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Well you wake up in the morning, hear the ding dong ring,
You go a-marching to the table, see the same damn thing
Well, it's on a one table, knife, a fork and a pan,
And if you say anything about it, you're in trouble with the man
Let the midnight special, shine her light on me
Let the midnight special, shine her ever-loving light on me
If you ever go to Houston, you better walk right, you better not stagger, you better not fight
Sheriff Benson will arrest you, he'll carry you down
And if the jury finds you guilty, penitentiary bound
Yonder come little Rosie, how in the world do you know
I can tell her by her apron, and the dress she wore
Umbrella on her shoulder, piece of paper in her hand
She goes a-marching to the captain, says, "I want my man"
"I don' believe that Rosie loves me", well tell me why
She ain't been to see me, since las' July
She brought me little coffee, she brought me little tea
Brought me damn near ever'thing but the jailhouse key
Yonder comes doctor Adams, "How in the world do you know?"
Well he gave me a tablet, the day befo'
There ain't no doctor, in all the lan'
Can cure the fever of a convict man

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  • t
    Tony CopelinSep 16, 2013 at 5:10 pm
    The original lyrics said you are Sugar Land bound,not penitentiary bound.This was because the main prison near Houston was the Central unit in Sugar Land. The railroad tracks ran right in front of Central. They just closed that prison to make room for expansion of the airport. This was also the same unit shown in the movie the Sugar land Express. I live less than 5 minutes from this prison and love the history of that place. Even after closing the Central unit they have at least 5 other units to hold prisoners.
  • p
    Perry BarberAug 18, 2013 at 9:44 pm
    I'm watching a program on C&I TV (Crime and Investigation) titled "Big House: Parchman," about Parchman State Prison in the northwestern section of Mississippi. The tale of how Huddie Ledbetter, known as Lead Belly, came to write "Midnight Special" while he was a prisoner in that hell hole is absolutely fascinating. The Midnight Special was a train that carried the wives and girlfriends of inmates to the prison from southern Mississippi, and it would arrive at the camp about dawn. Legend held that if the headlight of the train shone upon an inmate waiting for his woman to arrive (Parchman allowed conjugal visits,) she would be holding the inmate's pardon and he would be set free. There's footage of Lead Belly in the standard Parchman "ring around," the familiar horizontally-striped uniform, singing the song, just he and his guitar, while his fellow inmates sit listening in rapt attention.

    Parchman was, and still is, a blight on the American justice system: a 20th century means of maintaining a 19th century system of subjugation, slavery. Three quarters of the inmates were black men when it first came into existence in the early 1900s, and the prison was run on the plantation model, with inmates performing hard labor for the monetary benefit of the state. It currently has close to five thousand beds, and is also the site of Mississippi's Death Row. Until 2002, when lethal injections became the preferred instrument of death, Parchman used the gas chamber. IN 2012, 43 prisoners were executed there, a pace of about one execution every eight or nine days. As accurately and as recently as I can determine, there are currently twenty inmates on Parchman's Death Row awaiting a similar fate.

    "Yonder come little Rosie... piece of paper in her hand.
    She goes a-marching to the captain, says, 'I want my man.'
    Let the Midnight Special shine her light on me.
    Let the Midnight Special shine her everlovin' light on me."

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