Charles Lindbergh – the Spirit of St. Louis and Bluegrass Music

This post comes from our semi-regular correspondent, Richard Thompson. He writes from England, where he is also a longstanding contributor to British Bluegrass News, a quarterly print publication where he also briefly served as editor.

Joe Ross - Spirit of St. LouisBluegrass singer/songwriter Joe Ross contacted me a few days ago to remind me of the significance of today; the 80th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s historic trans-Atlantic flight.

On May 20 1927, pioneering aviator Charles Lindbergh Jr. took off in the Spirit of St. Louis from Roosevelt Field, near New York City, at 7:52 A.M. He landed at Le Bourget Field, near Paris, on May 21 at 10:21 P.M. Paris time (5:21 P.M. New York time). Thousands of cheering people had gathered to meet him. He had flown more than 3,600 miles (5,790 kilometers) in 33 1‚ÅÑ2 hours.

Lindbergh’s heroic flight thrilled people throughout the world and he was honoured with awards, celebrations, and parades. President Calvin Coolidge gave Lindbergh the Congressional Medal of Honour and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts in the field of aviation.

Joe recently wrote and recorded a song, The Spirit Of St Louis, for his latest CD, a 12 track collection released earlier this year (Zephyr 0430), in which he relates the story of this important event in aeronautical history.

Here he shares some information about the way the song came to be ……

“The seed was planted for The Spirit of St. Louis when I read a newspaper article in 1987 (upon the 60th anniversary of Lindy’s flight). To accurately write such a historical account involves considerable research to get the facts right. One DJ told me that airplay of the song resulted in considerable calls from listeners who both enjoyed and learned from the song. A caller mentioned that he was very impressed by the accuracy of the account.

After drafting an initial version of the song, I also rented the 1957 movie with Jimmy Stewart called The Spirit of St. Louis. It ran for over two hours. It had been directed by Billy Wilder but wasn’t particularly thought of as a hit because of too many dull and trite scenes, and too many sequences showing Lindy flying solo on his 3600-mile, 33.5-hour journey.

That’s one reason I wanted my song to be up-tempo and move right along, as well as being in a minor key to create a certain feel of tension, adventure and discovery.”

Joe has also kindly given me permission to publish the lyrics to his song here.


(Joe Ross / Hop High Music, BMI)
Lindbergh’s famous flight across the Atlantic in 1927 is put to music here. What an evocative story of hard work and determination that was!

In the year of twenty-seven, they said it could be done,
To fly across the ocean, headin’ for the sun,
So a group of men and women, worked for sixty days,
On a plane that would make history on the 20th of May.

They called upon a young man who called Detroit his home,
To fly the mighty Spirit that shone like polished chrome,
The man was tall and slender, Lindy was his name,
And he would fly the mighty plane as if it were a game.

Oh the Spirit of St. Louis, it was a mighty plane,
It could do loops in the air or ride a hurricane,
On that day in twenty-seven, the plane made history,
By crossing the Atlantic from New York to Par-ee.

When the time came for their takeoff, he boarded with a prayer,
As the sun reflected off the prop and cast a shiny glare,
He wondered what would lay ahead and why he’d took the dare,
To cross the wide Atlantic, in sleepless solitaire.

One man wished him luck, he answered with a swear,
“I hope my plane will make it, for I haven’t got a spare,
I only hope this plane will fly and that I won’t get wet,
For if I do then I’ll have seen my very last sunset.”

From that muddy, sodden airfield in the state of New York,
The plane began to climb, the propeller with its torque,
Pulled the Spirit of St. Louis into the breezy air,
For over thirty hours they would ride a wild mare.

It was ten o’clock at night when he landed in Par-ee,
The French were very happy for he’d cross the mighty sea,
He climbed out of the cockpit, so brave and debonaire,
Thanked the Spirit of St. Louis for getting’ him safely there.

Today, Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis is housed in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. It is one of the museum’s most popular attractions.

For those who are interested in furthering their knowledge of Charles Lindbergh, there are a few books about him that are available from various sources. I can recommend Lindbergh Flight’s Enigmatic Hero by Von Hardesty, the Curator, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Foreword by Lindbergh’s grandson and commercial pilot, Erik Lindbergh A Tehabi Book.

Footnotes: Assisting Joe Ross on the recording of the song The Spirit Of St Louis were Ron Stewart, Randy Kohrs, Jason Heald and Al Brinkerhoff.