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Origins/Tune Req: The MTA Song

DigiTrad:
CHARLEY ON THE MTA
THE SHIP THAT NEVER RETURNED
THE TRAIN THAT NEVER RETURNED
WRECK OF THE 97


Related threads:
2019 Obit: Jacqueline Steiner singer & songwriter (6)
(origins) Origins Ship That Never Returned (Henry Clay Work) (1)
Lyr/Chords Req: The MTA (6) (closed)
Lyr Req: Charlie on the MTA? / MTA (Kingston Trio) (13) (closed)


GUEST,TheOldMole 13 Jan 02 - 03:41 PM
GUEST,Dale 13 Jan 02 - 04:18 PM
Mark Cohen 13 Jan 02 - 05:47 PM
Sorcha 13 Jan 02 - 06:01 PM
GUEST,Guest 13 Jan 02 - 06:22 PM
Mark Cohen 13 Jan 02 - 06:25 PM
Snuffy 13 Jan 02 - 06:56 PM
Mark Cohen 13 Jan 02 - 07:13 PM
Bob Bolton 13 Jan 02 - 08:55 PM
Muskrat 13 Jan 02 - 11:43 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 14 Jan 02 - 12:11 AM
Charley Noble 14 Jan 02 - 09:17 AM
Barbara Shaw 14 Jan 02 - 09:34 AM
MMario 14 Jan 02 - 09:37 AM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 14 Jan 02 - 01:26 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 14 Jan 02 - 01:46 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 14 Jan 02 - 02:27 PM
masato sakurai 15 Jan 02 - 12:27 AM
Mark Cohen 15 Jan 02 - 02:01 AM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 15 Jan 02 - 02:18 AM
GUEST,Steve N. 15 Jan 02 - 05:44 PM
Haruo 15 Jan 02 - 11:41 PM
Reiver 2 19 Feb 07 - 01:17 PM
retrancer 19 Feb 07 - 03:41 PM
Sorcha 19 Feb 07 - 06:30 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 25 Feb 07 - 07:57 PM
fumblefingers 25 Feb 07 - 08:05 PM
Scoville 26 Feb 07 - 04:10 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 27 Feb 07 - 12:55 PM
Songster Bob 27 Feb 07 - 10:21 PM
leeneia 28 Feb 07 - 03:19 PM
Scoville 28 Feb 07 - 04:53 PM
retrancer 04 Apr 07 - 07:17 PM
oldhippie 05 Apr 07 - 07:24 AM
llareggyb (inactive) 17 Sep 08 - 03:42 AM
llareggyb (inactive) 17 Sep 08 - 05:26 AM
Sandy Mc Lean 17 Sep 08 - 07:48 AM
oldhippie 17 Sep 08 - 04:28 PM
Amos 17 Sep 08 - 04:46 PM
Joe Offer 17 Sep 08 - 08:36 PM
dick greenhaus 17 Sep 08 - 09:26 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 18 Sep 08 - 12:56 AM
johnross 18 Sep 08 - 02:28 PM
Joe Offer 18 Sep 08 - 03:14 PM
Joe Offer 18 Sep 08 - 07:32 PM
Joe_F 18 Sep 08 - 08:29 PM
Joe_F 18 Sep 08 - 08:39 PM
johnross 18 Sep 08 - 09:44 PM
Joe Offer 19 Sep 08 - 02:18 PM
Stringsinger 20 Sep 08 - 12:36 PM
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Subject: The MTA Song
From: GUEST,TheOldMole
Date: 13 Jan 02 - 03:41 PM

It's not really a tune request, because I know the tune, but I didn't know what else to call it. It's a "what the hell is the tune?" request.

What is the original song that goes to the tune that the Kingston Trio used for The MTA Song?Well, I know that, the folk process being what it is, there are probably lots of answers to this. I'll take any or all. So maybe this is a lyric request. So shoot me.


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: GUEST,Dale
Date: 13 Jan 02 - 04:18 PM

Check out The Ship That Never Returned. It's in the DT.


