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Country Blues => Weenie Campbell Main Forum => Topic started by: Johnm on August 21, 2017, 09:07:23 AM

Title: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: Johnm on August 21, 2017, 09:07:23 AM
Hi all,
Having recently discovered Leon Strickland's "Train Blues", I've been thinking about how train blues with some singing, spoken narration and the guitar delivering programatic elements designed to evoke the sounds of the train are almost a genre in themselves.  Here is a list of such blues we've transcribed at the Weenie site with links to the transcriptions:
   * Booker White--"Special Streamline":  http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=2438.msg57281#msg57281
   * Booker White--"Panama Limited::  http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=2438.msg57524#msg57524
   * Mississippi John Hurt--"Talkin' Casey Blues":  http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=449.msg38177#msg38177
   * Tom Bradford--"Going North":  http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=10577.msg91658#msg91658
   * Big Boy--"Blues:  http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=10188.msg87891#msg87891
   * Leon Strickland--"Train Blues:  http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=10188.msg101826#msg101826

Can anyone think of other train blues that utilize this format?

All best,
Johnm
 
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: TenBrook on August 21, 2017, 09:15:20 AM
John,
Great topic. There are quite a few songs in the hillbilly tradition that I immediately thought of, but of course the topic is train blues so here's one that came to mind only coincidentally really since I put on the Yazoo Harmonica Blues comp last week and Freeman Stowers' 'Railroad Blues' is the first track.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rC6mc0bMcWY (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rC6mc0bMcWY)
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: Lignite on August 21, 2017, 11:06:38 AM
Travelin' Blues by Blind Willie McTell; https://youtu.be/nKQHj3WKPCc

Hi all,
I thought I would add Willie McTell's lyrics to Lightnin's link--thanks, Lightnin'!
All best,
Johnm

INTRO

(SPOKEN):  I was travelin' through South Americus.  Walked up to a lady's house--called her Grandma.  Didn't know her name, she give me something' to eat.  Walked on down the road, I heard a old train, getting' off like this:  (guitar imitates train).  I heard a old bell ring, kinda like this:  (guitar imitates bell).  I went on down, I heard a old whistle blow, I heard it sayin',
(SUNG) Look a-yonder (guitar answers)
            Look a-yonder (guitar answers)
            At the women (guitar answers)
            At the women (guitar answers)
(SPOKEN) I went on then, and begin to sing to the engineer.
(SUNG) Mr. Engineer, let a man ride the blinds
            Mr. Engineer, let a poor man ride the blinds
            Said, "I wouldn't mind it, fella, but you know this train ain't mine
(SPOKEN)  I begin to hear that old fella blow it long, sho'.  Here the way he blowed:(guitar imitates whistle).. Then I begin to sing to 'im one more time.
(SUNG) You's a cruel fireman, low-down engineer
            You's a cruel fireman, low-down engineer
            I'm trying' to hobo my way, and you leave me standing' here
(SPOKEN) Then I go along further and begin to sing "Poor Boy" to 'im.  (guitar plays "Poor Boy")  Then he begin to smile in my face. 
(SUNG) Get up, fella, ride all 'round the world
            Get up, fella, ride all 'round the world
            Poor boy, you ain't got no girl
(SPOKEN) Then I begin to hear him tell me about those cheese and eggs, how he wanted 'em fixed.  Hear him say,
(SUNG) Scrambled down (guitar answers)
            Scrambled down (guitar answers)
            Scrambled down (guitar answers)
(SPOKEN) Then I begin to hear him tell me about those cheese and eggs, I hear him say,
(SUNG) Cheese (guitar answers)
            Eggs (guitar answers)
            Dinner (guitar answers)
            Dinner (guitar answers)
(SPOKEN) Then I begin to hear him tell me about Emry.
(SUNG) I love you Emry, I love you true
            Love you, Emry, tell the world I do
            Em (guitar finishes)

Edited 8/25 to pick up correction from powerlinehorizon     
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: banjochris on August 21, 2017, 11:09:49 AM
Henry Thomas "Railroadin' Some"
https://youtu.be/Sd0GnCtjgKE

George Bullet Williams "Frisco Leaving Birmingham"
https://youtu.be/6frmmpfopCE

Wesley Wallace "No. 29"
https://youtu.be/uFaqHptTenc

Chris
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: alyoung on August 22, 2017, 03:33:37 AM
Wesley Wallace's No 29 is brilliant. Count the number of beats per bar in the left hand ... then do the same for the right. And he never falters.
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: banjochris on August 22, 2017, 08:50:07 AM
Wesley Wallace's No 29 is brilliant. Count the number of beats per bar in the left hand ... then do the same for the right. And he never falters.

