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Author Topic: Lil' Son Jackson Lyrics  (Read 21803 times)

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Offline Slack

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Lil' Son Jackson Lyrics
« on: September 11, 2003, 08:29:43 PM »
Here is my attempt at Gamblers Blues, the second verse is a bear, I can hear a couple of words only in the 'A' part - anybody have a better guess?

Gamblers Blues
Little Son Jackson

Gamblers Blues
Little Son Jackson

Now (You know) I once was a gambler boys and I bet my money wrong (x2)
I got no more money and all I got is gone

When I lose that money, sit around with my head hung down
Lose that doggone money, sit around with my head hung down
I wake up in the morning with my face all full of frown.

You know I'm through with gamblin' some Jack Stropper can have my room (x2)
Pretty woman may kill me but gamblin' won't be my doom

Well (You know) I promised by baby that I would play no more (x2)
Well, I seen bad gambling follow me every place I go.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2003, 06:50:44 AM by Slack »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Lil' Son Jackson Lyrics
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2003, 11:58:07 PM »
Hi John,
This is one I think I hear pretty well.  I think the second verse is--
  When I lose that money, sit around with my head hung down
  Lose that doggone money, sit around with my head hung down
  I wake up in the morning with my face all full of frown.
The fourth verse is,
  Well, I promised my baby that I would play no more (2)
  Well, I seen bad gambling follow me every place I go.
I think that's it.  Now I just have to learn to sing it.
All best,
John

 

Offline Slack

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Re: Lil' Son Jackson Lyrics
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2003, 06:53:59 AM »
This is one I think I hear pretty well.  I think the second

Indeed,  Thanks John!  I'm anxious to get his CD.

Quote
I think that's it.  Now I just have to learn to sing it.

You and me both.

cheers,
JohnD

Offline Johnm

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Re: Lil' Son Jackson Lyrics
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2006, 01:29:38 PM »
Hi all,
Lil' Son Jackson has long been a particular favorite of mine, both vocally and instrumentally, and I have especially enjoyed his song "Freedom Train Blues".  It can be found on the Juke and on "Texas Blues--The Gold Star Sessions", Arhoolie CD 352.  Lil' Son plays the song out of A, standard tuning, pitched at B, so he may be capoed at the second fret or simply tuned a whole step high.  The song is quite slow and Lil' Son gets beautiful vibrato on some of his bends.  As for the title, I find it a bit mysterious, because I think the song's recording date, between 1947 and 1951, precedes the activities of the Freedom Riders.  I know I'll be corrected if I'm wrong about that, so I welcome any additional information.  Lil' Son is about as insistent in his use of "Well, you know" and "oh man", as Sleepy John Estes was in his use of "Now" to start a line.  All of the repeated phrases seem to serve as kind of phrasing markers.  I particularly like Lil' Son's second verse.

   You know, the girl I love, oh man, she road that Freedom Train (2)
   You know, she boarded in Chicago, she was going to Colorado Springs

   Well now, you know, good will was her desire, man, well now, freedom was her aim
   Good will was her desire, man, well you know, freedom was her aim
   Well that's the reason my baby left me, oh man, just to ride that Freedom Train

   SOLO:

   You know, I was standing at the station, oh man, tears come rolling down
   Yes, I was standing at the station, oh man, tears come rolling down
   Well, you know, I hate to see, man, oh Lord, my baby leave this town

Edited 7/16 to pick up correction from Ginny Snowe

All best,
Johnm   
« Last Edit: July 16, 2006, 10:46:26 PM by Johnm »

