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Author Topic: The Earliest Appearances of Archetypal Lyric Phrases  (Read 14303 times)

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Online Johnm

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The Earliest Appearances of Archetypal Lyric Phrases
« on: October 24, 2009, 11:43:36 AM »
Hi all,
We've long operated on the assumption that much of the lyric pool used for most Country Blues derived in large part from the Classic Blues, but have never made an effort to determine the earliest source for commonly encountered lyric phrases.  Let's do it!  As a starting point, I would be interested in knowing the earliest appearance of the commonly encountered blues verse:
    Oh, some people say the ___________ blues ain't bad
    Well, it must not have been the __________blues I had
I have an appearance of such a verse in Sara Martin's "Teasing Brown Blues", recorded on April 7, 1927, on which she was backed by Sylvester Weaver.  Sara Martin sang,
     Now, some people say that the worried blues, they ain't bad
     Oh, some people say that the worried blues, they ain't bad
     But it's the worst old feeling that I ever had
Thinking about it, the tagline may disqualify the Sara Martin as squarely following the archetype, but there is Charley Patton in June of 1929, singing in "Down The Dirt Road Blues",
     Some people sayin' them o'ersea blues ain't bad
     Some people sayin' them o'ersea blues ain't bad
     It must not a been them o'ersea blues I had
This one hits the bulls-eye in terms of the lyric archetype.  Anybody know of any earlier appearances of this lyric cliche?
All best,
Johnm
    
« Last Edit: October 25, 2009, 12:36:48 PM by Johnm »

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: The Earliest Appearance of Archetypal Lyric Phrases
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2009, 01:22:48 PM »
Wow great topic John. I can't get into this to the extent of rifling through liner notes to find dates, but I would like to know the origins of some other stock lines Like:

I'm goin down to the river
gonna take my rockin' chair,
If the Blues don't get me
Gonna rock on away from here.

What use is a rooster he won't crow for day
What use is a hen won't cackle when she lay
(I'm pretty sure this derives from Shakespeare ;) )

Mama caught a chicken
thought it was a duck
put it on the table with its legs stickin' up

All I can think of at the moment but There's tons more.

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Offline CF

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Re: The Earliest Appearance of Archetypal Lyric Phrases
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2009, 01:41:57 PM »
Great topic John, this is one I've had at the back of the brain for a while. I'll put some work into specific songs when I can but I would suggest from the get-go that Ida Cox is the original source for a lot of country blues lyrics. I think Chris Smith mentions this in the Cox entry for the Penguin Guide to Recorded Blues.
I've been on the brink of suggesting that we start transcribing more Classic Blues lyrics here if only for their obvious foundation for so much of the pre-war blues we all love so much.

Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline banjochris

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Re: The Earliest Appearance of Archetypal Lyric Phrases
« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2009, 11:54:17 PM »
I was thinking about this the other day, listening to one of the Blues Images calendar CDs in the car -- Blind Joe Reynolds' "Outside Woman Blues" is pretty much Cox's "'Fore Day Creep," practically word for word.

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: The Earliest Appearance of Archetypal Lyric Phrases
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2009, 04:07:23 AM »
http://www.redhotjazz.com/firstbluesrecords.html

A couple of candidates here - try the delicately titled George O'Connor track from 1916 first. Then don't leave the page till you've listed to Marion Harris...

Modified to note: for anyone offended by the original title of this song from 1913, here are the lyrics, which recur often in one form or the other in later blues. I'm just fascinated by how quickly tin pan alley jumped on the blues bandwagon post W C Handy, and how then someone like Leroy White, would appropriate verses most probably heard from back singers in live performance.

(1913)
by Leroy (Lasses) White
Published by Bush & Certs, Dallas, Texas
[Source: 153/128@Levy]

1.
Oh! the blues aint nothing,
Oh! the blues aint nothing,
But a good man feeling bad,
Oh! the blues aint nothing
But a good man feeling bad,
Oh! that?s a feeling
That I?ve often had.
You can call the blues,
You can call the blues,
Any old thing you please,
You can call the blues
Any old thing you please,
But the blues aint nothing
But the dog gone heart desease.
When a man gets blue,
When a man gets blue,
He takes a train and rides,
When a man gets blue,
He takes a train and rides,
When a woman gets blue,
She hangs her little head and cries.

2.
Oh! yonder comes,
Oh! yonder comes,
The train coming down the track,
Oh! yonder comes
The train comin? down the track,
To take me away,
But it aint going to bring me back.
Oh! when I die,
Oh! when I die,
Honey, Honey, don?t you wear no black,
Oh! when I die,
Oh! when I die,
Honey, don?t you wear no black,
?Cause if you do,
My ghost will come sneaking back.
I?m goin? to lay my head,
I?m goin? to lay my head
Down on some railroad line,
I?m goin? to lay my head
Down on some railroad line,
Let the Santa Fe
Try to pacify my mind.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2009, 12:47:04 PM by Prof Scratchy »

