Country Blues => Weenie Campbell Main Forum => SOTM - Song Of The Month => Topic started by: Old Man Ned on September 02, 2018, 01:16:24 PM

Title: SOTM September 2018 T'aint Nobody's Business if I Do
Post by: Old Man Ned on September 02, 2018, 01:16:24 PM
For the September SOTM I've chosen Ain't Nobody's Business. From Paul Oliver's book 'Songsters and Saints' this was collected by Howard Odum as 'T'aint Nobody's Busisness But My Own' which, to quote from 'Songsters and Saints, Songs of the Ragtime Era' was in the opinion of Howard Odum, 'represented the more reckless temperament of the wanderer'. Lyrics collected were:

I went to see my Hanner
turn tricks in the manner
T'aint nobodys business but my own

Don't care if I don't make a dollar
Je'so I wear my shirt and collar
T'aint nobodys business but my own

It is suggested that the versions recorded by Frank Stokes with Dan Sane at the end of August 1928 and the version Nobody's Dirty Business recorded by John Hurt in February 1928 derives from this 'tradition'.

The versions recored by Sara Martin and Anna Meyers in 1922 and by Bessie Smith, Lena Wilson and Alberta Hunter in 1923 were versions of the song published by Porter Grainger, though this published version, it is suggested, derives originally from the 'traditional' material that was being performed in the first decade of the 1900's.

The first recording I've found is from Anna Meyers with the Original Memphis Five


Sara Martin recorded the song in December 1922 accompanied by Fats Waller on piano


Alberta Hunter, Bessie Smith taking it at a bit more laid back pace, and Lena Wilson all recored the song a year later




Here's the Frank Stokes and John Hurt versions. What I've found surprising, given it was clearly a popular song, is that these are the only country blues, guitar based recordings I've found from around ths time.



A search through YouTube brings up lots of different versions.  Here's some of my favourites. Please add your own.

Billie Holiday

A lovely version from one of my favourite piano players, James Booker

and a live one from Jimmy Witherspoon
Title: Re: SOTM September 2018 T'aint Nobody's Business if I Do
Post by: Pan on September 02, 2018, 05:01:53 PM
Thanks for a great theme for the SOTM, Old Man ned!

One early cb version that I like a lot, is by Tommie Bradley; he plays from the C-position, with a capo high up on his guitar's neck.



Title: Re: SOTM September 2018 T'aint Nobody's Business if I Do
Post by: Lastfirstface on September 03, 2018, 05:44:50 AM
There's a lot of old time string band 78s of this one too starting around '26 or '27. Earl Johnson and the Dixie Entertainers, Emry Arthur, Warren Caplinger, The Short Creek Trio, Walker's Corbin Ramblers, and Riley Puckett. I won't fill up the thread with the videos, but I'm sure a lot of them are on youtube. Instead, here's a particular favorite of mine from a little further south, Theodore Miller and his mento band :

Title: Re: SOTM September 2018 T'aint Nobody's Business if I Do
Post by: Johnm on September 03, 2018, 06:39:31 AM
Thanks, Old Man Ned, for a great Song of the Month choice and the initial post and research, and to Pan and Lastfirstface for the other versions.  Here is Riley Puckett's version, which he called "Nobody's Business":


All best,
Title: Re: SOTM September 2018 T'aint Nobody's Business if I Do
Post by: Old Man Ned on September 03, 2018, 08:49:53 AM
Thanks for the additions, Pan, Lastfirstface and John. I wasn't aware of these versions and I'll look out for the string band versions on You Tube.

All the best,
Title: Re: SOTM September 2018 T'aint Nobody's Business if I Do
Post by: DavidCrosbie on September 03, 2018, 12:18:31 PM
Max Haymes, in his online extended notes to the JSP Vaudeville Blues CD set
http://www.earlyblues.com/Essay%20-%20I%20Need-A%20Plenty%20Grease%20In%20My%20Frying%20Pan%20-%20CD%20B.htm (http://www.earlyblues.com/Essay%20-%20I%20Need-A%20Plenty%20Grease%20In%20My%20Frying%20Pan%20-%20CD%20B.htm)

claims that the song originated in the West Indies as Nobody's Business but Me Own.  On CD B of the set , he includes this  1919 recording by Bert Williams titled It's Nobody's Business But My Own.


