WeenieCampbell.com

Country Blues => Country Blues Lyrics => Topic started by: Buzz on June 02, 2003, 03:23:02 PM

Title: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Buzz on June 02, 2003, 03:23:02 PM
Just been listening to these and other tunes on this CD, recommended by Michael Browne last summer. Learning a few
tunes. Thought we could play some of these, in different keys this PT Blues Camp, to keep our gray cells active!
Can't hear the words in Milk Cow Blues in 2 spots--any help, Weenies? ;D
Cheers, Miller
Title: Re:Mando tunes: Yank Rachell, Sleepy John Estes, Noah Lewis CD JSP-CD 3406
Post by: Buzz on June 02, 2003, 03:49:26 PM
Another 2, and I'll send the rest again separately, since I can't see that they all arrived.
Miller
Title: Re:Mando tunes: Yank Rachell, Sleepy John Estes, Noah Lewis CD JSP-CD 3406
Post by: Buzz on June 02, 2003, 03:50:23 PM
Next
Title: Re:Mando tunes: Yank Rachell, Sleepy John Estes, Noah Lewis CD JSP-CD 3406
Post by: Buzz on June 02, 2003, 03:51:56 PM
next
Title: Re:Mando tunes: Yank Rachell, Sleepy John Estes, Noah Lewis CD JSP-CD 3406
Post by: Johnm on July 12, 2003, 04:12:27 PM
Hi Miller,
Which verses are you missing on "Milk Cow Blues"?
John
Title: Re:Mando tunes: Yank Rachell, Sleepy John Estes, Noah Lewis CD JSP-CD 3406
Post by: Buzz on July 14, 2003, 03:06:46 PM
Hi, John!
Thanks Weenies, for the lyrics to the Noah Lewis and Estes tunes. John, I would like all the words, in verse format is easiest for copying in Word, of the Milk Cow Blues. Thanks.Incidently , I put the unwound G on the National and have been revisiting the Pink Anderson Catfish , and the Patton and Curtis tunes, and have a few more strings for the trip,
 so I am ready and eager for any more unwound G tunes you may have on your agenda. Cool!
Only 2 weeks, Guys and Gals, only 2 weeks until PT!!! I am looking forward to the break from everyday stuff I always have to do(a vacation!), the comeraderie, the music and learning experince. See you ll soon.
Cheers,
Miller
Title: Re:Mando tunes: Yank Rachell, Sleepy John Estes, Noah Lewis CD JSP-CD 3406
Post by: Johnm on July 15, 2003, 08:45:15 AM
Hi Miller,
Here's what I have for "Milk Cow Blues".  I reckon some more input from other Weenies may clear up some of my trouble spots.
Now, asked sweet mama to let me be her kid,
She says I might get buggish, I couldn't keep it hid
Well, she looked at me, she began to smile
Says, "I thought I would use you for my man a while,
That's just don't let my huzman catch you there
Now, it's just don't let my huzman catch you there."

Now, went upstairs to pack my leaving trunk
I never saw no whiskey the blues done made me sloppy drunk
Saying, I never saw no whiskey, the blues done made me sloppy drunk
Now, I never saw no whiskey but the blues done made me sloppy drunk.

Now, some say the ?, some say the?, but it's the slow consumption killing you by degrees [pronounced the grees]
Lord, it's the slow consumption killing you by degrees
Now, it's the slow consumption and it's killing you by degrees.

Hope this helps.  You may be missing the same words I am, from the third verse.  Take care.
All best,
John
Title: Re:Mando tunes: Yank Rachell, Sleepy John Estes, Noah Lewis CD JSP-CD 3406
Post by: Buzz on July 15, 2003, 06:27:06 PM
Thanks, John!
Yes, I did hear that "the grees"--HA!
I'll listen again a few times to try to fill in that blank we have. Take care,
Miller
Title: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on October 29, 2005, 10:43:01 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John Estes recorded "Fire Department Blues" in 1938, with Brownsville Son Bonds joining him on second guitar.? One of the guitarists (I believe Bonds) is playing out of G position in standard tuning, and the other guitarist is capoed three frets higher and playing out of E position in standard tuning.? The opening turn-around is given a dark cast by the under-recorded guitarist playing in E position hitting a V minor 7 chord.? The guitarist playing in G takes the lion's share of the fills, and plays a really nice, rhythmically complex, chromatic signature lick throughout the song.
There is something wonderful about John Estes' lyrics that mention people that he actually knew.? You get the same sort of feeling from Charlie Patton singing a song like "Tom Rushen Blues"; something about naming people who were acquaintances of the singer has the effect of pulling you into that world.? Verse four seems characteristic of Sleepy John Estes.? He always comes across very decently in his own lyrics, and it must be said, a lot of singers couldn't be bothered to care about such a thing.

? ?Now, go call the fire department, for my house is burning down (2)
? ?You know that must be little Martha Hardin, 'cause it's on the North side of town

? ?I see the people is running and I wonder who could it be?
? ?I say the peoples is running, and I wonder who could it be
? ?You know that must be little Martha Hardin, I saw 'em turn down on Wilson Street

? ?When you see the Chief, boys, please clear the street
? ?Now, when you see the Chief, boys, please clear the street
? ?'Cause you know he's goin' down, save little Martha Hardin's house for me

? ?She's a hard-workin' woman, you know her salaries is very small (2)
? ?Then when she pay up her house rent, that don't leave anything for insurance at all

? ?Now, I wrote little Martha a letter, five days it returned back to me (2)
? ?You know little Martha's house done burnt down, she done move over on Bradford Street

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on October 29, 2005, 11:02:03 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John Estes was joined by Yank Rachell and a harmonica player known only as "Tee" for the 1929 session that yielded "Black Mattie Blues".  This is a different "Black Mattie" than the song done by such Northern Mississippi bluesmen as R.L. Burnside and Robert Belfour.  This version sports a signature lick that Sleepy John, Yank and Tee play in unison at the end of each vocal phrase.  It should be noted that Sleepy John's ensemble recordings generally showed a compositional bent for arranging the songs rather than a free-for all approach or a simple taking of turns playing the instrumental fills.  The harmonica player, Tee, deserves to be better known.  Working almost exclusively in the upper register, he does a great job of shadowing Sleepy John's vocal.
The lyrics for "Black Mattie Blues" follow for the most part an unusual ABB format.  The last verse is a refreshing change from "the day you quit me, that's the day you die" type lyrics.

   Oh, Black Mattie, where did you sleep last night?
   With your hair all tangled, clothes ain't fittin' you right (2)

   Now when I had money, "Hello, Sugarpie"
   Now I done spent all my money, "Goodbye, country guy" (2)

   Lord, my heart struck sorrow, tears come a-rolling down
   Now you know by that, babe, fixin' to leave your town
   Now you know by that, babe, I'm fixin' to leave your town

   Now, life ain't worth livin' if you ain't with the one you love
   Lord, life ain't worth livin' if you ain't with the one you love
   Now, life ain't worth livin' if you ain't with the one you love

   Now, you 3 X 7, you know what you want to do
   Now, the day that you quit me, I won't be mad wit' you (2)

Edited to pick up corrections from dingwall, 6/20/07

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on October 30, 2005, 08:49:29 AM
Hi all,
"Lawyer Clark Blues" was recorded by Sleepy John with Brownsville Son Bonds in 1941.? It is a 12-bar "chorus" blues, with both guitarists playing out of G position in standard tuning.? The song is really well recorded--you feel as though you are in the room with the musicians.? The guitars are right on top of each other, and the sound is exciting, not particularly worked out, but very confident.? The lyrics are wonderful, as was often the case with Sleepy John's songs.?

? ?Now, got offices in town, resident out on Century Road
? ?He got a nice little lake right inside the grove,
? ?Boys you know I like Mist' Clark, yes, he really is my friend
? ?He say if I just stay out the grave, he see that I won't go to the pen

? ?Now, Mist' Clark is a lawyer, his younger brother is, too
? ?When the battle get hot, he tell him just what to do
? ?Boys, you know I like Mist' Clark, yes, you know he is my friend
? ?He say if I just stay out the grave, he see that I won't go to the pen

? ?Now, he lawyer for the rich, he lawyer for the poor
? ?He don't try to rob nobody, just bring along a little dough
? ?Boys, you know I like Mist' Clark, yes, he really is my friend
? ?He say if I just stay out the grave, he see that I won't go to the pen

? ?Now, once I got in trouble, you know I was gonna take a ride
? ?He didn't let it reach the courthouse, he kept it on the outside
? ?Boys, you know I like Mist' Clark, yes, he really is my friend
? ?He say if I just stay out the graveyard, poor John I see you won't go to the pen

? ?Now, Mist' Clark is a good lawyer, he good as I ever seen
? ?He's the first man that prove that water run upstream
? ?Boys, you know I like Mist' Clark, yes, he really is my friend
? ?He say if I just stay out the grave, poor John, I see you won't go to the pen

Edited 10/30 to pick up correction from Bunker Hill and Uncle Bud.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on October 30, 2005, 11:55:07 AM
Hi all,
"Lawyer Clark Blues" was recorded by Sleepy John with Brownsville Son Bonds in 1941.? It is a 12-bar "chorus" blues, with both guitarists playing out of G position in standard tuning.? The song is really well recorded--you feel as though you are in the room with the musicians.? The guitars are right on top of each other, and the sound is exciting, not particularly worked out, but very confident.? The lyrics are wonderful, as was often the case with Sleepy John's songs.? Any help with the phrase in bent brackets would be appreciated.