Agreed, one of my all time favorites; I wish he had recorded more.
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: Johnm on August 22, 2017, 12:30:00 PM
Hi all,
I have been intending to transcribe Wesley Wallace's "No. 29" for some time.  It certainly is spectacular--can you think of any other piano boogies in 6/4?  And to maintain that narration while doing it--whew!  Well, here goes:

INTRO

SPOKEN:  This is the train they call 29.  Leavin' out of Cairo, comin' to East St. Louis.  Soon as she got in Murphysburg, she blowed that whistle.  She blowed her whistle this way:  (piano imitates whistle).  I caught that train in Murphysburg.  I was intendin' to get off in Sparta, Illinois.  I mean, that train was runnin'!  She wasn't doin' nothin' but runnin', hollerin', somethin' like this:  (piano imitates train runnin', hollerin').  Just before she got to Sparta, she thought she'd blow that whistle again.  She blowed that whistle somethin' like this:  (piano imitates whistle).  She's lopin' now.  I wanted to get off that train, but she's goin' too fast.  I hardly ain't touched one foot on the ground, my heel like to knock my brains out.  I always step four or five, right tight . . . and fell off.  This is the noise I made when I hit that ground:  (piano imitates impact).  I'm rollin' now.  I got up and waved my hand, told 'em, "Good-bye."  This is the way she was cakewalkin' on into East St. Louis:  (piano imitates train cakewalkin').

Edited 8/22 to pick up correction from banjochris

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: banjochris on August 22, 2017, 01:45:49 PM
The only other tune remotely like "No. 29" that I've ever heard is Roosevelt Sykes' "3, 6 and 9" but this has a lot more drive to it. And no V chord, which reminds me of "Head Rag Hop."

P.S. I think it's Murphysboro, Ill., not Lambertsburg, and he pronounces it Murphysburg. But it is pretty much halfway between Cairo and Sparta.

Chris
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: Johnm on August 22, 2017, 01:52:42 PM
Hi Chris,
What you say vis a vis Murphysboro/Murphysburg is right on the money, I think.  It is placed right on the map and I couldn't find any Lambertsburg, though it sounded like what he was saying.  I'll make the change to Murphysburg.  Thanks!
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: btasoundsradio on August 24, 2017, 10:17:17 AM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cTUjJvJ9Ps


             
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fu7XuXHwhiU
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: btasoundsradio on August 24, 2017, 10:23:00 AM
Moses Williams does a great train imitation on 'Drop On Down In Florida' set on Dust 2 Digital
https://youtu.be/VhaEtUGbJqU
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: Mr.OMuck on August 24, 2017, 05:19:03 PM
https://youtu.be/9LaxmQRyH-w
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: btasoundsradio on August 25, 2017, 01:56:30 PM
I always thought McTell was singing:
Get up fella, ride all 'round the world
in Travelin' Blues
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: banjochris on August 25, 2017, 02:04:09 PM
I always thought McTell was singing:
Get up fella, ride all 'round the world
in Travelin' Blues

Indeed he is.
Chris
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: Johnm on August 25, 2017, 02:10:12 PM
Thanks for the catch, powerlinehorizon, I have made the fix. 
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: Johnm on August 25, 2017, 03:40:07 PM
Hi all,
I thought I'd try and transcribe Robert Wilkins' "Streamline 'Frisco Limited".  It's an amazing track, nine minutes and fifty-five seconds long, and it ends with a fade-out!  I wonder how long Robert Wilkins kept going with it.  If you hear any of it different let me know.  Here's what I got for it:


INTRO

(SPOKEN) This 'Frisco left the shed . . . it's pulled out, behind time.  The first thing the engineer told the fireman do, "Shevel [sic] in some coal."  He reached and gets the scoop, he gonna shovel coal for 'im something like this:  (guitar shovels coal).  By that time, they have them a good hot fire.  He leavin' town.  He reached up and gets his whistle cord and blows for a fare-thee-well like this:  (guitar blows fare-thee well).  She gone!  By that time she's at Mileage Junction bridge.  She had been stoppin' every day, but she left town behind time that day.  She didn't make no stop there.  She give her highball whistle and kept on knockin'.  Highball it like this:  (guitar highballs).  So she just struck across this bridge, and she left town behind time that day, she crossed in full speed.  Crossed in full speed, you heard her jumpin' and jostlin' the rail like this:  (guitar jumps and jostles).  By that time she's at Mileage Junction Landing, she makes her blow and stops there.  Blowed for it like this:  (guitar blows).  The fireman reaches up and gets his bell cord, begin to ring the bell for the station like this:  (guitar rings bell).  Soon as she leave there, she's on the main line.  She water and make to the Boston track.  Get off on the switch line before the wreck train leave the South Yard.  So she gets around the curve, the engineer puts her into high.  Put it in high and heard her change her speech somethin' like this:  (guitar changes speech).  At last got around that curve, she saw that wreck train, slowed right down into the South Yard like this:  (guitar slows down).  Whereas she saw she'd make that wreck anyway . . . she stopped and made her wrecker's blow, like this:  (guitar blows).  Well, after the wreck, some got killed, some got all wounded and broke up.  Some good Christian sisters, only the Lord saved them!  While they go 'round pickin' dead, one of them old sisters take a second thought, started one of them old-time church songs. 
(SUNG) Lord, I wished I was in Heaven, sitting down
Lord, I wished I was in Heaven, sitting down
Oh, angels, oh my Lord,
Lord, I wished I was in Heaven (guitar finishes line)

Lord, I wished I was in Heaven, sitting down
Lord, I wished I was in Heaven, sitting down
Oh, angels, oh my Lord,
Lord, I wished I was in Heaven, sitting down

Lord, I ain't goin' to lay my religion down
Lord, I ain't gonna lay my religion down
Oh, angels, oh my Lord,
Lord, I ain't gonna lay my religion (guitar finishes line)

Lord, take away sin and give me grace
Lord, take away sin and give me grace
Oh, angels, oh my Lord
Lord, take away sin and give (guitar finishes line)

Lord, I wished I was in Heaven, sitting down
Lord, I wished I was in Heaven, sitting down
Oh, angels, oh my Lord
(Guitar finishes refrain)

(SPOKEN)  She's on the road again.  First, she pulls out from there, she makin' the sorry blow . . . and lettin' the people know she'd had a wreck for haulin' dead on the road.  She made a sorry blow like this:  (guitar blows sorry).  'Bout that time, she had to go over a hill.  So when you get to this hill, she made two blows and had to cut her speed down to get over it.  Made two blows like this:  (guitar blows twice).  She gets over the hill, she makes two blows and picks her speed back up.  She's on her way to the roundyard, now.  She roll up to the roundyard, she laid four long blows, callin' the flagman.  He give 'em the board, he answered two short blows , and rolled on down to the roundyard.  Four long blows like this:  (guitar blows four long blows).  Course, rollin' over in the roundyard didn't hear, put his brakes on to stop it.  When he put on his brakes, they heard the drivewheel slide on the rail like this:  (guitar slides).  Coaches couplin' up at the end.  Standin' exhaust, open the steam fire, let the steam off it cool it down.

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: Johnm on September 17, 2017, 09:05:55 AM
Hi all,
I just remembered this morning another performance that falls into this category:  Blind Blake's "Seaboard Stomp", a transcription of which can be found at:  http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=941.msg18676#msg18676 .
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: catyron on December 30, 2019, 03:02:58 AM
Blind Willie McTell was "travellin' through south Americus", not ""south Americas"!

Americus is a town in southwest Georgia, the state where Willie McTell was born and resided. A train line runs through it, as described by McTell's lyrics.

"I heard a old bell ring, kinda like this:" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXz6JvLDh4A
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: Johnm on December 30, 2019, 06:12:28 AM
Thanks for the catch, catyron.  I will make the correction.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: btasoundsradio on January 02, 2020, 08:14:11 AM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-Wo8GQt35I
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: Johnm on January 28, 2020, 11:22:36 AM
Hi all,
I posted Henry Thomas' "Railroadin' Some" near the front end of this thread but never transcribed the lyrics.  He accompanies himself on the quills and starts out with the guitar played out of G position in standard tuning capoed way up for this song.  I thought I'd give it a shot now.  There are a couple of places where I'm either not sure of what I heard or just couldn't get it at all, and all of those places are i bent brackets.  I would very much appreciate help with them.  Here is Henry Thomas' performance of "Railroadin' Some":

