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The blues is a mighty long road. Or it could be a river, one that twists and turns and flows into a sea of limitless musical potential - Billy Gibbons

Author Topic: SOTM March 2018 - Walking Blues  (Read 747 times)

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Offline islandgal

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SOTM March 2018 - Walking Blues
« on: March 01, 2018, 08:41:47 AM »
I have chosen Walking Blues as the Song of The Month for March.

Walking Blues was written by Son House and first recorded by him in 1930 by Paramount. The recording I have included here was from August 1941, recorded by Alan Lomax at Clack's Grocery Store, Lake Cormorant, Mississippi. The clue to this is the railway sound in the background, the store being close to a branch line between Lake Cormorant and Robinsonville. Son House took Lomax there because it had the electricity necessary for the recording machines.

Lomax recalled, ?I don?t know where House took me. Down dirt roads, along a railroad track into the back of an aging country store that smelt of licorice and dill pickles and stuff.?

Sometimes attributed as the author of Walking Blues, Robert Johnson recorded this version on November 27, 1936.

One of my favourite versions is by Johnny Shines titled Ramblin Blues from 1952.

Here is R.L. Burnside, recorded in 1968.

Taj Mahal?s rendition, from his self-titled debut album of 1968.

Here is Muddy Waters recorded at the Newport Folk Festival, 1969.
When Son House couldn?t be on stage at his scheduled time, Muddy Waters took the stage and played an acoustic set, including Walking Blues, saying  "I'll do it like Son House would do it if he was here."

Here is Muddy?s more familiar electric version. (1950 issued by Chess on 78 rpm)

Moving ahead a few years to 1971, here is Bonnie Raitt?s version, with Junior Wells on harmonica.

Anybody out there have other versions they would like to share?

« Last Edit: November 26, 2019, 06:38:04 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Song of the Month - Walking Blues
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2018, 08:58:09 AM »
Thanks very much for your choice of the Song of the Month for March, islandgal, and for the research that went into doing the initial post.  I look forward to listening to the versions that are new to me and re-visiting Johnny Shines' "Ramblin'", especially.

Here is a very early "Walking Blues" from Peg Leg Howell, recorded in the mid-late '20s.  It really is a different "Walking Blues" than those coming out of Mississippi, but at least it shares the same name.  Apologies if the video is not viewable by non-U. S. residents:

All best,

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Song of the Month - Walking Blues
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2018, 02:09:47 AM »
Thanks for the post islandgal. The Lomax recording is so atmospheric, with everybody having such a good time! The Johnny Shines version is also one of my favourites.

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Offline DavidCrosbie

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Re: Song of the Month - Walking Blues
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2018, 09:42:17 AM »
Son House had a favourite verse
I got up this morning, feeling 'round for my shoes
You know by that, people, I got the walkin' blues
He used it in two different blues. In each case, when asked for a title he said Walkin' Blues. This is the song he gave the title to in 1930:

Nothing like the 1941 song.

Contrary to Lomax's narrative in The Land Where the Blues Began, he made two recording trips to Coahoma County. He went back to Son House the following year in 1942. One of Son's songs was a variant of My Black Mama Part 2 aka Death Letter Blues. Two of the verses were
Well, I walked up close, I looked down in her face

Good old gal, you got to lay here till Judgment Day

I fold my arms, Lord, I walked away
"That's all right, mama, your trouble will come someday"
That was enough for Son to tell Lomax that this song, too, was called Walkin' Blues.

This link plays the 1942 song, followed by the 1941 song.


Johnson's Walkin' Blues is musically closer to this and to My Black Mama than to House's 1930 and 1941 songs.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2018, 10:33:47 AM by DavidCrosbie »

Offline DavidCrosbie

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Re: Song of the Month - Walking Blues
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2018, 12:30:52 PM »
Max Haymes has found links between  the lyrics used by Robert Johnson and Son House  and some vaudeville blues lyrics.

The third verse of Frisco Blues by Luella Miller (1928)  is partly the same as Johnson's initial verse taken from House:
Lord, I woke up this mornin?, daddy feelin? for my shoes;
I woke up this mornin?, daddy feelin? for my shoes.
My man has quit me. He left me with the Frisco Blues.

A later verse of Johnson's
Leaving this morning : I have to ride the blinds
Babe I been mistreated : baby and I don't mind dying

partly echoes Mamie Smith's 1920 Fare Thee Honey Blues

The lyrics are an interesting mixture of Tin Pan Alley, blues floaters and traditional snatches from Fare Thee and Alabama Bound
Now my baby has left me
I don't know what I'll do
Now every day I miss him
It makes me feel so blue
I'm leaving here today
And that is why I say

I?m leavin? town to wear you off my mind;
I?ve been mistreated an? I don?t mind dyin?.
I'll buy me a ticket as long as my right arm;
I'll ride so far you?ll think I?m dead an? gone
I'm Alabama Bound

I told him way last spring
When the bluebirds began to sing
That I was goin' away, not to wear no black
Nothin' in the world will bring me back

Now I've thrown you down
I'm leavin' this lonesome town
I'll find me a gun as long as I'm tall
Shoot the man that catched the cannonball
Fare thee honey, I don't want that song(?)

if you don't want me, why don't you tell me so?
I can get a man most anywhere I go
There's a change in the ocean, a change in the deep blue sea
I don't want nobody that don't want me
Don't you leave me here

Partly similar is Ethel Ridley's 1923 Alabama Bound Blues

The last verses are the most relevant:
Number Seven in the station, Number Eleven in the yard
Gonna leave this town if I have to ride the rods

I'm leaving' town to wear you off my mind
I've been mistreated and I don't mind dying
I'll find me a ticket long as my right arm
Ride so far you'll think Im dead and gone
I'm Alabama Bound

Johnson is prepared to ride the blinds but Ethel considers the more dangerous riding the rods.

[By the way, Max Haymes has discovered that in the early days of long-distance rail journeys by connections with different railcompanies, tickets really were huge long affairs: a string of tickets, one for each stretch on a different line.

I realise there are probably more guitar pickers out there than vaudeville blues fans. So here' Luke Jordan

with a ticket as long as his arm.]

And here for comparison is Jeff Taft's transcription of Johnson's Walkin' Blues:
I woke up this morning : feeling around for my shoes
Know by that : I got these old walking blues

Lord I feel like blowing : my poor lonesome horn
Got up this morning : my little Berniece was gone

Lord I feel like blow : my lonesome horn
Well I got up this morning : all I had was gone

Well leaving this morning : if I have to oh ride the blinds
I feel mistreated : and I don't mind dying

Leaving this morning : I have to ride the blinds
Babe I been mistreated : baby and I don't mind dying

Well some people tell me : that the worried blues ain't bad
Worst old feeling : I most ever had

She's got Elgin movements : from her head down to her toes
Break in on a dollar : most anywhere she goes

Haymes' discussion can be read here
« Last Edit: March 04, 2018, 06:59:45 PM by DavidCrosbie »

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