Offline dj

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Re: Lil' Son Jackson Lyrics
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2006, 01:49:57 PM »
Hi, John.  My first edition of Leadbitter and Slaven's Blues Records 1943 - 1966 has Freedom Train being recorded in 1948.  I think the title may refer to a train called the Freedom Train that toured the country from 1947 - 1949 carrying documents from tha National Archives.  The idea was to bring important documents of American history to people who would otherwise have no chance to see them.  The train was in Houston on February 4th and 5th, 1948.  The Freedom Train didn't carry any passengers other than the exhibit attendants, but the name must have resonated with Jackson and come to mind when he was looking for a train to use in the lyric.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Lil' Son Jackson Lyrics
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2006, 11:51:03 AM »
Hi, John.  My first edition of Leadbitter and Slaven's Blues Records 1943 - 1966 has Freedom Train being recorded in 1948.  I think the title may refer to a train called the Freedom Train that toured the country from 1947 - 1949 carrying documents from tha National Archives.  The idea was to bring important documents of American history to people who would otherwise have no chance to see them.  The train was in Houston on February 4th and 5th, 1948.  The Freedom Train didn't carry any passengers other than the exhibit attendants, but the name must have resonated with Jackson and come to mind when he was looking for a train to use in the lyric.
Oh good stuff that man, historical background to a song I've had on tape since the 60s. Thank you. Astonishing to think that the Arhoolie CD would seem to be the song's first appearance on anything other than 78!
(Perhaps sometime I should scan the sleeve notes to the 1959 Imperial Jackson LP - definitely of their time, cashing in on rock and roll to sell it)

Offline dj

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Re: Lil' Son Jackson Lyrics
« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2006, 01:12:41 PM »
I did some searching online and came up with this site, which has info on the Freedom Train: http://www.freedomtrain.org/ft_timeline.html.  Here's an entry from the train's timeline that may help to explain why the Freedom Train had special meaning to Lil' Son Jackson and other African-Americans throughout the South:

Quote
January 7, 1948

The Freedom Train is not in Memphis.

The city's fathers have stood their ground on segregation and the American Heritage Foundation has not wavered on their policy that admission to the Freedom Train will not have any component of segregation, either aboard the train or in line. To the foundation's credit, Memphis is struck from the itinerary. As is Birmingham.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Lil' Son Jackson Lyrics
« Reply #7 on: July 04, 2006, 11:08:36 AM »
I'd like to echo Bunker Hill's thanks for the context-enriching information on the Freedom Train, David.  When I thought about it more later, I realized that the Freedom Riders were on buses anyway, which made Lil' Son's title all the more mysterious.  Mystery solved, thanks to your effort.
All best,
Johnm 

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Lil' Son Jackson Lyrics
« Reply #8 on: July 04, 2006, 11:55:06 AM »
Following on from DJ's research, I'm now beginning to wonder if the Freedom Label, started by Saul Kahl in 1948 and operated out of Eddie's Record Shop on Dowling Street, derived its name from the same source.  Mike Leadbitter wrote a lengthy piece on the label in late 60s and more recently (1994) Marc Ryan contributed a five page feature on the label for Blues & Rhythm. My interest has been stimulated enough to go have a look see what they say. :)

Offline Johnm

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Re: Lil' Son Jackson Lyrics
« Reply #9 on: July 04, 2006, 12:12:11 PM »
Hi all,
Like "Freedom Train Blues", "Groundhog Blues" was originally recorded by Lil' Son Jackson for the Gold Star label, and has been re-issued on the same Arhoolie CD (reviewed elsewhere on this site).
Groundhogs loom large in Texas blues--I know Ramblin' Thomas recorded a "Groundhog Blues", and I believe Willie Reed may have, too.  Lil' Son's version is played, really expertly, out of E position in standard tuning, a position I don't normally associate with him.  The over-all effect of the performance supports my idea (which I'm sure many of you do not share) that in Blues performances, sound trumps lyrical content and everything else.  Lil' Son Jackson could sing the phone directory and I would want to hear it.  He is not easy to emulate instrumentally, but I think he is probably impossible to capture vocally.  Whew, was he great!