? ?Now, he lawyer for the rich, he lawyer for the poor
? ?He don't try to rob nobody, [just bring along to the store]
? ?Boys, you know I like Mist' Clark, yes, he really is my friend
? ?He say if I just stay out the grave, he see that I won't go to the pen
I realise this doesn't meant it's so but fwiw he re-recorded this a couple of times in the 60s and from memory what he sings on those are variants of "just bring along a litle dough".
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: uncle bud on October 30, 2005, 08:39:44 PM
I hear "just bring along a little dough" in Lawyer Clark as well.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on October 30, 2005, 09:37:16 PM
Thanks very much, Bunker Hill and Uncle Bud, for the correction to the "Lawyer Clark Blues" lyrics.  I gave it a listen, and you are dead on the money.  It's so easy to hear sometimes, once you've been given the correct lyric!  I will make the correction.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on October 30, 2005, 10:49:24 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John Estes recorded "Broken-Hearted, Ragged and Dirty Too" in 1929, along with Yank Rachell on mandolin and Jab Jones on piano.  It is unusual when considered in comparison to the rest of the songs that group recorded, for the ensemble was generally well-prepared and was able to achieve good, tight takes in the studio, but on "Broken-Hearted, Ragged and Dirty Too", Sleepy John is losing Jab Jones left and right with his idiosyncratic phrasing.  Sleepy John is generally long with his first four-bar phrase and short over his IV chord; Jab Jones never does figure out Sleepy John's timing over the entire course of the rendition.  As a result, they have a kind of vertiginous ensemble sound, with the various interpretations of the form flipping over each other.  Like most really weird takes of Country Blues or Old-Time music, if you listen to it three or four times in succession, it starts to sound normal . . . but it definitely is not.  Perhaps it is significant that this is one of the trio's earliest recorded collaborations; maybe Jab Jones had not become accustomed to Sleepy John's way of phrasing yet.  The lyric model for this song comes from Blind Lemon Jefferson, though Sleepy John doesn't take long to change it.

   Now, I'm broke and I'm hearted, I'm ragged and I'm dirty, too
   Now I'm broken-hearted, ragged and I'm dirty, too
   And if I clean up, pretty mama, may I stay all night with you?

   Now, can't come in, mama, let me sit down on your porch
   Now, if I can't come in, mama, let me set down on your porch
   Lord, I will leave so soon that your man, he won't never know

   Now, I went to my window but I couldn't see through my blinds
   Now I went to my window, couldn't see through my blinds
   I heard the bed springs poppin' and I really heard my baby cryin'

   How can I feel misery, baby, and feel at ease?
   How can I feel misery, baby, feel at ease?
   And have a woman in Brownsville and she goin' with who she please

   Now, sure as the stars gon' shine in the world above (2)
   You know life is too short for to worry 'bout the one you love

EDITED TO ADD, ON NOVEMBER 1:  I think the musical analysis above is not in-depth enough to make sense of the ensemble playing on "Broken-Hearted, Ragged and Dirty, Too".  After repeated listening, I think it is a miracle how well Jab Jones and Yank Rachell do stay with Sleepy John on this song.  I will try to prepare a more thorough analysis of how the ensemble works on this song, and post it on the "Vocal Phrasing:  The Long and The Short of It" thread, when I'm satisfied that I've made some sense out of it.  JMM

Edited to pick up corrections from dingwall, 6/20/07

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on October 31, 2005, 03:56:50 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John Estes recorded "Drop Down Mama" in 1935, with Hammie Nixon backing him on harmonica.  They played wonderfully well together.  Sleepy John plays the song out of C position, in standard tuning, his favorite key for singing and playing.  "Drop Down Mama" is a "chorus" blues in a modified 12-bar format as follows  (in the first verse, Sleepy John is short on the fourth bar):

|              I         |             I              |            I         |       I          |
| IV--I--IV--I     |  IV--I--IV--I       |           I          |        I         |
|        I               |             I              |   I--four beats + 2 beats|

The movement in the fifth and sixth bars is less complex than it looks on paper.  Basically, Sleepy John is rocking back and forth between F and C; he employed that move on many of his songs.  Sleepy John shared a preference for continuing to use the I chord where the V chord would normally fall in the form (bars nine and ten) with such musicians as Sam Collins and Dr. Ross.  The harmonica fill that Hammie plays in the final measure of the form really sounds like it is leading to a V chord as a turn-around, but Sleepy John does not pick up on Hammie's cue (if, indeed, one was intended).
The "chorus" blues format really suited Sleepy John because he could pack so much lyrical wealth into the first four bars of the form.  His songs tend to be short in duration, but long in expressive content.  And when you have someone who can sing as well as John Estes did, you just want him to keep on singing (at least I do).

   Now, drop down, baby, let your daddy be
   I know just what you're tryin' to pull on me
   CHORUS:  Well my mama, she don't allow me to fool 'round all night long
   Now I may look like I'm crazy, poor John do know right from wrong

   Go 'way from my window quit scratchin' on my screen
   You's a dirty mistreater I know just what you mean
   CHORUS

   Some of these women sure do make me tired
   Got a, a handful of "Gimme", a mouthful of "Much obliged"
   CHORUS

   Woman I'm lovin', one teeth solid gold
   That's the onliest woman a mortgage on my soul
   CHORUS

   See me comin' put your man outdoors
   You know I ain't no stranger, has done been here before
   CHORUS

Edited to pick up corrections from dingwall, 6/20/07

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on October 31, 2005, 04:12:55 PM
Hi all,
"Someday Baby Blues" was recorded by Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon in 1935, as was "Drop Down Mama", and like it, was played out of C position in standard tuning.  "Someday Baby Blues" is an unusual 16-bar "chorus" blues, and it's structure is discussed in the 16-bar blues thread on the Main Forum.  Like "Drop Down Mama" it never goes to the V chord. 
Listening to the rendition, you get the distinct impression that for Sleepy John, the guitar's primary function was to accompany vocals.  I am hard put to think of a country blues singer/guitarist of Sleepy John's generation who gave his guitar less solo space.  The fact that he ends the song with a very nifty and complex run that he executes with perfect aplomb makes his choice to feature the guitar on his cuts so sparingly all the more mysterious.  He could really play.  Why did he choose not to?  Perhaps the answer is in his great singing.

   I don't care how long you're gone, I don't care how long you stay
   But that good kind treatment, bring you back home someday
   CHORUS: Someday, baby, you ain't gonna worry my mind anymore

   I have that wind, that old chilly breeze
   Come blowin' through your BVDs, but
   CHORUS: Someday, baby, you ain't gonna worry my mind anymore

   If you don't quit bettin', boys, them dice won't pass
   It's gon' send you home on your yas yas yas, but
   CHORUS: Someday, baby, you ain't gonna worry my life anymore

   It ain't but the one thing give a man the blues
   He ain't got no bottom in his last pair of shoes, but
   CHORUS: Someday, baby, you ain't gonna worry my mind anymore

   I tell all the people in your neighborhood
   You's a no-good woman, you don't mean no good, but
   CHORUS: Someday, baby, you ain't gonna worry my mind anymore

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 01, 2005, 03:57:37 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Whatcha Doin'?" with Yank Rachell on mandolin and Jab Jones on piano in 1930.  It is a tremendous cut, just a spectacular version of the "Sittin' On Top Of The World" model, with some modifications (see the "Vocal Phrasing:  The Long And The Short of It" thread).  This must be one of the greatest country blues dance numbers ever recorded, because the time just rocks.  If this one doesn't put on a smile on your face, you better have your pulse taken.

   I married my baby, married her for myself
   Then if I don't keep her, don't want nobody else
   CHORUS:  Got to give an account, just what, what you do

   Now, depot agent, don't tell me no lie
   Did my baby stop here, did she keep on by?
   CHORUS

   Now I hate to hear Illinois Central blow
   When my feet get tickled makes me want to go
   CHORUS

   When a man does workin', you know he's doin' what's right
   Some old low-down rouster, tryin' to steal his wife
   CHORUS

   Now, I got up this morning, couldn't make no time
   I didn't have no blues, messed all up in mind
   CHORUS

   Now take me, baby, won't be mean no more
   You can get all my lovin' let that blacksnake go
   CHORUS

   Now, see her in the morning, rag tied 'round her head
   Ask her to cook your breakfast, swear she near 'most dead
   CHORUS

Edited to pick up correction from dingwall, 6/20/07

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 01, 2005, 04:14:08 PM
Hi all
"Floating Bridge", which was recorded by Sleepy John with Hammie Nixon in 1935, is a rare narrative blues that recounts a tale of a near brush with death that John Estes had after falling off a car ferry crossing a river.  Only the timely intervention of Hammie Nixon saved Sleepy John from a premature death.  Sleepy John sings of the experience with great feeling.  "Floating Bridge" follows the 16-bar model of "Careless Love".  In the second verse, Sleepy John inserts an r between the two syllables of "going", as was often done by blues singers when successive syllables ended and began with vowel sounds.

