Sunday, December 15, 2013

Show 64 - Where the Weather Suits My Clothes


I think I'm going back down South where the weather suits my clothes. Variations on that line appear in a lot of blues songs. In the context of the great African-American migration to the North, leaving Chicago or Detroit to return South for the better weather can be a metaphor for a few things. The longing for friends and family and the life you grew up with or the more troubling flip side which suggests its too hard for a black man to make it in the North. Or maybe sometimes it wasn't a metaphor at all and the singer just didn't like the cold. Lee Green seems to get at all these varieties while singing about his final resting place in Death Bell Blues from 1930.
I hate to hear that lonesome death bell toll
I hate to hear that lonesome death bell toll
But it reminds me of my dear mother, I mean that’s dead and gone
I can’t stay here, Lord, I can’t stay nowhere
Lord, I can’t stay here, Babe, I can’t stay nowhere
Lord I’ve been to the Nation, sweet woman I couldn’t stay there
From St. Louis to the river, river to the deep blue sea
From St. Louis to the river, from the river to the deep blue sea
If I don’t get woman that I’m loving, I don’t care what becomes of me
It’s so cold in Chicago, the birds can’t hardly sing
It’s so cold in Chicago, the birds can’t hardly sing
It’s so cold in East St. Louis, that these women can’t make a doggone thing
But my babe, she done quit me and I don’t even care
I mean my babe done quit me and I don’t even care
I believe that lonesome death bell will take me away from here
In the end Lee Smith is so empty without his woman, he longs for death to take him away from the cold Northern cities.

Clara Smith was one of the earlier recorded blues singers. In Down South Blues from 1923, she wants to hop on a train to head down south away from the men who've mistreated her in that cold weather:

I think of the ones down there, down South is my Southern home
I realize my life has been driftwood, like some kind of rolling stone
But I’ve learned my lesson, I mean it, I am through and folks I am not joking when I sing these Down South blues
I'm going to the station and catch the fastest train back home
I'm going to the station and catch the fastest train back home
I'm going back South where the weather suits my clothes
Because my mama told me and my daddy told me too
I say my mama told me and my daddy told me too
Don't go North and let them men make a fool out of you
Because their love's like water, it turns off and on
Because their love's like water, it turns off and on
Time you think you've got them, it’s turned off and gone
I'm going back South, if I wear out ninety‑nine pairs of shoes
I'm going back South, if I wear out ninety‑nine pairs of shoes
Because I'm broken-hearted, got those Down South blues
Ida Cox Southern Woman's Blues is from 1925:

Takes a southern woman to sing this southern song
Takes a southern woman to sing this southern song
Lord, I'm worried now but I won't be worried long
When I was downtown, I wouldn't take no one's advice
When I was downtown, I wouldn't take no one's advice
But I ain't going to let that same bee sting me twice
Because I'm going back down where the weather suits my clothes
Yes, I'm going back down where the weather suits my clothes
Down where there ain't no snow and the chilly wind never blows
I don't want no northern yellow, no northern black nor brown
I don't want no northern yellow, no northern black nor brown
Southern men will stick by you when the northern men can't be found
If you ever been South, you know just what I meanIf you ever been South, you know just what I mean
Southern men are all the same from Kentucky to New Orleans
I'm going back south where I can get my hambone boiled
I'm going back south where I can get my hambone boiled
These northern men are about to let my poor hambone spoil

John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson was a Jackson, Tennessee native and long time Chicago resident. In Down South from 1938, he talked about heading back to warmer weather:
Now I’m going back down South, man, where the weather suits my clothes
Now I done fooled around in Chicago, Lord, I done almost froze
Now that I done fooled around in Chicago, Lord, I done almost froze
Lord, my baby, my baby, she don’t treat me good no more
Now I know the reason she don’t love me, she’s wild about Mr. so and so
Now I know the reason she don’t love me, she’s wild about Mr. so and so
Now I know my baby, I know Ms. Lacy gonna want to see me now
Because my baby she didn’t want me to come way back up here no how
Lord, my baby she didn’t want me to come way back up here no how
Guitar great Scrapper Blackwell was an Indianapolis native, so his Down South Blues clearly isn't autobiographical. He sings about wondering if his baby is waiting for home in dear old sunny Tennessee. He's accompanied here by his famous piano playing partner Leroy Carr:
I'm just sitting here thinking of dear old sunny Tennessee
I'm just sitting here thinking of dear old sunny Tennessee
And wondering if my baby is waiting there for me
I'm going where the Monon crosses the L and N
I'm going where the Monon crosses the L and N
And catch me a freight train and go back home again
I'm going back South where it's warm the whole year round
I'm going back South where it's warm the whole year round
I'll be so glad when my train pulls up in town
In 1936, Victoria Spivey recorded Detroit Moan. More than any other song, it tells the story of someone who just can't make it financially in the cold cold place of Detroit.

