Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Show 68 - Short-Haired Woman


Songs about the tight-haired woman, short-haired and bald-headed woman are a type of insult song. Many include one of the classic floating verses: "Babe you know I did more for you than the good Lord ever done. You know I bought you some hair because he sure didn't give you none."

Charley Jordan accompanied by Peetie Wheatstraw recorded Tight Haired Mama Blues in 1931.
   
Here come my tight‑haired woman, I can tell by the way she walks
Here come my tight‑haired woman, I can tell by the way she walks
But I know she be shaking that thing, because I can tell by the way she talks
I don't want no tight‑haired woman to cook no meat for me
I don't want no tight‑haired woman to cook no meat for me
Because she's so tight‑haired and evil, I'm scared she might poison poor me
Now your hair ain't curly, no your teeth ain't neither pearls
You know your hair ain't curly, you know your teeth ain't neither pearls
If the men were asking for hair, you would have a hard time in this world
Babe you know I did more for you than the good Lord ever done
Babe you know I did more for you than the good Lord ever done
You know I bought you some hair because he sure didn't give you none
Now if you got good hair, you want to keep it looking neat
If you got good hair, and you want to keep it looking neat
Just go down to the ten‑cent store, get you a nickel worth of white Vaseline
I will tell you girls one thing, you know it really is true
I will tell you girls one thing, and you know it really is true
Baby now you got good hair, but you bought this from the Jew

George Williams and Bessie Brown were a husband and wife duo who sang duets in a vaudeville blues style. Bald-Headed Mamma Blues from 1925 is about trading insults with George winning the battle when he calls her bald headed.

GW: Come Here Mama and take a look at me
BB: What I want to look at you for?
GW: Come Here Mama and take a look at me.
BB: I’ve been looking at you for the past twelve years
GW: Cause you’re papa’s happy as a man can be
BB: You was not happy when I first met you
GW: Happy as a lark, happy as a lark
BB: You was not happy when I first met you
Happy as a ? in a meat house?
Cause you was so hungry, you didn’t have two dollars worth of food
GW: Now you can’t kid me, cause you got me beat
BB:I always had you beat
GW: Now you can’t kid me, mama, cause you got me beat
You so dumb baby, you thought Birmingham was a piece of meat
BB: Now when I met you I had my diamonds on
GW: Yeah, you sure did
BB: When I met you I had my diamonds on
GW: If you fell down you’ve cut your head off
Now look at me George, everything I’ve got is gone
GW: Now I’ve done something that the lord ain’t never done
BB: What did you do?
GW: Now I’ve done something that the lord ain’t never done
BB: Just keep me in trouble all the time
GW: I gave you some hair Bessie, cause the Lord didn’t give you none, none, none none, none
You was bald-headed
You was bald-headed
You was bald-headed
You was bald-headed

Luke Jordan - Church Bell Blues from 1927 is another insult song about the bald-headed woman:

The Church Bells ringing
Secretary’s singing
The preachers preaching
Can't you hear the sisters shouting
Childrens in the pulpit
Mama's trying to learn my song
Now that low down dirty deacon
Done stole my gal and gone
Yeah my older brother had 'em
My sister had 'em
My auntie had 'em
My mother died with them
Woke up this morning
The family had the weary blues
Poked my head over in the corner
Poor grand mammy had em too
I did more for you woman
Way last winter
Laid in the forty
You know I scuffled through the summer
I did more for you woman then the the good lord had ever done
Came downtown and bought you good hair
The lord hadn't given you none
Hand me back that hat I bought you
That coat and waist
That shawl I bought you mama
Gotta bring shoes and all
If you don’t like your daddy
You got no right to care or stall
Hand me back that wig I bought you mama
Let you doggone head go bald
You know I can't be no bank boy
No superintendent
Can't clerk in no commissary
Ain't gonna work on no tipple
And I promised the good lord
Partner not to dig no coal
I'm gonna hang around the country
Try to find some jelly roll
Said my mammy got a hatchet
My papa’s got an axe
My sister's got a shepherd
My brother’s got some hounds
Some men crazy about yellow women
Some men like a teasing brown
I'm a stranger in town mama
Believe I'm going the whole way down
She wouldn't cook me no breakfast
She wouldn't get me no dinner
She squalled and brought me supper
And she kicked me outdoors
She had the nerve to ask me would a matchbox hold my clothes
Had a nerve to ask me would a matchbox hold my clothes
Memphis banjo player Gus Cannon recorded Heart Breakin' Blues in 1928 with Noah Lewis on harmonica: 
Well I'm going downtown baby won't be gone so long
Well I'm going downtown baby won't be gone so long
Say I'm tired and worried about to sing this song
And I stay at home baby, you don't treat me right
And I stay at home baby, you don't treat me right
The best time I have girl when you is out of my sight
Said give me back the wig I bought you, let your head go bald
Give me that wig I bought you, let your head go bald
But when I first met you girl, you didn't have no hair at all


Kid Stormy Weather was a New Orleans pianist who only released two records including Short Hair Blues:

That’s alright baby, Lord, that’s alright for you
That’s alright baby, Lord, that is alright for you
Now it’s alright, baby, Lord, about the way you do
Said blues came down my alley rolling up into my back door
Said blues came down my alley rolling up into my back door
I got the blues this morning, Lord, Lord, like I’ve never had before
Mama, remember the time, babe, I met, you liked it and how
Mama, do you remember the time, babe, I met, you liked it and how
But the thing you tried to do, babe, somebody doing it now
Go on old black gal, you know you can't make me shamed
Said go on old black gal, you know you can't make me shamed
But you’re hair is so short, I swear to God I can smell your brand
Way way down babe, way down in old Pollock town
Now way way down babe, way down in old Pollock town
Said the roaches and the chinches done tore my little gin house down
Kid Stormy Weather was an inspiration to Professor Longhair. In 1950, working under the name Roy Byrd, he recorded Bald Head:

Look there, she ain’t got no hair
My, look there, where’s that girl's hair?
Oh! look here, she ain’t got no hair
Ah look there, where’s that girl’s hair?
You know folks this girl I’m trying to tell you all about
Supposed to be a good friend of mine’s wife
But everyday on the job he’s always telling me the same old thing
He wished he had married her on some other night
Cause look there she didn’t have no hair
My, look there, where’s that girl's hair?
Oh! look here, she ain’t got no hair
Ah, look there, where’s that girl's hair?
And everyday on the job don’t you know she’s just begging
She’s just begging to take her out to a ball
But he got her straight you know he told her:
Said I can’t take chances
If I carry you girl, you got to stand out in the hall
Cause look there, you ain’t got no hair
Ah, look there, how come no hair?
Oh look there, she ain’t got no hair
Ah, look there, where’s that girl's hair?
She said if I get my fella a jug
He’d take me for a walk maybe down at Lee Circle’s park
Which he did, he got drunk and he wanted to make a little love
He put his arms around her neck and he knocked her wig off
Look there, she ain’t got no hair
My, look there, where’s that girl's hair?
Oh! look here, she ain’t got no hair

Bald Head is certainly funny. But, like the other songs from an earlier era, it’s kind of mean. It attacks women who don’t meet a certain standard of beauty. And these short haired, tight-haired and bald-headed women often would have been that way because the excessive use of beauty products caused their hair to break off. Standards of beauty can be complicated things and the often repeated lines where men who claim credit for buying wigs show a kind of male desire to be the one who determines what’s properly feminine.

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