The railroad’s romantic – more so than any other form of transportation, and there’s no better way to convey that romance than through music. That’s what Ridin’ the Rails is all about, using music and story-telling to convey every imaginable nuance surrounding America’s love affair with everything railroad.
Hailing from Nashville, Ridin’ the Rails will perform “Celebrating the Railroad in Song and Story” on Saturday, Aug. 24, at 7 p.m. at the Depot in Newark Valley (Depot Street), and is sponsored by the Newark Valley Historical Society.
Founder and music arranger Darrell Varley reports that the idea for Ridin’ the Rails came from a friend in Upstate New York who own a Lionel Train set. That friend suggested they call themselves “The Freight Yard Hobo Band,” but Varley sought to be more inclusive, wanting to explore every aspect of everything railroad. Some believe Ridin’ the Rails has found and has performed just about every song there is related to the railroad, including “Petticoat Junction” and “Ever Gentle on My Mind.”
Varley displays his talent on the banjo, guitar, ukulele, fiddle and mandolin, while fellow rail riders Doug Roberts adds his guitar and ukulele and Jim Hardaway adds bass and guitar. All three offer nicely blended vocal harmonies.
According to their website, “With great music, humorous banter, and sing along songs, a performance with Ridin’ the Rails is always a fun and exciting time that keeps audiences calling for more.” That combination cannot fail to entertain. And in what better location to enjoy such an event than in a restored railroad depot?
So don’t take the “Wabash Cannonball” or the “Fast Train to Georgia” or even the “Night Train to Memphis.” Instead, enjoy Ridin’ the Rails performing those songs along their “Sentimental Journey” in Newark Valley’s own railroad depot.
Varley is locally known as the arranger, bass-baritone vocalist, and banjo, guitar, and fiddle and mandolin player of the Cobblestone Crossing – Greater Binghamton’s “best-known folk band” until their retirement in 2015. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, and he has operated Douglas Media Productions in Binghamton, producing commercial radio and television audio.
Native of Kentucky, Roberts, while watching the Beatles first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, began begging his parents for a guitar. Before long his pleas were answered in the form of a used Silvertone acoustic, and he set out teaching himself to play. By 14, he was the lead guitarist of a college rock band. Roberts spent over 20 years in radio until opening The Roberts Communications Group, producing radio and television commercials.
Hardaway is a Tennessee native, born in Murfreesboro, but raised in Nashville. A Vanderbilt University grad, a former Methodist minister, longtime history and Americana expert, and country-folk music buff, he now operates a historic tours business.
Come and relive the glory days of rail travel – by Pullman car and boxcar, with the engineer and in the caboose. Tickets are $10, available at each prior Depot Friday Night or by calling (607) 642-9516 and leaving a message with your name and phone number.