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Re: The Earliest Appearance of Archetypal Lyric Phrases
« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2009, 11:26:27 AM »
Hi all,
Thanks for all the suggestions.  It's great when a set of lyrics returns almost intact, as in "'Fore Day Creep" and "Outside Woman Blues".  I'm interested in getting at specific lines or phrases, though.  It need not completely alter our normal listening habits, more just remembering to note or remark the blues cliches when and where we encounter them.  Just start posting instances you encounter of common blues cliches, the source recording or sheet music.  Don't worry if you don't know the date of the recording/music--someone else who frequents the site will know it or know how to get it.  I think this is a perfect set-up to address a big issue like this because there are a lot of people involved with different sets of knowledge and I think the collective knowledge base is huge.  Let's not worry about orchestrating this too carefully.  Just start posting songs and the lyric cliches they include and we can sort it out as we go.  Thanks.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: October 25, 2009, 12:38:03 PM by Johnm »

Online Johnm

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Re: The Earliest Appearance of Archetypal Lyric Phrases
« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2009, 11:33:39 AM »
Hi all,
 In "Away From Home", recorded by Peg Leg Howell and mandolinist Jim Hill on April 13, 1929, Peg Leg sings,
   "I'm drinkin' muddy water, sleep in a hollow log".
Does anyone know of an earlier instance of that line? It usually goes,
    "I'd rather drink muddy water, sleep in a hollow log."
Thanks!
All best,
Johnm

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Re: The Earliest Appearance of Archetypal Lyric Phrases
« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2009, 12:04:19 PM »
Hi all,
Teddy Darby recorded the following verse on "Lose Your Mind", at his first recording session, on September 7, 1929.  Allowing for minor variations, does anyone know of an earlier appearance for this verse?
      Aah, my good girl done quit me, the talk's all over town
   Aah, good girl done quit me, the talk's all over town
   I'm too good of a poor boy to let that kind of talk go around
Thanks.
All best,
Johnm

Offline uncle bud

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Re: The Earliest Appearance of Archetypal Lyric Phrases
« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2009, 12:15:14 PM »
Hi all,
 In "Away From Home", recorded by Peg Leg Howell and mandolinist Jim Hill on April 13, 1929, Peg Leg sings,
   "I'm drinkin' muddy water, sleep in a hollow log".
Does anyone know of an earlier instance of that line? It usually goes,
    "I'd rather drink muddy water, sleep in a hollow log."
Thanks!
All best,
Johnm

I suspect this one goes way back, but one that comes to mind is Wartime Blues, Blind Lemon Jefferson, c. November 1926:

What you gonna do when they send your man to the war?
I'm gonna drink muddy water, gonna sleep in a hollow log.

Online Johnm

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Re: The Earliest Appearance of Archetypal Lyric Phrases
« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2009, 12:36:04 PM »
Good on you, uncle bud!  You just moved us a couple of years earlier on that line. 
That's all it takes, folks.
All best,
Johnm

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Re: The Earliest Appearances of Archetypal Lyric Phrases
« Reply #10 on: October 25, 2009, 01:39:21 PM »
Thanks for posting those lyrics, Prof. Scratchy.  That one song has a ton of cliches that appeared innumerable times in later versions, and it's really early.  I believe Lightnin' Wells recorded that very song on his most recent ukulele CD, "Hummin' to Myself".  It's probably going to be tough to find earlier versions of most of those phrases.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Richard

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Re: The Earliest Appearances of Archetypal Lyric Phrases
« Reply #11 on: October 25, 2009, 02:10:55 PM »
"I'd rather drink muddy water, sleep in a hollow log"

Jimmie Rodgers, Blue Yodel 1927
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline doctorpep

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Re: The Earliest Appearances of Archetypal Lyric Phrases
« Reply #12 on: October 25, 2009, 10:45:10 PM »
Does this one count?


Barbecue Bob's "Barbecue Blues":

"Woke up this morning gal, 'twixt midnight and day
With my hand around my pillow, where my brownie used to lay"

Ma Rainey's "Bad Luck Blues" from 1924:

"Did you ever wake up just at the break of day
Did you ever wake up just at the break of day
With your arms around the pillow where your daddy used to lay"
"There ain't no Heaven, ain't no burning Hell. Where I go when I die, can't nobody tell."

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Offline doctorpep

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Re: The Earliest Appearances of Archetypal Lyric Phrases
« Reply #13 on: October 25, 2009, 10:49:46 PM »
I don't mean to be lazy, and I hope it's okay to post a link from this website, but here are many Ida Cox lyrics. Just from looking at the first song, I recognize a verse about a lighthouse that Furry Lewis sang in 1927, '28 or '29.

http://blueslyrics.tripod.com/artistswithsongs/ida_cox_1.htm

It appears as if the Penguin Guide to The Blues was correct with its Cox lyrics->Country Blues lyrics theory. Of course, there are exceptions in men like Alex Moore, Willie Blackwell, J.T. "Funny Papa" Smith, "Sleepy" John Estes, Richard "Rabbit" Brown, etc.

Who is the biggest exception of all, you ask? I say Lonnie Johnson, because his record companies would often encourage him to write lyrics related to certain themes or topics. He was just as good at crafting lyrics as he was at singing and playing guitar!
« Last Edit: October 25, 2009, 10:50:55 PM by doctorpep »
"There ain't no Heaven, ain't no burning Hell. Where I go when I die, can't nobody tell."

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Offline blueshome

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Re: The Earliest Appearances of Archetypal Lyric Phrases
« Reply #14 on: October 26, 2009, 03:23:38 AM »
"I'm going to build me a mansion up on ............(Bunker, Dago etc)Hill
Get my whiskey straight from the still"

 


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