Detroit's a cold cold place and I ain't got a dime to my name
Detroit's a cold hard place and I ain't got a dime to my name
I would go to the poorhouse but Lord you know I'm ashamed
I been walking Hastings Street, nobody seems to treat me right
I been walking Hastings Street, nobody seems to treat me right
I can make it in the daytime, but Lord these cold cold nights
Well I'm tired of eating chili and I can't eat beans no more
Yes, I'm tired of eating chili and I can't eat beans no more
People it hurts my feelings, Lord, from door to door
I've got to leave Detroit if I have to flag Number 94
I'm gonna leave Detroit if I have to flag Number 94
And if I ever get back home, I ain't never coming to Detroit no more
Memphis Jug Band showed their affinity for the warmth in their hometown in Going Back to Memphis
I'm leaving here, mama, don't you wanna go
I'm leaving here, mama, don't you wanna go
Because I'm sick and tired of all this ice and snow
When I get back to Memphis, you can bet I'll stay
When I get back to Memphis, you can bet I'll stay
And I ain't gonna leave until that judgment day
I love old Memphis, the place where I was born
I love old Memphis, the place where I was born
Wear my box-back suit, and drink my bottle of corn
I wrote my gal a letter, way down in Tennessee
I wrote my gal a letter, way down in Tennessee
Told her I was up here hungry, hurry up and send for me
I'm gonna walk and walk 'til I walk out all my shoesI'm gonna walk and walk 'til I walk out all my shoes
Because I've got what they call them leaving here blues
Blind Blake recorded Georgia Bound in 1929. It's a poetic take on returning to his native state and the agricultural lifestyle replacing the ice and snow:
Packing up my duffel, gonna leave this town
Packing up my duffel, gonna leave this town
And I'm gonna hustle to catch that train southbound 
I got the Georgia blues for the plow and hoe
I got the Georgia blues for the plow and hoe
Walked out my shoes over this ice and snow 
Tune up the fiddle, dust the catgut bow
Tune up the fiddle, dust off the catgut bow
Put on the griddle, and open up the cabin door 
I thought I was going to the Northland to stay
I thought I was going to the Northland to stay
South is on my mind, my blues won't go away 
Potatoes in the ashes, possum on the stove
Potatoes in the ashes, possum on the stove
You can have the hash, but please leave me the clove(?) 
Chicken on the roost, babe, watermelon on the vine
Chicken on the roost, babe, watermelon on the vine
I'll be glad to get back to that Georgia gal of mine

"I’ll be glad to get back to that gal of mine." That seems to be the most common theme in the songs about getting away from the cold North to return home to the South. The economic opportunities and escape from Jim Crow brought many African-American north, but knowing loved ones were still down South must have presented a constant lure to return home where it’s warm.

Songs:

Lee Green - Death Bell Blues
Clara Smith - Down South Blues
Ida Cox - Southern Woman's Blues
Sonny Boy Williamson - Down South
Scrapper Blackwell - Down South Blues
Victoria Spivey - Detroit Moan
Memphis Jug Band - Going Back to Memphis
Blind Blake - Georgia Bound

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Show 63 - Drink Brands



Some blues singers were clearly paid to advertise products. In later years, b.b. king sang songs to famously sold peptikon and sonny boy williamson king biscuit flour. Were gonna take a look at some early songs that may be ads or may just be folks singing about products they enjoy.


J.T "Funny Paper" Smith's 1930 Vocalion recording Good Coffee Blues talks about brands in some interesting ways in classic blues double entendre song:

I Heard you say this morning, mama, that your head was throbbing through and through
Heard you say this morning that your head was throbbing through and through
Come on let me make you some coffee, let me show you what my coffee will do
Pull off your house shoes, mama and lay down on the bed
Pull off your house shoes, mama lay down on the bed
I won't be but a few minutes but I will kill that old headache dead.
Don't rush, take your time lady, go down easy and slow
Don't rush, take your time lady, go down easy and slow
Then when you have a headache again, come back to me, baby, and I'll give you some more.
Your coffee-grinding papa's in town, Lord that good coffee

