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Country Blues => Weenie Campbell Main Forum => Topic started by: Johnm on November 18, 2006, 05:05:25 PM

Title: Mystery Titles
Post by: Johnm on November 18, 2006, 05:05:25 PM
Hi all,
I have been baffled in the past when I've discovered Country Blues songs with titles that appear nowhere in the song's lyrics.  There are numerous examples of this--Teddy Darby's "Built Down On The Ground" and "My Laona Blues" and Sleepy John Estes's original recording of "Milk Cow Blues" fall into this category, to name just a few.  I was stuck.  Why in the world would a song have a title based on a phrase that never gets mentioned in the song?

Recently, Blues collectors (and player, in Stewart's case) Don Kent and Michael Stewart were in Seattle on a record-collecting trip and I had a chance to visit with them briefly.  Somehow, the subject of these songs with the mystery titles came up, and Don Kent posited a very logical and, I think, plausible explanation for the seemingly inexplicable titles.  He suggested that in performance, songs tended to be played far longer than was possible in the renditions recorded on 78s, and that most likely, the musician performing the song on record simply had not had a chance to arrive yet at the verse that contained the title phrase.  He said in several instances, with rediscovered Blues players, when he heard the same song performed without the time constraints imposed by the 78 record's potential length, the singer eventually got to a verse containing the title phrase that had gone unsung on the original recording.  As far as I'm concerned, this line of reasoning satisfactorily explains a question that had mystified me for years.  I was sure glad to hear it, too, because I don't know that I ever would have come up with it, left to my own devices.
All best,
Johnm     
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Pan on November 19, 2006, 05:09:11 AM
I have always wondered where does the title for Blind Boy Fullers' "Piccolo Rag" come from.
I have later heard that the word "piccolo" (or Pick-a-Low ? ) refers to a juke-box in the southern dialect. Still, I fail to see what this has to do with the song's lyrics. You might just have provided the answer, Johnm, and I thank you for that!  :D

Yours

Pan
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Stuart on November 19, 2006, 10:18:30 AM
Hi John:

Given that Don Kent's explanation is supported by fact, I agree that it certainly applies to the specific cases that he had in mind, and probably applies to many other cases as well. Whether his explanation applies to all cases of Country Blues songs with titles that appear nowhere in the song's lyrics, is of course the subject of a long thread that probably belongs in another forum!

But this is an interesting subject/topic. It might be worthwhile for us to make some mental notes along the way as we listen, just to try to get a sense of the various relationships between titles and song content. First line, last line, chorus, refrain, theme, something catchy in the song, etc. (RJ's "Malted Milk," "Love in Vain," Blind Blake's "Police Dog Blues", HT's "Fishing Blues" and so on). No need for a overly academic comprehensive analysis, just a little food for thought that will probably yield some interesting observations and entertaining curiosities.

My Best,

Stuart

P.S. As a tangentially related (and somewhat wacky) afterthought, the source of titles for instrumentals is another topic of interest.
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: banjochris on November 19, 2006, 10:46:13 AM
I'm sure I've heard a '60s Sleepy John recording of Milk Cow where he sings the title verse. Cannon's Jug Stompers' "Viola Lee" falls into that category too, I believe. Oh, and the Paramount "You Can't Keep No Brown" by Bo Weavil Jackson -- I've always wondered if that was issued with the wrong title, given the number of times he sings the title on the Vocalion recording.

If nothing else, I think this phenomenon highlights something about the people running the recording sessions. Were they really listening to the words? Or did they just feel it wasn't worth the money to use up another wax disc on a second take when that was the only problem with the performance. IIRC, there are two takes of "Viola Lee," and neither one mentions her. And speaking of that, although the title verse is sung in both takes, I've always felt that they did a second take of Luke Jordan's "Church Bell Blues" because he didn't sing enough on the first one.
Chris
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Johnm on November 19, 2006, 12:01:53 PM
Hi all,
You guys make some good points.  The Don Kent explanation suffices for some oddly titled Blues, but certainly not all of them.  Sometimes the odd title may be a result of poor listening on the part of the engineer/record company, as Chris suggests.  I remember Frank pointing out that Lemon's "Right Of Way Blues" must have been intended to be "Ride Away Blues", and that certainly makes more sense.  Also Harry Chatmon's "When You Left" opens with the line,
   "When your left eye goes to twitchin'"
Maybe "Left Eye Blues" would have made more sense for that song.  In these two instances, I think you encounter the Lady Mondagreen syndrome, where a phonetic approximation of what the performer was singing yields an altogether different sense than was intended.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: dj on November 19, 2006, 12:52:48 PM
Quote
There are numerous examples of this--Teddy Darby's "Built Down On The Ground" and "My Laona Blues" and Sleepy John Estes's original recording of "Milk Cow Blues" fall into this category

