Track 20 From Memphis to Cairo

Cairo Ill Map 1861
1861 Map of Cairo, Illinois

Recording and Mixing Dates: April 13-21, 2015. Mixed May 12, 2016.


Genesis: This song took a long time to complete. I came up with the music in the early 1990s. I recall playing it on a grand piano at Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls, Minnesota in July 1994, during a break from recording my first album, Transfer Point. Brent Sigmeth, the recording engineer and co-producer, thought it sounded pretty cool.

I wrote the first set of lyrics on February 10, 2008. I had read a news story about Cairo, Illinois, which recounted how the city had descended into an abandoned, obliterated place. Cairo, pronounced “K-Row” by outsiders and “Care-O” by locals,  sits at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. From the 1860s into much of the Twentieth Century, Cairo was a prosperous town. Merchants and shippers built great Italianate mansions. Photos I have viewed online show these buildings in decay.

I imagined an interior dialogue by a truck driver heading out from Memphis on Highway 51, bound for Cairo. The driver is trying to sort out his life as darkness descends. I revised the lyrics on April 16 and 21, 2015.

The arrangement is spare, though I couldn’t resist playing a guitar solo.

Production: Bass Guitar, Electric Guitar, Electric Piano, Organ, Drums.


From Memphis to Cairo

From Memphis to Cairo

On Highway 51

I’ll get there by midnight

And head back with the sun

Try as I might

To think thoughts of her

As she comes into focus

My mind starts to blur

From Memphis to Cairo

On Highway 51


Staring into twilight

Going back in time

When I was a young man jumping

Into my prime

I’d make my mark

Break all the rules

Now I’m following orders

Written by fools

From Memphis to Cairo

Going back in time


Heading into darkness

I keep losing the thread

Policing my memory

For something I thought or said

Long story short

I’ll make my amends

To long fallen angels

And other loose ends

From Memphis to Cairo

Searching for the thread


From Memphis to Cairo

Where mighty rivers meet

A place that’s so lonesome

Abandoned, obsolete

My destination

If just for the night

After these shadows

I hope for the light

From Memphis to Cairo

Where the mighty rivers meet


Copyright 2016 Fred Grittner All Rights Reserved


Track 20 From Memphis to Cairo

6 thoughts on “Track 20 From Memphis to Cairo

  1. says:

    You came up with another great set of lyrics that really matches the mood of the music. Nice work, Fred.


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