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Author Topic: Tampa Red Lyrics  (Read 8380 times)

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Offline GhostRider

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Tampa Red Lyrics
« on: November 21, 2005, 11:20:25 PM »
Howdy:

I was thinkin' about a tune to do for the "Weenies Sing the Blues" thread, and I came up with "Dead Cat on the Line" a duet with Tampa Red and Georgia Tom Dorsey. I think the song can be easily translated into an Alternating Bass tune in standard tuning, key of E, as all of Tampa's licks can be reached from first position chords in that key (he's in Vestapol at F).

A couple of the lyrics have me stumped. Hope someone can help.

Dead Cats on the Line
Tampa Red and Georgia Tom Dorsey
1934

Guitar and piano
Vestapol at F

Instrumental introduction

1) You Chicago women, runnin' hand in hand
You run around with one another's man
Chorus:
There's a dead cat on the line, there's a dead cat on the line
I ain't lyin' your the cheatin' kind
There's a dead cat on the line

2) You come home at night, talkin' out 'ch'our head
You have to take a bath 'fore you go to bed
Chorus:

3) you and sister Smith are gettin' mighty {stoned?}
When you shake hands, you got to hold it so long
Chorus:

4) She was standin' in church, with her own man
I saw you when you tickled her in her hand
Chorus:

5) Instrumental verse

6) Your brown skin, {?your husband ain't there?}
Your children all yellin', got curley hair
Chorus

7) Early this mornin', 'bout half past four
I seen Bill Johnson comin' out your door
Chorus:

8) There's one thing I can't understand
You broke up your home and quit your regular man
Chorus:

Thanks'
Alex

[attachment deleted by admin]
« Last Edit: July 18, 2007, 09:06:26 PM by GhostRider »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Dead Cat on the Line by Tampa Red
« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2005, 11:42:09 PM »
The basis of this song is a Baptist sermon, variants of which were recorded by Rev J M Gates or Rev F W McGhee. In 1996 Paul Oliver devoted an entire chapter to the subject in the book "Saints and Sinners; Religion, Blues and (D)evil in African-American Music and Literature". When I have time I'll see how it's transcribed in that but it's capital S in sister, for obvious reasons, and "your husband ain't fair" (as in skin/hair?).

Offline Richard

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Re: Dead Cat on the Line by Tampa Red
« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2005, 06:48:45 AM »
For what it's worth

Verse 3 - I think it's "strong" not "stoned" and surely refers to two women holding each other  :o

Verse 4 - As BH says it's "fair"  as in "your husband ain't fair" refering to to his colouring.
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Dead Cat on the Line by Tampa Red
« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2005, 07:50:14 AM »
Good choice, Alex. It's sister song, You Can't Get That Stuff No More, is a great one as well. Can't remember which was recorded first.

Why not play it with the slide?  >:D  You'll love it.

Offline a2tom

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Re: Dead Cat on the Line by Tampa Red
« Reply #4 on: November 22, 2005, 07:53:42 AM »
yep, a great one.  You have someone to do the duet?  Love to hear that!

Regarding the lyrics, I hear "old man" not "own man".

Also, continuing above comments, its "your children all yellow and got curly hair".  Try and do that when you and your husband are dark-skinned...

That said, I can't say I totally get all the lyrics, but this was interesting...

http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/15/messages/773.html

tom

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Dead Cat on the Line by Tampa Red
« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2005, 08:36:25 AM »
Hey:

Thanks for all the good ideas. I've incorporated most of them in the revised version below.

You have someone to do the duet?? Love to hear that!
Tom, in order to recreate the duet I've added an alternating bass to represent the piano part. Only need another voice now.

Why not play it with the slide?? >:D? You'll love it.
That would require being able to use a slide, which I can't. Unkie Bud is evil.

Still not sure about "own" vs "old" in Verse 4. What say all of you?

