Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Show 59 - Walking the Street


Prostitution was illegal almost everywhere in the United States by the blues era. But, of course it was everywhere. Most blues songs on the subject address women walking in the street trying to find a trick. There’s no sign of the brothels that are often thought to be a higher class form of prostitution. Call girls that can be reached by telephone don’t seem to turn up either. In the blues, it’s the street walking woman. Some of the songs are poignant and touching descriptions of life of the street, others are pretty funny. Let’s start with a woman who chronicled prostitution in several songs. Georgia White’s Walking the Street:

Stood on the corner til my feet got soaking wet
Stood on the corner til my feet got soaking wet
These are the words I said to each and every man I met
If you ain't got a dollar, give me a lousy dime
If you ain't got a dollar, give me a lousy dime
I've got to beg and steal to please that man of mine
My feets are blistered just from walking these lonesome streets
My feets all blistered just from walking these lonesome streets
I've been walking all night like a police on his beat
Wait a minute mister, mister, give me a cigarette
Wait a minute minute mister, give me a cigarette
Stop your car, let me in, I've got what you should get
I've got these streetwalking blues, I ain't got no time to lose
I've got these streetwalking blues, I ain't got no time to lose
I've got to make six dollars just to buy my man a pair of shoes
Like Georgia White, Memphis Minnie was named for her Southern roots, but resided in Chicago by the mid-thirties. Down in the Alley is probably about the dangers of working the streets in that town.
I met a man, asked me did I want a pally
Yes, baby, let's go down in the alley
Take me down in the alley
Take me down in the alley
Take me down in the alley
And I can get my business fixed all right
Well, I met another man, asked him for a dollar
Might have heard that mother-for-you holler
Let's go down in the alley
Let's go down in the alley
Let's go down in the alley
Take me down in the alley
And I can get my business fixed all right
When he got me in the alley, he called me a name
What I put on him was a crying shame
Down in this alley
Down in this alley
Down in this alley
Where I got my business fixed all right
You got me in the alley, but don't get rough
I ain't gonna put up with that doggone stuff
Way down in this alley
Down in this alley
Down in the alley
Got me down in the alley, now my business fixed all right
(spoken:Woo, it's dark
Can't see no light
Got to feel my way out this alley
I'm sure gonna stop working at night)
You took me in the alley, you knocked me down
Now I'm gonna call every copper in this town
You got me down in the alley
Way down in the alley
You got me down in the alley
Now you got your business fixed all right

(spoken: Boys, I'm sure gonna stop working, and walking late at night, especially when you gotta do it in the alley)
Memphis Minnie recorded Tricks Ain’t Walking No More in 1931 about the difficulty of finding a trick during the hard times of the Great Depression.
Times has done got hard, work done got scarce
Stealing and robbing is taking place
Because tricks ain't walking, tricks ain't walking no more
Tricks ain't walking, tricks ain't walking no more
And I'm going to grab somebody if I don't make me some dough
I'm going to do just like a blind man, stand and beg for change
Tell these tricking policemen change my second name
Because tricks ain't walking, tricks ain't walking no more
Tricks ain't walking, tricks ain't walking no more
And I've got to make some money, I don't care where I go
I'm going to learn these walking tricks what it's all about
I'm going to get them in my house and ain't going to let them out
Because tricks ain't walking, tricks ain't walking no more
Tricks ain't walking, tricks ain't walking no more
And I can't make no money, I don't care where I go
I got up this morning with the rising sun
Been walking all day and I haven't caught a one
Because tricks ain't walking, tricks ain't walking no more
Tricks ain't walking, tricks ain't walking no more
And I can't make a dime, I don't care where I go
I got up this morning, feeling tough
I got to calling my tricks and it's rough, rough, rough
Because tricks ain't walking, tricks ain't walking no more
Tricks ain't walking, tricks ain't walking no more
And I have to change my luck if I have to move next door
Atlanta's Curley Weaver recorded his take on Tricks Ain’t Walkin’ No More in 1935 providing a male perspective and some humorous verses:
Tricks ain’t walking no more, babe, tricks ain’t walking no more
Tricks ain’t walking no more, babe, stay away from my door
I got a gal, she’s little and low
Used to have a trick, but she don’t no more
Now tricks ain’t walking no more, babe
Tricks ain’t walking no more
I said tricks ain’t walking no more
Tricks ain’t walking no more, babe, tricks ain’t walking no more
Tricks ain’t walking no more, babe, stay away from my door
Two fat women laying in the shade, waiting on the money the monkey man made
Tricks ain’t walking no more, babe, tricks ain’t walking no more
I said, tricks ain’t walking no more
Tricks ain’t walking no more, babe, tricks ain’t walking no more
Tricks ain’t walking no more, babe stay away from my door
I got a gal she’s long and tall, sleeps in  in the kitchen with her head in the hall
Tricks ain’t walking no more, babe, tricks ain’t walking no more
Tricks ain’t walking no more, babe, tricks ain’t walking no more
Tricks ain’t walking no more, babe, stay away from my door
Sue’s out running every day, trying to drive her friends away
Tricks ain’t walking no more, babe, tricks ain’t walking no more
I said, tricks ain’t walking no more
Tricks ain’t walking no more, babe, tricks ain’t walking no more
Tricks ain’t walking no more, babe, stay away from my door
Come in hot mama you long and tall, shake for me like a cannonball
Tricks ain’t walking no more, babe, tricks ain’t walking no more

