About the song

Ah, yes, Elvis Presley’s “Frankfort Special” (1958). Now that’s a song that takes you back to a very specific moment in American music history. Let’s delve into this lesser-known gem from the King’s early career.

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First, a bit of context. By 1958, Elvis was already a bona fide rock and roll phenomenon. His debut album, released in 1954, had sent shockwaves through the music industry, and his electrifying live performances were captivating audiences across the nation. However, there was still a strong undercurrent of skepticism from some corners. Critics often dismissed him as a passing fad, a mere flash in the pan.

“Frankfort Special” arrived amidst this critical tension. It wasn’t a chart-topping hit like “Hound Dog” or “Heartbreak Hotel,” but it offered a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of the young Elvis. Here, we see him straddling the line between the raw, rebellious rockabilly sound that made him famous and the more polished country influences that were part of his musical upbringing.

The title itself is a playful reference to Frankfort Distilleries, a Kentucky-based liquor company. While the song doesn’t explicitly endorse any product, it taps into a playful, almost subversive energy that was characteristic of early rock and roll. It’s a subtle wink to a younger audience, a way of saying, “Hey, we’re having a good time here, and we’re not afraid to challenge the status quo.”

Musically, “Frankfort Special” is a delightful blend of styles. The driving rhythm section, featuring a prominent slap bass, lays down a foundation that’s unmistakably rockabilly. But then, there’s the prominent piano work, which injects a touch of country swing into the mix. Elvis’s vocals are equally captivating. He delivers the lyrics with a youthful swagger, his voice brimming with an infectious energy that’s impossible to resist.

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The lyrics themselves are fairly simple, telling the story of a young man who’s out on a Friday night, looking for a good time. He mentions dancing with a “cute little number” and feeling the rhythm take hold. There’s a sense of carefree joy in the song, a celebration of youthful exuberance that resonates even today.

“Frankfort Special” may not be one of Elvis’s biggest hits, but it holds a special place in the hearts of many fans. It’s a reminder of his incredible versatility as a performer, his ability to seamlessly blend different musical styles. It’s also a testament to the enduring power of rock and roll, a genre that was born from a spirit of rebellion and continues to inspire generations of musicians and listeners alike.

Video

Lyrics

“Frankfort Special”
(from “G.I. Blues” soundtrack)

Is this train the Frankfort Special
Now ain’t this outfit something special
Well, we heard rumors from the bases
Frankfort girls got pretty faces

Go, Special go. Blow whistle, blow
Frankfort Special’s got a special way to go
Whao – oh – oh

Now when we get to our headquarters
We’ll be good boys and follow orders
Now don’t take girls from one another
No! No! No! No! No!
We’ll treat a sailor like a brother

Go, Special go. Blow whistle, blow
Frankfort Special’s got a special way to go
Whao – oh – oh
Round wheels singin’ on a long flat track
Boiler bustin’ to blow its stack
Towns and villages flyin’ by
Farewell frauleins, don’t you cry
You’ll soon get another G.I.

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Come on, train, and get the lead out
Well, one more day we gotta sweat out
Frantic frauleins at the station
They’re ready for a celebration

Go, Special go. Blow whistle, blow
Frankfort Special’s got a special way to go

Go, Special go. Blow whistle, blow
Frankfort Special’s got a special way to go
Whao – oh – oh

Come on, train, and get the lead out
Well, one more day we gotta sweat out
Frantic frauleins at the station
They’re ready for a celebration

Go, Special go. Blow whistle, blow
Frankfort Special’s got a special way to go
Whao – oh – oh
Whao – oh
Whao – oh, whao – oh, whao – oh, whao – oh, whao – oh,
Whao – oh, whao – oh, whao – oh