It's interesting to note that John's three examples are from early in the artists' recording careers - the Darby songs from his second session and the Estes piece from his third - when presumably they were still recording pieces of their core repertoire and not stuff made up specifically for recording, and when they were not yet overly familiar with the recording process, and so not necessarily thinking of what would fit into a three minute recording.
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: banjochris on November 19, 2006, 06:06:13 PM
Lemon's "Right of Way" is the correct title. The line is "Got a high brown girl, up the right-of-way somewhere." He's referring to a road or railroad. -- I copied this from an online dictionary: "The strip of land over which facilities such as highways, railroads, or power lines are built."

On the bad listening to titles by recording personnel, Charlie Patton's Hammer/Hammock Blues is one of the standout dumb ones.
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Chezztone on November 20, 2006, 05:49:11 PM
Chris -- Sure, we know what a right of way is, but I agree with John, Lemon is singing about a gal who likes to Ride Away, and someone misinterpreted that and wrote it down as Right of Way. My favorite in this vein is Rubin Lacy's "Ham Hound Crave." I think it's really "Ham Hocks & Gravy" (and named my CD after it).
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: banjochris on November 20, 2006, 06:44:04 PM
I agree with John, Lemon is singing about a gal who likes to Ride Away, and someone misinterpreted that and wrote it down as Right of Way.

But then the line would be: "Got a high brown girl, up the ride away somewhere." Don't make sense that way.
Chris
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: phhawk on November 20, 2006, 08:10:50 PM
I'll admit I'm a bit cynical regarding record companies, but I think that another reason that might be considered for some titles that do not appear in the song, is that the relative low regard that record companies had for blues recordings compared to popular music.  This might also affect the accuracy with which that they noted the titles. The record company might well have just made up a title if they didn't properly record the title at the time, or perhaps didn't like the real title. For instance, It's my understanding that Booker White's name was changed to Bukka by the record company without his approval. Also, when you consider that some of the artists never even heard their own records it suggests there was plenty of room for mistakes. 
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Johnm on November 20, 2006, 10:24:59 PM
I agree with you Phil, that the record companies in many instances did not even bother to give the appearance of making an effort to give a song a sensible title.  How else can you explain a title like Ishmon Bracey's "Family Stirving"?  And while we're at it, I just thought of another Mondagreen--Mose Mason's "Molly Man", which should be " 'Male Man", since it is a tamale vendor's cry.  On second thought, 'Male Man looks pretty weird, especially if you miss the apostrophe at the front end.  Oh well.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: phhawk on November 20, 2006, 11:07:20 PM
Johnm, Maybe it could be spelled Malley Man. I have to say, you guys never cease to amaze me with the depth of your blues knowledge. Anyway, now that we've solved (possibly) the phenomeneon of mystery titles; time for a scotch on the rocks. Here's to Weenie Campbell.
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: dj on November 21, 2006, 02:30:08 AM
I'll agree that record companies held country blues and country blues singers in low regard in the 1920s and 30s.  But to be fair, let's not forget that record companies and their personnel were from the North and didn't necessarily have much knowledge of the South or Southern culture.  If you've never heard the name Booker and someone with a heavy accent that you're not familiar with pronounces the name (and that person is illiterate, or at least you assume he is, either he can't spell his name for you or you don't even ask), chances are you'll get the name wrong.  Same thing with tamales.  Whoever wrote down the title for Molly Man had probably never heard of a tamale.

I love Charley Patton's music, but I'm glad my life doesn't depend on perfectly understanding his sung lyrics!   :P
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: uncle bud on November 21, 2006, 07:51:33 AM
I'm sure I've heard a '60s Sleepy John recording of Milk Cow where he sings the title verse.

