Monday, April 05, 2010

Show 46 - Sales Tax Blues



Most American (and people around the world) are used to paying sales tax when they make a purchase. In the U.S., most of these taxes were enacted in the 1930s, so it's not surprising that blues songs were written when the taxes were new. the first sales tax was in West Virginia in 1921. The sales tax became law in Georgia in 1929, eleven other states enacted sales taxes by 1933 including Mississippi in 1932. The Mississippi Sheiks and Bo Carter recorded this song about the subject with a little introductory skit in 1934:

Say Walter, we need some cigarettes. Let's go in here and get a pack.
Ok
Hello boys, what can I do for you?
I'll have a pack of cigarettes
Alright. Here you are. Be three cents more though
What's that for?
Sales tax. Haven't you ever heard of sales tax?
Sure haven't
What's gonna happen next, man? You know they got a law here they call the sales tax
Sales tax? What is that for?
That's three cents tax on everything that's sold. They say that's the government's rule.
The government's rule? Well there's a lot of things sold that the government knows anything about them
Well, I'll just sing you a little song about these sales tax:


These times now ain't suiting me, corn is costing a dollar and three
Oh, the sales tax is on it, oh, the sales tax is on it
Oh, the sales tax is on it, everywhere you go


Old Aunt Martha lived behind the jail
A sign on the wall saying: "Liquor for Sale"
You know, the sales tax is on it, oh, the sales tax is on it
Oh, the sales tax is on it, everywhere you go


I never seen the like since I've been born
The women got the sales tax on the stuff at home
Oh, the sales tax is on it, oh, the sales tax is on it
Oh, the sales tax is on it, everywhere you go


You know the sales tax is a pain
You used to could buy it for a dollar a round
Now sales tax is on it all over town

Oh, the sales tax is on it, oh, the sales tax is on it
Oh, the sales tax is on it, everywhere you go


I'm as lovin as a woman can be
The stuff I've got'll cost you a dollar and three
Oh, the sales tax is on it, oh, the sales tax is on it
Oh, the sales tax is on it, everywhere you go


Now, you may take me to be a fool
Everything is sold buy the government's rule
You know the sales tax is on it, oh, the sales tax is on it,
Oh, the sales tax is on it, everywhere you go
That version of the sheiks featured brothers Lonnie and Bo Chatmon (Carter) with Walter Vinson on violin. They were talking about everything now costing a dollar and three. And even the bootleggers and the prostitutes charging that extra 3 cents in sales tax for for every dollar. Two years later another great band featuring brothers explored the same theme. It's the Harlem Hamfats with Charlie and Joe McCoy singing Sales Tax on It (But It's the Same Thing).

Listen here boys, don't start no fuss
About these women, selling their stuff
Cause it's the same thing, it's the same thing
They got the sales tax on it, but it's the same thing


Some sell it high, some sell it low
It's done gone bad, and they can't sell it not more
Cause it's the same thing, it's the same thing
They got the sales tax on it, cause it's the same thing


Now I'm going up the river, to sell your sacks
It'll be here, when you get back
Cause it's the same thing, it's the same thing
They got the sales tax on it, but it's the same thing


I done been up the river, sold my sacks
I can buy, but I can't pay no tax
But it's the same thing, but it's the same thing
They got the sales tax on it, but it's the same thing


Big mama told me, little mama told me too
"Come on home, let that do"
Because it's the same thing, it's the same thing
They got the sales tax on it, cause it's the same thing


Went out last night, sure I could be fooled
Tried it once, broke my tool
Cause it's the same thing, but it's the same thing
They got the sales tax on it, but it's the same thing
Yet another brother band explored the them of sales tax on women. This time on the white country side of the fence. The Dixon Brothers of North Carolina recorded Sales Tax on the Women in 1936:

You may sales tax the flour, the lard, and the meat
Take the pennies away from me and my pals
You may sales tax everything that we have to eat
But don't put a tax upon the gals


One cent, two cents, three cents in cash
That's the way my money goes spending
But take off my hat and hit me with a bat
If you put the sales tax on the women


