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To make music is the essential thing. To listen to it is accessory - Charles Seeger

Author Topic: Sylvester Weaver Lyrics  (Read 15006 times)

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Online Johnm

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Sylvester Weaver Lyrics
« on: November 12, 2006, 04:02:06 PM »
Hi all,
I've been listening a lot to Sylvester Weaver lately.  He was an interesting musician and quite different from most of the Bluesmen recording in the period he recorded (his last session was in 1927).  He was from Louisville, Kentucky, and his sound, both instrumentally and vocally, is pretty urbane.  His enunciation is notably "careful" sounding.  He favored much slower tempos than most of his contemporaries.  On a good percentage of his titles, he was joined by the slide guitarist Walter Beasley, and their duet sound is an exceptionally well worked-out one, with the slick Beasley switching between treble fills and syncopated bass runs with the slide. 
"Railroad Porter Blues", recorded in New York City on November 27, 1927, gives a good example of Weaver's unusual lyrics.  It can be found on "Sylvester Weaver, Vol. 2", Document DOCD-5113  The song sounds almost like it could have been written for inclusion in a musical stage play.  Weaver plays an uncharacteristically simple accompaniment out of C standard tuning, backed by Beasley's tasty slide work.  Here is "Railroad Porter Blues":



   Hear that bell ringin'?  Keeps me 'wake all night long (2)
   Ain't no time for sleepin', something's always goin' on wrong

   Folks keep yellin', "Rastus, pull the window down , please."  (2)
   "With that snow a-fallin', somebody's surely going to freeze."

   Mmmmmmm.  Hear how that whistle blows (2)
   It's blowing like it don't have to blow no more

   Shinin' shoes 'til morning, got no place to lay my head (2)
   When I get through slavin', Lord, I'm almost dead

   Babies start cryin', then they take me to be a nurse (2)
   I gets almost drownded, then what could be worse?

   Poor railroad porter hates to leave his wife at home (2)
   'Cause she starts to cheatin' just as soon as he is gone

All best,
Johnm
   

« Last Edit: June 08, 2020, 06:37:17 PM by Johnm »

Online Johnm

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Re: Sylvester Weaver Lyrics
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2006, 04:17:32 PM »
Hi all,
Sylvester Weaver and Walter Beasley recorded "Me And My Tapeworm" at the same session in which they recorded "Railroad Porter Blues", but it was never issued until 1976.  The take has no performance problems.  Is it possible the record company had scruples about releasing a gross record?  That's really a stretch. 
Weaver and Beasley are working at a lively tempo here, and Weaver does some really nifty picking in G, standard tuning, pitched at about G#.  I like these lyrics, especially the tagline to the next-to-last verse, but they employ a lot of terms and expressions I would venture to say you don't encounter in blues lyrics very often.  See for yourself.  This could make a good Jugband number.  Here is "Me And My Tapeworm Blues":



   Gee, I'm always hungry, can't get enough to eat
   Gee, I'm hungry, can't get enough to eat
   I'm just like a savage, I could eat a barrel of meat

   Set down to the table, ate up everything I could found
   Set down to the table, ate up everything I found
   Would have ate the dishes if someone hadn't been around

   Pot of ham and cabbage, ain't enough to fill mine (2)
   That just makes me peckish, I could eat a dozen fine

   Saw my family doctor, said I had a big tapeworm
   I saw my family doctor, said I had a big tapeworm
   Said I had ate a cow, made me good and firm

   Went to the country, broke into a chicken coop
   I went to the country, broke into a chicken coop
   Stole a dozen chickens, put 'em in a pot of soup

   I'm a greedy glutton, eat fifty times a day (2)
   When I'm around a pigpen, they hide the slop away

   Guess me and my tapeworm must go further down the road (2)
   'Cause we eat so much, won't nobody give us no board

Edited, 11/13 to pick up correction from banjochris
Edited 11/13 to pick up clarification from Bunker Hill

All best,
Johnm

   
« Last Edit: June 08, 2020, 06:38:21 PM by Johnm »

Online Johnm

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Re: Sylvester Weaver Lyrics
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2006, 04:30:30 PM »
Hi all,
Sylvester Weaver and Walter Beasley recorded "Chittlin Rag Blues" in New York City on November 26, 1927.  Weaver is playing out of C position in standard tuning, and I believe Beasley is playing Vestapol, with a slide, tuned quite low. 
"Chittlin' Rag Blues" is a narrative blues, something encountered rarely during the 1920s and much less frequently after that.  Weaver's lyrics are clever and original, as seems most often to have been the case with his songs.  He pronounces "nitroglycerine" "nitroglycerin".  Here is "Chittlin' Rag Blues":