Now Folger makes coffee, Maxwell makes coffee, White Swan makes coffee, Arbuckle he makes coffee
But I make coffee so good, it will make you bite your tongue
Been all over the world grinding coffee mama, come on let me grind you some
Now when your friend want coffee, please send all your friends to me
When your friend want coffee, send your friends to me
I swear I give them good coffee and won't give them no rotten tea
Memphis Minnie sang about a place to get coffee and something to eat in what sure sounds like a paid advertisement from 1930. North Memphis Blues:
I tell all you people, you can rest and eat You don't have to worry about cooking, go to North Memphis Cafe and eat I tell all you people, you can rest and eat Because the North Memphis Cafe got everything that you really need
I don't buy no wood, even buy no coal
I go to North Memphis cafe and eat and don't be a dope
I tell all you people, you can rest and eat
You don't have to worry about cooking, go to North Memphis cafe and eat
I will tell y'all something, I don't change like the wind
If you go to North Memphis Cafe, eat, you'll go back again
I tell all you people, you can rest and eat
Because the North Memphis cafe got everything that you really need
Now listen to me, good people, I don't aim to make you mad
You go to North Memphis Cafe and get something you never had
I tell all you people, you can rest and eat
Because the North Memphis Cafe got everything that you really need
The Nugrape Twins were Georgia natives Mark and Matthew Little. They recorded a few blues and gospel records and also hosted a radio show sponsored by Nugrape soda. They recorded two songs about that sweet drink including I Got Your Ice Cold Nugrape in 1926:
I got a NuGrape nice and fine
The rings around the bottle is a ginger wine
I got your ice-cold NuGrape
I got a NuGrape nice and fine
There’s plenty imitation but there’s none like mine
I got your ice cold NuGrape
Way down yonder in the Promised Land
Oh, run and tell you mama, “Here the NuGrape man”
I got your ice cold NuGrape
Little children in the backyard playing in the sand
Oh, run and tell you mama, “Here the NuGrape man”
I got your ice cold NuGrape
When you feeling kind of blue, do not know what ailing you
Get a NuGrape from the store, then you’ll have the blues no more
I got your ice cold NuGrape
What’s that makes your lips go flippity flop?
When you drink a NuGrape you don’t know when to stop
I got your ice cold NuGrape
If from work you come home late, rolling pin waits at the gate
Smile and bribe her with NuGrape
Then you see you're in good shape
I got your ice cold NuGrape
Sister Mary has a beau, says he’s crazy and love her so
Buys a NuGrape every day, know he bound to win that way
I got your ice cold NuGrape
Tampa Red's Hokum Jazz Band recorded Good Gordon Gin. The musicians seem to be having a great time and singer Frankie "Hal-fpint" Jaxon seems to be singing about a product he loves when he starts chanting: "A little more of the Gordon gin, I’m talking about good Gordon gin." Big Bill Broonzy also pronounced himself a fan of Gordon Gin in his 1941 song I Feel So Good:
I got a letter, it come to me by mail
My baby says she’s coming home
And I hope that she don’t fail
You know I feel so good
Yes I feel so good
Now I feel so good
Baby, I feel like balling the jack
I feel so good, I hope I always will
I feel just like a Jack out with a Jenny
Well behind the hill
I feel so good
Yes, I feel so good
I feel so good
Baby, I feel like balling the jack
I’m going down to the station, just to meet a train
I'd like to see my baby
You know I’ve got dead aim
You know I feel so good
Yes, I feel so good
I feel so good
I just feel like balling the jack
I love my tea, crazy about my Gordon gin
When I get high now baby
Feel like floating around in the wind
You know I feel so good
Yes, I feel so good
I feel so good baby
I feel like balling the jack
Memphis Slim's Old Taylor probably wasn't a paid ad for the bourbon, but the folks at the distillery were probably pretty glad to hear the song:
Now I love to sing that good Old Taylor blues I love to sing that good Old Taylor blues When we want another drink I swear we just can't lose
Now you see, Mr. Melrose, standing in the floor Oh, I see that man that's standing in the floor He gonna give us a little drink Now, just before he goes
Now we want Old Taylor, Lord We want, Old Taylor now We want, Old Taylor now We want, Old Taylor now We want, Old Taylor Bring it on, bring it on, bring it on
Now, you'll say what's fine and mellow You'll say what's fine and mellow Oh, you'll say what's fine and mellow You'll say, what's fine and mellow Now, you'll say what's fine and mellow Bring it on, bring it on, bring it on
You'll say, was twenty years old You'll say, was twenty years old Now you'll say, was twenty years old You'll say, was twenty years old Now, you'll say was twenty years old Bring it on, bring it on, bring it on
Now, is he popping? Yeah, man Now, is he popping? Yeah, man I believe he's popping Yeah, man I believe he's popping Yeah, man I believe he's popping Yeah, man Pop on, pop on, pop on
Memphis Slim singing mentions Mr. Melrose’s is gonna give him a drink referring to Lester Melrose who ran Bluebird Records. It’s one of many songs where a blues singer sang about a brand he liked. That one’s probably not a paid endorsement, but I’m sure the folks at the Old Taylor distillery would have been thrilled to hear it. Musical inspiration can come from many sources including products on the shelf. Whether a cup or coffee or a glass of bourbon it resulted in some pretty good blues songs.