Now don't put the taxes on the good-looking girls
Although I know the pennies have to go
Well I wouldn't have it done for a hundred or more
The boys wouldn't stand a bit of show


One cent, two cents, three cents in cash
That's the way my money goes spending
But take off my hat and hit me with a bat
If you put the sales tax on the women


I love the little girls with their lovely little curls
If that is wrong, I hope I will repent
I would sure be sore and I couldn't love no more
If I had to pay the taxes as I went


One cent, two cents, three cents in cash
That's the way my money goes spending
But take off my hat and hit me with a bat
If you put the sales tax on the women


That's the way it goes, Uncle Sam knows
He's just torturing me and my pals
We would die with the blues without any shoes
If you put the sales tax on the gals


One cent, two cents, three cents in cash
That's the way my money goes spending
But take off my hat and hit me with a bat
If you put the sales tax on the women


Well I don't mean any harm when I step out at night
Happy times with the ladies I've spent
Sales taxes on the kisses just wouldn't be right
In my pockets I would never have a cent


One cent, two cents, three cents in cash
That's the way my money goes spending
But take off my hat and hit me with a bat
If you put the sales tax on the women

Let's get a way from the sales tax to finish up with a couple songs about different kinds of taxes. Here's a piano player who called himself Monkey Joe singing about a fishing tax in a pretty funny song called Taxes on My Pole"

I want to fish out of town, doggone my bad luck soul
I want to fish out of town, doggone my bad luck soul
If I fish out of town I've gotta pay taxes on my pole


I put good bait on my hook, then I stick my pole in the ground
I put good bait on my hook, I stick my pole in the ground
Then I lay back on the thing, just to see my carp(?) go up and down


I've got a long fishing pole, I use the best bait in town
I've got a long fishing pole, I use the best bait in town
The women run after me, just the same as I was a country clown


I've been fishing in Lake Michigan, baby I've fished in there all the time
I've been fishing in Lake Michigan, baby I've fished in there all the time
The reason I fish in Lake Michigan, I don't have to pay taxes on this pole of mine.
A few years later in 1951, folks were of course stil complaing about taxes. Ralph Willis recorded Income Tax Blues where he states his feleling about the sales tax, income tax and other taxes:

I got my income tax this morning, yes and it's gotta be paid
I got my income taxes this morning, yes and it's gotta be paid
It's a shame, it's a shame, no one taxes what my boss made


Tax on my electric, tax on my gas, I'll soon be paying tax on my yes, yes, yes
I got my income taxes this morning, yes it's gotta be paid
It's a shame, it's a shame, no one taxes what my boss made


I went to buy a pack of cigarettes, taxes up three cents
Walked out to my backyard, they put a doggone tax on my fence
I got my income taxes this morning, yes and it's gotta be paid
It's a shame, it's a shame, no one taxes what my boss made


Tax on my electric, tax on my gas, I'll soon be paying tax on my yes, yes, yes
I got my income taxes this morning, yes and it's gotta be paid
Well it hurts me yes it do, though they forget to tax my boss' made


I went to buy a cake of soap, taxes up three cents
Walked out to my backyard, they put a doggone tax on my fence
I got my income taxes this morning, yes and it's gotta be paid
It's a shame, it's a shame, though they forget to tax my boss' made


Tax on my electric, tax on my washing machine, soon be no tax left, boys, on a ten-dollar bill
I got my income taxes this morning, yes and it's gotta be paid
It's a shame, it's a shame, though they forget to tax my boss' made
Nobody likes extra cash leaving their pockets and that's why these songs pop up when new taxes are introduced. It's fascinating to see these musicians immediately consider the money that's exchanged that's beyond the vision of the government. And as always, as in ever situation in life, taxes have these men thinking about women.

Songs:
Sales Tax - Mississippi Sheiks and Bo Carter
Sales Tax on It (It's the Same Thing) - Harlem Hamfats
Sales Tax on the Women - Dixon Brothers
Taxes on My Pole - Monkey Joe
Income Tax Blues - Ralph Willis