Phantom 309

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"Phantom 309"
Single by Red Sovine
Released 1967 (U.S.)
Format 7"
Recorded 1967
Genre Truck-driving country
Length 3:31
Label Starday Records
Writer(s) Tommy Faile
Producer(s) Don Pierce[1]

"Phantom 309" is a song written by Tommy Faile and released as a single by Red Sovine in 1967.


The song tells of a hitchhiker (the singer, in first person) trying to return home from the West Coast. On the third day of his trip, while at a crossroads in a driving rain, the hitchhiker is picked up by "Big Joe" driving his tractor-trailer named "Phantom 309." After driving through the night, Big Joe drops the hitchhiker off at a truck stop, gives him a dime for a cup of coffee, then disappears out of sight.

Once inside, the hitchhiker tells of Big Joe's generosity and the waiter tells him he had been the beneficiary of a "ghost driver" (a variant of the vanishing hitchhiker/truck driver urban legend). Ten years earlier, at the same intersection where he was picked up, Big Joe had swerved to avoid hitting a school bus full of children because he could not stop due to his truck's momentum. But in doing so, he had lost control of his truck and crashed; he had died in the wreck. The waiter tells the hiker that he was not the first; the ghost of Big Joe had been known to pick up other hitchhikers over the years.

Tom Waits version[edit]

The song was later recorded by Tom Waits with slightly different lyrics. This version was covered by Archers of Loaf on 1995's Step Right Up: The Songs of Tom Waits.

Other covers[edit]

Other artists who have recorded "Phantom 309" include Dave Dudley, Del Reeves, Ferlin Husky, and Boxcar Willie. Johnny Cash's song "Like The 309", posthumously released in 2006's American V: A Hundred Highways, pays tribute to the original. Stan Ridgway's 1986 UK top 5 hit "Camouflage", about a ghostly marine, was inspired in part by this song.