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 13 Jan 02 - 05:47 PM

Actually, I think it's an old railroad song called "The Wreck of Old 97". But I could be wrong.

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Sorcha
Date: 13 Jan 02 - 06:01 PM

Definitly NOT Wreck of the '97.


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: GUEST,Guest
Date: 13 Jan 02 - 06:22 PM

It is "The Ship that Never Return'd", words and music by Henry Clay Work, 1865. A later issue by the same music publishers as the original, 1884 (the year that Work died), can be seen in the Levy sheet music collection.


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 13 Jan 02 - 06:25 PM

Well I was right....I was wrong! Thanks, that corrected a bit of misinformation I've been carrying around for a long time!

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Snuffy
Date: 13 Jan 02 - 06:56 PM

The Wreck of the Old 97 is an adaptation of H Clay Work's original tune. As I recall the KT version was closer to the train than the ship.

WassaiL! V


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 13 Jan 02 - 07:13 PM

Ah, I shouldn't have backed down so quickly without doing the research. Thanks, Snuffy. So we're all right! Here's The Wreck of Old 97 in the DT, with a MIDI of the verse. Oh, me of little faith!

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 13 Jan 02 - 08:55 PM

G'day all,

The MTA Song was originally a political campaign song - targetting the Boston incumbents' strange fare rise whereby the 10˘ at a turnstile to enter the station was retained ... but a new turnstile collected another 5˘ to let you out. The story is printed in my Sing Out Reprints ... somewhere. Apparently, there were protests at the time the Kingston trio put out their version, from people who objected to "politics" being involved in folk songs ... ?!?

The words seem to be a pretty straight parody of the Henry Clay Work original ... much like a number of trades parodies found here in Australia. However, the KT probably had the later version of the tune rattling about in their heads, so it would inevitably drift that way.

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Muskrat
Date: 13 Jan 02 - 11:43 PM

You could always try here: http://home.att.net/~kingstontrioplace/ for more information than you could possibly want. Check "lyrics" and "liner notes" first. Then, if you still aren't satisfied, post your question on the BB -- you won't be the first!


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Jan 02 - 12:11 AM

There is a long discussion of "The Wreck of the Old 97" and its antecedents in Norm Cohen's book, the Long Steel Rail.
The Metrorail Song, a shortened version of "Charlie on the MTA" (The MTA Song) is in the DT, but the full song is not in the DT or the Forum. The Kingston Trio changed some words and left out a verse.
"Charlie On the MTA" is © by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lomax-Hawes. Only 2 copies of the original recording are known to exist. Find another and you can buy a world cruise at the least.
The full song and story are on the Mass. Inst. Tech. site: http://web.mit.edu/jdreed/www/t/charlie.html


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Charley Noble
Date: 14 Jan 02 - 09:17 AM

Nice to see the original words of "The Ship That Never Returned", Masato. My mother sings a version of that which has been extensively "folk processed" and in my opinion greatly improved. She'll be delighted to see a copy of the original.


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Barbara Shaw
Date: 14 Jan 02 - 09:34 AM

We had a friend named Al Katz who died a few years ago, who claimed to have been one of the group of friends in Boston who sat around and wrote the MTA song. Anyone ever hear of this?


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: MMario
Date: 14 Jan 02 - 09:37 AM

Barbara - I seem to recall the name connected with the song from high school days.


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE SHIP THAT NEVER RETURNED
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Jan 02 - 01:26 PM

"The Ship That Never Returned," original by Work, is in the DT, but disguised. The word "The" begins the title. A folk singer version is also in the DT, but entered as "Ship That Never Returned." One of the vagaries of Mudcat.
There is an excellent version in the Max Hunter Folk Song Collection, sung by Clyde "Slim" Wilson (1958). In this song, the Captain is the central figure; he becomes the feeble one in verse six.

Lyr Add; The Ship That Never Returned (Wilson)

On a Summer's day while the waves were ripplin'
With a quiet and gentle breeze
A ship set sail, with a cargo laden
For a port beyond the sea.

