“Desperados Waiting for a Train” is a song that Guy Clark penned. Originally, Jerry Jeff Walker was the first to record the track for his 1973 album Viva Terlingua. Afterward, several others covered “Desperados Waiting for a Train”. To name them: Second was Rita Coolidge’s. She placed it in her 1974 album Fall into Spring. The next was David Allan Coe where he made it part of his third album, The Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy (1974). In the same year, Tom Rush’s album Ladies Love Outlaws had the same song in it. Before, Clark’s own rendition was released on his first LP, 1975’s Old No. 1.
In September 1985, the American country music group the Highwaymen released it as a single. It was the second single from the album Highwayman. The song occupied the 15th spot on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.
When the Highwaymen recorded “Desperados Waiting for a Train”, the supergroup landed on their most touching song. While “Highwayman” may have been the foursome’s signature, “Desperados Waiting for a Train”, dovetailed with their own outlaw legacy. They may not have been pushing 80 as Clark’s lyrics go:
All four were only in their late 40s or early 50s
However, it is impossible to think of the Highwaymen as anything but elder statesmen of country music.
The Real Man Behind “Desperados Waiting for a Train”
In this Country song classic, Guy Clark shares the story of a boy who looks up to an old man who showed him the ropes. As he watches the man grow older, he sees him become just like all the other old men. As you listen to the song’s entirety, he compares this man and himself to desperados waiting for a train. A life compared to something exciting and dangerous, but it is quite ordinary in the end.
Sometime in 2011, an interview with Guy Clark shared that the song was truly about someone in his life. He jokingly said, too, that he could have just made it up. On the other hand, it is just as true as someone could ever make it. He added that the track was talking about a guy who was like his grandfather. Finally, h admitted that when he started writing songs, Clark strongly believed that it was one of the songs he was going to write at some point. Guy Clark stated that the song is about his grandmother’s boyfriend named Jack who was like a grandfather to him.
Members of the Western Writers of America chose “Desperados Waiting for a Train” as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.
desperados waiting for a train, The Highway Men