Red Sovine – Phantom 309

Reached # 9 on the US Hot Country Songs charts, and stayed a total of 16 weeks on the charts. The first recording was included on Red Sovine's thirteenth studio album, Phantom 309 (Starday Records 1967)

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Lp cover Red Sovine ( Starday 1967 )
Lp cover Red Sovine ( Starday 1967 )

“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.

Versions:

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
mbatllegarriga@gmail.com





Red Sovine – Phantom 309 Lyrics

I was out on the West Coast, tryin’ to make a buck
And things didn’t work out, I was down on my luck
Got tired a-roamin’ and bummin’ around
So I started thumbin’ back East, toward my home town

Made a lot of miles, the first two days
And I figured I’d be home in week, if my luck held out this way
But, the third night I got stranded, way out of town
At a cold, lonely crossroads, rain was pourin’ down

I was hungry and freezin’, done caught a chill
When the lights of a big semi topped the hill
Lord, I sure was glad to hear them air brakes come on
And I climbed in that cab, where I knew it’d be warm

At the wheel sit a big man, he weighed about two-ten
He stuck out his hand and said with a grin
“Big Joe’s the name”, I told him mine
And he said: “The name of my rig is Phantom 309.”

I asked him why he called his rig such a name
He said: “Son, this old Mack can put ’em all to shame
There ain’t a driver, or a rig, a-runnin’ any line
Ain’t seen nothin’ but taillights from Phantom 309.”

Well, we rode and talked the better part of the night
When the lights of a truck stop came in sight
He said: “I’m sorry son, this is as far as you go
‘Cause, I gotta make a turn, just on up the road.”

Well, he tossed me a dime as he pulled her in low
And said: “Have yourself a cup on old Big Joe.”
When Joe and his rig roared out in the night
In nothin’ flat, he was clean out of sight

Well, I went inside and ordered me a cup
Told the waiter Big Joe was settin’ me up
Aw!, you coulda heard a pin drop, it got deathly quiet
And the waiter’s face turned kinda white

Well, did I say something wrong? I said with a halfway grin
He said: “Naw, this happens every now and then
Ever’ driver in here knows Big Joe
But son, let me tell you what happened about ten years ago

At the crossroads tonight, where you flagged him down
There was a bus load of kids, comin’ from town
And they were right in the middle, when Big Joe topped the hill
It could have been slaughter, but he turned his wheel

Well, Joe lost control, went into a skid
And gave his life to save that bunch-a kids
And there at that crossroads, was the end of the line
For Big Joe and phantom 309

But, every now and then, some hiker’ll come by
And like you, Big Joe’ll give ’em a ride
Here, have another cup and forget about the dime
Keep it as a souvenir, from Big Joe and Phantom 309!”

Single Red Sovine ( Starday 1967 )
Single Red Sovine ( Starday 1967 )
SourceGenius
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