   Well now, listen, listen people, what Lil' Son gon' say
   You know, I believe tomorrow, that is gonna be Groundhog Day
   Because that old groundhog, hmm, oh man, rootin' in my buddy's back yard
   Tell me there ain't nothin' in the world can stop him but the ground when it get real hard

   Tell me this groundhog, oh man, he don't root in one place long
   Before he have rooted you out of your wife and home
   But if I catch the groundhog rootin', oh man, rootin' in my back yard
   Well, I betcha I got somethin' to stop him, oh man, way before the ground get hard

   If I catch up to a hog in my yard, yes man, I tell you what I'm gon' do
   I'm gonna cut his head about four ways and my old woman's too
   If I catch a hog in my yard, oh man, rootin' 'round my back door
   I betcha my last bottom dollar, yes man, he won't root no more

All best,
Johnm

         

Offline Johnm

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Re: Lil' Son Jackson Lyrics
« Reply #10 on: July 04, 2006, 04:02:59 PM »
Hi all,
Slack really got the ball rolling on transcribing Lil' Son Jackson lyrics three years ago with "Gamblers Blues".  Rather than have that one song and its thread languish at the tail end of the Country Blues Lyrics section, it seemed to make sense to merge it with the recently started thread on Lil' Son's lyrics. 
All best,
Johnm 

Offline dj

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Re: Lil' Son Jackson Lyrics
« Reply #11 on: July 04, 2006, 04:54:13 PM »
Quote
I know Ramblin' Thomas recorded a "Groundhog Blues", and I believe Willie Reed may have, too

Right you are.  Willie Reed recorded "Some Low Down Groundhog Blues" in Dallas in September of 1935.   

Quote
Groundhogs loom large in Texas blues

And in St. Louis.  Sonny Boy Williamson did a "Groundhog Blues", and Big Joe Williams recorded "Rootin' Ground Hog".  And Blind Mack recorded "Rootin' Ground-Hog Blues in Jackson Mississippi in 1935.

In the non-country blues arena, Gladys Bentley (1928) and Porter Grainger (1926) recorded songs titled "Ground Hog Blues". Both recordings took place in New York City.

Has a woodchuck ever appeared in a blues song, or do groundhogs have a blues "cool" that poor woodchucks just can't match?   ;)

Offline Johnm

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Re: Lil' Son Jackson Lyrics
« Reply #12 on: July 05, 2006, 03:53:46 PM »
Hi all,
Lil' Son Jackson first recorded "Cairo Blues" for Gold Star in the same period that he recorded "Freedom Train Blues" and "Groundhog Blues", and like them, it is available on the Arhoolie "Texas Blues" CD.  The guitar part is similar to his approach on "Gamblers Blues" and "Roberta", but close listening in the interest of getting at the lyrics provided a major surprise with regard to the guitar part:  he is playing not in Spanish, but in open G6 or the "Bo Carter G tuning" of DGDGBE.  The distinction between Spanish and Bo's G tuning is a tough one, but there are a number of give-aways during the course of the performance--
   *  Near the end of the tune, Lil' Son twice does a chromatic descending line on the fourth string, from third fret F down to the open D string, while brushing the top three strings, the uppermost of which is pitched at the sixth degree of the G scale, E.  In G6 tuning, the E in question would be the open first string.  In Spanish tuning, you would have to fret the second fret of the first string to get that E note.  To fret the E note while simultaneously playing the descending run on the fourth string strikes me as technically implausible, and flies in the face of the Country Blues practice of taking what the tuning/position gives you and making music with it. 
   *  Elsewhere in the song, Lil' Son does triplet brushes of the first two strings where he is playing the fifth degree of the scale, D, on the second string, and the I note of the scale, G, on the first string, sliding into both notes for the downbeat of each triplet.  In G6 tuning, both notes are available at the third fret, and could be fretted by one finger of the left hand.  In Spanish tuning, he would have had to finger the third fret of the second string to get the D note and the fifth fret of the first string to get the G note . . . and then slide that fairly awkward fingering into the downbeat of consecutive triplets?  I don't think so.  G6 tuning makes the lick a perfectly natural piece of cake, while Spanish makes it seem quixotic, at least in terms of its execution.
I am going to have to go back the various Lil' Son tunes I have "heard" in Spanish in the past, listen to them more carefully, and see if they still sound like they are in Spanish tuning.  I'll let you know.

