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I passionately hate the idea of being with it; I think an artist has always to be out of step with his time - Orson Welles, 19151985

Author Topic: Roosevelt Charles Lyrics  (Read 420 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Roosevelt Charles Lyrics
« on: November 12, 2019, 03:55:52 PM »
Hi all,
Roosevelt Charles was first recorded by Dr. Harry Oster, while an inmate at Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana, and a number of songs on which he sang are featured on the "Angola Spirituals", "Angola Blues", and "Angola Work Songs" albums of Dr. Oster's recordings which were released, first on the Folk-Lyric label and later on Arhoolie.  Roosevelt Charles was not a player as far as I know, but was a wonderful singer, and on most of the songs on which he was accompanied he was backed up by Otis Webster, another inmate.  Here is "Mean Trouble Blues", as performed by the duo, with Otis Webster playing out of E position in standard tuning.  It seems fairly likely that Roosevelt Charles was making up the lyrics as he went, for there are no verses as such, but more free-associating.  However it was done, it sure works well.



Lord, I see trouble, man that's all in the world I see
My woman have got me down in trouble, now she tryin' to put me down
She won't write me no letter, won't even telephone
That's the meanest woman that I 'most did ever seen, meanest of all
That's all in the world I have today
Well, my woman have gone and left me, I just can't help myself
You know, the warden won't give me release, and the governor won't sign my discharge
Mean trouble, that is all in the world I see
But if I live and just don't die, I'm gon' let my baby take me
Take me by the hand, babe, and lead me on
Just mean trouble

GUITAR INTERLUDE (Spoken: Yeah!  All right now!  Yeah!)

If my trouble ever end, Lord, I will be at ease
Now I'm gonna catch my baby, yes, and we gonna be at ease
That mean trouble, that would be the end of me

All best,
Johnm


Offline Johnm

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Re: Roosevelt Charles Lyrics
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2019, 10:24:41 AM »
Hi all,
For "Freight Train Blues", Roosevelt Charles was once again accompanied by Otis Webster, working out of E position in standard tuning.  Charles' approach to lyrics seems much as it was on "Mean Trouble Blues"--a kind of free associating around a theme.  Not that it is altogether original; at one point he quotes John Lee Hooker's "When I First Started To Hoboin'".  I'd very much appreciate corroboration/correction of the words "the craft" in the next-to-last line of the lyric.  Here is the song:



I'm just an old hobo, baby, trying to hobo my way through this world
Well, I'm down on the railroad, baby, waiting for a train to come my way
Lord, I can't hear no whistle blow, deep down in my heart
I can hear that lonesome freight train bell playing
Lord, I been just setting here waiting, waiting for that old train to come by my way
Well, you know I don't have a nickel, babe, I don't have a lou-lousy dime
Well, when I first started to hoboin', oh Lord, I taken a freight train for my friend
Well, when I first started to hoboin', Lord, I taken a freight train for my friend
Well, every time a freight train whistle blow, ooo-well, Lord, it trouble me in my mind
Well, I hear my train a-comin', baby, you girl, you know that I can't be late
(Spoken: No man, you know I can't be late, go ahead on and blow that whistle now.)

GUITAR INTERLUDE (Spoken: Listen at 'im whuppin' that rail.  Go on and whup the rail. He ballin' the jack, too.)

Mmmm, bye-bye, baby, I got to grab the next freight train, find me another land
Because, you know my train is runnin', baby, and I just can't be left here no more

Edited 11/13 to pick up corrections from Stuart and Johnm

All best,
Johnm
 
« Last Edit: November 25, 2019, 06:51:19 AM by Johnm »

Offline Stuart

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Re: Roosevelt Charles Lyrics
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2019, 01:36:53 PM »
Hi John:

For your, "whup your rail," I hear, "whup the rail."

« Last Edit: November 13, 2019, 02:24:17 PM by Stuart »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Roosevelt Charles Lyrics
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2019, 01:51:01 PM »
Hi Stuart,
Thanks for the fix on "the" rail.  I re-listened to the other place, and as plain as day I heard,
   "I got to grab the next freight train . . ."
Sometimes it works that way.  i think it's right on the money now.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Stuart

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Re: Roosevelt Charles Lyrics
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2019, 02:21:59 PM »
Hi John:

I just listened using the headphones (as opposed to the computer speakers the first time around) and I agree, it sounds like "I gotta grab...," although his pronunciation of "grab" does sound somewhat like "crab," which may explain why you initially heard it as "craft." But anyway, you now have the lyrics transcribed as sung, and that's what this process is all about.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Roosevelt Charles Lyrics
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2019, 10:26:32 AM »
Hi all,
For "Bye Bye Baby Blues", Roosevelt Charles is once again accompanied by Otis Webster, who plays out of A position in standard tuning this time.  Charles' voice is wonderfully recorded here--so present.  Of the three Roosevelt Charles songs transcribed in this thread, this one comes closest to having conventional AAB blues lyric phrasing, but it is still pretty loosely phrased.  I sure respond to the conversational quality of Charles' vocal.  Here is the track:



Oh, the mailman runnin', babe, I declare he don't leave no mail
Said, the mailman runnin', I declare he don't leave no mail
I believe that my baby, that my babe must be dead and gone

Well, I wrote a letter this mornin', tryin' find out what's goin' on wrong
Well, if I don't get no answer, I believe some other man have taken my place

I believe I'll telephone, 'cause a letter's most too slow
I believe I'll telephone, because a telegram might get lost
(Spoken:  Now call her one time, boy)

GUITAR INTERLUDE (Spoken: Hello, central.  Give me Dickens four-oh, two-nine-three, please.)

I hear my telephone ringin', I declare my baby ain't home
I hear my telephone ringin', I declare my baby ain't home
I believe she packed her suitcase, boys, and caught that evenin' train

Goin' down to the station, gon' check on the last train south
Goin' down to the station, check on the last train south
If my baby didn't go south, she must be 'round in this town somewhere (Spoken: Bye-bye, baby)

All best,
Johnm   

 

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Roosevelt Charles Lyrics
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2019, 10:41:22 AM »
He certainly does have a great voice, and the guitar accompaniments on all the tracks are good too!


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

Offline Johnm

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Re: Roosevelt Charles Lyrics
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2019, 10:45:24 AM »
I'm with you, Prof.  It's not easy accompanying someone with such free phrasing, but Otis Webster did a beautiful job, and was always ready to step forward when Roosevelt Charles gave him a bit of solo space.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Roosevelt Charles Lyrics
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2019, 09:54:03 AM »
Hi all,
For "Have You Ever Heard The Church Bells Tone?", a version of "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean", Otis Webster chose to back Roosevelt Charles with a one-chord accompaniment out of E position in standard tuning, maintaining a regular pulse and letting Roosevelt Charles phrase as he felt against that background.  Here is the duo's performance:



Know her heart stopped beatin' and the hand got cold
Said her heart stopped beatin' and her hand got cold
Says, you know by that my poor babe dead and gone

Have you ever heard church bell tone?
Have you ever heard a lonesome church bell tone?
Says, you know by that my babe's dead and gone

There was two white horse stand in a line
There is two white horses standin' in a line
Gonna take my baby to her buryin' ground
Lord, you know by that, poor baby's dead and gone

Want you dig her grave with a silver spade
Lordy, dig her grave with a silver spade
Then and let her down with a golden chain
Says, you know by that, my poor babe dead and gone

Lord, I stood there, boy, tears streamin' down
Lord, I stood there, man, you know the tears come rollin' down
Says, you know by that my poor babe dead and gone

All best,
Johnm
 

 


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