Vermont Music Train Draws Fans From All Over


Stacey Nakasone had a choice to make: fly from her home in Los Angeles to Japan to learn more about taiko drums or take a 50-mile train ride in Vermont.

For Nakasone and about 50 other people this fall, Vermont it was.

The destination was the East Coast’s first visit by the “Roots on the Rails” series, which since 2003 has developed a cult-like following that combines rail trips with music, while bonding passengers to one another and to the musicians.

“You become addicted,” said Nakasone, who has been making the trips since 2009 after reading a news story about a much longer Western trip.

Roots on the Rails grew out of a trip a group of musicians took from Toronto to a music conference in British Columbia in 2000. Along the way, the musicians just wanted to play, said founder Charlie Hunter, a former music promoter and a painter of aging American infrastructure who now lives in Bellows Falls.

He soon began to run trains in the U.S. and Canada, most of which travel for about a week. Since the program began, he has run about 40 trips on what he calls “a carefully curated mini-music festival on board a train.”

“The rhythms of American music are inexorably tied in with the rhythms of the rails,” said Hunter on the Nov. 7 Vermont trip as the train — seven cars including four passenger cars — rattled over the tracks along the 50-mile route between Bellows Falls and Rutland.

He dubbed the chartered Vermont train “The Green Mountain Express.” He hopes that next year the train can continue north from Rutland to Burlington and, perhaps after that, elsewhere on the state’s rail network.

The trips are marketed to fans of the musicians who play the broad genre of country-folk. Hunter called one of the musicians on this week’s trip, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, one of the most distinctive voices in the genre over the last 40 years. The other acts are all well-known in their own way, he said.

Jack and Claudia Gaffey, of Kensington, Maryland, members of the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners, rode the Amtrak Vermonter to Vermont so they could ride the music train. Unlike many who made the trip, this was their first Roots on the Rails trip, but they’ve already signed up for a longer trip next summer out West.

“It’s very soothing to listen to music inside a train. It was a completely different experience I’ve never had before and I’ve ridden many trains,” Claudia Gaffey said. “The rhythm of the train goes into the rhythm of the music, and it combines in a really nice, sensory way.”


November 12 ~ Today in Music



OCMS 1833 ~ Alexander Borodin, Russian composer
More information about Borodin

.1920 ~ Jo Stafford, Singer

.1925 ~ Louis Armstrong recorded “My Heart”, starting a career that brought him worldwide fame.

.1939 ~ Lucia Popp, Czech soprano

.1940 ~ Walt Disney released “Fantasia”. One critic called the film “As terrific as anything that has ever happened on the screen.”

.1941 ~ Hot Lips Page performed the vocal for Artie Shaw’s very long and very slow version of St. James Infirmary on RCA Victor.

.1943 ~ Brian Hyland, Singer

.1943 ~ John Maus, Bass, singer with the trio, The Walker Brothers

.1944 ~ Booker T. Jones, Musician with Booker T and the MG’s

.1945 ~ Neil Young, Canadian folk-rock singer, songwriter and guitarist, with Crosby,Stills, Nash & Young

.1948 ~ Errol Brown, Songwriter with Tony Wilson singer with Hot Chocolate

.1950 ~ Barbara Fairchild, Singer

.1955 ~ Leslie McKeown, Singer with The Bay City Rollers

.1967 ~ Pearl Bailey took over the lead in the Broadway musical, “Hello Dolly”. ‘Pearlie Mae’ was a smash hit in the role.

.1970 ~ After a successful London run, Anthony Quayle starred in the Broadway opening of “Sleuth”.

.1980 ~ John Lennon’s “Starting Over” was released. John and Yoko were seen kissing on the record cover.

.1983 ~ Lionel Richie began the first of four consecutive weeks at the top of the music charts as All Night Long (All Night) became the most popular song in the U.S.

.2001 ~ Broadway composer Albert Hague, who won a Tony for his work on Redhead and who played the part of cranky music teacher Benjamin Shorofsky in the Fame movie and television series, died of cancer. He was 81. Hague composed the music for many Broadway shows, including The Fig Leaves Are Falling, Plain and Fancy, Cafe Crown and Miss Moffat, which starred Bette Davis. He won his Tony in 1959. He also wrote the music for the animated TV classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas and appeared in a number of movies, including the Michael Jordan- Bugs Bunny comedy Space Jam, in which he played a psychiatrist. It was his long-running role as white-bearded, German-accented teacher Shorofsky that brought him to Los Angeles. He played the part for five years on TV. Other TV acting credits included guest appearances on such shows as Hotel, Beauty and the Beast and Tales From the Dark Side. Born Albert Marcuse in Berlin, Hague fled his native Germany for Rome with his mother in 1937 after the Nazis came to power. He eventually settled in the United States, where he studied music at the University of Cincinnati and was adopted by Dr. Elliott B. Hague, an eye surgeon. In recent years, he and his late wife, actress Renee Orin Hague, had a successful cabaret act, appearing at Carnegie Hall two years ago.

.2003 ~ Guy Livingston, a theater maven and journalist who reviewed stage performances for Variety, died. He was 92. After serving in World War II, Livingston became a drama critic for Variety, traveling between Boston and New York reviewing musicals. Later, he became a press agent for many musicals, as well as for musical artists, among them Judy Garland, Nat ‘King’ Cole and Ray Charles.

.2003 ~ Tony Thompson, the driving force behind such groups as Chic and the Power Station, and a drummer whose effortless ability to move from jazz to rock to funk made him a prized session man, died of renal cell cancer. He was 48. The drummer was noted not only for keeping perfect time but also for subtle cymbal syncopation and raw power, talents that kept him in demand as a session player for such stars as Madonnas, David Bowie, Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle and Sister Sledge. By the late 1970s, Chic was one of the most popular groups of the disco era. The group sold millions of records beginning with the hit single Dance, Dance, Dance in 1977. Other hits included the singles Le Freakand Good Times and the albums C’est Chic and Risque. After the group disbanded in 1983, Thompson kept busy as a session player, appearing on Sister Sledge’s We Are Family album in 1979, Bowie’s Let’s Dance in 1983 and Madonna’s Like a Virgin in 1984. He also appeared on Mick Jagger’s solo album She’s The Boss in 1985. That same year, Thompson and others formed Power Station. The group’s hits included Some Like it Hot.