Did she ever return, no, she never returned
And her fate is still unlearned
But alas, poor man, set sail commander
On a ship that never returned.

There were sad farewells, there were friends forsaken,
An' her fate is still unlearned
But alas, poor man, set sail commander
On a ship that never returned.

Said a feeble lad, to his aged mother,
I must cross the wide, wide sea
They say perchance in a foreign country
There is strength and health for me.

"Tis a gleam of hope and a maze of danger
And her fate is still unlearned
And alas, poor man, set sail commander
On a ship that never returned.

Just one more trip, said the feeble Captain
As he kissed his weeping wife
Just one more purse of that golden treasure
It will last us all through life.

Then we'll live in peace and joy together
And enjoy all I have earned
So they set him forth, with a smile and a blessing
On a ship that never returned.

Did she ever return, no, she never returned
And her sad fate is still unlearned
Tho' for years an' years there's been fond hearts waiting
For the ship that never returned.

To hear Wilson's rendition, click on Links at top of page and go to Max Hunter Collection.
@sea @sailor


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Jan 02 - 01:46 PM

Did he ever return? Yes, he did. "In the mid 1980s, the fare for senior citizens was reduced to 10 cents. Charlie had a wife and family (read: kids) so we'll assume that he was at least 21 when he first got on the tain. By 1983, he would have been 65 years old, would have qualified for a senior citizen fare of ten cents, which he had paid in full at Kendall, and would have gotten off the train at Jamaica Plain. Now as for getting back..." Quoted from the MIT website, which I gave in an earlier posting to this thread.


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Jan 02 - 02:27 PM

There seems to be some confusion about the history of the song, "Charlie on the MTA" (The MTA Song).
Written in 1948 and © by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lomax Hawes, one of seven songs written for the campaign of Walter A. O'Brien, Progressive Party candidate for mayor of Boston. One of his promises was to reduce fares on the MTA (now MBTA). The song was recorded by the Almanac Singers, one of whom was Pete Seeger. One recording of each song was made and they were broadcast from a sound truck. O'Brien was fined $10 for disturbing the peace.
A singer named Will Holt recorded the story of Charlie for Coral Records. The record company received protests from Boston because the song made a hero out of a local radical (During the McCarthy era in the 1950s, the Progressive Party became synonymous with the Communist Party). Holt's record was withdrawn by Coral.
Not until 1959 did the Kingston Trio record the song. The name Walter A. was changed to George to avoid the problems that Holt experienced. They also omitted this verse:

As his train rolled on
Underneath Greater Boston
Charlie looked around and sighed:
"Well, I'm sore and disgusted
And I'm absolutely busted;
I guess this is my last long ride."

(Also, in the 1st verse, the Kingstons changed tunnels to station. They also shortened the chorus and left out some of the political message)

Walter A. O'Brien lost the election, returned to Maine in 1957, and became a school librarian and a bookstore owner. He died in 1998. Another man damaged by the McCarthy era.
Condensed from the MIT website.


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: masato sakurai
Date: 15 Jan 02 - 12:27 AM

Dicho, thanks for the info. (And I should mind my definite article from now on.)
Another sheet music (Cleveland: Brainard's. S. Sons, 1885) of "The Ship That Never Returned") is in the Library of Congress sheet music collection (Click here). Sara and Maybelle Carter sang a folk version of it on An Historic Reunion (KOC-CD-7925).
~Masato


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 15 Jan 02 - 02:01 AM

Everybody who complains about how the Mudcat "ain't what it used to be", and is "annoying", and has "nothing but bullshit", and all that other hogwash should read through this thread. And dozens of others like it. And everybody who complains that all the thoughtful helpful people have gotten fed up and left the Mudcat ought to meet Dicho and Masato.

Mahalo a nui loa! (Big long thank you!)

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 15 Jan 02 - 02:18 AM

A friend thought I was disparaging the Kingston Trio for leaving the political slogans out of their version. No such thing. If they had left them in, they wouldn't have had a hit. The original was a political statement as well as a song; anyone wanting to present the song outside of the Boston area would have removed the "Vote for" stuff.