Haymes suggests that Williams, who was born in Antigua, may have introduced our song from the West Indies. I don't buy this. Yes, there is a tune playing behind his recitation, but the tune doesn't sound anything like any version I've heard of Ain't Nobody's Business. At times, the band plays a straight quote from William's earlier big hit Nobody. I think it's most likely that Williams wanted a routine to follow the success of Nobody and latched on to a saying that was also in the popular consciousness.

On a West Indian origin, I think he's on stronger grounds. There are several versions of Nobody's Business posted on YouTube, presunmably the ones John Cowley refers to in Nobody Knows where the Blues Comes From. YouTube doesn't date the recordings, but Cowley says the song was recorded in Jamaica and West Africa after the Second World War. Too recent? Well, no; almost every posting describes it as an old song ? usually as a 'traditional' or 'authentic' or even 'ancient' Jamaica folk song.

This version by a Belize singer, Brad Pattico gives a good idea of the full melodic and lyric structure:


My best attempt at transcribing the first full section is:

Solomon's grandpa go to Ecuador
Left him wife and pic'ny out of door
Nobody's business but him own

Solomon grandma swears she no forget
(??)T'ief went out with Sammy Polo-neck
Nobody's business but she own

Nobody's business, business
Nobody's business, business
Nobody's business, business but me own

Nobody's business, business
Nobody's business, business
Nobody's business, business but me own

Here's a similar version by Ainsworth Rose:


(Other versions have less full variants of Solomon's grandpa or some other husband going to Ecuador. Another floating verse has a very un-PC reference to marrying a N-man or a Chinaman)

One melody is used for the two half-verses. A related melody is used for a two halves of the chorus.

[While I was writing this post, Lastfirstface posted a fine instrumental version by a band led by a Mento  fiddler ? Mento being a Jamaican style contemporary with Trinidadian Calypso.]

Compare this with the first section of Part 2 of the Frank Stokes Record, as transcribed by Rivers


Quote from: 'Tain't Nobody's Business Part 2 (Rivers transcription)
I'm goin' stay 'round in Tennessee
Where the girls down there take a like to me
Though I won't have no other place to go
Now listen at me baby, be good an? kind
You mistreat me lately all the time
Ain't nobody?s business but mine

Ain?t nobody?s business baby,
(blank line)
Nobody?s business but mine
It ain?t nobody?s business honey,
Where in the world I spend my money
Nobody?s business but my own

Again, a melody used for two half-verses ?  and again a similar (near identical) melody for two half-choruses. Most of Sokes' half-verses (though not the first one here) have the refrain Ain't nobody's business but mine as the third line. And Stokes' chorus is almost as repetitious as Brad Pattico's.

John Hurt's version has a similar structure ? except that he uses the first half of the melody for a short verse and the second half of the melody for a short chorus.

Quote from: Missippi John Hurt
Some of these mornings going to wake up crazy
Going to grab me a gun kill my baby
Nobody's business but mine

Ain't nobody's doggone business
How my baby's treatin' me
Nobody's business but my own

This post is getting too long. I'll  explain in a latter post why I chose that particular verse from John Hurt.
Title: Re: SOTM September 2018 T'aint Nobody's Business if I Do
Post by: DavidCrosbie on September 03, 2018, 06:06:01 PM
I promised to explain why I quoted a particular verse from John Hurt...

I choose it because it was collected as early as 1909 and published some years later by EC Perrow in the Journal of American Folklore. He published an essay and a body of material he'd collected or obtained from other collectors. It was spread over three volumes of the Journal under the title Songs and Rhymes from the South. You can read all three here:


and they're well worth reading for early versions of pre-Blues and lines that turn up later on Blues records. Here's the fragment that anticipated John Hurt:

Some of these days I'm going to go crazy
Take my gun and shoot my baby
Nobody's business but mine

(The rest of the fragment is unrelated.)

