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Country Blues => Weenie Campbell Main Forum => SOTM - Song Of The Month => Topic started by: Suzy T on November 21, 2015, 10:45:44 PM

Title: SOTM - Nov. 21, 2015 - Looking for the Bully of the Town
Post by: Suzy T on November 21, 2015, 10:45:44 PM
I picked ?Bully of the Town? which had its start as a tin pan alley hit circa 1896.  It went on to be recorded in many different ways during the subsequent decades, by many artists including the Skillet Lickers, the Tweedy Brothers, the Memphis Jug Band, and Leadbelly.  My introduction to this song was via the Skillet Lickers recording which has maybe the slimiest double fiddling ever!!  And I just love Riley Puckett?s singing here.

More to come?apologies for being a bit late with this.
Title: Re: SOTM - Nov. 21, 2015 - Looking for the Bully of the Town
Post by: Suzy T on November 21, 2015, 10:50:17 PM
I think that Leadbelly must have heard Riley Puckett's recording with the Skillet Lickers!!  I also love the way he sings "looking for that bully baby", it sounds kind of Caribbean.  This is from his last sessionshttp://youtu.be/vPHwhVZzg9I (http://youtu.be/vPHwhVZzg9I)
Title: Re: SOTM - Nov. 21, 2015 - Looking for the Bully of the Town
Post by: Suzy T on November 21, 2015, 11:03:42 PM
And here is another hillbilly version with 2 fiddles -- the Tweedy Brothers's cover of the Skillet Lickers, but as an instrumental with tinkling piano. I think this is the jolliest version of all. And has some very, er, interesting harmonizations. The Tweedy Brothers were Henry and George on fiddles, backed up by Charles W. Tweedy on piano. Recorded in March, 1928 in Richmond IN - issued  as Ge 6447 and Ch15486, so presumably it was fairly popular.  http://youtu.be/r08IPqbscIA (http://youtu.be/r08IPqbscIA)
Title: Re: SOTM - Nov. 21, 2015 - Looking for the Bully of the Town
Post by: Suzy T on November 21, 2015, 11:27:39 PM
I forgot to put discographical info for the Skillet Lickers version -- recorded as "Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers with Riley Puckett" and what a band!  Clayton McMichen and Gid on fiddles, and I think Bert Layne may also be playing fiddle; Fate Norris on banjo (as usual, pretty much inaudible); Riley Puckett on vocal and guitar. Recorded April 17, 1926 in Atlanta, GA, Co15074-D.  Many other hillbilly artists who recorded this song beginning with  Fiddling John Carson (not my favorite version....), followed by (in roughly this order) Clayton McMichen's Home Town Band, Gid & the Skillet Lickers, Lester McFarland & Robert A. Gardner (never have heard that one, I think it is probably super rare), Ernest Stoneman, Earl Johnson, Frankie Marvin, Sid Harikreader, the Tweedys, Byrd Moore, North Carolina Hawaiians (very curious to hear this one), Happy Dixon's Clodhoppers, Cherokee Ramblers, Prairie Ramblers. The Kessinger Brothers (not really brothers, just like the Baxters) recorded it too, but it was unissued, sure would have liked to hear that!
Title: Re: SOTM - Nov. 21, 2015 - Looking for the Bully of the Town
Post by: Suzy T on November 21, 2015, 11:36:32 PM
Here is the Memphis Jug Band's version. I think maybe the A&R man at the session might have said, "Say, can you play that Bully of the Town" and they said, "sure boss" even though they didn't really know the song, and this is what resulted.  They just took that  phrase "bully of the Town" and pasted it onto that good old circle of 5ths, warts and all. What wonderful chutzpah!! Here we are listening to it nearly 90 years later.
They recorded this in their 2nd session, June 1927 in Chicago.  Will Shade and Will Weldon, guitars and vocals, Ben Ramey, kazoo and vocal, Charlie Polk, jug.  Vi 20781.
 I always feel so happy when I listen to the MJB!
http://youtu.be/FOD9_PUz9oU (http://youtu.be/FOD9_PUz9oU)
Title: Re: SOTM - Nov. 21, 2015 - Looking for the Bully of the Town
Post by: frankie on November 22, 2015, 06:31:40 AM
Might as well post the Skillet Lickers - so good!