   Now I never will forget that floating bridge (3)
   Tell me five minutes time under water I was hid

   When I was going down I thowed up my hands
   Now, when I was going down, I thowed up my hands (2)
   Please, take me on dry land

   Now they carried me in the house and they laid me 'cross the blank't (3)
   "Bout a gallon-and-half muddy water I had drank

   They dried me off and they laid me in the bed
   Now, they dried me off and they laid me in the bed (2)
   Couldn't hear nothin' but muddy water runnnin' through my head

   Now, my mother often taught me, "Quit playin' a bum" (2)
   Now, my mother often taught me, son, "Quit playin' a bum,
   Go somewhere settle down and make a crop"

   Now, people was standin' on the bridge, screamin' and cryin'
   Peoples on the bridge was screamin' and cryin'
   Now, the peoples on the bridge, standin' screamin' and cryin'
   "Lord, have mercy while's we gwine."

Edited 2/1/07 to pick up correction from banjochris
Edited to pick up corrections from dingwall, 6/20/07

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Stuart on November 01, 2005, 08:13:18 PM
Re: "Floating Bridge"--Ry Cooder said that when they pulled Sleepy John out of the water, he was still sleeping. Obviously apocryphal, but it adds certain a embellishment to the story behind the song.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 02, 2005, 10:15:34 AM
That's really interesting, Stuart.  Perhaps this is one instance in which narcolepsy had an up side.  For all I know, this is a medical possibility.  Any M.D. Weenies out there?
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 02, 2005, 01:09:30 PM
Re: "Floating Bridge"--Ry Cooder said that when they pulled Sleepy John out of the water, he was still sleeping. Obviously apocryphal, but it adds certain a embellishment to the story behind the song.
I assume "the story" referred to being what he told Sam Charters in the summer of 1962:

I was travelin' in Hickman, Kentucky, and the car went in the high water, the '37 flood it was. Got going to my cousin's home and had to go across one of them floating bridges tied to the cable there, you know, to keep it from floating away, and we got on that bridge and hit that pretty rough, you know, the way he was driving He lost control of the car and it went off to the left. I was sitting on the far side putting some strings in my shoes and I was the last one. There's two-three on the other side of me and that made me last getting out on the bridge.

Well, my cousin, it knocked him in the head scuffling in the car. He cut hisself and he's sitting up there on a log and he asks, "Everybody out?" "Unun, John's still in there." By that time I had come up the third time. He jumped off that board and saved me. He got me and put me under his arm and treaded water up to the bridge and pulled me up on to it.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Stuart on November 02, 2005, 01:29:56 PM
Ry made the comment--as a joke--when talking about the background of the song. It was in the early seventies and it was either at a workshop that was held as part of the annual spring Blues Festival at UVM, or perhaps during one of his gigs in NYC. It was so long ago that I can't be sure--but it did get a laugh. I don't know what Ry's source was for the story. Maybe it was Sam Charters, but it have no way of knowing.

Stu

P.S. Anyone out there recall seeing Ken Bloom during that time? I saw him open for Ry once and he was impressive--played a slide piece on the autoharp.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 03, 2005, 07:44:33 AM
Hi all,
"I Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More" was recorded by Sleepy John with Hammie Nixon on harmonica and Lee Brown on kazoo.  It is a rollicking sort of raggy song, working from a mold like "Mama Don't Allow", except that the instrumental response at the end of each of the refrain lines is shortened by Sleepy John, so that the form works out as follows:
|       I        |        I        |         I         |         
|       I        |        I        |        V7      |
|       I        |       I7       |        IV       |    IV--I    |
|       I        |        V7    |         I         |
The way the kazoo and harmonica interact on this song is a treat.

   REFRAIN:   Come on down, I ain't gonna be worried no more (2)
   You know I worried last night and all night before
   You know by that I won't be worried no more
   REFRAIN

   REFRAIN:  (2)
   I was worried for you, I was worried for me
   You know by that I'm gon' let it be
   REFRAIN

   REFRAIN: (2)
   Now look here, baby, see what you done done
   ____ me love you now your man done come
   REFRAIN

   REFRAIN: (2)
   Now my baby's doin' something that I never could stand
   I b'lieve she's runnin' with a coon can game
   REFRAIN

   REFRAIN: (2)
   Now I bought some slippers and I bought some socks
   Come home last night and had the back door locked
   REFRAIN

   REFRAIN: (2)
   Look here, baby, see what you done done
   ___ me love you now your man done come
   REFRAIN

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 04, 2005, 12:14:07 AM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "My Black Gal Blues" with Yank Rachell on mandolin and Jab Jones on piano, I believe.  I need to get the two Document John Estes releases.  I have this on a Czech issue, and the information it has on personnel for the different tunes is contradictory to the sounds you hear, listing harmonica where none is being played, etc.  In any event, I had never heard this recording until yesterday, and it is now one of my very favorite Sleepy John cuts.  Jab Jones starts with a very grand intro that sounds, incidentally, as though it supplied the idea for Thelonius Monk's tune, "Blue Monk".  Sleepy John comes in singing one of the prettiest blues melodies I have every heard.  There were plenty of strong singers in this style, but to sing with nuance was not so common.  To be able to sing and play strongly, but with nuance as well, there's something to shoot for; that club doesn't have a very big membership.  Sleepy John's inspired performance must have inspired his bandmates, as well, because they do an amazingly varied job of accompanying him over the course of the tune.  Yank phrases the melody right with Sleepy John in the early verses, and it is really striking to hear how closely he follows John's statement of the melody.  The way that Jab and Yank play time throughout the song is mysterious, for they change the underlying feel as the song goes along.  Everything really came together on this performance.  It's one of the best I've ever heard in the style, and, oddly, I have never heard it covered.  Maybe people are scared off at the prospect of having their singing compared with Sleepy John's, which is a pretty scary thought, come to think of it.
I think the word "buggish", in verse three, can be taken to mean "sexually charged to the point of indiscretion".  It always appears in the context in which it is used here.  In the last verse, Sleepy John pronounces the word "cover", "kyivver".  "Heist" for "hoist", as in verse two, is a common pronunciation, more common than "hoist", in fact.

   Black gal, she took a knife, scared my brown to death
   If I hadn'ta had my pistol, 'spect I woulda run myself
   Hadn'ta had my pistol, 'spect I woulda run myself

   When you see me comin', heist [sic] your window high
   When you see me leavin', hang your head and cry
   When you see me leavin', hang your head and cry

   Now if I just hadda listened, what my mama said
   I woulda been at home, Lord, in my feather bed
   I woulda been at home, Lord, in my feather bed

   Got a man on your man, kid man on your kid,
   Lord, she done got so buggish, don't try to keep it hid
   She done got so buggish, don't try to keep it hid

   Now I got up this mornin', blues all around my bed
   I turned back my cover, blues all in my bed
   Turned back my cover, blues all in my bed.

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: waxwing on November 04, 2005, 12:28:04 AM
Interesting, Johnm. A while ago, in one of the vocal form threads, I asked if there were any other examples of an ABB scheme similar to the one verse from Tommy Johnson's Canned Heat Blues. This would seem to be an example with every verse following that scheme.
Thanks.
All for now.
John C.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: uncle bud on November 04, 2005, 07:20:12 AM
Interesting, Johnm. A while ago, in one of the vocal form threads, I asked if there were any other examples of an ABB scheme similar to the one verse from Tommy Johnson's Canned Heat Blues. This would seem to be an example with every verse following that scheme.

In addition to the ABB scheme of Black Mattie mentioned earlier in this thread...
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: GhostRider on November 04, 2005, 12:11:21 PM
Hi John:

Just as an aside, Guy Davis does a great cover of "Drop Down Mama" on his latest CD, "Legacy"

Alex
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 04, 2005, 11:54:57 PM
Thanks for the cover info, Alex.  It's interesting that not that many John Estes tunes have been recorded by present-day players, but when they are recorded, it seems the same two or three tunes are chosen.  I believe Ry Cooder also did "Drop Down Mama" on his very first solo album, and Taj Mahal did both "Milk Cow Blues" (which he called "Leavin' Trunk") and "Everybody's Got To Make A Change" on his first album on Columbia.  "Divin' Duck Blues" has also been covered a fair number of times.  Maybe we can do a Sleepy John preparation project in advance of Port Townsend next summer to get people to work up some of the less (or never) covered tunes like "Black Mattie Blues", "My Black Gal Blues", or "Clean Up At Home".  It would be great to put together some guitar, mandolin and piano combos there, and there is going to be a tremendous piano instructor named Erwin Helfer on staff.  Or some of the Sleepy John and Hammie numbers could be worked up; it's something to think about, at any rate.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 06, 2005, 11:59:40 AM
Hi all,
"The Girl I Love, She Got Long Curly Hair", recorded in 1929, is one of the earlier recorded numbers by the trio of Sleepy John Estes, guitar, Yank Rachell, mandolin, and Jab Jones, on piano, and like most of the numbers recorded by that trio, is a beautifully worked out ensemble piece.  Its melody bears some similarity to that of "Rollin' and Tumblin'", but is more complex in its details.  Robert Johnson's "Traveling Riverside Blues" very closely tracks the melody of "The Girl I Love, She Got Long Curly Hair".  Sleepy John occasionally hits an eerie major seventh note in his rendition of the melody; you can hear it on the syllable "roll" in the final verse.  The song is a 12-bar blues, with the fourth bar in each four-bar phrase lengthened by two beats to accommodate the vocal pick-ups for the next phrase.  Yank Rachell plays a great sort of "worrying" signature lick in the third and fourth bars of each four-bar phrase.

