't have the duet in my collection, so it won't make the list, but I did find the YouTube video so I am embedding that for you. Now back to our story...


  • I've Been Everywhere    RCA Country Legends: Hank Snow    Hank Snow    2:48
  • I've Been Everywhere    Next Stop Is Vietnam    Chip Dockery & Dick Jonas    1:58
  • I've Been Everywhere   Texas Gold/Comin' Right At Ya    Asleep at the Wheel    2:47
  • I've Been Everywhere (Album Version)    The Legend Of Johnny Cash    Johnny Cash    3:16

At this point the Border patrol agent sneers at me just a little and says, "Sir, I would like you do move your vehicle into the lot to your right for a secondary inspection." Now, I really don't have anything to worry about. I mean sure, we partied at some rock clubs, and saw some Banditos and political musicians, but nothing illegal.  And we are good Americans, but I still get nervous in situations like these.

As we pull into the inspection parking lot, another agent approaches us. "Do you know why you were detained?" he asks.

"I have no idea" , we reply. "Well, smart guy, for someone who uses Wikipedia so much, you should have known that Identification, "I've Been Everywhere" was worthless. Citing the article on Wikipedia:  Well, I guess that reminds me I should always do my research!
The officer continues,  "There are versions of that song in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, the USA, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Finland, India, Scotland, the Faroe Islands and everywhere else in the world. Not to mention states and provinces like Alaska, Alberta, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Really all you nead is a list and you can probably adapt it to this song. Heck, they have even done Worlds of Warcraft, USAF Security service stations, and beers! Just listen to this portfolio...

"I've Been Everywhere" is a song which was written by Australian country singer Geoff Mack in 1959, and made popular byLucky Starr in 1962.
The song (as originally written) listed Australian towns. It was later adapted by Hank Snow for North American (predominantlyUnited States) toponyms and by John Hore (later known as John Grenell) with New Zealand toponyms (1966).
The song was a number 1 hit in Country Music in November 1962 in the United States for the recording artist Hank Snow.[1] The song was also recorded by Lynn Anderson (USA 1970), Asleep at the Wheel (USA 1973), Johnny Cash (USA 1996), Chip Dockery, Ted Egan, Little Jan Buckner of Wendy Bagwell & The Sunliters (USA 1972), the "Farrelly Brothers" from the television series The Aunty Jack Show (Australia 1974, a parody version), John Grenell (NZ 1966), Mike Ford (Canada, 2005), Rolf Harris(UK 1963), Clifton Jansky, The Sunny Cowgirls and the Statler Brothers. 



"As you can tell, that identification has been around a bit. You are going to have to provide us with something else."

I can accommodate that request."Here are some other forms of identification. A few of them relate to Vietnam. Now I wasn't there, I was just a kid when the war was going on, but I do support and am grateful to all the folks who fought and died in the jungles of Southeast Asia. That is why those songs have meaning to me."

US Passport
(Flickr user Damian613/CC)

By way of an apology, we begin with Paul Simon's "American Tune". Then as proof of citizenship, we offer "Born in The USA" from Bruce Springsteen and another view of Vietnam service from Jerry Reed, "Fighting For the U.S.A". Then to prove my residency I offer up Steve Miller's "Living In The USA" as well as a version by Wilmer and the Dukes. Then to close out my plea, and appeal to blue state patriotism, Charlie Daniels, with "In America".
  • American Tune    There Goes Rhymin' Simon    Paul Simon    3:47
  • Born in the U.S.A. (Album Version) [Clean]    The Essential Bruce Springsteen    Bruce Springsteen    4:42
  • Fightin' For The U.S.A.    Next Stop Is Vietnam - The War On Record, 1961-2008 (13CD+Book)   Jerry Reed    2:14
  • Living in the U.S.A.-Steve Miller Band    4:06
  • Living In the USA-Wilmer & the Dukes    3:19
  • In America    In America    The Charlie Daniels Band    3:18


"OK",  says the agent, "wait here and I will be right back. I am going to go run this identification see if it checks out. If it does you should be on your way." 

And that is where we end this weeks Old Highway Notes. Will our identification check out? Will we be detained for further questioning? Will we be deported and left as a blog without a country?. You'll have to wait with me for the next installment of Old Highway Notes Highway 101 Crossing The Border in just 3 weeks. But make sure and join us next week as we begin our journey down Interstate 95 with some music. And in 2 weeks we will be back in Chicago on Route 66. I hope you are enjoying the ride.





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