Shorty George, Lead Belly, 1935
Well-a Shorty George, he ain't no friend of mine
He's taken all the women and left the men behind
Well-a Shorty George, he done been here and gone
Lord he left many a poor man a great long way from home
Well my baby caught the Katy, I caught the Santa Fee
Well, you can't quit me, baby, can't you see
Well I went to Galveston, work on the Mallory Line
Traditionally the Shorty George was the train that took convicts (and visitors) to and from the prison.
In 1934 Alan Lomax recorded James Baker (Iron Head) with a version of "Shorty George", at Central State Farm, Sugarland, Texas.
"Along that prison runned a narrow-gauge track and down that track about sunset came whistling a little gasoline motor car. It was on this train that the women who had come out for a Sunday with their men-folks leave the prison. "Because it's such a runty little train," the convicts had named it Shorty George, but they sang about it as if it were one of those favored men, like John Henry, who could get a woman by a crook of the finger".
I'll write about The Katy and The Santa Fee in a next episode.
Galveston is a coastal city located on Galveston Island and Pelican Island in the U.S. state of Texas.
During the 1920s and 1930s Galvestonians accepted and supported illegal activities, often referring to their island as the "Free State of Galveston".
Mallory Line / Clyde-Mallory Line
Mallory Line, New York (1866-1932), was one of the old family-owned passenger lines in the coastwise trade. The line connected New York with Galveston, Texas, and later expanded with routes to New Orleans, Havana, and Mobile. In 1932 it combined the lines with those of the old Clyde Line under the name of the Clyde-Mallory Line. Clyde-Mallory Line was sold in 1949 to the Bull Line and the company name disappeared.