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: GUEST,Steve N.
Date: 15 Jan 02 - 05:44 PM

OF COURSE "MTA" was written to the tune of "The Wreck of the Old 97", which was written to the tune of the older song, and so on- that's the folk tradition. Bess Hawes, a very bright and also sweet-natured woman who was my Folk Music teacher in 1967, adapted a melody for her song that was commonly known and still often heard around the time of "MTA"'s writing. You can bet she didn't go rummaging around in some old book of 1850s songs hunting up an "original version" to crib from. The Almanac Singers (Woody, Butch Hawes, Millard Lampell, Pete, Bess, etc.) and lots of others from that era often wrote songs on the spur of the moment about some current event, and they just grabbed some melody that was familiar and massaged it around a little.


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Haruo
Date: 15 Jan 02 - 11:41 PM

Actually, Steve, I don't think there's any reason to put the Wreck of the Old 97 in the genealogy of the MTA song; the latter is clearly based directly on the Ship. Wreck and MTA have a common ancestor in Ship, but are siblings or cousins of each other, not lineal relatives.

Liland


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Reiver 2
Date: 19 Feb 07 - 01:17 PM

This thread has been a fascinating read for me. When the Kingston Trio came out with the MTA song, I was aware that it's predecesor was "The Ship That Never Returned, which I had learned as a boy. A version was printed in a small book which I still have, "The Treasure Chest of Homespun Songs," published in 1935 by Treasure Chest Publications, Inc., NY, NY, but with no credit given for the author. That version had only 3 verses and the tune, while the same as the KT's MTA song differs from that in the DT. The lyrics I learned were:

THE SHIP THAT NEVER RETURNED

On a summer's day, while the waves were rippling
With a quiet and gentle breeze
A ship set sail with a cargo laden
For a port beyond the sea.

CHO: Did she ever return? No, she never returned,
    And her fate is still unlearned,
    Though for years and years there were dear ones waiting
    For the ship that never returned.

There were sad farewells, there were friends forsaken
And her fate is still unlearned,
But a last poor man set sail as commander
On the ship that never returned.

And we'll live in peace and joy forever
And enjoy all we have earned,
But they sent him forth with a smile and a blessing
On a ship that never returned.

Although they're not in the version in this book, I also remember verses about the "feeble lad and his aged mother" and also other verses similar to those posted by Dicho. I may have learned them from Carl Sandberg's "American Songbag." (I think The Ship That Never Returned is included in that book, though I don't have a copy of it handy.) I know the song is included in Sandberg's "Flat Rock Ballads" recording, but there are probably variations in the lyrics (I don't have a copy of the recording.) I knew the MTA song was inspired by an actual political campaign in Boston, but didn't know, or had forgotton, the details. Thanks, again Dicho -- and thanks to all who've posted on this thread.

Reiver 2


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: retrancer
Date: 19 Feb 07 - 03:41 PM

I have not listened to the MTA song for years but was flatpicking the wreck of the old 97 the other day as it is one of my standards,. For the way i play old 97, the MTA song would not really fit, it is similar but not the same, since i play (fairly poorly) by ear mostly, I cannot really explain this but the major diff is the chorus melody line where "his fate is still unknown" that will not work with the 97 melody.

I'm fairly new here and think the world of "the cat"


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Sorcha
Date: 19 Feb 07 - 06:30 PM

And I stand corrected.


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 25 Feb 07 - 07:57 PM

Original sheet music for "The Ship That Never Returned," Henry Clay Work, 1885, S. Brainard's Sons, in an arrangement for guitar, as well as voice, is available from American Memory.
The words are in the DT.


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: fumblefingers
Date: 25 Feb 07 - 08:05 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VIaicLSSH4


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Scoville
Date: 26 Feb 07 - 04:10 PM

"Wreck of Old 97" has no chorus so the "did he ever return" part does not fit, but the verse tune is the same. Or essentially the same, with the understanding that we don't all play everything the same way.