Sonny Boy Nelson recorded Street Walkin’ Woman about the difficulty of living with a woman that's walking the streets:
Nobody knows street walking woman like I do
Well, nobody knows street walking woman like I do
She’ll keep you up all night long, then will spend your money too
She’ll come home every morning with a rag tied on her head
She’ll come home every morning with a rag tied on her head
And if you speak about loving, man, she’ll swear she’s almost dead
She won’t cook you no breakfast, clothes ain’t never clean
She won’t cook you no breakfast, and your clothes ain’t never clean
But she can spend more money than any woman that you’ve ever seen
Sometimes she will say “Baby, I love you so”
Sometimes she will say “Baby, I love you so”
And again she will tell you to pack your clothes and go
I don’t want no woman that walks the streets all night
I don’t want no woman that walks the streets all night long
She will spend all of your money and then won’t want to treat you right
Memphis Jug Band recorded the metaphor-filled She Done Sold it Out in 1934:
You know I had a gal, she run a java shop
I asked her how about it, not a crust in that shop
You ought to know she done sold it out
You ought to know she done sold it out
You ought to know, you oughta know, she done sold it out
You know a man walked in, say have you any eggs
Say I'll sell you some meat, if you furnish your bread
You ought to know she done sold it out
You ought to know she done sold it out
You ought to know, you oughta know, she done sold it out
Now the butcher's in the market they begin to pout
She sold all their meat and the butchers could not sell out
You ought to know she done sold it out
He ought to know she done sold it out
He ought to know, you oughta know, she done sold it out
You know they taken her before the judge, the judge asked me what is your name?
Cooncan Suzie and my mother was to blame
He ought to know she done sold it out
He ought to know she done sold it out
He ought to know, you oughta know, she done sold it out
You know the judge said little girl, you know you're rather bold
You can sell me some meat just before you go
He ought to know she done sold it out
He ought to know she done sold it out
He ought to know, you oughta know, she done sold it out
I'm going to the races, see my pony run
I believe I can find something just begun
He ought to know I done sold her out
He ought to know I sold my racehorse out
He oughta know, he oughta know, I done sold him out out out.

Georgia White recorded a humorous take on the subject I’ll keep Sitting on It:


If I can't sell it, keep sitting on it
Before I give it away
You've got to buy, don't care how much you want it
I mean just what I say
Just feel that nice old bottom built for wear or tear
I really hate to part with such a lovely chair
If I can't sell it, keep sitting on it
Before I'll give it away
If I can't sell it, I'll keep sitting on it
Before I'll give it away
You've got to buy, don't care how much you want it
I mean just what I say
When you want something good you've got to spend your jack
I guarantee you will never want your money back
If I can't sell it, I'll keep sitting on it
Before I'll give it away
If I can't sell it, keep sitting on it
Before I give it away
You've got to buy, don't care how much you want it
I mean just what I say
When you want something good you've got to spend your jack
I guarantee you'll never want your money back
If I can't sell it, I'll keep sitting on it
Before I'll give it away

In these blues songs, prostitution is presented largely without judgment. It’s shown as a tough life, where sometimes you need to laugh. Having to walk the streets is a classic blues situation. 

