Desperados Waiting for a Train

Album: Old No. 1 (1975)


  • In this classic Country song, Guy Clark tells the story of a boy who idolizes an old man who showed him the ropes. As he watches the man grow older, he sees him become just like all the other old men. Throughout the song, he compares this man and himself to desperados waiting for a train - something that seems exciting and dangerous, but in the end is quite mundane.
  • In our 2011 interview with Guy Clark, he told us, "It's a true song about someone in my life - I mean, you couldn't have made that up. It's just as true as you could make it. It was about a guy who was like my grandfather. And when I started writing songs, that was one of the songs I knew I was gonna write at some point."
  • The Country supergroup The Highwaymen, consisting of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson, did this song on their debut album Highwayman. Jerry Jeff Walker and Nanci Griffth are among the other artists to record it. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Julian - Oakland, AR
  • The song featured a young Steve Earle as one of the backing vocalists. Forty-four years later, Earle released Guy, a tribute album to his songwriting hero Guy Clark. Among the Clark covers he recorded was this song.

Comments: 5

  • Bitsy Kegg from Beaumont TexasJust reminiscing about Jerry Jeff guy Clark and the good old boys
  • Atrost7 from Delhi, California, UsaI just heard another artists version of this song on the radio today. I'm not sure who it was, but it got me thinking about the lyrics & that led me here. I agree with what others say, that the song is about the older man waiting for the end, but I'd like to think there is more to the words. Desperado. A desperado is a desperate & reckless man, usually thought of as one "on the run" a criminal or outlaw. A line to look at is, "desperados waiting for a train" Notice desperados is plural, not just the old man is a desperado waiting for the train.
    Another great line that deserves to be looked at is, "To me he's one of the heroes of this country"
  • Intensity from Cash, TexasMoon (short for "Shoot the Moon") and 42 are domino games. Old folks and us "Sothrons" still play them.
  • David from EnglandDesperados waiting for a train, what is moon and 42?
  • Barfly from Somwhere, MiIf I interpret the song correctly it's about about a young man who has idolized this older man all his life as you aptly pointed out above. But the "desperado waiting for a train" is his the young man seeing the old one as just sitting around with what's left in his life waiting for the inevitable. The "desperado" being the old man and the "the train" being death. As he says at the end: "Yeah, Jack, you know that sum-bitch is coming."
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