Friday, March 17, 2017

Billy Murray – "Low Bridge, Everybody Down" (1912)

Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge, we're coming to a town

I’m almost 65, and I’ve decided that I’m going to retire from the practice of law sometime this year.  

Is it any surprise that I’m finding it harder and harder to haul my ass into the office five days a week?

I played hooky regularly last fall, taking a day off each week to go for a hike or a bike ride and then hitting a brewery or two . . . or three.  But winter eventually arrived, and skipping work to take a hike or go biking isn’t all that attractive a proposition when it’s freezing cold outside.

So when the weatherman said it was going to be unseasonably warm one Wednesday a couple of weeks ago, I made plans to spend the day in the great outdoors.

A CSX train goes through Brunswick
After accompanying my mother to her thrice-weekly 11:00 am exercise class, I hit the road for Brunswick, an old railroad town that’s near the intersection of the Appalachian Trail and the C&O Canal in Frederick County, Maryland.

On the way there, I stopped at a new outlet mall that’s just off the highway.  I spent so much time trying on shoes at the Nike outlet that I didn’t have time to visit any of the other stores at the mall.

I walked out with four pairs of kicks – a personal best for me.  (I realize that buying four pairs of shoes at one time is all in a day’s work for you ladies out there, but I usually limit myself to a pair or two.)

One of my purchases was a replacement for the shoes I use to referee basketball games on weekends:

One was almost identical to a pair I already have.  (I figure if a particular pair of shoes fits just right, why not get a second pair?)

One pair was an incredible bargain – these bad boys only set me back $24.95:

The fourth pair was simply irresistible:

Half an hour after leaving the Nike store, I was in Brunswick, which sits on the Potomac River about an hour northwest of my home.  

Brunswick used to be called Berlin because many German immigrants settled there.  But then some spoilsport pointed out that there was another town named Berlin on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  (Apparently the Post Office wasn’t smart enough to figure out how to distinguish one Berlin, Maryland from the other when it came to delivering the mail.)

A MARC commuter train pulls into Brunswick
Around 1890, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad chose Brunswick to be the site of a six-mile long freight yard along the Potomac.  It was also the home to a B&O locomotive repair works and roundhouse.  For the next five or six decades, Brunswick was essentially a B&O company town.

Today, Brunswick is a little down at the heels, but it has its charms.  In the next 2 or 3 lines, we’ll visit two of the town’s most popular attractions.

*     *     *     *     *

Do elementary-school kids still sing “Low Bridge, Everybody Down” in music class?  

The Erie Canal, which opened in 1825, ran between Albany and Buffalo, New York.  It was 363 miles long, and had 36 locks to handle the east-to-west elevation difference of 565 feet.

Erie Canal mules
The C&O Canal along the Potomac River is half as long as the Erie Canal, but has twice as many locks to overcome its 605-foot elevation change.  It took almost three times as long to complete the C&O as it took to build the Erie Canal (22 years compared to eight years).  

There are a lot of recordings of “Low Bridge, Everybody Down” – which is sometimes titled “Fifteen Years on the Erie Canal,” or simply “The Erie Canal Song.”  

Today we’re featuring a 1912 recording of the song by Billy “The Denver Nightingale” Murray, one of the most prolific recording artists of the early 1900s:


  1. Gary - kids in schools today absolutely do learn "The Erie Canal Song." You might be interested in this page on the song's origins and various versions over the years -

    1. Thanks, Dave – I will check your page out.