   Now, I'm going to Brownsville, take that right hand road (2)
   Lord, I ain't gon' stop walkin' 'til I get in sweet mama's door

   Now the girl I'm lovin' she got this great long curly hair (2)
   And her mama and her papa, they sure don't 'low me there

   If you catch my jumper, hang it upside your wall (2)
   Now you know by that, babe, I need my ashes hauled

   Now whatcha gon' do, babe, your dough roller gone?
   Whatcha gonna do, babe, your dough roller gone?
   Go in your kitchen, Lord, and cook until she come ______

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 06, 2005, 12:21:02 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Liquor Store Blues" in 1940, according to the discographical information I have (which I do not trust).  He is joined on it by either Robert Lee McCoy or Charlie Pickett on second guitar.  The second guitarist sounds like Charlie Pickett to me.  If you contrast the duo sound Sleepy John had with Son Bonds to that he had with Charlie Pickett, the duos with Son Bonds had both guitars playing out of the same position, whereas in the duos with Charlie Pickett, Sleepy John is most often playing out of the C position with Charlie Pickett capoed three frets higher, playing out of an A position in standard tuning, which is the set-up for "Liquor Store Blues".  I would appreciate guidance as to the definitive personnel on "Liquor Store Blues".
In any event, "Liquor Store Blues" is a really exciting up-tempo 12-bar "chorus" blues, with the quickest tempo of any John Estes song I have heard.  The guitars play four full solo passes throughout the course of the song, and it is quite unusual for Sleepy John to devote that much solo space to guitars.  I can see why he did, though--they are just rocking out!  The lyrics are about someone who was a personal acquaintance of Sleepy John's, and I particularly like his songs that speak of his circle of friends.  Once again, I have never heard anyone else play this song, and it would be a terrific one to do.

   Now if you're ever in Forrest City, I'll tell you what to do
   Let Mr. Peter Adams get 'quainted with you
   CHORUS:  Well, you won't have to go, well, you won't have to go
   You can get what you want, oh, right chere in my liquor store

   He got a little whiskey, he got a little gin
   All you got to do is step in the back end
   CHORUS

   I met Mr. Peter down on Monroe Street
   Come to Forrest City to run around with me
   CHORUS

   He got some on the floor, he got some on the shelf
   All you got to do is just to help yourself
   CHORUS

   Mr. Peter Adams, this kind of man
   You ask him for a favor he won't make you ashame
   CHORUS

Edited 11/7, to pick up corrections from Bunker Hill
Edited 2/1/06, to pick up correction from Banjo Chris

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: dj on November 06, 2005, 01:50:44 PM
Both Blues & Gospel Records 1890 - 1943 and the notes to Document DOCD-5016 Sleepy John Estes Volume 2 agree in this case (they don't always) that Liquor Store Blues was recorded Friday, April 22nd, 1938 and that it features Sleepy John Estes on Guitar and vocal and either Son Bonds or Charlie Pickett on guitar.  Based on your observations about playing positions, John, Charlie Pickett would be the more likely choice.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 06, 2005, 02:53:48 PM
Thanks very much for the information, David.  The sound of the accompanying guitars on "Liquor Store Blues" is the same in terms of positions the players are using, pitch, and relative capo placements as "Everybody Oughta Make A Change".  I think Charlie Pickett may have been playing an arch-top guitar, his guitar sound is distinctly nasal, and it was on his solo recordings, too. 
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 07, 2005, 11:30:10 AM
? ?Mr. Peter Allen, this kind of man
? ?You ask him for a favor he won't make you ashame
? ?CHORUS
Having only played this last week I heard "the discount man".
And could it possibly be Peter Adam?
I'd better give it another spin PDQ.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 07, 2005, 04:13:01 PM
Wow, good catch, Bunker Hill!  The surname is definitely Adams, not Allen, I believe, though the last verse still sounds like "this kind of man" rather than "the discount man", to me.  It could possibly be just "discount man".  I will change the name.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 07, 2005, 04:31:53 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John Estes recorded "Everybody Oughta Make A Change" in 1938, with Charlie Pickett, I believe, playing second guitar.? Sleepy John is playing in C position, standard tuning, and Charlie Pickett is capoed three frets higher and playing out of the A position, also in standard tuning.?
This is a 12-bar chorus blues, and may be the most frequently covered of all of Sleepy John's songs.? I can see why--the way the words fall is very rhythmic and it is just fun to sing.? If you have been following this thread, perhaps even especially if you have only been reading the lyrics and not actually listening to the songs, you may have noticed that Sleepy John had a mannerism of beginning almost every verse he sang with the word "now".? I think it must be impossible to describe how many different vocal inflections and emphases Sleepy John gave that one word over the course of his many songs.?
Something about the way the lyrics work in this song over the first four bars, before the chorus enters on the IV chord, reminds me of a children's song.

? ?Now, change in the ocean, change in the deep blue sea
? ?Take me back, baby, you'll find some change in me
? ?CHORUS:? Everybody, they ought to change sometime
? ?Because it's sooner or later have to go down in that ol' lonesome ground

? Now, changed my money, changed my honey
? ?I changed babies just to keep from being funny
? ?CHORUS:? Everybody, they out to change sometime
? ?Because it's sooner or later, we have to go down in that lonesome ground

? ?Now, changed my pants, changed my shirt
? ?I changed babies to get shed of the dirt
? ?CHORUS:? as in verse two

? ?Now, I changed home, I changed town
? ?I changed babies all the way around
? ?CHORUS:? as in verse two

? ?Now, I changed walk, I changed talk
? ?I changed babies just keep from being balked
? ?CHORUS: as in verse 2

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 07, 2005, 04:54:10 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Working Man Blues" in 1941 with Brownsville Son Bonds playing second guitar.? Both guitarists are playing in C, standard tuning, very aggressively going after what they want to do without worrying too much about the other player, and the effect is really exciting.? Sleepy John works in a bit of social commentary on this one, as well as treating us to one of his stellar vocals.? His "whoo babe" that falls in the tag line of each verse is a hair-raising sort of backward yodel moving from falsetto to full voice, something akin to what Henry Spaulding did on the word "Cairo" in his "Cairo Blues".? As Sleepy John executes the move, it sounds like a variant of Peetie Wheatstraw's vocal mannerism, "whoo well, well", though considerably more exciting.? Whew, it is great singing!

? ?Now you done spent all my 1940 rent, woman, you done worked on my substitute (2)
? ?Then if you don't wait 'til 1941, whoo babe, what in the world you gonna do?

? ?Now, they oughta cut out so many trucks and tractors, white folks, you oughta work more
? ? ? ? mules and men
? ?Now, you oughta cut out so many trucks and tractors, white folks, you oughta work more
? ? ? ? mules and men? [Bonds, spoken:? Tell 'em about it, John!]
? ?Then you know that would make, [Bonds: What?] whoo boy, money get thick again

? ?Now when a man gets through gatherin', you know he's turned his stocks in the field (2)
? ?He said go sell his corn and buy gas, whoo boys, put it in the automobile

? ?Now I been studyin', I been wonderin', what make a man turn the ground in the wintertime?
? ? ?(2)
? ?You know, let the snow and rain rot the grass, whoo boy, that make fertilizer for the ground

? ?Now, the government given us a school in Brownsville, boys, you know I think that's very nice (2)
? ?You know the children can go in the daytime, whoo boy, the old folks have it at night