He sings the milk cow verse twice in the version on the Legend of Sleepy John Estes.

Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: uncle bud on November 21, 2006, 07:59:48 AM
I agree with John, Lemon is singing about a gal who likes to Ride Away, and someone misinterpreted that and wrote it down as Right of Way.

But then the line would be: "Got a high brown girl, up the ride away somewhere." Don't make sense that way.
Chris

The line would be something like "Got a high brown girl, love to ride away somewhere". With "love to" sounding like "luv tuh". I like this theory but am on the fence, because like Chris, I am really hearing "up the right of way somewhere", especially in the 2nd line. I think in the first line it's a coin toss. :) A great song though.
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: phhawk on November 21, 2006, 08:55:07 AM
The lyric "up the ride away" might make sense if you thought of it as a horseback ride away, indicating a general but relative distance.

It also occurred to me that a blues artist might have added a verse with the title after the fact. If a recording had become fairly popular and they were associated with that recording, it would not have been very difficult to add another verse with the title.

I wonder, just how important titles were to blues performers anyway? Was it something that was made neccessary by making recordings, or was it something that they emphasised all along?

 
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: dj on November 21, 2006, 09:44:19 AM
Quote
Just how important titles were to blues performers anyway?

That's a really good question!  My sense, strictly from reading interviews with and about country blues singers, is that often their pieces were remembered by a "signature line" which then may have been shortened by the record company, and "Blues" added to let a buyer know that the song was a blues.  So if Dick Bankston remembered Charley Patton singing "Hitch up my pony, saddle up my black mare", that got shortened to Pony, and "Blues" added to make Pony Blues.  Similarly "Woke up this morning with the jinx all around my bed" became Jinx Blues. 

Obviously, things worked differently for professionally written songs and, I think, for everyone as they got used to providing material specifically for recording.
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Johnm on November 21, 2006, 03:51:27 PM
Hi all,
I agree that a song's title may not have been all that significant to the singers themselves.  I remember Ishmon Bracey saying in the interviews he did with Gayle Dean Wardlow that his (Bracey's) own title for what came to be known as "Saturday Blues" was "Shaggy Hound Blues".  I suspect the most important thing was that a singer be able to identify a song by the way someone requested it, probably most often via a particularly memorable phrase of the lyric.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: banjochris on November 21, 2006, 11:03:03 PM
Another weird title that just occurred to me is Lemon's "Booster Blues." I've always had the image of him playing this in front of the local Chamber of Commerce office. Any thoughts?
Chris
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Rivers on November 22, 2006, 07:46:01 PM
Re booster, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_locomotive#Booster_engines

Lemon does go down to the depot in Booster Blues so there is a railroad connection, though I don't hear 'booster' in the lyrics. Intelligent guess would be it was a slang term for a particular train.

Here's a Texas one: http://mopac.org/pic_locos.asp#tp610

Here's how it worked: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Booster_engine
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: banjochris on November 23, 2006, 12:18:33 PM
Thanks for that Rivers -- that must be what it means. I'd always wondered about that title.
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 27, 2006, 11:40:17 AM
One of the better ones of the post war era is "Fishing Clothes" recorded by Lightnin' Hopkins for Stan Lewis in the 60s. The song is LH's rendition of Jefferson's Bad Luck Blues, and the first couplet sung contains "I ain't got sufficient clothes, doggone my bad luck soul"...
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: frankie on March 17, 2007, 01:01:26 PM
Re: Lemon's "Right of Way Blues" - I found this line from the Mississippi Sheiks' "Somebody's Got To Help Me" that uses "right of way" in the same sense that Lemon does:

Now, when you will leave I hope you will stay
I may meet you down some lonesome right-of-way
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Coyote Slim on March 18, 2007, 12:03:50 PM
Good thread!  Reminds me of one of those videos of John Lee Hooker on youtube with English subtitles on it.  At on point John Lee says "I want you to dig this" and the subtitles say "I want you to DID this." 