Songs:
Good Coffee Blues - Funny Paper Smith
North Memphis Blues - Memphis Minnie
I Got Your Ice Cold Nugrape - Nugrape Twins
Good Gordon Gin - Tampa Red's Hokum Jazz Band
I Feel So Good - Big Bill Broonzy
Old Taylor Blues - Memphis Slim

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Show 62 - Historical Figures and the Law



Many blues songs feature real historical figures. Some are figures who operate on both side of the law, sometimes straddling that divide. These are all folks from Memphis, North Mississippi and Arkansas. We'll start with a song about a man Jim Kinane, the man who ran the Memphis underworld including club’s featuring live music including Beale Street’s Monarch Club which might be the place Robert Wilkins is singing about. It was a gambling hall where you could find whiskey, drugs, and women. Old Jim Canaan’s was recorded in 1935:
I wished I was back at old Jim Canan's
I’d take my baby to old Jim Canaan’s
I wished I was back at old Jim Canan's
I'd stand on the corner and wave my hand
And if you don't believe that I'm a drinking man
Just baby stop by here with your beer can
I wish I was back at old Jim Canan's
I’d take my baby to old Jim Canaan’s
I wished I was back at old Jim Canan's
I’d take my baby to old Jim Canaan’s
I wished I was back at old Jim Canan's
I’d take my baby to old Jim Canaan’s
I'm going uptown, buy me coke and beer
Coming back and tell you how these women is
They drink their whiskey, drink their coke and gin
When you don't play the dozens they will ease you in
Still I wished I was back at old Jim Canan's
I’d take my baby to old Jim Canaan’s
I wished I was back at old Jim Canan's
I’d take my baby to old Jim Canaan’s
I wished I was back at old Jim Canan's
I’d take my baby to old Jim Canaan’s
The men and women running hand in hand
Going to and fro to old Jim Canan's
Drinking their whiskey sniffing cocaine
That's the reason why I wished I was back at Jim Canan's
I wished I was back at old Jim Canan's

E.H. Crump acted as political boss in Memphis running the machine that operated the city. In this time that meant understanding what was happening on both sides of the divide between the law abiding and those that wanted the city wide open. When the Memphis Sheiks recorded it, this was probably already an old song, but Crump would continue to run Memphis for several decades. Mr. Crump Don’t Like It:

If Mr Crump don't like it, he ain't going to have it here
If Mr Crump don't like it, he ain't going to have it here
If Mr Crump don't like it, he ain't going to have it here
No barrelhouse women, God and drinking no beer
If Mr Crump don't like it, he ain't going to have it here
I saw the Baptist sister jumped up and began to shout
I saw the Baptist sister jumped up and began to shout I saw the Baptist sister jumped up and began to shout
But I'm so glad that that whiskey vote is out
If Mr Crump don't like it, he ain't going to have it here
I saw the Methodist sister jumped up and they had a fit
I saw the Methodist sister jumped up and they had a fit
I saw the Methodist sister jumped up and they had a fit
She was doggone sorry wasn't king corn here
If Mr Crump don't like it, he ain't going to have it here I saw the Presbyterian sister turn around and began to grin
I saw the Presbyterian sister turn around and began to grin
I saw the Presbyterian sister turn around and began to grin
Lord I believe I'll start out to barrelhousing again
If Mr Crump don't like it, he ain't going to have it here I saw the deacon look around sister why in the world don't you hush
I saw the deacon look around sister why in the world don't you hush
I saw the deacon look around sister why in the world don't you hush
I'd rather see you get drunk than wear this awful skirt You don't like my peaches don't shake my tree
You don't like my peaches don't shake my tree
You don't like my peaches don't shake my tree
If Mr Crump don't like it, he ain't going to have it here
If Mr Crump don't like it, he ain't going to have it here
If Mr Crump don't like it, he ain't going to have it here
No barrelhouse women, God and drinking no beer
If Mr Crump don't like it, he ain't going to have it here
I saw the Baptist sister jumped up and began to shout
I saw the Baptist sister jumped up and began to shout
I saw the Baptist sister jumped up and began to shout
But I'm so glad that that whiskey vote is out
If Mr Crump don't like it, he ain't going to have it here
I saw the Methodist sister jumped up and they had a fit I saw the Methodist sister jumped up and they had a fit
I saw the Methodist sister jumped up and they had a fit
She was doggone sorry wasn't king corn here
If Mr Crump don't like it, he ain't going to have it here I saw the Presbyterian sister turn around and began to grin
I saw the Presbyterian sister turn around and began to grin
I saw the Presbyterian sister turn around and began to grin
Lord I believe I'll start out to barrelhousing again
If Mr Crump don't like it, he ain't going to have it here
I saw the deacon look around sister why in the world don't you hush
I saw the deacon look around sister why in the world don't you hush
I saw the deacon look around sister why in the world don't you hush
I'd rather see you get drunk than wear this awful skirt
You don't like my peaches don't shake my tree
You don't like my peaches don't shake my tree
You don't like my peaches don't shake my tree
Don't like my fruit, let my orange juice be
Mr. Crump don’t allow now...
Don't like my fruit, let my orange juice be
Mr. Crump don’t allow now...  