I'd say it's a cousin of the MTA song rather than an ancestor but both share either all or part of the tune to "Ship that Never Returned".


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 27 Feb 07 - 12:55 PM

Several of Henry Clay Work's old tunes were reworked or otherwise used in later songs. Discussed above in previous posts.


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Songster Bob
Date: 27 Feb 07 - 10:21 PM

The Boston Metro farecards are called "Charlie Cards."

Thought you'd like that little piece of information.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: leeneia
Date: 28 Feb 07 - 03:19 PM

I think there's been a mix-up here because the trio sang a song that went

Buddy, better get on down the line (2x)
Here comes 97, makin up some time...

It's one of my favorite songs.


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Scoville
Date: 28 Feb 07 - 04:53 PM

Is that like "Buddy, better roll down the line/Yonder comes my darlin' moving down the line" by . . . one of those old guys. Uncle Dave Macon? Grandpa Jones? Dock Boggs? I forget.

I meant the one that has the gruesome verse about "they found him in the wreck with his hand on the throttle/Scalded to death by the steam".


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: retrancer
Date: 04 Apr 07 - 07:17 PM

thats the version i know - scalded to death!!!


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Subject: RE: Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: oldhippie
Date: 05 Apr 07 - 07:24 AM

Co-writer Jacqueline Steiner has a new rendition of MTA; its on her CD Far Afield.


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: The MTA
From: llareggyb (inactive)
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 03:42 AM

I have a sheet music copy of "The Wreck of the Old 97", substantially the same tune & chords (without the refrain), but completely different words (5 verses) from THE WRECK OF 97 in the DT. The style of the narrative is much closer to "The MTA" — I would guess this version, rather than the one in the DT, was the inspiration for the latter.

It dates originally from 1924, by Henry Whitter, Charles W. Noell & Fred J. Lewey (Pub: Shapiro, Bernstein & Co., New York). Unfortunately, I can't post the lyrics here as they appear to be still under copyright (1944 - but wouldn't that have expired by now?), but if anyone can't find the sheet music easily I'll be happy to email you the lyrics or a scan — just send me a message here, or to be sure of catching me email tony@patriarche.net.


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: The MTA
From: llareggyb (inactive)
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 05:26 AM

Oops! I see the above-mentioned lyrics were posted on the thread Lyr Add: Wreck of the Old 97 and are in the DT database under the title WRECK OF OLD 97. Somehow, my search didn't turn up that version. The tune does seem to be closer to the Ballad of the MTA.

BTW, does anyone know if the refrain was written especially for the Kingston Trio MTA version, or does it originate elsewhere (it's not in the Old 97 versions I've seen ... so far, that is).

Tony


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: The MTA
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 07:48 AM

The refrain and the song about Charlie was more based on The Ship That Never Returned than on The Wreck Of The Old (Southern) 97. Henry Whitter wrote "97" along two with others and he first recorded it in the mid 1920's using a modified "Ship" tune. Vernon Dalhart recorded it a bit later along with the Prisoners Song on the flip side. That record is said to have been the first million seller.
I believe that MTA was first recorded by The Almanacs or Weavers and it was a political campaign song.


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: The MTA
From: oldhippie
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 04:28 PM

re: the refrain - why don't you ask the author? Jacqueline Steiner (who co wrote MTA with Bess Hawes), is still around. A slightly different version of the song is on her CD "Far Afield".


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: The MTA
From: Amos
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 04:46 PM

The chords are (in G) G, C, D, and A, or 1-2-4-5 in any key you choose.


A


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Subject: ADD Verses: The MTA Song
From: Joe Offer
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 08:36 PM

This page (click) has a transcription of "The MTA" that has two more verses than the Kingston Trio version. This appears to be the original Hawes-Steiner song.

The Song: "M.T.A."

Let me tell you the story of a man named Charlie
On a dark and fateful day
He put ten cents in his pocket and he kissed his loving family
And he went to ride the M.T.A.

