If you ever come to see the Tim Crahart Blues Band live one of the covers you’ll almost certainly hear us play is Taj Mahal’s “She Caught The Katy”, a classic American train song.
Tim will tell you that I always insist on including a few train songs in the set as I am the band’s resident train driver, a statement that is (almost) true.
I first heard “Katy” in the opening minutes of the “Blues Brothers” movie where the song accompanies Belushi’s release from Joliet. The song itself was first included on Taj Mahal’s album “The Natch’l Blues”, released in 1968 on the Columbia label and has since been covered by many artists including Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor.
The song refers to the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, which became known as the Miss Katy and sported this badge in it’s livery.
“The Katy was the first railroad to enter Texas from the north. Eventually the Katy’s core system would grow to link Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri; Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Dallas, Fort Worth, Waco, Temple, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, and Galveston, Texas. An additional mainline between Fort Worth and Salina, Kansas, was added in the 1980s after the collapse of the Chicago Rock Island And Pacific Railroad, this line was operated as the Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas Railroad (OKKT).” (source – wikipedia).
The opening verse of the song tells us ‘she caught the Katy, left me a mule to ride’. There is no definitive answer to what is meant here by a ‘mule’. In American railway jargon a mule most often refers to a brakeman, working in a freight yard. The term was also sometimes used to refer to a slower train, or even a handcart. As the MKT was an express this definition makes most sense. Of course, he may have just been stuck riding a horse/donkey hybrid. I guess we’ll never know for sure