Mississippi legend Charley Patton was no stranger to run-ins with the law and he recorded the names of several real-life law enforcement figures in his songs. Tom Rushen Blues recalls Deputy Sheriff Tom Rushing of Cleveland, Ms. The song walks the difficult line of describing the difficulties of dealing with the law as a black man in Mississippi in 1929 while perhaps trying to simultaneously get in good favor with the lawman by immortalizing him in song. Tom Rushen Blues:

I lay down last night hoping I would have my peace
I lay down last night hoping I would have my peace
But when I woke up, Tom Rushen was shaking me 
When you get in trouble, there's no use of screaming and crying
When you get in trouble, there's no use of screaming and crying
Tom Rushen will take you back to Cleveland flying 
It was late one night, Holloway was gone to bed
It was late one night, Holloway was gone to bed
Mr Day brought the whiskey taken from under Holloway's head 
It takes booze and booze, Lord, to carry me through
It takes booze and booze, Lord, to carry me through
Thirty days seem like years in the jailhouse where there is no booze 
I got up this morning, Tom Day was standing around
I got up this morning, Tom Day was standing around
If he lose his office now, he's running from town to town 
Let me, tell you folksies just how he treated me
I'm going to tell you folksies just how he treated me
Ah he brought me here and I was drunk as I could be 

The song also describes Merigold, Ms. town marshal Tom Day. Five years later when Patton was back in the recording studio, he had a whole new set of lawmen to sing about. The record company producer had reportedly found Patton locked up in Belzoni, Ms. in Humphreys County where John D. Purvis was sheriff and R. Carlos Webb was his deputy. High Sheriff Blues:

Get in trouble in Belzoni, ain't no use to screaming and cry
Get in trouble in Belzoni, ain't no use to scream and cry
Mr. Webb will take you back to Belzoni jailhouse flying 
Let me tell you folks how he treated me
Let me tell you folks just how he treated me
And he put me in a cellar, it was dark as it could be
It was late one evening, Mr Purvis was standing around
It was late one evening, Mr Purvis was standing around
Mr. Purvis told Mr. Webb to let poor Charley down
It takes booze and booze, Lord to carry me through
It takes booze and booze, Lord to carry me through
Thirty days seem like years in a jailhouse where there is no booze
I got up one morning feeling mmm
I got up one morning feeling mighty bad
And it must not have been them Belzoni jail I had, blues I had
When I was in trouble it ain't no use to scream and cry
When I was in prison, it ain't no use to scream and cry
Mr. Purvis the only man who can ease that pain of mine 

Let’s head across the Mississippi River to Helena, Arkansas where Memphis Minnie sang about the baddest copper ever to walk a beat. I don’t have his real name, but he seems to be a historical figure that the locals called Reachin’ Pete. It’s another one that walks the thin line between explicitly stating how tough the local police were on black people without offending the people you mention and causing even more trouble for yourself. Reachin’ Pete:

When you go to Helena stop on Cherry Street
When you go to Helena stop on Cherry Street
And just ask anybody to show you Reaching Pete
He's the tallest man walks on Cherry Street
He's the tallest man walks on Cherry Street
And the baddest copper ever walked that beat
He met me one sunny morning just about the break of day
Lord, he met me one sunny morning just about the break of day
I was drinking my moonshine he made me throw my knife away
Well he taken my partner, carried her to the jail
Well he taken my partner, carried her to the jail
After he locked her up he turned and went her bail
Reaching Pete's all right but his buddy Old Buzzell
Reaching Pete's all right but his buddy Old Buzzell
Every time he meet you he's ready for plenty hell
Somebody get out of the way too
What you say about it, partner?
Aw, it’s good to me
Looks like to me, you can’t take it

Songs:
Old Jim Canaan's - Robert Wilkins
Mr. Crump Don't Like It - Beale Street Sheiks
Tom Rushen Blues - Charley Patton
High Sheriff Blues - Charley Patton
Reachin' Pete - Memphis Minnie

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Show 61 - Preacher Blues


As frequently as the blues was called the devil's music, it's no surprise that blues singers had a little something to say about preachers as well. There are plenty of songs about the hypocrite that says one thing from the pulpit, while he's stealing your crops or your woman. Hi Henry Brown sang about why he wanted the preacher to stay away from his house in 1932's Vocalion recording Preacher Blues.

