Promised Land

Chuck Berry

About Promised Land

"Promised Land" is a song lyric written by Chuck Berry to the melody of "Wabash Cannonball", an American folk song. The song was first recorded in this version by Chuck Berry in 1964 for his album St. Louis to Liverpool. Released in December, 1964, it was Berry's first single issued following his prison term for a Mann Act conviction. The record peaked at #41 in the Billboard charts on January 16, 1965. In the lyrics, the singer (who refers to himself as "the poor boy") tells of his journey from Norfolk, Virginia, to the "Promised Land", Los Angeles, California, mentioning various cities in Southern states that he passes through on his journey. It has subsequently been performed by numerous other artists, notably the Grateful Dead. 


Year:
1984
166 

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I left my home in Norfolk Virginia
California on my mind
I Straddled that Greyhound,
and rolled in into Raleigh and all across Carolina

Stopped in Charlotte and bypassed Rock Hill
And we never was a minute late
We was ninety miles out of Atlanta by sundown
Rollin' out of Georgia state

We had motor trouble it turned into a struggle,
Half way 'cross Alabam
And that 'hound broke down and left us all stranded
In downtown Birmingham

Right away, I bought me a through train ticket
Ridin' cross Mississippi clean
And I was on that midnight flier out of Birmingham
Smoking into New Orleans

Somebody help me get out of Louisiana
Just help me get to Houston town
There are people there who care a little 'bout me
And they won't let the poor boy down

Sure as you're born, they bought me a silk suit
Put luggage in my hands,
And I woke up high over Albuquerque
On a jet to the promised land

Workin' on a T-bone steak a la carte
Flying over to the Golden State
Oh when The pilot told me in thirteen minutes
We'd be headin' in the terminal gate

Swing low chariot, come down easy
Taxi to the terminal zone
Cut your engines, cool your wings
And let me make it to the telephone

Los Angeles give me Norfolk Virginia
Tidewater four ten O nine
Tell the folks back home this is the promised land callin'
And the poor boy's on the line

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Chuck Berry

Charles Edward Anderson "Chuck" Berry (born October 18, 1926) is an American guitarist, singer and songwriter, and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. With songs such as "Maybellene" (1955), "Roll Over Beethoven" (1956), "Rock and Roll Music" (1957) and "Johnny B. Goode" (1958), Chuck Berry refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive, with lyrics focusing on teen life and consumerism and utilizing guitar solos and showmanship that would be a major influence on subsequent rock music. more »

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Written by: Chuck Berry

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management

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2 facts about this song

Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry originally wrote and recorded "Promised Land" in 1965. The song was released on Chess Records, a historic label famous for blues and early rock and roll. - Critics regard "Promised Land" as Chuck Berry's geographical love letter to America. It details a journey from the East Coast to the West Coast, mentioning numerous cities and states along the way. - The song's lyrics, framed as a telephone call, were written while Berry was incarcerated in 1961-1962. Despite his circumstances, the song's energetic pace and upbeat rhythm convey a hopeful message. - Chuck Berry's "Promised Land" draws inspiration from "The Wabash Cannonball," an American folk song about a fictional train.
Grateful Dead
The version of "Promised Land" by the Grateful Dead is a cover of Berry's original, and became a staple in the band's live repertoire. - The Grateful Dead first began performing the song live in 1971, appearing in over 400 concerts within their career. - Jerry Garcia, the lead guitarist of Grateful Dead, cited Chuck Berry as a significant influence on his guitar style, which can be heard in their rendition of "Promised Land." - The band's performances of "Promised Land" were often improvised, following their approach of transforming covers into unique interpretations. Their versions varied in length, style, and energy depending on the show. - In some live recordings of the Grateful Dead's version, the band tweaks the lyrics to express their countercultural roots. For example, in a 1972 performance in San Francisco, instead of singing, "Los Angeles, give me Norfolk, Virginia," the band sings, "Los Angeles, forget about Norfolk, Virginia," reflecting their West Coast allegiances. - The song is featured in the Grateful Dead’s 1972 live album "Europe '72: Vol. 2" and many other live albums. - 'Promised Land' was often used as an opening song in concerts by the Grateful Dead, setting the tone for the rest of the live performance.

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    Promised Land

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    Top Hot 100 Songs 1965

    Billboard #41


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