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 07, 2005, 11:42:39 PM
Now when a man gets through gatherin', you know he's turned his stocks in the field (2)
Could this line possibly be "stock into feed", i.e livestock?
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 08, 2005, 09:51:05 AM
Hi Bunker Hill,
I definitely took the meaning to be livestock--I thought he was saying that once the crop had been harvested, he would put his stock out in the field.  It's true that a field that has been worked and harvested is not going to be much good for grazing, so he may be saying that grazing is not so good after the harvest season so at that point you have to switch your stock to feed.  We raised some steers when I was a kid, and after having them graze all summer we would put them on feed prior to butchering them, so I reckon your interpretation makes more sense.  I will listen again and make the change.  Thanks for vetting these transcriptions. 
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Slack on November 08, 2005, 09:58:13 AM
I think 'turned his stocks in the field' makes perfect sense.  It is typical to graze cattle on corn stalk "stubble" after a harvest.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 08, 2005, 10:39:29 AM
Hi all,
After re-listening, it did sound like "turned his stocks in the field"; in particular, it sounds like "in the" rather than "into", so I'm going to let it stand.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 08, 2005, 10:44:38 AM
After re-listening, it did sound like "turned his stocks in the field"; in particular, it sounds like "in the" rather than "into", so I'm going to let it stand.
Can't say fairer than that. My only sources for this song both date back to 1964 - the Estes RBF LP and a French RCA EP - maybe I haven't got the best quality 'source material'. Or maybe too much ear wax! :)
From memory the version he re-recorded for Bob Koester omits this and the first verse. A new verse is added but as I recall the lyric to this is virtually impenetrable save for the opening few words.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 08, 2005, 11:22:37 AM
Hi Bunker Hill,
Thanks for vetting these transcriptions.?
I do hope you don't think I'm 'vetting'. It's more a case of what I can hear (or think I can hear) in my head not according with what's in print. It's a knee jerk reaction I'm afraid - speak first, listen after. Must get out of this bad habit.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 08, 2005, 03:33:54 PM
Hi all,
"Milk Cow Blues", from 1930,? is probably one of Sleepy John's most famous numbers (at least as famous as they get).? On it he is joined by Yank Rachell and Jab Jones, and the piece starts with a full mandolin solo.? Yank sounds to have had at least one of the pairs on his mandolin tuned in an octave course on all these old recordings (the D pair?), and on the different cuts featuring him, the tuning of the octave is more or less "wet", as they say in describing accordion tuning.? The "wetter" the tuning (less in tune, to the point of being still bearable), the more cutting the sound.? On "Milk Cow Blues", I would say Yank's tuning was medium-wet, as opposed to "Street Car Blues", where he was scarily wet.? The groove the trio sets up in the opening solo is unbeatable.
"Milk Cow Blues" is unusual in starting with an 8-bar break in the vocal.? Right off the bat, I can't think of any other song that does this; such breaks are usually saved for dramatic impact in the middle of a song.? After the opening stanza, the song goes to a sort of "spawning" archetype in which the line sung over the second and third 4-bar phrases comes out of the second half of the first four-bar phrase.? It is a complex archetype.?
Sleepy John pronounces "husband", "huzzman" in the first verse and "degrees", "the grees" in the final verse.? Any help with the bent bracketed portions of the first line of the third verse would be greatly appreciated.? I've been wondering for about forty years what he was saying there.

? ?Now, asked sweet mama to let me be her kid,
? ?She says I might get buggish, like to keep it hid
? ?Well she looked at me, she begin to smile
? ?Says, "I thought I would use you for my man a while
? ?That's, just don't let my huzzman [sic] catch you there
? ?Now, says, "Just don't let my huzzman catch you there."

? ?Now, went upstairs to pack my leavin' trunk
? ?I never saw no whiskey the blues done made me sloppy drunk
? ?Say, I never saw no whiskey, blues done made me sloppy drunk
? ?Now, I never saw no whiskey but the blues done made me sloppy drunk

? ?Now, some say the beans, some says it was bean
? ?But it's the slow consumption, killin' you by the grees[sic]
? ?Lord, it's a slow consumption, killin' you by the grees
? ?Now, just a slow consumption and it's killin' you by the grees

Modified 11/9, to incorporate clarification from Stuart

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 08, 2005, 03:47:23 PM
Hi all,
"Special Agent" was recorded in 1938, with Son Bonds joining Sleepy John.? The rendition has a wonderful lift to its pulse and the guitar-playing is terrific.? Sleepy John is a beat short in the second measure of the third four-bar phrase in the first couple of verses.? This is discussed in more detail in the "Vocal Phrasing":? The Long And The Short of It" thread.

? ?Now, when I left for Ripley, the weather was kinda cool
? ?Now when I left fo' Ripley, the weather was kinda cool
? ?Said boys, y'all be careful, prob'ly you might catch the flu

? ?Now, I swung that manifest, I went down in that freight rail box
? ?Now I hung that manifest, I went down in that freight rail box
? ?Now I couldn't hear the special agent when he come tippin' over the top

? ?Now them special agents up the country, sure is hard on a man
? ?Now them special agents up the country, they sure is hard on a man
? ?Now they will put him off when he hongry, and won't even let him ride no train

? ?Now, I was settin' down in Centralia, and I sure was feelin' bad (2)
? ?Now they wouldn't let me ride fast train, they put me off on a doggone drag

? ?Now special agent, special agent, put me off close to some town
? ?Special agent, special agent, put me off close to some town
? ?Now I got to do some recording and I oughta be recording right now.

Edited 11/30 to pick up corrections from MTJ3

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Stuart on November 08, 2005, 06:47:51 PM
John:

I just listened to "Milk Cow Blues" again. Sounds like [beans] and [bean] to me too, but I believe that later, he sung the verse with [beans] and [greens]. This makes better sense I suppose, but on the early recording, it sure sounds like [bean].

Stu
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 09, 2005, 09:32:03 AM
Thanks very much for the clarification, Stuart.  All these years I thought the lyric was something that sounded like "beans" and "bean" that made sense.  I guess the sense is in the sound, especially if you sing it as "beans" and "greens", as in the later recording you mention.  I have to admit I hate the thought of being killed by beans by degrees.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: uncle bud on November 09, 2005, 10:11:05 AM
I have to admit I hate the thought of being killed by beans by degrees.

Bo Carter felt the same way...
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: uncle bud on November 09, 2005, 11:35:12 AM
Milk Cow Blues was discussed recently on PWB. One interesting suggestion for this problem line was that Sonny Boy Williamson does a version, "Blues That Made Me Drunk," with the line "Well, some said it was TB, some said it wasn't nothin' but a disease." They also noted that Bob Macleod in his Document transcriptions uses the Sonny Boy line to decode what would seem to be Estes' intended lyric as "Now, some say TB and some says it was disease," which Estes doesn't actually sing, theoretically because he flubs the line. Complicated, but in the context of the entire verse, the suggestion would seem to make some sense to me.

Or is there perhaps a reason why beans or greens might be linked to consumption? Are they possibly taboo foods? (!) I had both last night...  :o
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 09, 2005, 12:41:00 PM
Hi Uncle Bud,
I'm not sure I would consider the Sonny Boy lyric cited as an improvement on the Sleepy John lyric.  Is that TB as opposed to consumption, or TB as opposed to a disease?  Let us know if any dire consequences arise from your combining of beans and greens.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: dj on November 09, 2005, 01:22:36 PM
TB = tuberculosis = consumption.  In the 1930s, before antibiotics, you never recovered from TB.  It would just slowly kill you.  So the Sonny Boy Williamson line makes sense, he's saying that some people thought "it" was tuberculosis and hence fatal while some people thought it was just a cough due to some other disease.  I've never been able to decide whether Sleepy John was doing his best with a lyric he didn't fully understand or whether he was being intentionally humorous.  Thanks, Uncle Bud, for supplying the text that Sleepy John probably used as an exemplar.  I still don't know if he was joking or not.  ::)
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 09, 2005, 04:14:18 PM
Hi David,
I know that consumption and TB in this context are one and the same, and thus thought that the contrasting of the possibility of TB versus consumption was bizarre.  Maybe we are on the wrong track with Sleepy John's lyric.  Maybe he meant consumption, not as a synonym for tuberculosis, but as simple food intake, i.e., eating, saying that whether you eat one bean or many beans, if you eat them too slowly, say, one every seven or eight days, it will have the effect of killing you by degrees.  The key to avoiding this fate is upping the rate of consumption.  I'll figure this out yet!  On second thought, I'm satisfied with my understanding of it as is.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 09, 2005, 10:19:54 PM
Hi all,
"New Someday Baby" was recorded by Sleepy John in a duet with a very under-recorded second guitarist, probably either Charlie Pickett or Brownsville Son Bonds.  The guitars are pretty much operating exclusively in a rhythmic capacity on this song, though they do it quite well.  Focus here is on Sleepy John's vocal, and it deserves every bit of attention it gets, for it is perfectly amazing singing.  His renditions of the choruses throughout the song are unbelievably nuanced and varied, and his singing shows masterful control, for he often performs his most expressive or gymnastic bits at the very end of his air.  To say that very few people have ever been able to sing blues like this would be an extreme understatement.  If you have never heard this before, I envy you your first hearing of it.
Form of this song, as discussed previously on this thread is an unusual 16-bar archetype that is of Sleepy John's invention, I believe, and he adheres to it regularly throughout this rendition.