https://youtu.be/hkJ6ZyMLs4o

And then Henry Thomas's Bob McKinney is a composite of three four songs: Bob McKinney (clearly), Take Me Back, Make Me A Pallet On The Floor and Bully Of The Town:

https://youtu.be/t5YJqDKnq5I

Which means the HT is a SOTM two-for-one, and could very well be a THREE-for-one if someone does "Take Me Back" for the 18th of December. Nice.
Title: Re: SOTM - Nov. 21, 2015 - Looking for the Bully of the Town
Post by: Lignite on November 22, 2015, 06:50:53 AM
Here is the Brunswick recording of Lester McFarland and Robert A Gardner playing Bully Of The Town from 1927. It is unique because Mac is playing the fiddle instead of his usual mandolin. I also own the notorious original 12" Mae Irwin Victor release of The Bully from 1909 but the lyrics are very racist. You can read about this song and It's origins in the notes accompanying Minstrels And Tunesmiths - The Commercial Roots of Early Country Music 1902-1923 JEMF LP-109. http://picosong.com/b2v6
Title: Re: SOTM - Nov. 21, 2015 - Looking for the Bully of the Town
Post by: Lignite on November 22, 2015, 07:07:22 AM
Let's not forget old Stringbean; http://picosong.com/bVnM
Title: Re: SOTM - Nov. 21, 2015 - Looking for the Bully of the Town
Post by: Johnm on November 22, 2015, 08:31:20 AM
Hi all,
I also remember Etta Baker doing an instrumental version on the old "Traditional Instrumental Music of the Southern Appalachians" album.  This is a later version, but here it is:

https://youtu.be/ZEQJxgd-fp8?list=PL4383D3B5F76351A7

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: SOTM - Nov. 21, 2015 - Looking for the Bully of the Town
Post by: jphauser on November 22, 2015, 09:38:39 AM
The book Nobody Knows Where the Blues Come From (a collection of writings by various authors discussing lyrics to early black songs) includes an interesting piece by Paul Oliver about "Lookin' for the Bully."  It includes a discussion of Henry Thomas's "Bob McKinney."
Here's a link to info from the publisher:

http://www.upress.state.ms.us/books/530


Also, Cecil Brown discusses the song at some length in his book Stagolee Shot Billy.



Title: Re: SOTM - Nov. 21, 2015 - Looking for the Bully of the Town
Post by: Prof Scratchy on November 22, 2015, 11:13:30 AM
Thanks all for highlighting this great song in all its versions. There's not a bad one amongst them all. Here's another from the Prairie Ramblers in 1936:https://youtu.be/wb8ufVkYLeM
Title: Re: SOTM - Nov. 21, 2015 - Looking for the Bully of the Town
Post by: Lastfirstface on November 22, 2015, 11:16:00 AM
John W Work's 1941 field recording of Sidney Stripling:

http://www.loc.gov/item/ftvbib000043/

Another Hillbilly version by Earl Johnson and his Clodhoppers in the Skillet Lickers vein:

http://youtu.be/yxEtb23oGz4


and Stampfel and Weber's take:

http://youtu.be/hwzXKqiGHE0
Title: Re: SOTM - Nov. 21, 2015 - Looking for the Bully of the Town
Post by: Lastfirstface on November 22, 2015, 11:28:10 AM
Another field recording of Joe Harris and Kid West:

http://youtu.be/xBxmzVg2P-I

Thanks for your post Suzy.
Title: Re: SOTM - Nov. 21, 2015 - Looking for the Bully of the Town
Post by: Johnm on November 22, 2015, 11:41:05 AM
Yes, thank you for your post and the SotM choice, Suzy.  It's a great one.  Thinks to everyone else who posted versions as well.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: SOTM - Nov. 21, 2015 - Looking for the Bully of the Town
Post by: Suzy T on November 23, 2015, 05:48:53 PM
Wow!  Big thanks to all who posted all this additional information. 
Title: Re: SOTM - Nov. 21, 2015 - Looking for the Bully of the Town
Post by: Johnm on November 25, 2015, 06:04:18 PM
Hi all,
I really love this tune and thought it would be fun to give it a New Orleans kind of groove, with the "Spanish tinge".  Here goes, and Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: SOTM - Nov. 21, 2015 - Looking for the Bully of the Town
Post by: frankie on August 26, 2016, 03:39:21 AM
That's a great take on this, John, and really puts it into new territory...  lots going on between and underneath the vocal!
Title: Re: SOTM - Nov. 21, 2015 - Looking for the Bully of the Town
Post by: DavidCrosbie on October 07, 2017, 05:19:59 AM
I picked ?Bully of the Town? which had its start as a tin pan alley hit circa 1896.
Unusually, we can hear what this sounded like. May Irwin, who popularised the song, was still around in 1907 and had the right sort of voice for sound recording.

Like so many pre-blues, pre-jazz recordings from that time, it's performed by a white artist, and is replete with the n-word. But either you want to know the truth of history or you don't. My preference is for the truth. Besides, I don't believe these white singers were devoid of respect for blacks and their music. No doubt, they misunderstood. How could it be otherwise. And no doubt they accepted many stereotypes unquestionably. But they didn't know, and couldn't know what we know now. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcyjA19-9bA
Title: Re: SOTM - Nov. 21, 2015 - Looking for the Bully of the Town
Post by: DavidCrosbie on March 07, 2018, 05:17:29 AM
The book Nobody Knows Where the Blues Come From (a collection of writings by various authors discussing lyrics to early black songs) includes an interesting piece by Paul Oliver about "Lookin' for the Bully."
(https://images-eu.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/510GjAcF9jL._AC_US436_QL65_.jpg)

Oliver shows that the 'tin pan alley hit' was not an invention but a lifting from oral tradition.

He quotes WC Handy remembering how he wished to compose
Quote from: Handy
a down-home ditty fit to go with twanging banjos and yellow shoes
and recalling his time in St Louis in 1893
Quote from: Handy
Songs of this sort could be tremendous hits sometimes. On the levee at St Louis I had heard Looking for the Bully of the Town sung by roustabouts, which later was adopted and nationally popularized by May Irwin.

The explanation, Oliver relates, is that May Irwin happened to share a long train journey with a sports writer and horse-race judge called Charles Trevathan. He amused the people in the carriage by playing his guitar and performing a version of The Bully he'd picked up from some black singers in Tennessee. Irwin spotted a potential show-stopper and got Trevathan to write words for her.

At the same time that WC Handy was in St Louis, there was a grand 'sporting house' in the red-light district where the famous Tom Turpin played piano and the more obscure Mama Lou sang bawdy songs and more respectable numbers such as Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-Der-E, Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight, Who Stole the Lock and the bully song. [The clients probably paid more attention to the dancing girls with long skirts and no knickers dancing on a big mirror.]

Trevathan's song wasn't even the first version of the bully song to be published, but it was the most popular.

Some of this is repeated in the notes to this performance by somebody I previously knew as an author but not a performer: Elijah Wald

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCkyIcPMzx4

Wald reports some more recent research by Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff

(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/513C-e4uPFL._SY387_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg)

Two cuttings from the Leavenwoth Herald
Quote from: November 1894
There are a great many Kansa City tramps called piano players in town.
Quote from: December 1894
Kansas City girls can't play anything on pianos except 'rags', and the worst kind of 'rags' at that. 'The Bully' and 'Forty Drops' are their favourites.

Abbott and Seroff add
Quote from: Out of Sight
This is the earliest-known printed reference to the word "rags" to indicate a particular type of music.

Trevathan's words for May Irwin seem to have been based on traditional lyrics. Oliver believes that the theme of a a black razor-wielding ruffian invading a dance continued in the Blues tradition as variations on the Razor Ball such as this song by Blind Willie McTell.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkX8Y1Dmiuo

The tradition also leads to Howlin' Wolf

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEjUfu9-W-w
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