If you want to hear preacher curse
Bake the bread sweet mama and save him the crust
Lord, if you want to hear preacher curse
Just bake the bread sweet mama and save him the crust
Preacher in the pulpit, bible in his hand
Sister in the corner crying "There's my man"
Preacher in the pulpit, bible in his hand
Well the sister’s in the corner crying "There's my man"
Preacher comes to your house, you ask him to rest his head
Next thing he want to know, "sister, where your husband at?"
Preacher comes to your house, lord, ask him to rest his head
Next thing he want to know, "baby, where your husband at?"
Come in here and shut my door
Want you to preach the same text you did night before
Come in here and preach at my door
Want you to preach for me same text you preached night before
See that preacher walking down the street
Fixing to meddle with every sister he meets
Well you see that preacher walking down the street
He’s fixing to meddle with every sister he meets
Preacher, preacher, you nice and kind
Better not catch you at that house of mine
Swear you’re nice and kind
Better not catch you at that house of mine

Frank Stokes and Dan Sane recorded You Shall in 1927 in the form of a prayer that told the story of a stealing preacher:
Oh well it's our Father who art in heaven
The preacher owed me ten dollars, he paid me seven
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done
If I hadn't took the seven, Lord I wouldn't have gotten none
Had to fight about it, but he owed me my money
Oh well some folks say that a preacher wouldn't steal
I caught about eleven in the watermelon field
Just a‑cutting and slicing got to tearing up the vine
They's eating and talking most all the time
They was hungry,
Don’t rob me preacher, my melons
Oh well you see a preacher laying behind the log
A hand on the trigger got his eye on the hog
The hog said mmm, the gun said zip
Jumped on the hog with all his grip
They had pork chops, had backbone, had spareribs
Now won’t the good Lord set me free
Now when I first went over to Memphis Tennessee
I was crazy about the preachers as I could be
I went out on the front porch walking about 
Invite the preacher over to my house
He washed his face, he combed his head
And next thing he want to do was slip in my bed
I caught him by the head, man, kicked him out the door
Don't allow my preacher at my house no more
I don’t like them
They’ll rob you
Steal your daughter, take your wife from you
Eat your chickens
Take your money, you see
They’ll rob you

Madlyn Davis' Too Black Bad also talks about a preacher stealing from the field:
I'd rather be in the shifty river floating like a logThan to stay around here, be treated like a dogNow that’s my rag, now that’s my rag and it’s too black bad
Now all the little children playing around in a ringPlaying hooky from school just to rag that thingNow that’s my rag, now that’s my rag and it’s too black bad
Now it's some folks say a preacher won't stealBut I caught a preacher in my Daddy’s fieldNow that’s my rag, now that’s my rag and it’s too black bad
Now one had the sack, the other had the hoeIf that ain't stealing, boys, I'd like to knowNow that’s my rag, now that’s my rag and it’s too black bad
Hey everybody, come on and rag with me
Hey, whup that thing down to the break boys
Play it a long time, don't you hear me talking to you hey hey hey
Here come my father with his gun
You ought to seen them preachers runNow that’s my rag, now that’s my rag and it’s too black bad
Georgia Tom Dorsey accompanied Madlyn Davis on that song. He wouldn't be singing many lyrics like that after he became known as the father of gospel music, Thomas A. Dorsey.

Joe McCoy recorded his Preacher Blues in 1931:
Some folks say a preacher won't steal
I caught three in my cornfield
One had a yellow, one had a brown
Looked over by the mill, one was getting down
Now some folks say that a preacher won't steal
But he will do more stealing than I get regular meals
I went to my house about half past ten
Looked on my bed where the preacher had been
Now some folks say that a preacher won't steal
But he will do more stealing than I get regular meals
He will eat your chicken, he will eat your pie
He will eat your wife out on the sly
Now some folks say that a preacher won't steal
But he will do more stealing than I get regular meals
I been trying so hard trying to save my life
To keep that preacher from my wife
Now some folks say that a preacher won't steal
But he will do more stealing than I get regular meals
I went out last night, came in late
I found out where he had made his date
Now some folks say that a preacher won't steal
But he will do more stealing than I get regular meals
I done told you once, done told you twice
Keep over that preacher you be done lost your wife
Now some folks say that a preacher won't steal
But he will do more stealing than I get regular meals
In Who’s Been Here from 1938, Bo Carter wondered who'd been in his bed. He was pretty sure it was the preacher:
Baby who been here since your daddy been gone
Says he must have been a preacher daddy, had a long coat on
Says he must have been a preacher daddy, had a long coat on
Baby who been here since you daddy been gone
I don't know who the man was daddy, had a derby on
He had a derby on, had a derby on
I don't know who the man was daddy, had a derby on
Baby who been here since you daddy been gone
Says he must have been a jellybean had long shoes on
Had long shoes on...
Says he must have been a jellybean had long shoes on
Baby preacher's on the pulpit just trying to save souls
And his daughter's out on the highway corner selling sweet jellyroll
Selling sweet jellyroll
Says his daughter's out on the highway corner selling sweet jellyroll
And the preacher's in the pulpit jumping up and down
And the sisters back in the amen corner their saloon bound
Bob Robinson along with Meade Lux Lewis recorded The Preacher Must Get Some Sometime in 1930:
The preacher must get some sometime, when and wherever he can
The preacher must get some sometime, just like any other man
Brother, don't make no mistake, I just take a little gin for my stomach ache
The preacher must get some sometime, just like any other man
The preacher must get some sometime, when and wherever he can
The preacher must get some sometime, just like any other man
I found this sister all alone with her little blue silk pajamas on
The preacher must get some sometime, just like any other man
The preacher must get some sometime, when and wherever he can
The preacher must get some sometime, just like any other man
Now I ain't trying to hang no bluff, but you don’t blame me for wanting this stuff
The preacher must get some sometime, just like any other man
The preacher must get some sometime, when and wherever he can
The preacher must get some sometime, when and wherever he can
The preacher must get some sometime, just like any other man
Oh she serves that stuff in her negligee, it was doggone good, Lord, I must say
The preacher must get some sometime, just like any other man