https://youtu.be/Sd0GnCtjgKE

INSTRUMENTAL INTRO

Now we leave Ft. Worth, Texas, then go to Texarkana, and it doubles back to Ft. Worth, come on down to Dallas, change cars, Katy, comin' through the Territory to Kansas City, and from Kansas City to St. Louis, and from St. Louis, Chicago, I'm on my way but I don't know where.(quills) Change cars!  On the TP, leavin' Ft. Worth, Texas, going through Dallas, hello, Terrell, Grand Saline, Silver Lake, Mineola, Tyler, and Longview, Jefferson, Marshall, Little Sandy, Big Sandy, Texarkana, and it doubles back to Ft. Worth.(quills) Change cars!  On the Katy, leavin' Dallas, Texas, comin' through Rockwall, hello, Greenville, Celeste, Denison, South McAlester, Territory, Muskogee, ol' Wagoner, Parson, Kansas, Kansas City, Sedalia, then I change cars, and jump in St. Louis. (quills) Hello, Springfield, I'm on my way, Chicago! (quills) Bloomington (quills) Joliet, get on a high-ball, pass on through.  I high-ball on through, sir.  (quills) Grand Crossing, (quills)  Thirty-First Street Depot, (quills) Polk Street Depot, (quills) Chicago!  (quills, modulation to D position)

Edited 1/29 to pick up corrections from banjochris, Stuart Aque

All best,
Johnm   
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: jpeters609 on January 28, 2020, 12:17:00 PM
John,
Though I can't decipher it right down to the syllable, I believe that the missing word in the line "Kansas City, Sedalia, then I change cars, and jump in [   ?  ]" is meant to be a contraction of "St. Louis Limited" (something like "Send-Lim"), as this was the train that, if you were heading to Chicago, you would transfer to in St. Louis after arriving from Sedalia.
-Jeff
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: Johnm on January 28, 2020, 02:44:44 PM
Hi Jeff,
Thanks very much for your help.  It does sound like he is saying "St. Louis Lim", with "Louis" pronounced like "Louie" and just sort of smeared into "Lim", in three very fast syllables.  I'll put that in the transcription for now, but leave it in bent brackets for the time being, in case someone comes up with a place name near Sedalia that matches even better the phonetics of what Henry Thomas sang there.  Thanks!
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: banjochris on January 29, 2020, 10:47:48 AM
I'm going to need to do some more close listening to this, John but for now:

pretty sure "Now we leave" at the beginning is right;
"I hop on through, sir" I think is "I high-ball on through, sir"
and also "headed for Eighth Street Depot" sounds pretty clearly to me as "Thirty-First Street Depot."
Chris
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: Johnm on January 29, 2020, 04:45:32 PM
Thanks for the help, Chris.  I re-listened and "high-ball" in that one comment and "Thirty-First Street Depot" are both right on.  Thanks also to Stuart, who sent me a copy of Mack McCormack's notes to the Herwin release of Henry Thomas' sides which had a couple of other corrections, too.  I think we're pretty close now.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: banjochris on January 29, 2020, 05:36:57 PM
Couple more
"Judson" should be "Jefferson," I think he really swallows it, but it's just south of Texarkana on the T&P.

And [Round Carson] I think should be "Grand Crossing," which is in the South Side of Chicago.

Chris
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: Johnm on January 29, 2020, 06:23:57 PM
Those ones are good, too, Chris, thanks!  After Muskogee, do you think he is saying "Ft. Wagoner?"  The town's name shows as Wagoner in my Rand McNally Road Atlas, but maybe it was known as Ft. Wagoner in his day.  What do you think?
All best,
John
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: banjochris on January 29, 2020, 10:29:53 PM
Maybe just "ol' Wagoner"? Looked it up on Wikipedia and I don't think there was a fort there.
Chris
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: Johnm on January 30, 2020, 11:51:34 AM
"Ol' Wagoner" sounds good to me, Chris.  I caught a couple of more "hello" places, too, prior to Terrell and Greenville.  I think it's there now.  Thanks for all your help.
All best,
John
Title: Re: Train Blues with Narratives
Post by: iantonionni on January 31, 2020, 06:47:01 AM
Here's a train narrative from Jimmie Davis, it's mostly harmonica accompaniment, but with a guitar interlude in the middle. The harmonica player is unknown, but sounds a lot like Salty Holmes to me.
https://youtu.be/FGg7jhhZFgM (https://youtu.be/FGg7jhhZFgM)
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