Dead Cats on the Line
Tampa Red and Georgia Tom Dorsey
1934

Guitar and piano
Vestapol at F

Instrumental introduction

1) You Chicago women, runnin' hand in hand
You run around with one another's man
Chorus:
There's a dead cat on the line, there's a dead cat on the line
I ain't lyin' your the cheatin' kind
There's a dead cat on the line

2) You come home at night, talkin' out 'ch'our head
You have to take a bath 'fore you go to bed
Chorus:

3) You and Sister Smith are gettin' mighty strong
When you shake hands, you got to hold it so long
Chorus:

4) She was standin' in church, with her own man
I saw you when you tickled her in her hand
Chorus:

5) Instrumental verse

6) Your brown skin, your husband ain't fair
Your children all yella 'n' got curly hair
Chorus

7) Early this mornin', 'bout half past four
I seen Bill Johnson comin' out your door
Chorus:

 There's one thing I can't understand
You broke up your home and quit your regular man
Chorus:

alex
« Last Edit: November 22, 2005, 11:10:52 AM by Pyrochlore »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Dead Cat on the Line by Tampa Red
« Reply #6 on: November 22, 2005, 10:59:59 AM »
What follows is from the chapter by Paul Oliver in the previously mentioned book and is just posted for those who might be interested in the broader aspects in light of its roots in a sermon. He doesn't quote the entire song, just those verses pertinent to his thesis:

...By now the effects of the Depression were felt in the recording industry and very few race records were issued. 1932 saw the economy at its lowest ebb, and so it is somewhat surprising to find among the small number of titles issued that year, one on the theme by the guitarist Tampa Red. His partner Georgia Tom was already making a name as Thomas A. Dorsey, the gospel song composer, but their record preached no moral though it did point a finger of warning. It was sung to the couplet-and-refrain form which they had often used before, with internal rhyme in the penultimate line.

You Chicago women runs hand to hand
You run around with one another's man

(refrain)
There's a dead? at on the line
There's a dead cat on the line,
I ain't Iyin', you're the cheatin' kind
There's a dead cat on the line.

You and Sister Smith are gettin' mighty strong,
When you shake hands you got to hold it so long

She was standin' in church with her old man,
I saw you when you tickled her in her hand

You're a brownskin, your husband ain't fair,
Your children all yellow 'n got curly hair.

It's debatable whether the implications of lesbianism and miscegenation were deliberately introduced to attract purchasers in a lean period, or whether they hinted at deceptions that Dorsey had witnessed in church. But it is clear that the subject of the song and the meaning of the phrase referred directly to deceit...

Offline dj

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Re: Dead Cat on the Line by Tampa Red
« Reply #7 on: November 22, 2005, 11:29:19 AM »
Just in case there are any readers who don't know the origin of the phrase "There's a dead cat on the line", it dates to the early days of electrification, when wires were strung close together on low poles, across rooftops, and generally along whatever was handy.  Animals climbing along or across the wires would contact two wires at once, creating a current path which electrocuted the animal and caused a local power outage.  So when the power would suddenly drop in the absence of any natural disaster such as a wind storm, people would say "there's a dead cat on the line".  The problem is still with us in the form of squirrels getting into transformers.  According to my neighbor who works for the local power company, when power suddenly goes out in the area controlled by a single transformer, people at the power company say "another squirrel's gone to heaven".

Offline a2tom

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Re: Dead Cat on the Line by Tampa Red
« Reply #8 on: November 22, 2005, 11:45:48 AM »
hmmm.... check out the link I posted earlier for a decidedly different origin of the phrase.  There, the dead cat was a catfish on a fishing line (the kind strung out over a distance with multiple hooks hanging from it).  Believe me, I don't claim that to be authoritative, but I did find the sense of "something isn't quite right here" from the fish origin to be consistent with its use in the song.  The power line origin would tend to imply "oh, I know what's going on here" or generally providing an explanation for something puzzling or unexpected - which I don't find as obvious to the song.

