collapse

* Member Info

 
 
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

* Like Us on Facebook

Now I'm gonna smoke my reefer, drink my good champagne and wine. Said I ain't gonna let these hard-headed women make me lose my mind - Kokomo Arnold, Rocky Road Blues

Author Topic: "Saturday Blues"/"Lucy Mae Blues"--Song of When the Spirit Moves You  (Read 318 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 11603
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Hi all,
This is a song, or series of songs that I have loved and thought about for a while. It is the first song that Ishmon Bracey ever recorded, at a session for Victor in Memphis on February 4, 1928, for which he was joined by Charlie McCoy on second guitar, with both players working out of E position in standard tuning. As has been noted elsewhere on site, "Saturday Blues" is a bit of a mystery title, for Saturday is never mentioned in the song's lyrics, and Bracey evidently told Gayle Dean Wardlow, who re-discovered him, that his own name for the song was "Shaggy Hound Blues". Here is Ishmon Bracey's "Saturday Blues":



The song, as performed by Bracey, has an unusual lyric scheme. It at first appears to be setting up to be a chorus blues, with singing right across the first four bars of the form, but then, in each verse, takes the second half of the line sung across the first four bars to be sung across the first two bars of the second and third four-bar phrases. So if you expressed the lyric scheme as a formula, you might describe it as:
   A----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   |                                |                                  |                                 |                                    |

   2nd half of A--------------------------------
   |                                |                                  |                                |                                     |

   2nd half of A--------------------------------
   |                                |                                  |                                 |                                    |

I'd long considered it somewhat unfortunate that Bracey was not recorded doing the piece as a solo, because his guitar part is particularly cool, and it ends up being somewhat obscured by Charlie McCoy's seconding guitar part, but when re-listening to the performance recently, I came to appreciate that Charlie McCoy's part was not simply noodling but really showed that he was listening and responding to what Ishmon Bracey was playing.

The song continued to be performed into the post-'60s era by the transplanted Mississippian Shirley Griffith, who was recorded by Art Rosenbaum in Indianapolis, where Shirley lived pretty much his entire adult life, and it ended up being the title track on Shirley's one solo Prestige Bluesville album. For his version, Shirley created a guitar part which combined elements of what Ishmon Bracey and Charlie McCoy had played on the original version, and made an additional revision to the feel of the song, switching from the straight eighth notes of Bracey's version to a swung eighth note feel. This was the first version of the song that I figured out, and it is sure a strong and effective treatment of the song:

   

Some years ago, I became aware of the Texas blues player Frankie Lee Sims, and soon afterwards heard his incredibly infectious "Lucy Mae Blues", recorded in 1953. While Frankie Lee had made a number of structural changes to the song, choosing to play it in Dropped-D tuning, and converting it to a chorus blues, you could still hear in its melody, especially across the first four bars and in the tagline of its chorus, that its musical DNA ran back to "Saturday Blues". Here is Frankie Lee Sims' "Lucy Mae Blues", and I think if dictionaries had audio examples accompanying the definitions of adjectives, this rendition would have to be used with the word "catchy":



Just as "Saturday Blues" ended up being covered, so did "Lucy Mae Blues", and the most interesting or distinctive cover of it that I've heard was done by Georgia musician, Cecil Barfield, and recorded by George Mitchell in Albany, Georgia in 1976. It reminds me of Robert Pete Williams' cover of "Louise", not musically, but insofar as it ended up falling so far from the tree from which it fell. Here is Cecil Barfield's "Lucy Mae Blues":



While I was reasonably certain that "Lucy Mae Blues" had derived from "Saturday Blues", I still had a nagging feeling that the change from "Saturday Blues" to "Lucy Mae Blues" seemed too extreme to have happened all at once, and felt that the amount of time between the dates on which the two songs were recorded was long enough that it seemed plausible that there might be some transitional version of the song that split the difference between "Saturday Blues" and "Lucy Mae Blues".

When I discovered Johnny Temple's "Better Not Let My Good Gal Catch You Here", recorded on March 6, 1939 in New York City, on which he was probably backed by Sammy Price on piano and Teddy Bunn on guitar, I felt that I had found the missing link between "Saturday Blues" and "Lucy Mae Blues". Here is "Better Not Let My Good Gal Catch You Here":



Johnny Temple makes so much sense as a person to perform the transitional version, because like Ishmon Bracey, he was a Jackson, Mississippi musician who recorded covers of other musicians from that area, most notably Skip James. And you can hear that in his version, Johnny Temple converted the song to a chorus blues, which ended up differing in its chorus from that of "Lucy Mae Blues" only in its last line.

I've made my own arrangement of "Saturday Blues", influenced by by both Ishmon Bracey and Robert Pete Williams, in terms of approach, which I hope to post on the "Covering the Song, Not the Arrangement" thread in the Back Porch. That aside, I think it's really neat to see how a song continued to evolve and change over the recorded history of the blues.

All best,
Johnm 

 
« Last Edit: December 26, 2020, 05:11:08 PM by Johnm »

Offline blueshome

  • Member
  • Posts: 1421
  • Step on it!
Re: "Saturday Blues"/"Lucy Mae Blues"--Song of When the Spirit Moves You
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2020, 06:05:59 AM »
I’ve said for years that there was a link as you describe John. Also remember the “days of the week” type of song was probably around early on and continued into the repertoire of Pink Anderson and others.

Offline dj

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 2750
  • Howdy!
Re: "Saturday Blues"/"Lucy Mae Blues"--Song of When the Spirit Moves You
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2020, 07:16:24 AM »
Nice one, John.

As for Saturday Blues being "a bit of a mystery title", I think it's a simple mondegreen.  I can just imagine the recording director asking Bracey the name of the song, Bracy replying "Shaggy Blues" with a deep Jackson accent so it comes out something like "S'agh'y", and the recording director thinking "What?  Oh, Satd'y" and transcribing it as Saturday.

Offline Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 11603
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: "Saturday Blues"/"Lucy Mae Blues"--Song of When the Spirit Moves You
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2021, 09:25:47 AM »
Hi all,
I was pretty sure that I remembered K. C. Douglas doing a version of "Saturday Blues" on one of his two Prestige Bluesville albums from the early '60s, and when I checked, sure enough, on the first of the albums, "K. C.'s Blues", he did the song, calling it "Meanest Woman", accompanying himself out of E position in standard tuning. In many ways, K. C. Douglas reminds me of Shirley Griffith, another musician originally from central Mississippi who left early in his adult life and spent the rest of it elsewhere, Indianapolis in Shirley's case and California in K. C.'s. Both players continued to perform songs from Tommy Johnson and Ishmon Bracey for the rest of their lives. I'll try and attach "Meanest Woman" to this message--I hope the file is not too large.
All best,
Johnm

 


SimplePortal 2.3.7 © 2008-2021, SimplePortal