 

   Had a chittlin' supper, last Saturday night
   I had a chittlin' supper at home last Saturday night
   Some house rent party, it was a low-down sight

   Old sister pulled hips and brother shaked them off
   Old sister pulled hips and old brother shaked them off
   Was belly-rubbin' 'til the dewdrops start to fall

   It cost a quarter to enter at the door (2)
   Before you got out it cost about ten times more

   They served you whiskey, strong as nitroglycerine
   They served you whiskey just as strong as nitroglycerine
   And when you drink it, made you feel so doggone mean

   Old Ragtime Booker played the piano so mean and blue, Lord, Lord,
   Old Ragtime Booker played the piano so mean and blue
   Everybody was shakin' tryin' to break their backs in two

   Blew the police whistle, it sound like a wild cat's wail
   Blew the police whistle, sound like a wild cat's wail
   Coppers brought the wagon and took the stranglers (sic) all to jail

All best,
Johnm




« Last Edit: June 08, 2020, 06:39:38 PM by Johnm »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Sylvester Weaver Lyrics
« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2006, 09:41:04 PM »
Thanks for posting these John. I think transcribing lyrics is really a good idea -- reading them makes me want to go back and listen to songs that might have gotten sort of "lost" to my ears as I listen to a whole CD worth of someone.

I've got two little corrections in one verse of "Tapeworm" though --

Pot of ham and cabbage, ain't enough to fill mine
That just makes me peckish, I could eat a dozen fine

Chris

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sylvester Weaver Lyrics
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2006, 12:05:18 AM »
Sylvester Weaver and Walter Beasley recorded "Me And My Tapeworm" at the same session in which they recorded "Railroad Porter Blues", but it was never issued until the 1960s or '70s.  The take has no performance problems.  Is it possible the record company had scruples about releasing a gross record? 
FWIW this was first issued on the LP Songs of Humor & Hilarity (vol.11) in the 15 LP LoC series to celebrate the Becentennial in 1976. Here's what Dick Spottswood has to say about it:

"This gourmand's confession is one of several intriguing and previously undocumented recordings which have emerged from the CBS archives. No information in their extensive files revealed its existence; a sample pressing was made to determine what the music was. Though we are certain about the performers' identities, the title of the song is taken from song's words.

Two instrumental pieces featuring Sylvester Weaver may be heard in volume 14 of this series."

In other words he supplied the name. The same is also true of one of the two instrumentals, Six String Banjo Piece which appear on vol 14, This was retitled by Document as Weaver Stomp!

 

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sylvester Weaver Lyrics
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2006, 10:35:06 AM »
I've got two little corrections in one verse of "Tapeworm" though --

Pot of ham and cabbage, ain't enough to fill mine
That just makes me peckish, I could eat a dozen fine
Chris
Spottswood transcribes the lyric thus:

Bought a ham and cabbage, ain't enough to fill my eye (2)
That just makes me peckish, I could eat a dozen pies

Which is what I'm hearing. About a decade ago it was the topic of discussion on a blues internet group (blues-l, most like) to which somebody supplied an etymological background to the expression "to fill my eye".

Spottswood also hears:

I'm a greedy glutton, eat fifty times a day (2)
When I'm around a pigpen, then I just slop away

[BTW the sound is a-m-a-z-i-n-g. I don't know what happened when it was copied from this LP to reissue on The Remaining Titles of Sylvester Weaver (Earl BD-615, 1985) and then the Document CD  - on both it's lost the sparkle!]

Online Johnm

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Re: Sylvester Weaver Lyrics
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2006, 11:13:33 AM »
Thanks very much, banjochris and Bunker Hill, for the help with the lyrics and the additional discographical information.  After a good bit of listening, Chris's version:
   Pot of ham and cabbage, ain't enough to fill mine (2)
   That just makes me peckish, I could eat a dozen fine
seems the best suggested version at capturing both the phonetics of what Weaver is saying and making sense.  I can hear the "n" in "mine" very clearly, especially in the repetition and it is one syllable. "Fine" in this context I would take to mean he could eat a dozen pots of ham and cabbage with no problem.
I am sure "they hide the slop away" is what Weaver says in the other verse.  The sound on the Document version I have seems pretty darn good, but your description of the sound on the earlier re-issue really makes me curious to hear it, Bunker Hill.  It is odd that this tune was never issued in the '20s.  The performance is fine.  Sylvester Weaver certainly had a different way with lyrics, didn't he?
All best,
Johnm 
   
