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St. James Infirmary: Origins and Related Songs

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Bricktown Bob:

--- Quote from: Pan on November 10, 2007, 11:14:49 AM ---FWIW Bessie Smiths' Dying Gambler Blues can be heard on the Red Hot jazz site:

I'll leave it to you to decide wether or not it has any resemblance with St. James Infirmary.

--- End quote ---

Thanks, Pan!

I'd say not.  And not to McTell's "Dying Gambler," either.  Ah, well.

It's late and I think I've got the fact straight here but will correct any minor details tomorrow.

All I know is Jimmie Rodgers Gambling Bar Room Blues lyrics were written in Rodgers' own handwriting shortly before the session on the back of a piece of hotel stationery. The lyrics to St James Infirmary were scribbled on the on the front side.

Porterfield's book cites many sources as saying Ralph Peer tended to pressure Jimmie to come up with new songs, even if they weren't really new, in order to get copyright. There are photographs of the notepaper in the book.

Van Ronk's version is interesting if you know both songs as it combines both the classic St James Infirmary lyric crossed with Gambling Bar Room Blues, with melody and licks likewise copped from both.

The Hokum Boys versions of "Gamblers Blues" are my favorate of those that I have listened too, Jimmie Rodgers does a nice adaption of the song called "Gambling Bar Room Blues" which uses a similar melody and has a few similar lyrics. I've noticed that "Dying Crap Shooters Blues" which I've heard a few versions of also has some quite similar lyrics, safe to say they are all closely related in my opinion.

edit: Just read through the topic and it seems as though im not the only one to mention the Jimmie Rodgers song, oh well still a good song :)

Bricktown Bob:
Thanks, all.  I'd not heard "Gambling Bar Room Blues" before.  Clearly related, but also clearly, Jimmie's trying for something new (or at least different).  He did a more straightforward version a couple years before called "Those Gambler's Blues," including the usual funeral arrangement section that is missing here.

dave stott:
my personal favorite version of this song is done by Arlo Guthrie...

he does an great fingerpicked version and his voice suits the tune as well.

Arlo claims that he stole some of the licks from Dave Van Ronk.



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