And if you think those northern recording engineers had trouble understanding Bukka, Blind Lemon, and Papa Charley, imagine their consternation when they recorded Cajun and Creole artists like Joe Falcon and Amede Ardoin!   :D
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Johnm on May 03, 2007, 12:50:36 PM
Hi all,
On the new JSP "Mississippi Blues" set there are several titles by Willie "61" Blackwell, one of which fits this category, sort of in the same mis-heard category as Lightnin' Hopkins' "Fishing Clothes" that Bunker Hill posted about here previously.  The song is entitled "Rampaw Street Blues", and it's pretty clear as soon as Willie Blackwell starts singing that he is singing about Rampart Street in New Orleans. 
I don't recall hearing Willie Blackwell before.  He's really interesting, recorded kind of late, 1941, with Alfred Elkins playing the mysterious "imitation bass", which in this case is a hell of a good imitation, since it sounds exactly like a string bass!  Blackwell sounds as though he was an older man when he recorded, plays everything out of E standard, nice but nothing flashy.  Lyrically, he reminds me a little bit of the Cedar Creek Sheik, in that his song lyrics are peppered with references to personal friends and acquaintances whom he alludes to as though the listener shared their acquaintance too.  He's a bit eccentric, and his lyrics are original for the most part.  He is definitely worth checking out.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: dj on May 03, 2007, 02:14:33 PM
My favorite misheard Willie Blackwell title is one of his Library of Congress recordings, which is apparently listed by the LoC as "Junian, A Jap's Girl Christmas For His Santa Claus", and was reissued on Travelin' Man 07, Mississippi Blues, with the slightly improved title of "Junior's A Jap Girl's Christmas For His Santa Claus".  The actual phrase that the title is taken from appears to be "I'm gon' send Junior a Jap skull f' Christmas for his Santy Claus".  It's a pretty grisly line, but it was recorded in July of 1942 and was not really atypical of the times.

Willie Blackwell was rediscovered sometime in the 1960s.  I know I've seen a picture of him taken then.  I thought he'd recorded at the same time, but I don't see a listing for him in the new Fancourt-McGrath postwar discography and can't find anything online.

Bunker Hill, are you around, and do you know anything about postwar Blackwell interviews and recordings? 
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Bunker Hill on May 03, 2007, 11:22:21 PM
My favorite misheard Willie Blackwell title is one of his Library of Congress recordings, which is apparently listed by the LoC as "Junian, A Jap's Girl Christmas For His Santa Claus", and was reissued on Travelin' Man 07, Mississippi Blues, with the slightly improved title of "Junior's A Jap Girl's Christmas For His Santa Claus".  The actual phrase that the title is taken from appears to be "I'm gon' send Junior a Jap skull f' Christmas for his Santy Claus".  It's a pretty grisly line, but it was recorded in July of 1942 and was not really atypical of the times.

Willie Blackwell was rediscovered sometime in the 1960s.  I know I've seen a picture of him taken then.  I thought he'd recorded at the same time, but I don't see a listing for him in the new Fancourt-McGrath postwar discography and can't find anything online.

Bunker Hill, are you around, and do you know anything about postwar Blackwell interviews and recordings? 
Ron Harwood interviewed him in 1968ish and wrote about the event in Jazz Journal. Re the LoC recording Jim O'Neal gave a lengthy explanation of this in Living Blues a decade or so back. Tony Russell used to own a copy tape of the entire interview which, I think, also contained a few songs.

I scanned these and thought posted at WC but maybe it was somewhere else equally hungry for Blackwell information. ;D Haven't time now to search for them but over the weekend will start a new topic with these items.
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Johnm on May 10, 2007, 08:23:50 AM
Hi all,
Yet another tune that a record company gave a title that was a phonetic approximation of what the performer was singing is Mississippi Bracey's "Stered Gal".  As you listen to the recording, he is clearly singing "Stir It, Gal". 
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Bunker Hill on May 10, 2007, 09:41:47 AM
Yet another tune that a record company gave a title that was a phonetic approximation of what the performer was singing is Mississippi Bracey's "Stered Gal".  As you listen to the recording, he is clearly singing "Stir It, Gal". 
Indeed so and first brought to our attention in 1973 by the note writer of Lonesome Road Blues (Yazoo 1038) who said "...mistitled Stered Gal (a recording executives translation of Stir It, Gal)..." Some guy named John Miller wrote that. Is he known to you?  ;)
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: mmpresti on May 10, 2007, 02:40:22 PM
I've been exploring the songs I know that seem to follow up Lemon's "Booster Blues" and there seems to be something more along the same theme, that has to do with internal disease and medicine.

