Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Show 52 - Ford Blues



Transportation is one of the most common themes in the blues. These were men and women who like to get around. Walking and trains come up often, but by the 1920s when recording blues became common, it was the car that was dominating American culture. Blues musicians sang about all kinds of makes and modes, but this time we’re gonna look at songs about Fords. The mass production of the Model T had made Ford the car of the people. A lot of bluesmen may have wanted a Cadillac, but they were driving a Ford.

In DB Blues, Blind Lemon Jefferson singing about a few different kinds of cars after he shows up in his new Ford:
(Oh, here come Lemon in that new Ford sedan. Oh, listen to the motor roar.)


Who is that coming, hey, with his motor so strong?
I say, who is that coming, hey, with his motor so strong?
That's Lemon and his DB, people thinks he's got his good luck(?) on


Gonna get out of my four-cylinder Dodge, I'm gonna get me a Super Six
Get out of my four-cylinder Dodge, get me a Super Six
I'm always around the ladies, and I like to have my business fixed


I'm crazy about a Packard, but my baby only rates a Ford
I'm crazy about a Packard, my baby only rates a Ford
A Packard is too expensive, Ford will take you where you want to go


Come here, brownskin, listen to my motor roar
Come here, fair brown, and listen to my motor roar
Because my Super Six sufficient to take you where you want to go


I never did like no horses and I never could stand no seal(?)
I never did like no horses, I never could stand no seal(?)
Every since I'm old enough to catch a brown, give me the automobile
Blind Lemon Jefferson mentions driving a Ford along with Dodges, Packards, and the Super six that was a model from Hudson. DB stands for Dodge Brothers.

Sleepy John Estes recorded Poor Man’s Friend (T Model) in 1937. The Model T was out of production by 1927, so this was probably an older song when recorded in 1937. But the T-Model was clearly an iconic automobile at that point:
Well, well, when you see it in the winter, please throw your winder over in the bin
Well, well, when you see it in the winter, I want you to throw your winder over in the bin
Well, well, probably next spring, I want to rig up my T-Model again


Well, well, a T-Model Ford, I say, is a poor man's friend
Well, well, a T-Model Ford, I say, is a poor man's friend
Well, well, it will help you out, even when your money's thin


Well, well, one thing about a T-Model, you don't have to shift no gear
Well, well, one thing about a T-Model, you don't have to shift no gear
Well, well, just let down on your brake and feed the gas and the stuff is here


Well, well, a V-8 Ford, and it done took to start
Well, well, a V-8 Ford, and it done took to start
Well, well, it reach all the way from ninety down to a hundred miles


Well, well, somebody, they done stole my winder out on the road
Well, well, somebody, done stole my winder out on the road
Well, well, let's find somebody got a T-Model Ford

The Model T did have to be started with a hand crank, that;'s probably the winder that Estes refers to.

Roosevelt Sykes recorded a song named for the founder of the Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford Blues from 1929:
Now, lady, won’t you let me drive your Ford
Now, miss lady won’t you let me drive your Ford
Now I ain’t your chauffeur, but I can’t hold it anymore


Now there was a woman, now she owned a Chevrolet
Now there was a woman, now she owned a Chevrolet
Now she been driving fourteen years, hasn’t had an accident yet


Now I tried so hard to treat my baby right
Now I tried so hard to treat my baby right
I tried so hard to keep down a fuss and a fight


You talking about your brick house, lord, you ought to see my frame
Now you spoke about your brick house, you ought to see my frame
I don’t take up no time with no goo dame


There was a late model car, it was named Roosevelt’s straight eight
There was a late model car, it was named Roosevelt’s straight eight
Lord the good lord must be righteous for me to drive it into your back gate

Cedar Creek Sheik’s real name was Philip McCutchen he recorded in Charlotte, NC in 1936 including Ford V-8:

Soon as I get my record all straight
Put my money in a Ford V-8
Lord, and I ain't gonna walk no more


Drive into Charlotte from the Baltimore
Park my Ford in Miss Etta Prince door
Lord, gonna play my radio


Now, Pete and Frances lying in the bed
Pete turned over and Frances said
Lord, she don't credit no more


Now, soon as I get my record all straight
Put my money in a Ford V-8
Lord, I ain't gonna pray no more


Some pray to the altar, I pray out the gate
I start gearing on the Ford V-8
Lord, and I sure won't pray no more


Sue in Charleston want to be convinced
Wish I'd married to Miss Etta Prince
And Lord, then I won't be lonesome no more


Dave Hardee and Booth Key sitting on a log
Hands on a trigger, eye on a hog
Lord, Jimmy ain't gonna credit no more


Some pray to the altar, I pray in the road
Ask God to give me John Henry Ford
Lord, I sure won't pray no more


Some pray to the altar, I pray out the gate
Ask God to give me one of the Ford V-8
Lord, and I sure wouldn't want no more


Some pray to the altar, I pray in the field
Ask God to give me an Oldsmobile
Lord, and I sure wouldn't want no more


Now, soon as I get my record all straight
I'm gonna buy a Ford V-8
Lord, and I ain't gonna walk no more


I'll drive in Charlotte from the Baltimore
Park my Ford in Miss Etta Prince door
Lord, want to play my radio

The car radio was commercially introduced by the Galvin manufacturing company in 1930. Radios were being commonly installed in cars including Fords when that song was recorded in 1936.

