I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow

A throwaway remark in one of Damien Mulley’s posts today went through me like a dagger. The Mystery Train is no more! It’s like a death in the family, or the loss of an old friend. Really, I’m in mourning. I listen to the show every evening as I make my dinner. I might as well just skip my evening meal altogether now that such a vital element of its preparation is no more. The suggestion that I simply switch over to Pet Sounds betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the Mystery Train demographic. We’re just getting too bloody old to care about indie music anymore. Has Tom Dunne played any Blind Willie Johnson recently? Any Bettye Swann? Any Buck Owens? Of course not. We’re soon to be a lost tribe, us Mystery Train passengers, vainly wandering up and down the dial in search of the occasional snatch of Lefty Frizell or Lightnin’ Slim (why do they all have such cool names?).

RTE callously dispose of this abandonment of their neediest listeners with a single sentence: “After 7 years, Mystery Train presenter John Kelly has decided to concentrate on other broadcasting commitments???. “Decided”? Perhaps, but the tone of the sentence is eerily reminiscent of government announcements that “the minister has resigned in order to spend more time with his family???. I’m aware that Kelly will be all over the telly, but that’s not really his medium (In any case, he has what’s euphemistically known as a face for radio). He’s at his best playing records by and telling me stories about American musicians with names like Charlie Feathers, Jelly Roll Morton or Dr. John, The Night-Tripper. Oh, he’s cost me a fortune in CDs that I simply had to buy after hearing tracks played on the show, but that was a cost gladly borne. No price is too great for a Willie Hightower retrospective, as I’m sure you’ll all agree. So sure, maybe I’ll save a little money come September, but I’ll be the poorer in more important ways. The Train has left the station. Dinner will never taste quite so good again.


  • Our crowd use “John is persuing other interests” even though we all saw him and his box of fluff being turfed out the front door.

  • Except they can spell “pursuing” correctly most of the time. You make dinner quite late don’t you?

  • Fergal Crehan says:

    Yes I do eat late, but this is due to a lengthy commute home to Kildare rather than sophisticated, continental style eating habits.

  • auds says:

    I seldom listen to the radio but John Kelly wins over Tom Dunne most days.

    And in a hushed saddo confession, I must admit to checking out the mystery train’s playlist website mid-amazon CD shopping spree to see if there’s anyone else there that I want to buy.

    He’s the true eclectic of Irish radio.
    We should hold a Mystery Train wake and play selected songs from vast CD collections made in part from Mystery Train recommended purchases.

  • […] It was the Irish Blogging Community giving out that Mystery Train was canceled and sharing memories and fondness for it. The “mainstream” told us it was ‘gone, nothing more to see here, move on please’. I’m sure it could be them that start a campaign to find it a new home. […]

  • Kellie S. says:

    I hope someone somewhere is saving the Mystery Train playlists – with the programmme gone, how long will RTE be bothered to leave them on the server?

  • Simon McGarr says:

    Those playlists can be found on the Mystery Train website.

  • […] When I was a callow undergraduate, I was lucky to make one lecture per semester in some modules.  But while I always did quite satisfactorily in the heel of the hunt, there was a great deal wider scope in English and Politics for bringing one’s personal views to bear on what material one had absored than there is in Law or any other subject in which one is presented with a great many details relating to statutory provisions, and the principles to be extracted from case law.  But the law tells a story and it’s not as daunting as it seems at first to pick up on the narrative elements which give that story shape such as the names of the parties to important cases, the actions which gave rise to their litigation, the legal themes at work therein and the legal morals abstracted from it all by their lordships. I’ve been keeping up with blogs, if not real life, over the course of my exams.  I particularly liked the elegiac quality of Fergal Crehan’s goodbye to the Mystery Train – a very sad day.  Fergal’s prose was in fine fettle and verging on the lyrical.  In other Tuppenceworth news, Simon McGarr continued his national gallery podcasts and made great strides altogether in modifying his musical intro and the speed of his delivery.  I was chuckling away the whole time and certainly feel compelled to look again at Francis Denby’s Opening of the Sixth Seal.  I found it expecially poignant as I only use Denby crockery in the domestic sphere. It’s only a pity a picture of the painting couldn’t have accompanied the post – though I presume care with copyright is the reason.  I might even have included the name of the painting in the post title, to sex things up a bit.  People love all that fire and brimstone stuff. […]

