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I asked him how 'bout it and he said, "all right." I asked him how long, and he said, "all night!" - Mattie Delaney, Big Road Blues

Author Topic: Allen Shaw Lyrics  (Read 3322 times)

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Online Johnm

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Allen Shaw Lyrics
« on: April 15, 2009, 10:45:05 AM »
Hi all,
The Memphis musician Allen Shaw only had two titles released under his own name during his recording career, and they date from a session in New York City on September 17-18 in 1934.  Shaw played "I Couldn't Help It" out of G position in standard tuning.  The song is shown as a solo piece, but I believe that Memphis Willie B., who seconded him on "Moanin' The Blues", Shaw's second title, played on "I Couldn't Help It" too, providing a simple chordal strummed back-up of the type that Willie Thomas played behind Butch Cage.
Allen Shaw was a superlative singer, with a strong baritone voice in a class with Son House's, which is a pretty small class.  As both a singer and player, he had beautiful heavy time, and his vocal phrasing is especially punchy.  The third verse seems a staple of Memphis singers after the Memphis Jug Band used it.  Here is "I Couldn't Help It:



   Well, I got up this mornin', feelin' bad, thinkin' about the times that I once have had
   REFRAIN: God knows, I couldn't help it, God knows, I couldn't help it
   God knows, I couldn't help it, I mean, sure as you're born

   Well, it ain't but the one thing that grieve my mind, all of these women, ain't nary one mine
   REFRAIN: God knows, I couldn't help it, God knows, I couldn't help it
   God knows, I couldn't help it, I mean, sure as you're born

   Well, I whups my woman with a single tree, you might-a heard her hollerin', "Don't you murder me!"
   REFRAIN: God knows, I couldn't help it, God knows, I couldn't help it
   God knows I couldn't help it, I mean, sure as you're born

   Mama told me, papa told me, too, "Never let a woman make a fool of you."
   REFRAIN: God knows, I couldn't help it, God knows, I couldn't help it
   God knows I couldn't help it, I mean, sure as you're born

   Well, I woke up this mornin', feelin' blue, thinkin' about no other one but you
   REFRAIN: God knows, I couldn't help it, God knows, I couldn't help it
   God knows, I couldn't help it, I mean, sure as you're born

   Well, mama told me, papa, too, "The way you've got, there's no need of runnin' you."
   REFRAIN: God knows, I couldn't help it, God knows, I couldn't help it
   God knows, I couldn't help it, I mean, sure as you're born

   SPOKEN:  Play 'em now
   
   SOLO

All best,
Johnm
   
         
« Last Edit: June 11, 2020, 08:35:12 AM by Johnm »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Allen Shaw Lyrics
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2009, 01:08:38 PM »
John Henry Barbee recorded his version of this in 1938. Looking at your transcription Barbee's first three verses are almost identical but then he adds a couple of his own.

Online Johnm

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Re: Allen Shaw Lyrics
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2009, 01:19:47 PM »
Thanks for that information, Bunker Hill.  I wasn't aware that anyone had recorded the song after Allen Shaw.  There is still so much of this music I have never heard.
All best,
Johnm

Offline dj

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Re: Allen Shaw Lyrics
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2009, 01:34:15 PM »
Washboard Sam recorded a jumping version of this song for Victor on February 18 1947.  Sam sang and played washboard with J.T. Brown on tenor sax, Roosevelt Sykes on piano, Big Bill Broonzy on guitar, and Willie Dixon on bass.  The first four verses are substantially the same as Shaw's, but Sam's fifth verse doesn't appear in Shaw's version of the song.

Edited to add:  I just listened to John Henry Barbee's version of the song.  It would seem to be the model for Washboard Sam's version, as all the verses are basically the same.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2009, 01:43:11 PM by dj »

Offline dj

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Re: Allen Shaw Lyrics
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2009, 01:47:12 PM »
While we're at it, I should add that Walter Davis recorded "I Just Can't Help It" for Bullet in 1949, singing and playing piano with Henry Townsend on guitar and an unknown bass player.  The words and melody of the verse is different from the Shaw/Barbee/Washboard Sam versions, but the chorus is pretty much the same.
   

Online Johnm

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Re: Allen Shaw Lyrics
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2009, 02:04:24 PM »
Thanks for those additions, dj.  It's interesting that a song recorded by such an obscure artist would have been picked up by so many other musicians.
All best,
Johnm

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Re: Allen Shaw Lyrics
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2009, 01:14:14 PM »
Hi all,
Allen Shaw's second title, "Moanin' The Blues", was recorded on September 18, 1934.  He plays slide in Vestapol on it, pitched at about E flat.  Either Shaw was playing very little apart from his main slide lick or Memphis Willie B., who was seconding him, had an almost imperceptible part.  The song has an unusual form.  Shaw plays across the portion of the form that would usually contain the opening line of the verses, not coming in singing until the arrival of the IV chord.  When he comes to his first moaning verse, he switches to a 16-bar form.  It is a real shame he did not record more titles.  He was a wonderful singer and very assured-sounding guitarist.  Here is "Moanin' The Blues":



   Well, I woke up this mornin', mama, 'as feelin' bad
   Got to thinkin' about the times I once have had

   Now, if you don't want me why don't you tell me so?
   I could get a woman anywhere I go

   Lord, I asked the judge, "What should be my fine?"
   Said, "Eleven, twenty-nine and fifty dollar fine."

   Yes, I asked the judge to be, "easy as you can
   That's all I want, you to slip me from the pen."

   Ummm, ummm
   Cryin' ummm, ummm
   Cryin' ummm, ummm

   Ever since my mother has been dead
   Been troubles and trials jumpin' 'cross my head

   Cryin' ummm, don't nobody know
   Cryin' ummm, don't nobody know

   Ummm

Edited 4/17 to pick up correction from dingwall

All best,
Johnm
     
« Last Edit: June 11, 2020, 08:34:28 AM by Johnm »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Allen Shaw Lyrics
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2009, 02:52:41 PM »
I believe it's Shaw and Memphis Willie B who back up Hattie Hart on her 1934 recordings, which are on one of the Document Memphis Blues collections (the one with George Torey and John Henry Barbee) and one of the numbers is a vocal duet with Shaw and Hart, so there is at least a little more of him.
Chris

Online Johnm

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Re: Allen Shaw Lyrics
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2009, 03:07:24 PM »
Yes, Chris, I remember Shaw singing a verse right near the end of "The Coldest Stuff In Town".  Boy, is it great!
All best,
Johnm

dingwall

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Re: Allen Shaw Lyrics
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2009, 10:43:21 AM »
Can't find the CD to check exactly, but line 3.2 in Moanin' the Blues is something like

Said, "Eleven twenty-nine and fifty dollar fine."

Eleven months and twenty-nine days is a sentence just under a year, and is worse than one year, as there are some privileges which come with sentences of one year or more.   You miss out on these with 'eleven twenty-nine'. 

Online Johnm

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Re: Allen Shaw Lyrics
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2009, 11:03:09 AM »
Thanks for the correction and clarification, dingwall.  That makes much more sense than what I had, which seemed like nonsense.  The sound is dead on, too.
All best,
Johnm

 


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