Great Northern

(Composed and arranged by Reynold D. Philipsek copryrght 2005 Zino-Rephi Music BMI)

Violin-Gary Schulte
Accordion-Patrick Harison
Acoustic Bass-Mike Zeleny
Recording engineer-John Hammond
Recorded spring of 2005

“The Great Northern” was an old hotel/beer joint (Joe, my dad, called it a “flophouse”) about six blocks from the neighborhood I grew up in. It was near the railway yard for the Great Northern railroad. This ramshackle, three story, yellow-brick structure stood directly adjacent to the tracks. There were always several parked boxcars nearby with the “Rocky the Goat” Great Northern logo emblazoned on each one. I often picked up flattened pennies I had left on the tracks (strategically placed) a day or two before.

My mom warned me to stay away from this dilapidated and somewhat sinister establishment at dusk, when the jukebox could be heard blasting Country songs, and the bleary-eyed barflies stumbled out singing wobbly-pitched arias. A yellowed sign in the cracked front window said “Tap Beer-Two Bits.”

Even years later, just thinking about this place brings back the smell of stale beer, which wafted out a full block before you approached the building. From that perspective, the song gets close to the mark. 

Plus the “train” theme does comes across as well. Even now, the sound of a distant train has some nostalgic pull.

(By the way, Patrick plays a button accordion which does not have keys, which means the melody side of the instrument also has buttons).

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