For no particular reason, other than I saw Tom Waits’s name on my Rhapsody (scaredy-cat legal online music) list:

I remember hearing a country song/story called “Big Joe and Phantom 309” (en Español “Big Joe y Fantasma 309”) sometime in the ’70s. Hated it. Don’t know who was doing it — probably Red Sovine, who wrote it – but I hated it. There was something kind of smug and obvious in the story-telling. Then sometime in the late 1980s, my brother John put on a record that Kate had in her collection but I hadn’t listened to. Tom Waits, “Nighthawks at the Diner,” which was not a new album, with a live version of the same number. Wow, what a great track. Yeah, he hams it up. Still, he makes the song his own enough that you believe it really is his story.

“…Yeah, it was just about that time that the lights of an ol’ semi topped the hill
You should’ve seen me smile when I heard them air brakes come on
Yeah, and I climbed up into that cab where I knew it’d be warm
At the wheel… well, at the wheel sat a big man
And I’d have to say he must’ve weighed two ten
As he stuck out a big hand and he said with a grin
‘Big Joe’s the name, and this here rig’s called Phantom 309’

“Well, I asked him why he called his rig such a name
And you know, he turned to me and said
‘Why son, don’t you know this here rig’ll be puttin’ ’em all to shame
Nah, there ain’t a driver
No, there ain’t a driver on this or any other line for that matter that…
That’s seen nothin’ but the taillights of Big Joe and Phantom 309′
So we rode and we talked the better part of the night
And I told my stories and Joe told his
And I smoked up all his Viceroys as we rolled along
Pushed her ahead with 10 forward gears
Man, that dashboard was lit like the old Madam La Rue pinball
Serious semi truck. …”

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