Red Sovine – Phantom 309, or “Big Joe … and Phantom 309”, a song written by Tommy Faile, was recorded by Red Sovine for Starday Records, in April 1967, at Starday Sound Studio, 3557 Dickerson Road, Nashville, TN With the production of Tommy Hill, the song was released in May 1967, on October 21, 1967, reached # 9 on the US Hot Country Songs charts, and stayed a total of 16 weeks on the charts.
Red re-recorded the song and returned in 1975 for the Gusto label at Gusto Recording Studio, 3557 Dickerson Road, Nashville, TN. In the 1975 version, it reached number # 47.
The first recording was included on Red Sovine’s thirteenth studio album, Phantom 309 (Starday Records 1967), the album peaked at # 18 on the US Top Country Albums charts.
About the song:
The song tells of a hitchhiker (the singer, in first person) trying to return home from the West Coast. On the third day of his trip, while at a crossroads in a driving rain, the hitchhiker is picked up by “Big Joe” driving his tractor-trailer named “Phantom 309.” After driving through the night, Big Joe drops the hitchhiker off at a truck stop, gives him a dime for a cup of coffee, then disappears out of sight.
Once inside, the hitchhiker tells of Big Joe’s generosity and the waiter tells him he had been the beneficiary of a “ghost driver” (a variant of the vanishing hitchhiker / truck driver urban legend). Ten years earlier, at the same intersection where he was picked up, Big Joe had swerved to avoid hitting a school bus full of children because he could not stop due to his truck’s momentum. But in doing so, he had lost control of his truck and crashed; he had died in the wreck. The waiter tells the hiker that he was not the first; the ghost of Big Joe had been known to pick up other hitchhikers over the years.
Del Reeves 1968 (United Artists Records)
John Laws 1971 (RCA Australia)
Keith Manifold 1974 (Westwood)
Tom Waits 1975 (Asylum)
Lee Conway 1975 (Image)
Country Road 1976 (Pickwick)
Nev Niolchols 1981 (Telmak)
Boxcar Willie 1991 (Object Enterprises)
Miquel Batlle Garriga