  • Liz says:

    I love Starvin Fergal Crehan’s prose on the axing of Eclectic John Kelly. Lets hope Demented Ann Leddy (new Head of Programming, Radio 1) can hear us from here or else there will nothing more for it than a signed petition organised by Screamin’ Hey Lizzie

  • Kellie S. says:

    You mean those playlists WERE on the Mystery Train site – since I made my earlier comment serious linkrot has set in and the archive seems to be disappearing . . .

  • Simon McGarr says:

    Really! That’s a poor showing on RTE’s part. What kind of links are failing now?

  • Kellie S. says:

    Um, I may have panicked prematurely – I was getting Error 404 messages on episodes older than a few days, but they’re working now, so mebbe the server is just getting creaky – it doesn’t make me any more confident about the stuff remaining available long term though.


    I tuned in to Mystery Train here in Norway . John Kelly’s loss to the listening public in Ireland and the Diaspora typifies the drift toward the bland, sanitised, mediocre,in music programmes; his ‘resignation’is the insidious byzantine machination of mandarins and their minions who cannot leave well alone – if it’s not broken, don’t repair it ! AIDAN CONVERY.

  • John Joe Jessop says:

    i check out the playlists all the time when looking for a new cd… i sure hope they leave them up for a while…. i am going to miss the train.

  • Enda O'Driscoll says:

    I have been listening to John kelly since his Radio Ireland programme “the Eclectic Ballroom” and I really think that to axe “The Mystery train” is a bad mistake,because I feel that it is unlikely that anything repcacing it will make for as an interesting a listen as “The Mystery Train” does.For kellys had an eccentric element that no programme planning or presentation could truely copy. I agree that RTE could improve the quality of it’s programming.I also agree that that an apparantly heartless reshuffle is often good and prevents complacency and slackness.But Ana Leddy should realise that what she has is an origional show that is dependant on John Kelly being allowed to produce that origionality and that she won’t get that again.Maybe she doesn’t want it.If so then that’s fine but to my mind it is worth holding on to and besides there is plenty that isn’t

  • John C says:

    Last show, we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so did both. Great party atmosphere here, wake-like, fabulous selection as always, volume 10, and THEN…the announcement that the train will emerge from the tunnel on Lyric FM in October. You could probably hear our whoops from Belfast to Bandon. Bliss.

  • Kev says:

    We’re from Switzerland and we’re shocked. We had only recently compiled a mix as a homage to John Kelly and his show. The mix is available here: http://bundlebit.com/blog/archive/2006/07/03/the-bundlebit-sound-volume-2-now-available.html

  • Joost T says:

    I’m from Holland and I started listening to John Kelly’s Eclectic ballroom while on holiday in Ireland.
    Later I found the Mystery Train on the net. Big loss! I hope he gets a new programm soon an d i can en joy all those nice brazilian covers over the Stones etc..

  • Annette says:

    I was also shocked to find that the Mystery Train is no more. I listened to the show regularly here in France, via the Internet or satellite. There really is no DJ like John Kelly. You are sadly missed up here in the Cevennes mountains, John ! Thanks, Annette

  • AmusicalTrainJourneyLover says:

    Em lads & lassies:
    That thing you were missing in your life … that hole left by the siding of the train … the missing piece has been restored

    Time to take back that part of your life – it’s back: )

    Listen back to his first MT show in 11 years:

    I’m 20kg heavier, lost more grey hair and have replicated myself 1 & 1/2 times but I’m more than happy to update my radio dial … welcome back John!

    Now if they only manage to squeeze the OTB5 onto nightly radio my life would be complete….

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