Songs:
Preacher Blues - Hi Henry Brown
You Shall - Frank Stokes
Too Black Bad - Madlyn Davis
Preacher Blues - Joe McCoy
Who's Been Here - Bo Carter
The Preacher Must Get Some Sometime - Bob Robinson

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Show 60 - Pistol Blues



With the gun control debate raging in the U.S., I thought it seemed like a good time to look at some songs about guns. The first gun control law was passed right in the middle of the period we focus on here in 1934. The National Firearms Act was a response to the shootings occurring as part of the culture surrounding prohibition. It did specifically exempt handguns from any regulation under that law. It’s pistols that appear most often in the blues. They appear in the songs for a couple reasons, sometimes for going to bad neighborhoods or other rough spots. But mostly for revenge on that woman that’s done you wrong. Let’s start with a hit from 1929, Roosevelt Syke’s hugely influential 44 Blues:

And now I walked all night long with my .44 in my hand
And now I walked all night long with my .44 in my hand
I was looking for my woman, found her with another man

Lord I wore my forty‑four so long, Lord it made my shoulder sore
Lord I wore my forty‑four so long, Lord it made my shoulder sore
After I do what I want to ain't going to wear my forty‑four no more

Lord my baby say she heard the 44 whistle blow
Lord my baby say she heard the 44 whistle blow
Lord it sound just like ain't going to blow this horn no more

Lord I got a little cabin,, Lord it's number 44
Lord I got a little cabin, Lord it's number 44
Lord I wake up every morning, the world be scratching on my door
Blind Boy Fuller's Pistol Slapping Blues:
I can tell my dog anywhere I hear him bark
I can tell my rider if I feel her in the dark
You a cold-blooded murderer, when you want me out your way Says, that's alright mama, you gonna need my help some day
And you say you're gonna put me, mama, down in my lonesome grave Say you must remember, I once have been your slave

And I feel like snapping my pistol in your face
Let some brownskin woman be here to take your place
Let some brownskin woman be here to take your place

Now you know you didn't want me when you lie down across my bed
Drinking your moonshine whisky, mama, talking all out your head
Now give me the money, baby, I'll catch that train and go You don't have to kill me cause you don't want me no more Hey, hey, cause you don't want me no more Now you give me the money, baby, and I'll catch that train and go

Now you see my rider, tell her I said bring it home
I ain't had no loving since my gal been gone
It's two kind of people in the world that I can't stand That's a lying woman and a monkey man

Boweavil Jackson recorded Pistol Blues in 1926 with some violent lyrics for a woman that left:

Oh Jane, oh Jane, what makes you hold your head so high?
Oughta just remember, you got to live so long and die

I need not write me no letter, don't send me no word
Cut your head, woman, about the word I heard
I heard you had a man on the wheeler, had a man on the plow
Had a big man, swinging on the Johnson Bayou(?)

I'm going to carry that woman to the weeping willow tree
Oughta hear her crying, "Honey, don't murder me!"

I'm going to black her face, going to black that woman's eye
Going to kill her when she begins to cry

She said, "Roll on, Jack, Daddy do roll on"
"Roll on, Jack, Daddy do roll on"
Said, "Roll on, Jack, Daddy do roll on”
Like the way you rolling, but you ain't gonna roll so long

Ain't but two women in the world can spend my change
Not but two women, world can spend my change
Ain't but two women, mama, can spend my change
That represent Stella and that brown, my Jane

Lord, Lord, look what my brown said to me
Lord, Lord, look what she said to me
Said, Lord, Lord, look what she said to me
Said, "When I leave this town, gonna carry you back with me."
William Moore's Midnight Blues contains the classic lyric about buying a pistol as long as my right arm:

Some people say that the midnight blues ain't bad Some people say that the midnight blues ain't bad
Some people say that the midnight blues ain't bad
Well, it must not have been those midnight blues I had


Tell me, fair brownie, where did you stay last night
Tell me, fair brownie, where did you stay last night
Tell me, fair brownie, where did you stay last night
Your hair's all down and your clothes ain't fitting you right


Oh, run here, mama, run and tell me now
Run here, mama, run and tell me now
Run here, mama, run and tell me now
Say, do you love your papa anyhow?