First of all, I found an Alex Moore lyric in his song, "Boogyin' in Strassburg"

When your woman don't hug and kiss you
Play like she useta
You know she's foolin' around with some other booster

He also speaks of dressing his head with "salve" and sleeping with a "gravedigger".

The main theme in the first line of Lemon's song, however, goes through a number of blues lyrics,

When my left foot itches, something's going on wrong
But when my right foot itches me, I sure can't be here long

In the song line when he goes to the depot he says, "the blues oertake me and the tears come rollin' down". He also, "keeps a conversation with the land lady to keep from cryin'"
This seems to be along the same theme as Sunnyland Slim's, "Smile on My Face"

Smile on my face, darlin', but tears flowin' around my heart (2x)
You see me laughin', well I'm just laughin' to keep from cryin'

See me worried, you know somethin's going on wrong (2x)
Lord, I got a smile on my face, but tears is all around my heart

Then in Doctor Clayton's "Something Going on Wrong":

When my left eye starts to quiver, it makes my heart beat real slow (2x)
Each and everything the boss say, makes me want to pack my clothes and go

I'm going to buy me a switchblade, long as my right arm (2x)
So I can just tell my baby, somethin' going on wrong

Again in Howlin' Wolf's "I Ain't Superstitious"

When my right hand itches, I gets money for sure (2x)
But when my left eye jump, some body got to go

What strikes me about Howlin' Wolf's number, is that he is talking somehow about superstition in relation to animals and possibly diseases that animals have, "the dogs all howlin' over the neighborhood, that is true side of death, baby that ain't no good". A "Booster" could refer to a railroad car, but it could also mean a booster vaccine that you get for something like rabies. Vaccines like that can cause hemiplegia in either side of body. Although I'm listening to Walter Davis number, "I Think You Need a Shot" and I see no trace of these themes in relation to "booster". But if other material comes up, this could be a blues critique of clinical medicine.

Does anyone else have more information on the tradition of "Somethin's Going on Wrong" or songs mentioning hemiaesthesia?


Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Rivers on May 10, 2007, 04:13:27 PM
Good point there mmpresti re booster shots. I'll transcribe Booster Blues later and see if the theory may fit.
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: mmpresti on June 02, 2007, 02:19:42 AM
I've been surveying all the songs I can find that have "Something's Going on Wrong" in them as well as all the "I think you need a shot" songs.

As far as I can tell, "Booster" is just slang for a thief. In Jack Ranger's "Thieving Blues" and in Hambone Willie Newbern's "Down on My Bended Knee", they both refer to the theme:

I love my baby, that's why we couldn't get along (2x)
Everything I do, looks like something's going on wrong

all the time praying to a house thieving man, which in Dan Pickett's "Something Gone Wrong", is also the coalman, the iceman, the grocery boy, etc.

In Texas superstitions that Lemon is singing about in his "Booster Blues", and in Doctor Clayton and Howlin' Wolf the right hand itching means that someone will pay you money or you will shake hands with a stranger. Both meanings together sound like an unfair exchange.

I'm still looking for the missing link between this theme and "I think you need a shot", but it wouldn't surprise me, because it seems to be the cross-roads for a lot of other standard lines like, "when you see two women running hand in hand", "down on my bended knee", "I can tell the wind is blowing by the leaves shaking on the tree", Santa Claus, etc.

to boost (v). to wrongfullly steal something and to go along with it. To take it away and not give it back to the rightful owner. To thieve.
i.e. Blind Lemon Jefferson's, "Booster Blues".

"he boosted it right out of my house"
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: dingwall on June 04, 2007, 09:45:01 AM
Re Sleepy John Estes' 'Milk Cow Blues' (the 1930 version), John Lee (Sonny Boy No 1) Williamson had a cover called 'Blues That Made Me Drunk'.   The verses are more or less alike in the two titles.