« Last Edit: January 10, 2007, 11:41:46 PM by Johnm »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sylvester Weaver Lyrics
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2006, 12:43:16 PM »
The sound on the Document version I have seems pretty darn good, but your description of the sound on the earlier re-issue really makes me curious to hear it, Bunker Hill. 
Like its 14 companions it is very eclectic too:

MADDOX BROS. AND ROSE
1. I'll make sweet love to you
TED JOHNSON AND HIS SCANDINAVIAN ORCHESTRA
2. Nikolina
THE OZARKERS
3. The Arkansas hotel
SYLVESTER WEAVER
4. Me and my tapeworm
SMITH, FAIRLEY, THOMAS AND SMITH
5. Old cold 'tater
ATILLA AND THE LION
6. Mamaguille
W. A. LINDSEY AND ALVIN CONDER
7. I surely am living a ragtime life
CLAUDE BOONE
8. Down where the watermelons grow
"BEANS" HAMBONE-EL MORROW
9. "Beans"
AMOS EASTON (BUMBLE BEE SLIM)
1. Everybody's fishin'
THE CLOVERS
2. Derbytown
BRUNO RUDZINSKI
3. Przyszedl chlop do karczmy
GAIL GARDNER
4. The moonshine steer
NEW ARKANSAS TRAVELERS
5. Handy man
HARILAOS
6. To Sapounakj
MRS. JUZE DERESKEVICIENE
7. Fordukas
JIMMIE STROTHERS
8. Tennessee dog
FIDDLIN' JOHN CARSON
9 Ain't no bugs on me


Offline Bill Roggensack

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Re: Sylvester Weaver Lyrics
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2006, 04:09:49 PM »
JohnM - Thanks for starting this thread - Weaver provided some rather unique lyrics, especially the aperitif "Me and My Tapeworm"! I'm going to have to track that CD down and get this number worked up as a prelude to Christmas dinner. 
;)

Bunker Hill - the LofC Bicentennial LP - "Songs of Hilarity and Humor" sounds like a surefire winner too.
Cheers,
FrontPage

Online Johnm

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Re: Sylvester Weaver Lyrics
« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2006, 05:27:34 PM »
Hi all,
Sylvester Weaver recorded "Can't Be Trusted Blues" at a session in New York City on August 31, 1927.  It is a solo number and Weaver played it out of E, standard tuning with a number of nifty chordal touches, some of which were pretty new at the time he made the recording.

   |      E      |   A  / Bflat dim7 |       E        |       E      |
   |      A      |   A  / Bflat dim7 |       E        |       E      |
   |     B7     |          B7           |       E        |       E      |
Many years after this session, Snooks Eaglin was the using the Bflat dim7 chord in exactly the same way for many of the E blues on his "New Orleans Streetsinger" album.  Weaver's solo is excellent and goes some way toward explaining the high esteem in which Lonnie Johnson was supposed to hold his musicianship.
Sylvester Weaver's lyrics are more menacing sounding than his delivery.  His third verse was picked up, with modifications, by Curley Weaver for his '50s recording, "Ticket Agent Blues", which got most of its other verses from Buddy Moss's "New Lovin' Blues".  Here is "Can't Be Trusted Blues":



   I don't love nobody, that's my policy (2)
   I'll tell the world that nobody can get along with me

   I can't be trusted, can't be satisfied (2)
   The men all know it and pin their women to their side

   I will sure back-bite you, gnaw you to the bone (2)
   I don't mean maybe, I can't let women alone

   SOLO:

   Pull down your windows and lock up all your doors
   Pull down your windows, lock up all your doors
   Got ways like the devil, papa's creeping on all fours

All best,
Johnm
   
« Last Edit: June 08, 2020, 06:41:09 PM by Johnm »

Online Johnm

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Re: Sylvester Weaver Lyrics
« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2006, 05:40:16 PM »
Hi all,
"Penitentiary Bound Blues" was recorded by Sylvester Weaver at the same session as "Can't Be Trusted Blues", immediately following it.  Like "Can't Be Trusted", it is a solo number, in this instance played in A position in standard tuning.  Weaver opens the song with a nifty move from A to F, employing a move to the flat VI chord that Ghost Rider mentioned in an earlier thread (anybody remember which one?).
Weaver's lyrics show their unusual quality of blending formal-sounding words seldom encountered in blues lyrics (strife?) with more vernacular phrases like "triflin' woman".  Papa Charlie Jackson has a song with the same title as Weaver's number as an inmate, which makes you think it had some significance in playing policy.  Here is "Penitentiary Bound Blues":