When you see two women going together so long
When you see two women going together so long
When you see two women going together so long
You can bet your life that there's something going on wrong


I'm gonna buy me a pistol as long as my right arm
I'm gonna buy me a pistol as long as my right arm
I'm gonna buy me a pistol as long as my right arm
Gonna carry it in my pocket and make you stay at home

Walter Roland's 45 Pistol Blues talks about needing a gun to go to the baddest place in town:
I'm going over to Third Alley, Lord but I'm going to carry my .45
I'm going over to Third Alley, Lord but I'm going to carry my .45
Because you know ain't many men go there and come back alive
They will shoot you and cut you, Lord they will knock you down
Lord, they will shoot you and cut you, Lord they will knock you down


And you can ask anybody ain't that the baddest place in town
Mens carry .38s, womens carry their razors too
Mens carry .38s, womens carry their razors too
And you know you better not start nothing, know they'll make away with you
Says I ain't going to Third Alley no more unless I change my mind
Ain’t going to Third Alley no more, Lord, unless I change my mind


Because you know I done got shot once over there, Lord it's about three or four times
Says you know I'm gonna need my .45 much too big
Lord, my .45 much too big
Cause you know when I carry that gun, Lord I can’t keep it hid


J.T. "Funny Paper" Smith takes on the role of an obsessive former lover who can't get over the woman that left him in Forty-Five Blues
I feel mean and hateful, I just can't feel satisfied
I feel mean and hateful, I just can't feel satisfied
I'm going out after my woman this morning and I'm taking my .45

My woman quit me last summer and I can't get her off my mind
My woman quit me last summer and I can't get her off my mind
And if she don't come back this morning, you gonna hear my .45 crying

Folks, I hate to be mean, but I can't be good if I try
Folks, I hate to be mean, but I can't be good if I try
And when I call my baby this morning, I'm calling her with my .45

Now the police got so they arrest me every time they catch me on the street
Police got so they arrest me every time they catch me on the street
And told me this morning, they're gonna let me catch you on my beat

Now everybody talking and telling me, why don't I let that no good woman be
Everybody talking and telling me, why don't I let that no good woman be
Cause she may show me that she didn't want me, but I don't got sense enough to see

Soon as I do what I want to do, then I'll be satisfied
Soon as I do what I want to do, then I'll be satisfied
That's kill my woman and walk to the police and hand them my .45
Leroy Carr's also singing about finding a woman who's left and he's bring a new Shinin’ Pistol, recorded in 1934:

I'm going to get me a brand new pistol with a long shiny barrel
I'm going to get me a shiny pistol with a long shiny barrel
I'm going to ramble this town over until I find my girl


I'm going to go to the station and try to find her there
I'm going to go to the station and try to find her there
And if the Lord has not got her, she's in this world somewhere


She left me with a head full of trouble and a head full of misery
She left me with a head full of trouble and a head full of misery
And now she's got me crying, baby please come back home to me


My mother told me, don't you weep don't you moan
My mother told me, don't you weep don't you moan
Because, son, there'll be women here when you’re dead and gone


When I get through rambling and looking this whole world through
When I get through rambling and looking this whole world through
I won't be dead with trouble you know I died to lose

Robert Johnson 32/20 Blues is all about handguns and ow he's got the advantage over his woman if she doesn't listen to him:

I send for my baby, and she don't come
If I send for my baby, man, and she don't come
All the doctors in Hot Springs sure can't help her none


And if she gets unruly, thinks she don't want to do
And if she gets unruly and thinks she don't want to do
Take my 32-20, now, and cut her half in two


She got a .38 special but I believe it's most too light
She got a .38 special but I believe it's most too light
I got a 32-20, got to make the caps alright


If I send for my baby, man, and she don't come
If I send for my baby, man, and she don't come
All the doctors in Hot Springs sure can't help her none


I'm gonna shoot my pistol, gonna shoot my gatling gun
I'm gonna shoot my pistol, got to shoot my gatling gun
You made me love you, now your man has come


Oh, baby, where you stayed last night
Oh, baby, where you stayed last night
You got your hair all tangled and you ain't talking right


Her .38 special, boys, it do very well
Her .38 special, boys, it do very well
I got a 32-20 now, and it's a burning...


If I send for my baby, man, and she don't come
If I send for my baby, man, and she don't come
All the doctors in Wisconsin sure can't help her none


Hey, hey, baby, where you stayed last night
Hey, hey, baby, where you stayed last night
You didn't come home until the sun was shining bright


Oh boys, I just can't take my rest
Oh boys, I just can't take my rest
With this 32-20 laying up and down my breast


These songs about men finding a weapon to go hurt a woman can be frightening, but they show how much despair getting hurt in a relationship can cause, which is the heart of the blues.
Songs:
44 Blues - Roosevelt Sykes
Pistol Slapping Blues - Blind Boy Fuller
Pistol Blues - Boweavil Jackson
Midnight Blues - William Moore
45 Pistol Blues - Walter Roland
Forty-Five Blues - J.T. "Funny Paper" Smith
32/20 Blues - Robert Johnson

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...