   When trouble first started, down in my front door
   Seem like I had more trouble, than my life before
   CHORUS:  Someday, baby, you ain't gonna trouble my mind anymore

   Now, trouble in the mornin', trouble late at night
   Seem like I'm treated every way but right
   CHORUS

   Now, you got a little woman, she won't treat you right
   Feed her in the day, whup her some at night
   CHORUS
   
   I wonder what's the matter, can't get no mail
   I dreamed last night black cat crossed my trail
   CHORUS:  Someday, you ain't gonna trouble my mind anymore

   I know my baby, tell you howr I know
   By the great long hair, same little dress she wore
   CHORUS:  Someday, babe, you ain't gonna trouble my mind anymore

   Now, look-a-here, baby, see what you done done
   You done made me love you, now your man done come
   CHORUS:  As in previous verse

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 09, 2005, 10:56:04 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Stop That Thing" in 1935 with Hammie Nixon, and, I believe a second guitarist.? The song is a great sort of hot, country ragtime number, somewhat akin in its feel to such Sam Collins numbers as "New Salty Dog" or "Do That Thing".? It must have been a great hit as a dance number when performed in person.? Though not particularly featured on the recording, Hammie Nixon's playing on this tune is really excellent, and he ends the song with a wailing 9 note--pretty far out!? Sleepy John's vocal is smoking, and the way he nudges his phrasing around relative to the very fast pulse is a treat.? This song has a lot of words, some of which are commonly found in other songs.? One of the cool things about the song structurally is the way the very simple chord progression, which has a I chord vamp under the verse and the V chord arriving with the tag line to the verses, can accommodate verses of different lengths easily.? Any help with the lyrics in bent brackets is appreciated.? For the most part, I feel pretty clear on them, but the "Aunt Dinah" verse is a bit tough to decipher.? For any of you out there who have jug bands, this would be a prime song to do.

? ?CHORUS:? Oh, she big fat mama, won't you stop that thing?
? ?Skinny woman won't you do that thing?
? ?Kind mama, won't you stop that thing?
? ?Papa got mad because mama won't stop that thing

? ?Now, mama killed a chicken and thought it was a duck
? ?___ 'im on the table with his legs straight up
? ?Here John, come with a cup and glass
? ?Catch the liquor just to make you laugh
? ?Papa got mad because mama won't stop that thing

? ?CHORUS:? Oh, she big fat mama, won't you stop that thing?
? ?Skinny mama, won't you do that thing?
? ?Kind mama, won't you stop that thing?
? ?Papa got mad because mama won't stop that thing

? ?Now I went upstairs to sleep a little bit
? ?Went back to sleep a little more
? ?The old bed fell down I had to sleep in the floor
? ?Now Papa got mad, mama won't stop that thing

? ?CHORUS:? As after verse 1

? ?Now stop and let me tell you what Aunt Dinah done
? ?Old Aunt Dinah walkin' down the street
? ?And when she walked she began to creep
? ?Skin over her head, just tight as a drum
? ?A little song about beedley-bum
? ?One could beat it, and one could sing
? ?One to tell you, "Why don't you do that thing?"
? ?Papa got mad because mama won't stop that thing

? ?CHORUS:? Oh, she big fat mama, won't you stop that thing?
? ?Skinny mama, won't you do that thing?
? ?Kind mama, won't you stop that thing?
? ?Papa got mad because mama won't do that thing

? ?Now a bow-legged rooster and the knock-kneed hen
? ?They both run together but they ain't no kin
? ?Papa got mad because mama won't stop that thing

? ?CHORUS:? as after verse 1

? ?Now the monkey and the baboon sittin' on the fence
? ?The monkey told the baboon, "You got no sense
? ?Look here, fool.", [he just commenced]
? ?Papa got mad because mama won't do that thing

? ?CHORUS:? Oh, she big fat mama, won't you stop that thing?
? ?Skinny mama, won't you do that thing"
? ?Kind mama, won't you stop that thing?
? ?Now, papa got mad because mama won't do I mean, I mean, I mean that thing

Corrected 11/10, as per Bunker Hill's suggestions

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 10, 2005, 10:16:21 AM
Any help with the lyrics in bent brackets is appreciated.? For the most part, I feel pretty clear on them, but the "Aunt Dinah" verse is a bit tough to decipher.?
FWIW, I think that's spot on. I couldn't resist using your transcription in conjunction with listening to the version he cut in 1962 which I have on a 1964 Delmark LP (Legend of SJE, with Nixon and former western swing pianist, Knocky Parker). The lyrics are almost identical. Some memory that guy had, his only major variants in 1962 were :

legs sticking up

here John with your cup and and glass

she begin to creep

and he quite clearly sings "skin on her head" in 1962.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 10, 2005, 12:47:28 PM
Hi all,
Thanks very much, Bunker Hill, for your suggestions re "Stop That Thing".  "Here John" is a clear improvement, as is "creep" in the verse about Aunt Dinah.  I'm learning that I need to pick up some of Sleepy John's post-rediscovery recordings.  They are a major gap in my collection, and it sounds like you've got a number of them. 
On a different topic, I hope nobody thought I was having fun at Sleepy John Estes's or Sonny Boy Williamson's expense in my last post regarding interpretation of the "slow consumption" verse in "Milk Cow Blues".  My intention was to make fun of myself, mostly, and other nutty, hyper-rational beings afflicted with the Western disease--the need to understand and analyze everything to death.  I strived to come up with an interpretation of the lyrics that was simultaneously theoretically possible, while still being wrong-headed, implausible and showing no understanding of the blues.  I was shooting for what Mark Twain accused Henry James of:  "chewing more than he bit off."  I don't know if any humor is left after an explanation like that, but there you go, it's what I was shooting for.  Sorry for any confusion I may have caused.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 10, 2005, 12:56:36 PM
Thanks very much, Bunker Hill, for your suggestions re "Stop That Thing".? "Here John" is a clear improvement, as is "creep" in the verse about Aunt Dinah.? I'm learning that I need to pick up some of Sleepy John's post-rediscovery recordings.? They are a major gap in my collection, and it sounds like you've got a number of them.?
After meeting and shaking hands (boy what a grip he had) backstage at Fairfield Hall in 1964, I vowed to buy everything he ever recorded or would record...and that I've done. (Well I was only 18 and impressionable!)
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Stuart on November 10, 2005, 01:22:52 PM
My intention was to make fun of myself, mostly, and other nutty, hyper-rational beings afflicted with the Western disease--the need to understand and analyze everything to death.? I strived to come up with an interpretation of the lyrics that was simultaneously theoretically possible, while still being wrong-headed, implausible and showing no understanding of the blues.? I was shooting for what Mark Twain accused Henry James of:? "chewing more than he bit off."? I don't know if any humor is left after an explanation like that, but there you go, it's what I was shooting for.? Sorry for any confusion I may have caused.

Come on, John, cut yourself a break. While it is certainly true that one can overthink any problem and overwrite any topic, that is not the problem here. Most of us are just after "what lyrics were really was sung, and what did the singer really have in mind when s/he sung them." If we seem to overanalyze at times or think out loud in the process of arriving at the answer, then so be it. It goes along with being human--and it just isn't a Western phenomenon, believe me.

Stu
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Stuart on November 10, 2005, 01:26:28 PM
Please excuse my grammar /typo--I'm my own worst proofreader. ;D
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 10, 2005, 10:44:56 PM
Well thanks, Stu, I take that kindly.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 10, 2005, 11:12:38 PM
Hi all,
The discographical information I have on "Down South Blues" says that Sleepy John Estes was joined by Hammie Nixon on harmonica and Charlie Pickett on guitar for it. If that is the case, Charlie Pickett is inaudible; I really believe this is just Sleepy John and Hammie.
I don't know if Sleepy John ever played with a flat pick, but if he did, I would say this song is a prime candidate for being played that way.  He is strumming throughout with simple down-strokes, and virtually no detail work in the treble, something like the way Willie Thomas played with Butch Cage on the "Country Negro Jam Session" CD on Arhoolie.  Hammie, while not demanding a lot of attention, rewards any attention you give him.  He played very well consistently.
This song is kind of an odd one.  The initial subject matter pertaining to hard times in Memphis during the Depression is unusually grim and pointed.  Sleepy John then takes a left turn to talk about his love life in an unoptimistic way.  The whole thing is a far cry from an exuberant, partying kind of tune. 
Musically, the song is odd as well.  The opening stanza is an unusual 8-bar one that does not conform to any commonly encountered 8-bar forms:
|   IV-I-I-I   |          I          |           I          |         I           |
|    V-V-I-I  |          I          |           I          |         I           |
The song ends up settling into a 12-bar model I have not encountered before.
|    IV--I       |     I--IV       |           I          |      I--I7        |
|    IV--I       |     I--IV       |           I          |           I         |
|        I          |        I           |           I          |          I          |
As with a couple of songs earlier in this thread, once Sleepy John settles into this 12-bar form he eschews the V chord altogether.