Here's another link to the catfish theory:
http://www.xmission.com/~emailbox/phrases.htm
but it seems to be quoting the first link I'd say.

Now, why you would ever want to swing a dead cat is another matter altogether...

tom

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Dead Cat on the Line by Tampa Red
« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2005, 11:47:19 AM »
Just in case there are any readers who don't know the origin of the phrase "There's a dead cat on the line", it dates to the early days of electrification, when wires were strung close together on low poles, across rooftops, and generally along whatever was handy.? Animals climbing along or across the wires would contact two wires at once, creating a current path which electrocuted the animal and caused a local power outage.?
The Okeh advertisement for J M Gates's Dead Cat On The Line is a cartoon of a cat caught up in telephone wires getting well and truly fried. ?:o

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Dead Cat on the Line by Tampa Red
« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2005, 11:57:52 AM »
hmmm.... check out the link I posted earlier for a decidedly different origin of the phrase.? There, the dead cat was a catfish on a fishing line (the kind strung out over a distance with multiple hooks hanging from it).?
Short of scanning the entire Oliver chapter - which in essence attempts to nail down the origin of the phrase and usage in song - the compiler of DARE (Dictionary of American Regional English) supplied 20 different examples of usage, one of which was the above.

Offline a2tom

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Re: Dead Cat on the Line by Tampa Red
« Reply #11 on: November 22, 2005, 12:25:18 PM »
Well, interesting, in the sermons by Gates and McGee that they say (paraphrasing various versions):

They had trouble getting the message over the telegraph lines.  Couldn't get the message through.  And when they sent a man up to investigate, they found a dead cat on the line.  Now if your child doesn't favor (i.e. look like) his father, there's a dead cat on the line.  It doesn't matter if a child favors a mother or not, she knows its her child.  etc...

I wonder if Gates basically added in his own story to a phrase that even then had obscure or mixed origins.  Or not.

Funny, 'cause as someone who spent plenty of time in catfish country and heard them called "cats" by the locals, a dead cat(fish) is so much more evocative...

tom

Offline blueshome

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Tampa Red - Dying Mercy Blues
« Reply #12 on: March 09, 2012, 09:01:26 AM »
Tampa Red recorded Dying Mercy Blues 5th September 1929, accompanied by sensational piano from Romeo Nelson. This must be the toughest blues Tampa recorded and has a really great guitar part, later re-hashed (rather well) by Sam Montgomery in his Mercy,Mercy Blues.
The recording I have on Document sounds as if it was taken from a whipped  (technical term) 78 and I've struggled to catch all the words.

Updated following suggestions below

Intro verse

Well I asked my mama how did she want her rolling done
Well I asked my mama how did she want her rolling done
She said, just roll me like, roll me like my other man done

So 30 years in prison ain't no time to stay
30 years in prison ain't no time to stay
when some old dirty mistreater's stole your best woman away

Instr.  + vocal asides
Moan it, sounds good to me
Oh good lord
Ah shucks
Baby don?t you speak to me no more

When it?s raining and a-sleeting , you looking through your window pane
Then there?s raining and there?s a-sleeting, you looking through your window pane
Thinkin' about the one you love,enough to drive a man insane

So everybody's screaming mercy, I'm wonderin' what do mercy mean
Everybody's screaming mercy, I wonder what do mercy mean
If it means anything, mama have mercy on me
« Last Edit: March 09, 2012, 12:45:23 PM by blueshome »

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Tampa Red - Dying Mercy Blues
« Reply #13 on: March 09, 2012, 09:49:17 AM »
Great song. Challenging vocals! I'm hearing: '30 years in prison and it ain't no bad mistake'; and further on 'when it's raining and streaming'...

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Tampa Red - Dying Mercy Blues
« Reply #14 on: March 09, 2012, 09:53:26 AM »
For the first missing word I hear "timeless" and for the second "sleetin'"

And a "Play that thing, boy" after the second verse.

Alex

 


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