Joe Williams recorded Brother James in 1937. It has to be one of the earlier warnings about drunk driving:

Brother James went out riding, riding in that ’29 Ford
Brother James went out riding, riding in that ’29 Ford
That poor man was drinking bad whiskey, well boys he sure done lose his soul


Lord I went out in Greenville, looked down in brother James' face
I says sleep on brother James, I'll meet you Resurrection Day


Lord brother James died under surgery and he didn't have the time to pray
Brother James died under surgery, didn't have the time to pray
I said goodbye brother James, ooo well I'll meet you Resurrection Day


Now he left sister Lottie, trying to save her wicked soul
She ain't going to drink no more whiskey, ooo well boys going to ride no ’29 Ford


I went to the graveyard and I peeped down in brother James' face
Lord I went to the graveyard and I peeped down in brother James' face
Says you know you died drunk brother James and you didn't have no time to pray


Farewell brother James, hope we will meet some day
Farewell brother James, hope we will meet some day
I will be at the fishing table, ooo well when they send brother James away

Cleo Gibson only recorded two blues songs. One of them was I’ve Got Ford Movement in My Hips in 1929. It plays on a vaudeville era song “Elgin movement in My Hips”. Elgin movement was a slogan of the Elgin watch company refrring to the precision of the internal working of their timepieces. The phrase entered popular culture and showed up in many songs, most notably in the blues in Robert Johnson’s Walking Blues. Here, Cleo Gibson, say a watch is nothing, I’ve got a car in my hips:
Now listen kind folks what I have to say
Happened about a week ago
All about Valentino down to Loving Joe


Valentino, he was smooth, such as a Packard and such
But Loving Joe was like a Ford, handling a little bit too rough
Now you know all about the machine
Got a movement you ain't never seen


I’ve got Ford engine movements in my hips
Ten thousand miles guarantee
A Ford is a car everybody wants to ride, Jump in, you will see


You can all have a Rolls Royce, your Packard and such
Take a Ford engine boys to do your stuff
I've got Ford engine movements in my hips, ten thousand miles guarantee
I say ten thousand miles guarantee


I’ve got Ford engine movements in my hips
Ten thousand miles guaranteed
A Ford is a car everybody wants to ride, Jump in, you will see


You can all have a Rolls Royce, your Packard and such
Take a Ford engine boys to do your stuff
I've got Ford engine movements in my hips, ten thousand miles guarantee
I say ten thousand miles guaranteed

Kid Prince Moore recorded Ford V-8 Blues in 1938 comparing his woman to cars:
My girl is shaped like a Cadillac, she shift like a v-8 Ford
She’s shaped like a Cadillac, she shift like a v-8 Ford
When she shift from 1st to 2nd to high she said baby I ain’t got my load


She’s long and tall, you know she’s little and slim
She’s long and tall, you know she’s little and slim
The way she shift her gears, you know she’s bound to win


I used to have a gal everybody called a Cadillac 8
I used to have a gal everybody called a Cadillac 8
She could not burn enough gasoline to keep my third gear straight


I trade my Cadillac and got myself a Ford v-8
I trade my Cadillac and got myself a Ford v-8
When she starts to burning gas, I mean she just won’t wait


She can burn it all day, she loves to burn it at night
She can burn it all day, she loves to burn it at night
She starts her motor to running, her carburetor starts just right

Walter Roland is best known as a piano player and accompanist to Lucille Bogan. He also played guitar on his own records including T-Model Blues:
Said it's mmm baby mmm baby mmm
Said it's mmm baby mmm baby mmm
Say you know you do not love me like I say I love you


Say you know these here women sure do treat me mean
ooo, these here women sure do treat me mean
You know I ask one for a drink of water, she give me gasoline


Says mmm baby, you won't do nothing you say
Says mmm baby, you won't do nothing you say
You know you told me you love me but what about that man I seen you with the other day


These here women would call themselves a Cadillac, ought to be a T Model Ford
These here women would call themselves a Cadillac, ought to be a T Model Ford
You know they got the shape all right but they can't carry no heavy load


Says you know I'm going to sing this here verse now, ain't going to sing no more
Says you know I'm going to sing this here verse now, ain't going to sing no more
Because you know I've got to go home and get on my old lady because she won't come back no more

With the Model T, Ford made cars affordable they became the car of the common people. This could be both an insult and praise. Some men wanted something fancier, some just appreciated their Ford, whether it was an actual car or a woman.

Songs:
DB Blues - Blind Lemon Jefferson
Poor Man's Friend (T-Model) - Sleepy John Estes
Henry Ford Blues - Roosevelt Sykes
Ford V-8 - Cedar Creek Sheik
Brother James - Big Joe Williams
I've Got Ford Movements in my Hips - Cleo Gibson
Ford V-8 Blues - Kid Prince Moore
T-Model Blues - Walter Roland

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

My itunes did not update the podcast for a long time. Finally got around to looking into what was happening. I am now happily subscribed to your new podcast. Keep up the great work! It is much appreciated.

barbad said...

Buddy Moss' I'm going to your funeral in a V8 Ford?

(Great Podcast BTW)

Erica Tierney said...

It's good to drive by with good music on the background, especially when you're traveling. I also prefer rhythm and blues music rather the hard core rock and roll ones.

Edward Greene said...

Might as well say that the genre blues was created basically for the passengers and driver of an automobile way back Ford's time. It's quite understandable cause the rhythm and blues genre gives a relaxing and soothing feeling to whoever hears it and that is what I think a driver needs to calm himself upon traveling.

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