Songs:
Walking the Streets - Georgia White
Down in the Alley - Memphis Minnie
Tricks Ain't Walking No More - Memphis Minnie
Tricks Ain't Walkin' No More - Curley Weaver
Street Walkin' Woman - Sonny Boy Nelson
She Done Sold It Out - Memphis Jug Band
I'll Keep Sitting On It - Georgia White

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Show 58 - Dirty Dozens



I recently finished reading Elijah Wald’s book called The Dozens: A History of Rap’s Mama. The dozens is a game of trading insult wordplay, sometimes it rhymes, sometimes it doesn’t, it often involves talking about your opponent’s mama. The book covers the pre-blues period to recent hip-hop and a lot of things beyond the world of music. But there are some prewar blues songs that are great examples of the game and at least one that really affected it’s evolution. So, we’ll start there with Speckled Red’s very funny hit from 1929, The Dirty Dozen.

Now, I want all you womenfolks to fall in line
Shake your shimmy like I’m shaking mine
You shake your shimmy and you shake it fast
You can’t shake your shimmy, shake your yes, yes, yes

Now you’s a dirty mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip you in the dozen, your pappy is your cousin
Your mama do the lordy-lord

Yonder go your mama going out across the field
Running and shaking like an automobile
I hollered at your mama and I told her to wait
She slipped away from me like a Cadillac Eight

Now she’s a running mistreater, robber and a cheater
Pappy is your cousin, slip you in the dozen
Your mama do the lordy-lord

I like your mama and like your sister too
I did like your daddy, but your daddy wouldn’t do
I met your daddy on the corner the other day
You know by that that he was funny that way

So now he’s a funny mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip you in the dozen, your papa is your cousin
Your mama do the lordy-lord

God made him an elephant and he made him stout
He wasn’t satisfied until he made him a snout
Made his snout just as long as a rail
He wasn’t satisfied until he made him a tail
He made his tail just to fan the flies
He wasn’t satisfied until he made some eyes
He made his eyes to look over the grass
Wasn’t satisfied until he made his yes, yes, yes
Made his yes, yes, yes and didn’t get it fixed
Wasn’t satisfied until it made him sick
It made him sick, Lord, it made him well
You know by that the elephant caught hell

Now he’s a dirty mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip you in the dozen, your pappy is your cousin
Your mama do the lordy-lord


Six months later Speckled Red still had more dozens verses to lay down when he recorded The Dirty Dozen Part Two.

Now, now boys, say you ain’t acting fair
You know by that you got real bad hair
Your face is all hid, now your back’s all bare
If you ain’t doing the bobo, what’s your head doing down there?

You’s a dirty mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip you in the dozen, now your papa is your cousin
And your mama do the lordy-lord

Now, your little sister, why she asked me to kiss her
I told her to wait until she got a little bigger
She got a little bigger, said now I did kiss her
You know by that, boy, I did miss her

Now she’s a dirty mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip you in the dozen, and your papa is your cousin
Your mama do the lordy-lord

Now the first three months said she did very well
Next three months she began to raise a little hell
Next three months said she got real rough
You know by that, that she was strutting her stuff

Now you’s a dirty mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip you in the dozen, now your papa is your cousin
And your mama do the lordy-lord

Now I like your mama, but she wouldn’t do this
I hit her cross the head with my great big fist
The clock’s on the shelf going tick tick tick
Your mama’s out on the street doing I don’t know which

Four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten
I like your mama but she got too many men
Ashes to ashes, now it’s sand to sand
Every time I see her, she’s got a brand new man

Now she’s a dirty mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip you in the dozen, now your papa is your cousin
And your mama do the lordy-lord

Speckled Red with two versions of the dirty dozen singing about your family, how your mama’s got too many men,implying he got your little sister pregnant, and your papa’s funny that way. Also, singing about how god made an elephant in what would become a widely imitated rhyme.
The recorded version of this song is clearly a cleaned-up version of what Red was singing in the bars and brothels where he played in the twenties. In the sixties he did end up recording a far dirtier version.