It is my opinion that when asked what the title was, Sleepy John told the scribe, "This is my 'Alcohol Blues'".   The scribe dutifully rendered this as 'Milk Cow Blues'.   
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Bunker Hill on June 04, 2007, 11:38:39 AM
It is my opinion that when asked what the title was, Sleepy John told the scribe, "This is my 'Alcohol Blues'".   The scribe dutifully rendered this as 'Milk Cow Blues'. 
Ah, welcome "Dingwall". If you are who I think then you've had more experience of listening to and transcribing blues lyrics than anybody on this planet. Am I right or am I right? Don't answer that. I'll spare your blushes. ;)
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: bobo on June 07, 2007, 09:04:05 AM
How about Eddie And Oscar - "Nok-Em-All". Should be "Alcohol".
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: mmpresti on June 07, 2007, 08:29:19 PM
Nice, Dingwall, I never thought of that. The only version of this song I know that has the "milk cow" in it, is Jackson Joe Williams' "Never Saw No Whiskey" recorded with Sonny Boy 1 and Yank Rachell, in 1938.

If you see my milk cow, rider, in your stall,
said I aint had no 'ssistance, sense way last fall

I guess they worked in the "milk cow", if no one else has heard a version with "milk cow" in it.
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Parlor Picker on June 08, 2007, 12:54:13 AM
It is my opinion that when asked what the title was, Sleepy John told the scribe, "This is my 'Alcohol Blues'".   The scribe dutifully rendered this as 'Milk Cow Blues'.   

Brilliant theory!  I'd subscribe to that.  I first encountered the track on "The Rural Blues" box set and assumed the title was a record company mistake, i.e. they'd listed the wrong track altogether, rather than misheard Sleepy John, as was undoubtedly the case with Patton's "Hammer Blues" which should have read "Hammock Blues" (I guess that's another one for the list...).
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Rivers on June 08, 2007, 05:13:54 PM
D,G & R lists one earlier Milk Cow Blues, Freddy Spruell 25 June 1926, OKeh. I just listened to it and it's a completely different song. Estes' Victor recording was 13 May 1930. Estes' does mention booze of course in the classic line, '...I ain't seen no whiskey, the blues got me sloppy drunk'. So yes, I reckon it's possible.

I've always wondered why Estes' song was called Milk Cow Blues since there are no references to bovine agriculture or dairy products. Spruell's song on the other hand is definitely about cows, mentions a 'Jersey' at one point.

Didn't Memphis Minnie mention a "milk cow and calf" in a tune of another name or am I misremembering?
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: dj on June 20, 2007, 04:45:14 PM
An interesting example of a "mystery title" is Sam Collins' "My Road Is Rough And Rocky (How Long, How Long)".  While the title is the second line of the refrain used at the end of every verse, the subtitle appears nowhere in the lyrics.  Since the song was unissued at the time of its recording, the subtitle wasn't just stuck on in hopes of reeling in a few Leroy Carr fans.  I wonder why it's there.  Is there a related tune with that title?
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: fictioneer on June 20, 2007, 10:06:37 PM
My impression with the Collins piece is that there is a test pressing of it but it's not properly labeled and nobody is sure which unissued title in his 10/1931 session this song actually is.  DGR identify it as "Toenail Flang Dang," though noting that the ARC files show the latter as a gtr solo, and refer to its issuance with "How Long" as an alternate title.

The following are the unissued titles from Collins' session of 10/1931, according to DGR.  None of the titles is very suggestive as to = "My Road is Rough and Rocky." 

