Little Black Train

Album: The Carter Family Album (1935)


  • The "little black train" represents death. Like many songs the Carter Family popularized, it was based on a gospel hymn the dates back to the 1800s. The song is telling the listener to get right with God before the light goes out.
  • The writing credit on this song goes to A.P. Carter, who along with Mother Maybelle Carter and Sara Carter, formed the group at this time. A.P. accumulated many songwriting credits by adapting hymns for a more contemporary audience. In many cases, the Carter Family arrangements became the standards for these songs.
  • Woody Guthrie also did a popular arrangement of this song with a different set of lyrics. His version was copyrighted in 1965.
  • Mother Maybelle Carter's granddaughter Carlene Carter recorded a modern version for her 2014 album Carter Girl. In our interview with Carlene, she said: "When you hear the original recording of 'Little Black Train,' Grandma and Sara are singing in these little tiny hillbilly voices and a completely different guitar thing and a different feel. And I thought, This needs to be more rocking."


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