   Now I'm goin' down South and I'm stayin' 'til winter is gone
   And when wintertime is gone, I might come back home

   Now I get up every mornin' and I walk up to 3rd and Beale (2)
   And I'm just studyin' and I'm wonderin', Lord, just how to make a meal

   Now the peoples in Memphis, they all walkin' the streets up and down (2)
   And you know the time is hard, peoples is starvin' all over the town

   Now I once have been a lover, baby, back in my young days (2)
   But my baby was so mean, she done drove all my love away

   Now I got a girl in Brownsville, she lives down on Bu'lison Lane (2)
   But my gal was so mean, I'm scared to call her name

11/11, place name changed as per Bunker Hill's suggestion
Edited 2/1/07 to pick up place name from banjo chris

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 10, 2005, 11:25:46 PM
Hi all,
"Divin' Duck Blues" is another one of the great early collaborations of Sleepy John with Yank Rachell and Jab Jones.? It has been covered a fair amount, but as most often seems to be the case with Sleepy John's tunes, either the lyrics or the melody are greatly changed in the course of re-doing the song.? I'm not certain about the phrase in bent brackets, so any help would be appreciated.
? ?
? ?Now if the river was whiskey, and I was a divin' duck
? ?Now if the river was whiskey, I was a divin' duck
? ?I would dive on the bottom, never would come up

? ?Don't never take a married woman to be your friend
? ?Don't never take, married woman to be your friend
? ?She will get all your money, give it to her other man

? ?Now, a married woman always been my crave (2)
? ?Now a married woman gon' carry me to my grave

? ?Now ain't it hard to love some else, then?? (2)
? ?You can't get her when you want her, have to use her when you can

? ?Now the sun gon' shine on my back door someday
? ?Now the sun gonna shine on my back door some day
? ?Now the wind gonna rise gonna blow my blues away

? ?Now I went to the railroad, looked up at the sun (2)
? ?If the train don't hurry gon' be some walkin' done

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 10, 2005, 11:45:53 PM
? ?Now I got a girl in Brownsville, she lives down on Bullocks and Vance (2)
? ?But my gal was so mean, I'm scared to call her name
Again this is another 1962 recreation but he omits the penultimate verse. "Bullocks and Vance" sounds like Bullison Lane. Lane is not in question though the name, whilst definitely ending with 'ison', could be Pullison, Dullison, take your pick. Anyone have a 30s Memphis street plan?
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 11, 2005, 08:59:14 AM
Hi Bunker Hill,
Thanks for the help with the address.  Place names are really tough when transcribing lyrics, particularly if they are unfamiliar.  I have picked up the "Lane" portion of the address and will leave the name blank pending some kind of information that nails it down.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Slack on November 11, 2005, 12:40:04 PM
Quote
Anyone have a 30s Memphis street plan?

But she lives in Brownsville.  You could use google maps to search for streets in Brownsville (fly over style).  'Course, we don;t really know if it is Brownsville, Tennessee or Mississippi or Texas..  ::)
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 11, 2005, 12:53:57 PM
Quote
Anyone have a 30s Memphis street plan?
But she lives in Brownsville.?
Duh, yeah. As I said I really MUST stop knee jerk responses, especially early in the morning. The internet is one's own worst enemy when it comes to this sort of thing.? I would never have been so stupid had I been writing a letter. If nothing else I would have re-read it! :(
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 12, 2005, 01:45:19 PM
Hi all,
For "Mailman Blues", recorded in 1940, the suspect session information on my Czech issue of Sleepy John's music has both Robert Lee McCoy and John playing guitars and Robert Lee doubling on harmonica, as well.  Based on the aural evidence, there is only one guitar being played on this song; I'm certain of that, in fact, and the harmonica player is definitely not Hammie Nixon.  This player does not have Hammie's covered-sounding tone, but has a brighter and more open sound.  The guitarist, whom I believe to be Sleepy John because of how closely the accompaniment tracks the vocal phrasing, is playing in E position, standard tuning, not a position I would normally associate with Sleepy John's playing.  However, on a couple of the duets with Charlie Pickett, one of the guitars is playing in G position, standard tuning with the other capoed three frets up and playing out of E, so perhaps Sleepy John was the person playing out of E on those cuts.  The accompaniment on "Mailman Blues" uses the dark V minor 7 chord, B minor 7, which is similarly found on those duets.
In some ways, the over-all sound of "Mailman Blues" is a different one than I'm acccustomed to hearing from Sleepy John.  The accompaniment sounds almost like a precursor to the playing of Lightnin' Hopkins.  The vocal sound and phrasing is certainly all Sleepy John, though.  I can't think of another blues singer who could fit so many lyrics into a 12-bar form.  Re verse two:  I hate it when that happens.

   Mailman, please stop by my box today (2)
   You know, I'm lookin' for a letter from my baby, you know, I want to hear from her
       right away

   Reason I ain't been gettin' no mail, you know, I done found out what it's all about
   Reason I ain't gettin' no mail, you know, I done found out what it's all about
   You know the mailman been gettin' drunk, he been leavin' my mail at somebody
      else's house

   Now, I been waitin' on the mailman, he usually come along about 11 o'clock
   Now, I been waitin' on the mailman, you know, he usually come along about
     11 o'clock
   Now, I guess he musta had car trouble, or either the road musta be blocked

   Mailman, please don't you lose your head (2)
   You know, I'm lookin' for a letter from my babe, some of my people might be dead

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 12, 2005, 02:03:25 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Hobo Jungle Blues" with Hammie Nixon on harmonica and either Charlie Pickett or Son Bonds on guitar.? Since both guitarists are playing out of C position in standard tuning, if my theory holds true, the second guitarist would be Brownsville Son Bonds, since he and Sleepy John did not play out of different positions on the songs that we know they played together ("Lawyer Clark", "Little Laura" and Working Man").?
Musically, this piece is very close to "Special Agent".? It shares the same melody and many of the same "push me--pull you" aspects in its phrasing, though the tempo is not quite as quick as that of "Special Agent".? The accompaniment is terrific.? On verse four, you can hear the second guitarist picking up on a triplet lick that Hammie likes and playing it in unison with him.? Similarly, the alert second guitarist plays a pet phrase of Sleepy John's over the IV chord in the final verse in unison with him; it sounds like Sleepy John is double-tracked and is an unbelievably cool effect.? As for the subject matter of "Hobo Jungle Blues", it really sounds like Sleepy John knew whereof he spoke.? Help with or corroboration of the bent bracketed phrase would be appreciated

? ?Now, when I left Chicago, I left on that G & M (2)
? ?Then if I reach my home, I have to change over on that L& N

? ?Now, came in on in that Mae West, and I put it down at Chicago Heights
? ?Now, when I came in on that Mae West, I put it down at Chicago Heights
? ?Now, you know, over in hobo jungle, and that's where I stayed the night

? ?Now, if you hobo through Brownsville, you better not be peepin' out (2)
? ?Now, Mr. Whitten will git you, and Mr. Guy Hare will wear you out

? ?Now, out East of Brownsville, about four miles from town (2)
? ?Now, if you ain't got your fare, that's where they will let you down

Edited, 11/13 to pick up clarification from Bunker Hill

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: dj on November 12, 2005, 02:24:25 PM
Regarding the instrumentation of Mailman Blues and Hobo Jungle Blues:

Blues and Gospel Records has Robert Lee McCoy on guitar and harmonica on Mailman Blues, with Sleepy John Estes on vocal.  Document 5016 has Sleepy John Estes on vocal and guitar on that track with Robert Lee McCoy on harmonica and "possibly guitar (replacing Estes)".

B&GR has Sleepy John Estes and Charlie Pickett on guitar and Hammie Nixon on harmonica on Hobo Jungle Blues, while Document 5016 has Sleepy John Estes vocal/guitar, Hammie Nixon harmonica, and Charlie Pickett or possibly Son Bonds on guitar.

I'm impressed with your lyric transcription, John.  About 15 years ago I tried to transcribe the lyrics to that song and after many many listenings succeeded in deciphering about 50% of them!
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 12, 2005, 02:34:54 PM
Thanks for the discographical information, David, and thanks for the good words, too.  I spent many years paying little attention to lyrics, and it has only been in the past couple of years as I've been trying to focus on phrasing that I've come to appreciate how lyrics really drive the whole performance.  And of course, Sleepy John, like Peg Leg Howell, had exceptionally good lyrics, so it's fun to try and get them.  You're right, though, sometimes it is really tough.  I have some left to do that have lines I am currently not hearing, that's for sure.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: waxwing on November 12, 2005, 07:23:55 PM
It seems possible that the "open tone" of Robert Lee McCoy's harp, as you described it, Johnm, could have caused the speculation that he was playing the only guitar also. Especially if there are other recordings of McCoy playing harp only where he was cupping the harp more. Anyone have access to that info?

All for now.
John C.

P.S. How do I get a B&GR? -G-
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 13, 2005, 12:30:17 AM
? ?Now, came in on in that [main west], and I put it down at Chicago Heights
? ?Now, when I came in on that [main west], I put it down at Chicago Heights
? ?Now, you know, over in hobo jungle, and that's where I stayed the night
FWIW in the lengthy 1974 interview conducted with Estes & Nixon by Kip Lornell (Living Blues 19, Jan-Feb 1975) the latter? refers a train named the "Mae West" thus:

Q:How long did you stay in Chicago?
Nixon: We didn't stay too long. Just in and out. We were riding them old freight trains then. We made that record about Mae West. We'd ride that Mae West a lot, put it down in Chicago Heights. Yeah, we were going all across the country. Me and John slept in the jungles, and old Winchester Slim got at us several times about riding freight trains.
Later on in the interview Estes is asked what he thinks were his best ever records and one of them he names as 'Mae West'!