CHORUS:
Did he ever return? No, he never returned
And his fate is still unlearned.
He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston
He's the man who never returned

Charlie handed in his dime at the Kendall Square station
Then he changed for Jamaica Plain
When he got there the conductor told him, "One more nickel!"
Charlie couldn't get off that train.

[Note: The Kingston Trio did not record this verse]
As his train rolled on through Greater Boston
Charlie looked around and sighed
"Well, I'm sore and disgusted and I'm absolutely busted
I guess this is my last long ride."

Now all night long Charlie rides through the tunnel
Saying, "What will become of me?
And, how can I afford to see my sister in Chelsea
Or my brother in Roxbury?

[Note: Hawes and Steiner wrote this stanza but it was not included in the original recording.]
"I can't help," said the conductor
"I'm just working for a living but I sure agree with you
For the nickels and dimes you'll be spending in Boston
You'd be better off in Timbuktu."

Charlie's wife goes down to the Scollay Square station
Every day at a quarter past two
And through the open window she hands Charlie a sandwich
As his train goes rumbling through

Now, citizens of Boston, don't you think it is a scandal
That the people have to pay and pay?
Vote for Walter A. O'Brien and fight the fare increase
Get poor Charlie off that M.T.A.!

The "M.T.A.," by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lomax Hawes. Copyright, Atlantic Music Corp. Above is the original song written in 1949. The Kingston Trio version, recorded in 1959, is available on several Web sites.


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Subject: RE: Origins/Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 09:26 PM

The chorus is a paraphrase of the original "Ship That Never Returned"


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Subject: RE: Origins/Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 18 Sep 08 - 12:56 AM

I sing MTA often at local (Cape Breton) concerts and jams. There are close family ties between Cape Breton Island and Boston so the local audience relates well to the song. I do it more in fun than in protest because the irony is lost, but the story and tune get the folks jumping.


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Subject: RE: Origins/Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: johnross
Date: 18 Sep 08 - 02:28 PM

The original version of "M.T.A.," as recorded for a campaign sound truck, is included in the great 10-CD set, "Songs for Political Action," released on Bear Family in 1966 and still widely available. The singer is "an unidentified vocalist -- probably Arnold Steiner [part of a group of singers who performed at O'Brien's rallies]."

The notes say that it was taken from an acetate that is now in the Smithsonian Folkways collection, but it doesn't seem to exist on any Folkways release.


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Subject: RE: Origins/Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Joe Offer
Date: 18 Sep 08 - 03:14 PM

Johnross refers to the recording of the song on Songs for Political Action, which has lyrics just slightly different from those I posted two messages above. Maybe one us us should get up the energy to post the lyrics from that version. I think you'll notice that the chorus tune of later versions of MTA is different from the original. On the original and on "Ship," the tune of the chorus almost matched the tune of the verses. Was it the Kingston Trio that changed the melody of the chorus?

This page at MIT has some interesting information on the song. I sure would like to see the other songs that Steiner and Lomax-Hawes wrote for the O'Brien campaign.
I think there's a good chance that the recording of the song on Songs for Political Action is older than the published version of the song.

Up toward the top of this thread, some people opined that "MTA" was derived from "Old 97," and was thus a grandchild of "Ship That Never Returned." Note that "97" has no chorus, and that "MTA" has a chorus that is obviously derived from "Ship." So, I guess that MTA and 97 are sister songs, not mother-daughter...

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Origins/Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Joe Offer
Date: 18 Sep 08 - 07:32 PM

One more question for you Bostonians out there. When my sister lived in Duxbury (north of Plymouth), her husband rode the "T" to his job at University of Massachusetts Boston. Is the "T" the same as the MTA, and is that the same as the MBTA? What's the history of the names of the public transportation systems in Boston?
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Origins/Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Joe_F
Date: 18 Sep 08 - 08:29 PM

MTA stood for Metropolitan Transit Authority; its name was changed in 1964 to Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). The MTA included, of course, much more than the subway; but colloquially "the MTA" meant the subway. Likewise, officially, the symbol T (in a circle) stands for all the MBTA services (it appears, e.g., on every bus-stop sign), but colloquially "the T" means the subway.


