Noticing the enthusiastic response his shows were getting, James Brown pitched the idea of a live album to label boss Syd Nathan. When Nathan refused, Brown went it alone, spending $5,700 of his own money on taping a 1962 session at Harlem's Apollo Theater. To Nathan's surprise, Live at the Apollo was a rapid seller, spending 66 weeks on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart, peaking at #2. This song was the record's closing track.
Live at The Apollo was ranked #25 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
"Night Train" was first recorded by Jimmy Forrest as a 12-bar blues instrumental in 1951 and was penned by the jazz musician with guitarist Oscar Washington. It became a #1 R&B hit for Forrest the following year and a big band version recorded by trombone player Buddy Morrow and his orchestra the same year also reached #27 on the pop charts. The song quickly became a staple theme of R&B combos and the rock and roll instrumental group The Viscounts returned the tune to the charts in 1960 peaking at #82 and American arranger Richard Hayman peaked two positions higher with his version the following year.
Several different sets of lyrics have been set to the tune of "Night Train"; James Brown's version features a shouted list of of his regular East Coast tour venues along with many repetitions of the song's name. Originally appearing as a track on the album James Brown Presents His Band and Five Other Great Artists, it received a single release in 1962 and became a hit, peaking at #35 on the Pop chart.
James Brown's version is played during the bar fight scene of the 1998 action comedy film, Rush Hour.