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My first night in Chicago, my friends they really treated me fine. And overnight, they all changed like Daylight-Saving-Time - Chicago Blues 1941 Lonnie Johnson

Author Topic: "Secret Language of the Blues: What The Lyrics Really Mean" by Robert Cremer  (Read 712 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Hi all,
I have recently been informed of a new book by Robert Cremer that has been published that should be of interest to blues fans. Here is a copy of the publisher's press release:

      Pulp Hero Press
      The Most Dangerous Books on Earth
      Publisher: Bob McLain

New Release: Secret Language of the Blues: What the Lyrics Really Mean
Release date: March 25, 2021
Author: Robert Cremer
Paperback: 710 pages
ISBN: 978-1-68390-276-8
Distributors: Barnes & Noble (
           Amazon (worldwide)

Don’t just listen to blues lyrics, understand them!

Absolutely no standard dictionary can help fans understand the hidden meaning of blues lyrics, but The Secret Language of the Blues lives up to its promise to do just that – to explain what the lyrics really mean. A comprehensive Blues Index of Words & Expressions containing over 1,600 entries provides indispensable help in deciphering this fascinating secret language and unlocking the mystery of allusion lurking behind such apparently innocent words as tea, frying pan and even Santa Claus!

Imagine the immense enjoyment of knowing the answers to such puzzling questions as:

Why a woman cooks cornbread for her husband but biscuits for her man?
Why a hobo rides the rails but avoids riding the rods at all costs?
Why a musician is heart-broken when a skin card falls but is elated when his dice do?
Why a man complains about too much eatin’ in the kitchen but a woman doesn’t?
Why a musician fears nothing more than receiving a “304” or “11-29”?
Why exactly a man wakes up cold in hand?
Why musicians want to slip someone in the Dozens?

But the book is much more than just a dictionary. Twelve information-packed chapters will help native- and non-native speakers of English alike to “speak the blues” in record time through extensive explanations of unique grammatical forms and the colloquial speech of the musicians who sing the blues. The Secret Language of the Blues is the perfect companion for blues fans worldwide. Double your listening pleasure by understanding the true meaning of the lyrics – the very soul of the blues! As blues musicians say, “It’s just dry long so.”

“Robert Cremer, a latter-day Alan Lomax, has compiled the spoken language of the Blues through decades of face-to-face interviews. Secret Language of the Blues translates the subtleties, innuendo and flavor of the African American language used in Blues music and has made an in-depth understanding of Blues lyrics accessible to all blues fans.”

             – Ms. Sydney Ellis, one of the premier voices on the blues scene today

All best,

Online Blues Vintage

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Thanks for the heads up.

Looks like a good companion to "Barrelhouse Words (Calt)" and "The Language of the Blues: From Alcorub to Zuzu (Devi)".

Offline Norfolk Slim

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I haven't done any reading yet, but for anyone baulking at the price, you get an awful lot of book for the money.  Its a real brick!

Offline harriet

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Thanks for the heads up on that.

Offline eric

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I thought 11-29 meant a sentence of just under a year, therefore served in the local lockup near family, as opposed to the state pen, and the judge is showing a degree of mercy.  But I have a solid record of being wrong about such things.  Maybe someone could post a review at some point.

Offline hms

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Had a quick browse on arrival, no index listing for 11-29, however Weeny gets a very nice mention in the sources and recommended reading section.
PS Baought a copy off Amazon, listed as badly damaged spine and pages, less than £6. Received a perfect copy!

Offline waxwing

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Index entry for "Eleven twenty-nine": 177, 187, 192, 389, 393, 495, 530, 607, 647. Separate index entry for "Eleven Twenty-Nine Blues": 187, 389, 393, 495.

On 389 definition for "Eleven twenty-nine: Eleven months and 29 days - the longest possible jail sentence for misdemeanors without providing inmates with additional amenities. Blacks received this jail sentence as a rule deliberately in order to avoid providing them with these amenities. It should be noted that Blacks were convicted of every conceivable misdemeanor - some totally unfounded - in order to use them as free labor on the states public works projects during their incarceration."

I. agree with you, Eric, and have heard or read this in several places. I think Cremer misses the point that when someone is sentenced to 11-29 he serves in a county jail or "farm" and his free labor is provided to the county. if the crime is one that warrants a longer term, the sentence is served at the state penitentiary, and the state benefits from the free labor. Perhaps the state pen provides the amenities that Cremer mentions, but he misses the point that Blacks would rather stay at the county farm close to family, who could provide food, and with other inmates whom they likely knew, whereas going to the state pen meant being in with some pretty hardened criminals and usually being at some distance from family. This distinction, between local jail and state pen and the relation to sentence, is referred to pretty clearly in the song Joliet Bound by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie:

"Now, the judge he pleaded, clerk, he wrote it down, mmm-mmmm
Judge he pleaded, clerk, he wrote it down
Said, if I miss jail sentence now, must be Joliet bound"

Joliet being the Illinois State pen.

"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
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Offline hms

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Oops, iust checked the numeric entries!

Offline jphauser

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The Blues Encyclopedia (edited by Edward Komara and Peter Lee) has this entry (see link below) for 11-29, including identifying its appearance in songs by Charley Patten, Furry Lewis, Leroy Carr, and a boogie woogie piano player I've never heard of before named Iromeio "Romeo" Nelson.

Offline Chezztone

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Romeo Nelson is the coolest! Check out his stuff.

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