   Thought I was goin' to the workhouse, my heart was filled with strife (2)
   But I'm goin' to the penitentiary, judge sentenced me for life

   There'll be rock walls around me, burnin' sand below
   There'll be rock walls around me, burnin' land below
   There forever, got no other place to go

   Goodbye, here's the jailer with the key (2)
   Farewell to freedom, tain't no use to pity me

   Gonna get my number, four-eleven forty-four (2)
   Soon be an inmate, steel upon my door

   Killed my triflin' woman, folks, I done commit a crime (2)
   Nothin' will release me but old Father Time

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: June 08, 2020, 06:42:11 PM by Johnm »

Online Johnm

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Re: Sylvester Weaver Lyrics
« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2006, 05:51:03 PM »
Hi all,
Sylvester Weaver recorded "Polecat Blues" with Walter Beasley, in New York City on November 27, 1927.  Weaver was playing out of D in standard tuning and Beasley played slide in Vestapol.  The duet is exceptionally well worked out; the solo is excellent for both players and Beasley's fills behind Weaver's vocal are particularly impressive.  Very few slide players I have heard utilized the slide so effectively for bass runs as did Beasley.
Sylvester Weaver ended up recording a lot of songs with animals in the title.  In addition to this one, he played on "Alligator Blues" and "Race Horse Blues", backing Helen Humes, and "Toad Frog Blues" and "Black Spider Blues".  Here is "Polecat Blues":

 

   I went a-huntin', took my gun and dog along
   I went a-huntin', took my dog and gun along
   I smelled a curious odor, knowed there was something wrong

   My dog seen something pretty and run it up a dogwood tree
   My dog seen something pretty, run it up a dogwood tree
   But something told me, "Go 'way and let that rascal be."

   SOLO:

   I called him, "Kitty, kitty, come down from where you are at." (2)
   But when he got down, I knowed that thing wasn't no cat

   I went to see the gypsy, saw the hoodoo doctor too (2)
   They said that polecat's on you and there is nothing I can do

All best,
Johnm
   
« Last Edit: June 08, 2020, 06:43:11 PM by Johnm »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Sylvester Weaver Lyrics
« Reply #12 on: November 13, 2006, 07:13:32 PM »
A digression, if I may, on those Library of Congress Bicentennial albums. My local public library had all but one volume of this set, and I checked them out and made some tapes of a few of them. About 5 years ago, I got a better tape deck and went back to the library to check them out again. They had sold or thrown out all but one shelf of LPs; they had had about 15 7-foot-tall shelves. We looked on the one remaining shelf and the set was miraculously still there. The librarian told me "Oh, you can just have those." So now they're in a good home, but I'm sure they threw out a lot of good stuff.
Chris

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sylvester Weaver Lyrics
« Reply #13 on: November 13, 2006, 11:51:00 PM »
A digression, if I may, on those Library of Congress Bicentennial albums. My local public library had all but one volume of this set, and I checked them out and made some tapes of a few of them. About 5 years ago, I got a better tape deck and went back to the library to check them out again. They had sold or thrown out all but one shelf of LPs; they had had about 15 7-foot-tall shelves. We looked on the one remaining shelf and the set was miraculously still there. The librarian told me "Oh, you can just have those." So now they're in a good home, but I'm sure they threw out a lot of good stuff.
Wow. Ironically Spottswood reported at the time that libraries and special collections (for obvious reasons) were the target for these so that they would be preserved for future generations. The pressing run was finite, but in 1980 the LoC made the unplaced stock available to the commercial market. Spottswood at the time commented, "LC redesigned at least two covers--I never learned of it until I saw one.  The contents should be the same as earlier editions."

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sylvester Weaver Lyrics
« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2006, 09:53:15 AM »
I've just unearthed the LoC catalogue I was sent. The complete set was $85 plus $15 for sea mail to UK. For the U.S. single volumes were $6.50 plus a "shipping fee" of $0.50 if orders were under $13.50.

I don't know what the dollar/sterling exchange rates were 30 years ago so can't judge how expensive, or not, they were. That said I think they were a wise "investment".

 


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