10835-3, Broken House Blues
10838-2, Atlanta Fire
10840-2, Troubled in Mind
10843-2, Toenail Flang Dang (gtr solo)
10845-2, Flat Top Blues
10846-3, Careless Love
10847-2, Do That Thing
10848-2, How Long, How Long
10849-2, I Believe I'll Get Dirty
10850-3, Sad and Lonesome
10851- , Maybe Next Week Sometime
10852-3, Mojo Blues
10853-2, Lonesome Night Blues
10854-2, Blue Heaven Blues
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: dj on June 21, 2007, 03:50:56 AM
Thanks for clearing that up, fictioneer.  I was working from the Document CD and didn't think to look up the song in Blues & Gospel Records to see what further information they had on the record.
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Johnm on December 29, 2007, 02:15:15 PM
Hi all,
Another Country Blues song in which I think the title was arrived at via a misunderstanding of what was being sung is the Down Home Boys (Papa Harvey Hull and Long "Cleve" Reed) recording, "Two Little Tommie Blues".  I've been listening to this one quite a lot lately, and the lead singer (Hull?) is definitely not saying "tommie" or "tommies".  The consonant sound in the middle of the word is an "n" sound, and the vowel sound in the first syllable is a long "o" sound, as in the word "roast".  Moreover, Hull never sings the word in the singular.  In terms of context, the thing that makes the most sense is that Hull is singing, "Got two little toneys, can't hardly tell 'em apart", with "toneys" being a plural variant version of "doney".  This makes perfect sense in the way Hull uses it, and in the repetition of the line, he sounds like he is saying "doneys".
All best,
Johnm   
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Stuart on December 30, 2007, 08:15:36 AM
...In terms of context, the thing that makes the most sense is that Hull is singing, "Got two little toneys, can't hardly tell 'em apart", with "toneys" being a plural variant version of "doney".  This makes perfect sense in the way Hull uses it, and in the repetition of the line, he sounds like he is saying "doneys"....

The point of articulation is the same for "d" and "t"--the difference is aspiration. Hull probably heard and/or pronounced the two initial consonants so that they were indistinguishable. Context clarified the meaning.

Well done, John.
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Bricktown Bob on February 09, 2008, 07:19:38 AM
Another misheard (?) title: Blind Willie Johnson's "Mother's Children Have a Hard Time."  Johnson clearly (heh, heh) sings "motherless children."  When Son House recorded this in the 60s it was properly titled "Motherless Children."

On an odd note, in the liner notes for the Catfish CD The Roots of Taj Mahal, we read: "Willie Johnson also sang a version of the quasi-religious 'Motherless Children,' performed here by Atlanta's ace of the twelve-string Barbecue Bob."

Maybe it's just me, but I can't see how anyone familiar with both could possibly think that Barbecue Bob's "Motherless Child" and Blind Willie Johnson's "Motherless Children" are the same song.  Sigh.
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Bunker Hill on February 09, 2008, 08:08:32 AM
On an odd note, in the liner notes for the Catfish CD The Roots of Taj Mahal, we read: "Willie Johnson also sang a version of the quasi-religious 'Motherless Children,' performed here by Atlanta's ace of the twelve-string Barbecue Bob."

Maybe it's just me, but I can't see how anyone familiar with both could possibly think that Barbecue Bob's "Motherless Child" and Blind Willie Johnson's "Motherless Children" are the same song.  Sigh.
Not just you. A more caustic observation was made in review at the time of release. Catfish launched a "Roots Of" series - Canned Heat, Van Morrison, Ry Cooder, Lonnie Donegan ("Lonney" on CD spine) - the booklets of which left much to be desired.  :(
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Richard on February 09, 2008, 08:20:11 AM
Ah, Loonie...  ;D I used to like Loonie  :-X
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Bunker Hill on February 09, 2008, 08:37:59 AM
Ah, Loonie...  ;D I used to like Loonie  :-X
Sorry Richard it's actually "Lonney" and on spine, I've amended my post accordingly. My little grey cells ain't what they were....
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Johnm on May 03, 2011, 04:53:21 PM
Hi all,
I just encountered another "mystery title", i.e. one in which the title phrase appears nowhere in the song's lyric.  Clifford Gibson's "Brooklyn Blues" makes no reference to Brooklyn at any point.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: LD50 on May 04, 2011, 07:07:05 AM
Another example would be Ishman Bracey's Saturday Blues, which doesn't mention 'Saturday' anywhere in the lyrics. I think I read somewhere someone theorizing that the guys at Victor thought that was a sexier title than 'Shaggy Hound Blues'. Or also, I think Paul Oliver first pointed out how Blind Willie Johnson's The Rain Don't Fall On Me is a mishearing for (Latter) Rain Done Fell On Me.