In another volume, also collected in 1909:

With a chicken on my back
I'm goin' to my shack
En' it's nobody's business but mine
Lord Lord
En' it's nobody's business but mine
This was collected in 1909 from 'East Tennessee; mountain whites', but look what was collected from 'Mississippi; negroes'

With them bloodhounds on my track,
And a chicken on my back,
I'se gwine to make it to my shanty, if I can,

If I can, can, can,
If I can, can,
I'se gwine to make it to my shanty, if I can.

With a ham-bone on my back,
And them bloodhounds on my track,
I'se gwine to keep my skillet greasy, if I can

Something like that first verse forms the core of Henry Thomas's Shanty Blues.

The song that Howard Odum was writing about ? as quoted by Paul Oliver ? makes more sense of the connection between 'nobody's business' and 'make it to my shanty'. It's from the days when the chicken-stealing joke was still funny and acceptable.

Goin' back to my shack,
Ain't coming' back.
Nobody's business but mine.


Goin' back to my shack,
Goin' have hump on my back:
Nobody's business but mine.

Goin' be hump on my back:
So many chickens in de sack
Nobody's business but mine.

Chickens in my sack,
Big hounds on my track,
Nobody's business but mine.

I missed out three verses that were irrelevant. Odum missed out a lot more:

Quote from: Howard Odum
There are many other verses which are sung, but which will not permit reproduction.

Odum distinguished this from the popular song:

Quote from: Howard Odum
The sentiment is somewhat similar to the song "'Tain't Nobody's Business but My Own", but is more careless and care-free.
It also had a
Quote from: Howard Odum
chorus, which is repeated after each stanza or omitted at will
The chorus is actually very different, but we're clearly looking at a song sung before 1910 which resembled in many ways the later recordings of Frank Stokes and John  Hurt.

The Blues recording tradition stems from the song copyrighted by Porter Grainger an Everett Robbins. Some posters on Mudcat think they wrote it in 1911, but didn't formally copyright it until 1921. The sheet music has, broadly speaking, the lyrics as sung by the women singers of the 1920's.

1. There ain't nothin' I can do, nor nothin' I can say,
That folks don't criticize me;
But I'm gonna do just as I want to anyway,
And don't care if they all despise me.

I I should take a notion
To jump into the ocean,
Rather than persecute me,
I choose that you would shoot me,
If I should get the feelin'
To dance on the ceilin',
If I get my best companion
Drive me right into the canyon,

If I dislike my lover
And leave him for another,
If I go to church on Sunday,
Then cabaret on Monday,
If my friend ain't got no money
And I say "take all mine, honey,"
If I give him my last nickel
And if it leaves me in a pickle,

2. After all, the way to do is do just as you please,
Regardless of their talkin';
Often times ones that talk will get down on their knees,
And beg your pardon for their squawkin'.

They seem to have taken the traditional song, added a tune and two verses, but simplified the body of the song into a string of three-line units without the old chorus. The lyrics they wrote made the song more personal, a complaint ? in short, a blues. I think this was the contrast Odum had in mind when he described the folk-song version as 'more careless and care-free'.

It's interesting that the folk-like version persisted in Old Timey records for the White market, and on into the  Bluegrass repertoire.

The 1935  Riley Puckett record (posted by Johnm) even has (almost) that old verse collected in 1909

Quote from: Riley Puckett
One of these mornings goin to wake up carzy
Kill my wife and slay/save my baby
Nobody's business if I do

The 1927 record by Earl Johnson had included  the same verse.


And it turns up again in the 1959 Bluegrass version by the Stanley Brothers


Back in the Black tradition, John Jackson was singing his take on the old version

Title: Re: SOTM September 2018 T'aint Nobody's Business if I Do
Post by: ratherbwalkn on September 09, 2018, 05:16:28 AM
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