Kokomo arnold recorded his own version of Speckled Red’s hit featuring his own slide guitar  style. He called it The Twelves when he recorded it in 1935:

Says I want everybody, fall in line
Shake your shimmy like I'm shaking mine
You shake your shimmy, shake it fast
If you can't shake your shimmy shake your yas yas yas

Cause you a dirty mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip you in the dozen, your pappy is your cousin
Your mama do the lordy-lord

Says yonder gp your mama out across the field
Slipping and a‑sliding just like an automobile
I hollered at your mama I told her to wait
She slipped away from me just like a Cadillac Eight

Cause she’s a dirty mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip you in the dozen, your pappy is your cousin
Let your mama do the lordy-lord

Say I like your mama, sister too
I did like your papa, but your papa wouldn't do
I met your papa around the corner the other day
I soon found out that he was funny that a‑way

Cause he’s a dirty mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip you in the dozen, your pappy is your cousin
Let your mama do the lordy-lord

Says I went out yonder, New Orleans
The wildcat jumped on the sewing machine
The sewing machine sewed so fast
Sewed ninety‑nine stitches up his yes yes yes

Cause you a dirty mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip you in the dozen, your pappy is your cousin
Your mama do the lordy-lord

Says God made elephant, made him stout
He wasn't satisfied until he made him a snout
He made him a snout just as long as a rail
He wasn't satisfied until he made him a tail
He made him a tail just to fan the flies
He wasn't satisfied until he made him some eyes
He made him some eyes just to look on the grass
He wasn't satisfied then he made his yes yes yes
He made his yes yes yes and he didn’t get it fixed
He wasn't satisfied until he made him sick
He made him sick and then made him well
You know by that the big boy's coughing in hell


Luke Jordan’s Pick Poor Robin Clean ranges across a few subjects, but it’s got one great verse in classics dozens style where he tells his theoretical dozens opponent that if he comes after Jordan’s girls, he’s gonna have your ma, aunt, sister, and great granny:

You better pick poor robin clean, poor robin clean
I picked his head, I picked his feet
I picked his body, but it wasn't fit to eat

You'd better pick poor robin clean
Pick poor robin clean
But I'll be satisfied having your family

Get off my money and don't get funny
'Cause I'm a nigger, don't cut no figure
Gambling for Sadie, she is my lady
I'm a hustling coon that's just what I am

You better pick poor robin clean, poor robin clean
I picked his head, I picked his feet
I picked his body, but it wasn't fit to eat
I picked his head, I picked his feet
I picked his body, but it wasn't fit to eat
You'd better pick poor robin clean
Pick poor robin clean
But I'll be satisfied having your family
Well didn't that jaybird laugh
When he picked poor robin clean
Picked poor robin clean, poor robin clean
Didn't that jaybird laugh
When he picked poor robin clean
Well I'll be satisfied having your family

Well if you have that girl of mine
Gonna have your ma, your sister too
Your auntie three
If your great-grandmammy do the shivaree
I'm gonna have 'em all
I'll be satisfied keeping up your family

You better pick poor robin clean, poor robin clean
I picked his head, I picked his feet
I picked his body, but it wasn't fit to eat
I picked his head, I picked his feet
I picked his body, but it wasn't fit to eat

You'd better pick poor robin clean
Pick poor robin clean
But I'll be satisfied having your family
Well didn't that jaybird laugh
When he picked poor robin clean
Picked poor robin clean, poor robin clean

Didn't that jaybird laugh when he picked poor robin clean
Well I'll be satisfied having your family

You better pick poor robin clean, poor robin clean
I picked his head, I picked his feet
I picked his body, but it wasn't fit to eat

You'd better pick poor robin clean
Pick poor robin clean
But I'll be satisfied having your family

Well didn't that jaybird laugh
When he picked poor robin clean
Picked poor robin clean, poor robin clean, poor robin clean
Jaybird laughed..
When he picked poor robin clean
Well I'll be satisfied having your family


Charley Jordan recorded a song with some similarities to both Luke Jordan's and Speckled Red's songs in 1930. Keep it Clean:

I went to the river, I couldn't get across
I jumped on your papa because I thought he was a horse no
Rode him over, give him a coca-cola lemon soda, saucer of ice cream
takes soap and water for to keep it clean

