How the "Destination Victoria Station " album came to be

A few months after Victoria Station had signed Johnny Cash to do our radio commercials, he said to me, "Tom, can you do me a favor?" 

Of course I said yes. Johnny went on to explain that he wanted to record an album of train songs, and he wanted to know if Victoria Station would get involved. He would write the album title song, "Destination Victoria Station," about the famous Victoria Station train station in London.

We would purchase the albums and sell them in our restaurants or use them for promotion. He said he had already talked to his contact at Columbia Records and they would sell them to us for a pretty reasonable price. Columbia would require an order of 50,000 albums and all Johnny expected from us was to give him 2,000 albums. All parties agreed to the deal.

I had the pleasure of going to Johnny's recording studio, The House of Cash, in Hendersonville, Tennessee, and approve each of the songs to be used in the album. Rich Flack, from our advertising agency, accompanied me. Both Rich and my initials are on the album jacket cover binding as co-producers--it was pretty heady stuff.

Johnny would have one of his previously recorded train songs played and I would give him a thumbs up or thumbs down. I about fell over when Johnny said to me, "I want to re-record my voice on Orange Blossom Special because I was stoned when I recorded it the first time."

He insisted that Orange Blossom Special be included on the album and the original song track be kept, "Because there is a short segment where Boots Randolph is on the saxophone."

I turned down two songs that Johnny had previously recorded: "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and "City of New Orleans" because Joan Baez and Arlo Guthrie, who had recorded them, had done such an excellent job that Johnny's versions weren't up to his usual quality.

When I said no to each song, he switched on the mic from behind the glass in the studio and said, each time, (with a smile), "Damn, Tom, you're being hard on me today."

What a great honor to be partially responsible for this collection of classics on this album.

Tom Blake

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© 2019 Tom Blake

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