One could also mention how Paramount misheard Skip James' 'Get Your Habit In Your Hand' as 'If You Haven't Any Hay' (which I know has been mentioned here before)... Even tho James confirmed that to Fahey directly, it still seems not to be widely known, and I've never seen it mentioned in any liner notes.
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Gumbo on May 04, 2011, 08:38:16 AM
I can't hear 'Devil Sent The Rain' anywhere in the Charley Patton song of that name, not even in the indecipherable lines ...
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: uncle bud on May 04, 2011, 08:43:21 AM
First line of the song, "The Lord sent the sunshine, Devil he sent the rain".
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Gumbo on May 04, 2011, 08:54:09 AM
that explains a lot, uncle bud. The song must be mis-titled in my iTunes!! so which song is this?
http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?amp;Itemid=128&topic=7588.msg60839#new

EDIT OK it's 'When Your Way Gets Dark' which i have two versions of from the jsp set - feel free to delete these post, uncle bud. sorry for the confusion.
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: oddenda on May 05, 2011, 02:19:24 AM
The superbly beautiful "Mississippi Blues" by William Brown recorded by Alan Lomax at Sadie Beck's Plantation ca. 1940 never refers to the title in the lyrics. OK, though! Alan told me that Brown was a leftie, too... probably standard-strung guitar.

Peter B.
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: LD50 on May 05, 2011, 07:39:37 AM
OK it's 'When Your Way Gets Dark' which i have two versions of from the jsp set

Actually, one of them is probably When Your Way Gets Dark while the other is Magnolia Blues. Those two songs ended up getting released with different titles even tho they're really just alternate takes of one and the same song.
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Gumbo on May 05, 2011, 10:27:41 AM
yep. Devil sent the rain and Magnolia Blues had their titles swapped round in my iTunes. And when i looked for a song title that might fit When your way gets Dark showed up as promising but it was a different take.
I would have taken forever figuring out the proper title.

So by a circuitous twist of fate, Magnolia Blues, the song i originally was listening to, is, as uncle bud said, a Mystery Title.

Ta Dah!
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: dj on March 05, 2013, 02:50:50 PM
Charley Jordan's "Twee Twee Twa" is either a mishearing or a deliberate obfuscation of "Sweet Sweet Twat".  See the Charley Jordan Lyrics thread for complete lyrics to the song.

Regarding Ishmon Bracey's "Saturday Blues", which has come up twice in this thread, it strikes me that "Saturday" is probably a mishearing of "Shaggy".  Say them both together, barely moving your tongue when you say each word and pronouncing "Saturday" "Sat'd'y", and they sound pretty similar.     
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: dj on August 02, 2013, 04:41:39 AM
Another song title resulting from misunderstanding is Bo Carter's "Sue Cow".  The title should be "Soo Cow", as "soo, cow" is what you'd say to calm a balky animal, which is what Carter is doing in the song: "Soo, cow, you better not kick, I'll break your leg with a stick".  Whoever noted the title had obviously never been in a barn and thought Sue was the cow's name.
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: waxwing on November 19, 2014, 12:46:03 AM
Ah, found it. (this topic, that is)

As mentioned in the Patton Lyrics topic, Charley never mentions Summer in Some Summer Day (Part 1), but he does mention Spring, and pretty clearly, too. Go figure?

Looks like Charley, understandably, may hold a strong lead with the most mentions in this thread. I scanned pretty quickly for Some Summer Day, but I also don't remember seeing Down the Dirt Road Blues mentioned as falling into the misheard category, since Charley sings, relatively clearly, Dark Road.

Wax
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: Johnm on February 19, 2016, 11:25:03 AM
Hi all,
Edward Thompson's "Seven Sisters Blues" falls squarely in this category, for the lyrics never mention seven sisters at any point.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: oddenda on February 20, 2016, 12:54:29 AM
William Brown was recorded by Alan Lomax ca. 1940 across the river from Memphis. His masterpiece recorded for the LofC was entitled by Alan "Mississippi Blues" - there is no mention of the state in the lyrics that I can hear. Lomax did mention to me that Brown was quite tall and played left-handed: I neglected to ask him if Brown's guitar was standard strung, or re-strung, and I didn't ask where the title came from. It was a busy time!

pbl
Title: Re: Mystery Titles
Post by: blueshome on February 20, 2016, 06:06:58 AM
Re Saturday Blues, Lucy Mae is clearly based on it or something similar and has the "days of the week" including Saturday. Maybe these were in a common stock version which Bracey sang in performance but omitted from the recording.
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