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Subject: RE: Origins/Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Joe_F
Date: 18 Sep 08 - 08:39 PM

One might note that the Boston subway has spawned another song, viz. Tom Lehrer's Red Line Song. I heard of its existence some years ago, but despaired of finding its text, so I wrote my own, which once I happened on the original I ended up preferring;

H is for our alma mater Harvard,
C for Central Square and City Hall,
K for Kendall, half a mile from nowhere*,
C for Charles Street Station, standing tall,
P for Park Street -- change for Cleveland Circle,
W for Washington: You see,
Put them all together, etc.

*I.e., MIT.


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Subject: RE: Origins/Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: johnross
Date: 18 Sep 08 - 09:44 PM

Simple answer: West End Street Railway > Boston Elevated > Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) > Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA, aka "The T").

When Charlie got on the train in 1949, it was the MTA.

Complicated answer:

The earliest street railway in the Boston area was the Union Railway Co., which ran horsecars from Cambridge to Boston, starting in 1856.

By 1888, several street railways in Boston -- including The Cambridge, the Metropolitan, the South Boston, the Boston Consolidated (a merger of the Middlesex and the Highland) and the West End Street Railways -- merged into the West End Street Railway. The West End started electric service in 1889, and completely replaced horsecars by the end of 1900.

In 1894, the Boston Elevated Railway was chartered to build rapid transit lines. The B.E.R. built America's first subway, which opened in 1897. The B.E.R. leased the property of the West End Street Railway, beginning in 1897.

The Boston Elevated was a private company, but the state took control in 1918, although it was still owned by private investors. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts (the state government) purchased the property in 1947 and created the Metropolitan Transit Authority (the MTA) to operate it. By that time the B.E.R. was a complex system of bus, streetcar, trackless trolley, elevated and subway lines. The MTA's area of operation included the City of Boston and 13 nearby suburban towns and cities.

The MTA was replaced in 1964 by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which served a larger area than the MTA (originally 78 cities and towns, expanded to 175 cities and towns by 1999).

The MBTA gradually either took over operation or subsidized the commuter rail services that had been operated by the Boston & Maine, New Haven, and New York Central Railroads. In 2003, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company (MBCR) took over operation of MBTA commuter rail service.

Meantime, the Bay State Street Railway operated lines all over eastern Massachusetts, and into New Hampshire and Rhode Island. By 1901, it had absorbed 72 earlier independent properties. They entered Boston on the tracks of the Boston Elevated. In 1919, the Eastern Massachusetts Street Railway took over the Bay State, which it converted to an all-bus system by 1949. The MBTA acquired the Eastern Mass. in 1968.

The Middlesex & Boston Street Railway was organized in 1907 was centered in Newton and Waltham, but it covered a wide area west and north of Boston. It was a consolidation of many earlier lines. The M&B connected to the B.E.R at Arlington Heights, Watertown and Brighton (they ran trolleys from Norumbega Park along Commonwealth Avenue in Newton and into the Boston subway on the B.E.R. tracks until 1914). The M&B continued running bus services until 1972, when the MBTA took over its lines.

The Boston & Worcester ran interurban trolley service from 1903 to 1931, and busses until 1988.


Are you confused yet?


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Subject: RE: Origins/Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Sep 08 - 02:18 PM

This Google Image Search brings up some interesting photos of the MBTA. I was amazed by the wide variety of rolling stock in the Boston area. Some lines had quaint, old cars (I like the Green Line best); and others had very modern equipment. When I first rode the MBTA in 1972, I found it more thrilling than a roller coaster. I rode it several times in the late 1990's when my sister lived in the area, and I found it less exciting but quite comfortable.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Origins/Tune Req: The MTA Song
From: Stringsinger
Date: 20 Sep 08 - 12:36 PM

We called it the "rancid transit".

Walter O'Brien's name was changed by the KT because "George" was less controversial,
or they didn't know who Walter A. Obrien was.

He was still alive when the song was popular.


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