As for the lyrics of "Cairo Blues", I checked a Rand McNally Road Atlas for a possible Cairo, Texas, but found none, so I assume the Cairo he is speaking of is Cairo, Illinois, celebrated by Henry Spaulding in his own "Cairo Blues".  Cairo is right down at the tip of Illinois where the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers meet and is crucial to the plot of "Huckleberry Finn", for Huck and Jim miss the Ohio River when they pass it during the night, staying on the Mississippi, and thus in slave territory where Jim is more vulnerable to re-capture.
In any case, Lil Son's version starts out with a waterbound sort of theme that could be fitted right into the recent Hurricane Katrina disaster.  I particularly like his third verse, and as usual, he's right on top of his game, singing and playing.

   You know, I want to go to Cairo, but the water's all over town (2)
   The polices on the corner don't allow nobody 'round

   The gal I love, and she got washed away
   Girl I love, she got washed away
   Well now, since she been gone, you know, I got nowhere to stay

   Cairo, Cairo was a place I dearly love (2)
   Everything so pleasant 'round me and the moon and stars above

   SOLO

   You know, I'm ragged and dirty, babe, I'm barefoot and hongry [sic], too
   Yes, I'm raggled [sic] and dirty, baby, barefoot and hongry, too
   But if I clean up, girl, can I go home with you?

All best,
Johnm
   
« Last Edit: July 05, 2006, 03:56:02 PM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Lil' Son Jackson Lyrics
« Reply #13 on: July 05, 2006, 11:13:33 PM »
Hi all,
"Roberta Blues" is another Lil' Son Jackson tune originally recorded for Gold Star, and I believe it may have been his biggest hit.  The accompaniment/phrasing template it employs, which Lil' Son used for several other songs, must be included among the the very finest in Country Blues, ranking up there with Lemon's basic C accompaniment and Lonnie Johnson's slow blues archetype. 
After repeated listening today, I believe that "Roberta Blues", like "Cairo Blues", is played out of the G6 tuning, DGDGBE.  The chromatic descending lick on the fourth string with the treble brush strokes alluded to in the post on "Cairo Blues" occurs in "Roberta", as well; you can hear it after the second and third lines of the third verse.  A few more of these discoveries and I may begin to doubt that Lil' Son ever played in Spanish.  I have not yet re-listened to his post-rediscovery recordings that Chris Strachwitz made for Arhoolie, and it may be that there are titles there that will sound unambiguously in Spanish.
I really like the lyrics to this one, and especially the second verse.  Lil' Son pronounces "cud" like "could", to rhyme with "good", where I think most of us would pronounce it to rhyme with "dud".  The melody on "Roberta Blues" is especially slippery.

   Well, yond' come Roberta, got a hundred all in her hand (2)
   She said, "Good morning, Judge, you know I've come to get my man."

   Well, the judge turned around and he commenced to chewin' his cud
   You know, the judge turned around, boys, and he commenced to chewin' his cud
   He said, "A hundred, Roberta, won't do your man no good."

   Well, they brought me coffee, oh man, they brought me tea
   Well, they brought me coffee, don't you know, they brought me tea
   Well, they brought me everything, oh man, but that jailhouse key

   SOLO

   When I leave Roberta, well, she laid and cried all night (2)
   You know, I know that she love me, but I just can't treat her right.

All best,
Johnm
   

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Lil' Son Jackson Lyrics
« Reply #14 on: July 06, 2006, 10:02:13 AM »
As for the lyrics of "Cairo Blues", I checked a Rand McNally Road Atlas for a possible Cairo, Texas, but found none, so I assume the Cairo he is speaking of is Cairo, Illinois, celebrated by Henry Spaulding in his own "Cairo Blues".  Cairo is right down at the tip of Illinois where the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers meet and is crucial to the plot of "Huckleberry Finn", for Huck and Jim miss the Ohio River when they pass it during the night, staying on the Mississippi, and thus in slave territory where Jim is more vulnerable to re-capture.
Strachwitz discussing the remake in his 1960 notes to the Arhoolie LP says "Cairo Blues is a very mving performance and refers to the city in Illinois which has frequently been struck by disasterous floods"

 


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