Up she jumped, down she fell, her mouth flew open like a mussel shell
Now get him over, give him coca-cola lemon soda, saucer of ice cream
takes soap and water for to keep it clean

You sister was a tabby, your daddy was a bear
Put a muzzle on your mama, because she had bad hair
Got him over, give him coca-cola lemon soda, saucer of ice cream
takes soap and water for to keep it clean

If you want to hear that elephant laugh
Take him down to the river and wash his yes yes yes
Got him over, give him coca-cola lemon soda, saucer of ice cream
takes soap and water for to keep it clean

If you want to go to heaven when you D-I-E
You got to put on your collar and your T-I-E now
Got him over, give him coca-cola lemon soda, saucer of ice cream
takes soap and water for to keep it clean

If you want to get the rabbits out the L-O-G
You got to put on the stump like a D-O-G
Now ride him over, give him coca-cola lemon soda, saucer of ice cream
takes soap and water for to keep it clean

Run here doctor, run here fast
See what's the matter with his yes yes yes
Now ride him over, give him a coca-cola lemon soda, saucer of ice cream
soap and water for to keep it clean


Leroy carr recorded a whole series of "Papa" songs. Papa Wants to Knock a Jug is the most clearly in the dozens tradition from 1931, the lyrics are mostly about the mama:

I saw your mama in Kansas City
The way she was looking was a doggone pity

Feet on the ground, clothes wasn't clean
Dirtiest old stuff I’ve ever seen

Oh kind mama, Papa wants to knock a jug

Now I got a gal she is big as a bull
She never stops drinking till her belly gets full
Gets full of liquor and tries to sing
Tight like that and shake that thing
Oh kind mama, Papa wants to knock a jug

I ask her about it she said before long
Let's get together because your water's on
Let's get started, be long gone
Let's get together what you waiting on
Oh kind mama, Papa wants to knock a jug

I saw you mama way last spring, eyeballs shining like a diamond ring
Staggered down the street hollering and a‑fussing
I tried to stop her and I got a good cussing
Oh kind mama, Papa wants to knock a jug

I saw your mama, your papa too
What they was doing just won't do
I slipped up on them and took one look
What they was doing wasn't in the book
Oh kind mama, Papa wants to knock a jug

If you want some loving, you want it cheap
Go down on Ellsworth about the middle of the week
Show them girls a quarter, they won't let you go
It's four or five times and then some more
Oh kind mama, Papa wants to knock a jug

Ben Curry recorded New Dirty Dozen in 1932:

Emma went fishing, she went with Lou
Lou threw down her other shoe
Emma sit down up on the grass
Brother came and pushed on her yes yes yes

Now he’s a pushing mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip you in the dozen
Your father is your cousin
Mama doing the lordy lord

Papa killed a turkey, he thought he was a thief
Took him a long time to get a little peace
Brother tried to show her, she was so fast
Drove her all over from his yes yes yes

Now she’s a digging mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip you in the dozens
Father is your cousin
Mama doing the lordy lord

Bill and Oz were shooting dice the other night
Oz threw in the money and he started a fight
Bill tried to hit him a little too fast
took his knife and juked him on his yes yes yes

Now he’s a juking mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip them in the dozens
Father is your cousin
Mama doing the lordy lord

Charles and Zeke come to our town
Teaching everbody how to get it down
Old woman got down a little too fast
Caught the room and threw him on his yes yes yes

Now he’s a catching mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip them in the dozens
Father is your cousin
Mama doing the lordy lord

She was fishing forty years, she never broke a plate
She cooked forty years, she never burned a steak
We got her from the box, bottom to the top (?)
Cutting forty years said she should know her stuff

Now she’s a cutting mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip you in the dozens
Father is your cousin
Mama doing the lordy lord


Songs:

The Dirty Dozen - Speckled Red
The Dirty Dozen Part Two - Speckled Red
The Twelves - Kokomo Arnold
Pick Poor Robin Clean - Luke Jordan
Keep it Clean - Charley Jordan
Papa Wants to Knock a Jug - Leroy Carr
New Dirt Dozen - Ben Curry

Robert Johnson and Records

If you cannot see the audio controls, your browser does not support the audio element Robert Johnson was both a consumer and creator...