I've looked in B A Botkin's A Treasury Of Railroad Folklore (Crown, 1953) in the chapter on railroad and freight train nicknames but can't spot this one.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 13, 2005, 10:04:03 AM
Hi Bunker Hill,
Thanks for the clarification.  It actually sounded exactly like "Mae West", but I thought it was too weird!  It's great to be able to access that kind of information right from the people who made the record.  I will make the change.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 13, 2005, 10:50:30 AM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Airplane Blues" with Hammie Nixon on harmonica and Charlie Pickett on second guitar.? The song follows a phrasing archetype employed by "Me And My Chauffeur" and "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl".? I'm not strong on chronology, so I don't know which song was recorded first--was it "Me And My Chauffeur"?? I don't think I had ever fully appreciated how unusual the phrasing is on this type of song.? As Sleepy John did it, it works out as follows.? Measures are 4 beats unless otherwise stipulated.? Since he phrases so far in front of the beat, I will start with the last bar of the introduction.

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?I'm gonna get on my
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? |? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?I? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?|
FORM BEGINS:
airplane, I'm gon' get in my airplane, I'm gonna rise all
|? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?I? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? |? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?I? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?|
over, I'm gonna rise all over your town? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?Then if I
|? ? ? ? ?IV+2 beats? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?|? ? ? I? ? ? ? ? ? ? |? ? ? ?I? ? ? ? ?|
spy the woman I'm lovin'
|? ? ? ? ? ? ? V? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?|
? ?Poor John gon' let his air, poor John gon' let his airplane
|? ? ? ? ? ? ?IV? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?|? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? IV? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? |? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
down? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?Here's my
|? ?? ? ? ? ?I? ? ?? ? ? ? ? |? ? ? ? I? ? ? ?? ?|

Thus Sleepy John ends up with a 10-bar blues.? The group adheres to this phrasing scheme throughout the song, though Sleepy John sometimes holds his chords one beat across the bar lines before changing.?
Sleepy John sings "Airplane Blues" with a great relaxed feel.? I particularly like the third verse, which I reckon speaks of his getting out of jail after a short sentence.? The final verse is a bit mixed up from the way it is usually sung.

? ?I'm gonna get in my airplane, I'm gon' get in my airplane
? ?I'm gonna rise all over, I'm gonna rise all over your town
? ?Then if I spy the woman I'm lovin'
? ?Poor John gon' let his air, poor John gon' let his airplane down

? ?Here's my hand, here's my hand
? ?You can lead me where you want to, you can lead me where you want me to go
? ?Then if you lead me wrong this time
? ?You won't lead me no, and you won't lead me no more

? ?I know my baby, I know my baby
? ?And she's bound to jump, and she's bound to jump and shout
? ?Now, when she get over to the let-off
? ?I done rode them few, I done rode them few days out

? ?You 3 X 7, you 3 X 7
? ?You oughta know what you want, you oughta know what you want to do
? ?Now the day that you quit me
? ?And I won't be mad with, I won't be mad with you

? ?That's the day before Christmas, that's the day before Christmas
? ?Let me bring your presents, let me bring your presents tonight
? ?Now I will be your Santy Claus
? ?Even if my whiskers, even if my whiskers is white

All best,
Johnm
? ? ?

? ? ? ? ?
? ?
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 13, 2005, 11:05:39 AM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Poor John Blues" with Yank Rachell and Jab Jones in 1930.? They keep time beautifully as an ensemble throughout, despite some verse-specific varying of phrase lengths.? Jab Jones in particular is really powerful here, often accenting with a heavy 1 2+ 3 4+ 1 2+3 4+ emphasis.? His playing seems worth studying for any of you pianists out there.? Help with the bent bracketed phrase would be appreciated, because I am currently stumped.

? ?Now, I'd rather be dead, sleepin' in a hollow log
? ?Now, I'd rather be dead and sleepin' in a hollow log
? ?Than to be here, baby, and you doin' me like a dog

? ?Now, what you want poor John to do? (2)
? ?Lord, I done done ev'ything, try to get along wit' you

? ?Now, the woman I'm lovin', she got one teeth solid gold (2)
? ?Lord, that's the onliest woman got a mortgage on my soul

? ?Now, sure as the grass on the Texan earts grow green (2)
? ?Lord, I ain't crazy about nobody I ever seen.

Corrected, 11/14, as per Bunker Hill's help

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 13, 2005, 11:25:40 AM
Sleepy John recorded "Airplane Blues" with Hammie Nixon on harmonica and Charlie Pickett on second guitar.? The song follows a phrasing archetype employed by "Me And My Chaffeur" and "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl".?
Blind Boy Fuller's Flyin' Airplane Blues of the following year is very similar and probably inspired by the Estes version. I only have this on an beat-up Phillips LP compiled by Paul Oliver, but fwiw here's my attempt at transcription:

Gonna get in my airplane (2x)
Gonna ride all over
Gonna ride all over your town
And if I spy the gal I'm lovin'.
Old fool gonna let this airplane
Old fool.gonna let this airplane down
Now here's my hand (x2)
You can lead me where you want me
You can lead me where you want me to go
And if you lead me wrong this time
And you won't lead me no
And you won't lead me no more
And I feel like walkin'
(Yes I do!)
I feel like walkin
(Yes!)
I feel like lyin'
I feel like Iyin 'down
And you know I feel just like lovin
My gat ain t nowhere
My gal ain't nowhere around
Now you're three times seven (x2)
Ought to know what you want to
Ought to know what you want to do
Mama and the day that you quit me
I won't be mad with
Said I won't be mad with you
Said I know my little woman (x2)
She's bound to jump
She's 'bound to jump and shout
And whenever she gets hold of this here letter
I done loved my long time
I done loved my long time out
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: uncle bud on November 13, 2005, 02:17:44 PM
Blind Boy Fuller's Flyin' Airplane Blues of the following year is very similar and probably inspired by the Estes version.

I'd say it was definitely inspired by Estes. Fuller even affects a more nasal delivery in the vocals, one of the few I can think of where he's being deliberately (to my mind) imitative in his singing. It's a great version too.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: dj on November 13, 2005, 04:54:04 PM
Hi, John.  Of the songs you mentioned that share the tune of Airplane Blues, Sonny Boy Williamson's Good Morning Little Schoolgirl was the first to be recorded, on May 5th 1937.  Airplane Blues was next out of the gate, recorded on August 3rd, 1937.  Memphis Minnie didn't record Me And My Chauffer Blues until May 21st 1941.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 14, 2005, 09:21:23 AM
Hi all,
Thanks, David, for the recording order on those three tunes.? I'm surprised the Minnie was that late, but I don't know her post-Kansas Joe material very well at all.? The dates on "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" and "Airplane Blues" are so close that it almost makes you think that the archetype was already out there and Sonny Boy was the first to get it on record.? There's no way to know at this point, of course.? I know, Bunker Hill and Uncle Bud,
that Don Kent, in the notes to the Yazoo Sleepy John CD also believes Fuller's "Flyin' Airplane Blues" to have come from Sleepy John's "Airplane Blues".
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 14, 2005, 11:15:24 AM
? ?Now, the woman I'm lovin', she got one teeth sold gold (2)
? ?Lord, that's the onliest woman got a mortgage on my soul

? ?Now, sure as the grass on the [Texas dirts] grow green (2)
? ?Lord, I ain't crazy about nobody I ever seen.
I shall have to revisit this, but I can hear in my head "Texan earth" (pronounced "erts").
 "teeth sold gold" I guess is missing the 'i' and should be "solid". ;D
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 14, 2005, 11:39:36 AM
Of the songs you mentioned that share the tune of Airplane Blues, Sonny Boy Williamson's Good Morning Little Schoolgirl was the first to be recorded, on May 5th 1937.? Airplane Blues was next out of the gate, recorded on August 3rd, 1937.? Memphis Minnie didn't record Me And My Chauffer Blues until May 21st 1941.
Since reading this I've been knocking my brains out because I was convinced there was an earlier recording of the tune under a different name. And I've found it! Recorded by an Estes associate on September 8th 1934 - Son Bonds' with Hammie Nixon "Back And Side Blues". Give it a spin folk to hear the tune along with one or two recognisable verses (here's my hand, Lord, here's my hand etc etc). I've only got it on a 1982 Wolf Son Bonds LP which uses a pretty scratchy copy but I guess it must be on a Document CD in better sound.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 14, 2005, 05:15:51 PM
Hi Bunker Hill,
I agree with you re "Texan earths" in "Poor John's Blues"--I had that at one point and then was dubious about the turn of phrase, but it definitely sounds the most like what he said.  Good catch on the typo, too.  I have made the corrections.
It's very cool to hear about the earlier recording, "Back and Side Blues" employing the characteristic "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" phrasing, especially since I have never either heard it or heard of it before.  Perhaps it is on the Juke, though it seems a long shot.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 14, 2005, 05:41:47 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Brownsville Blues" with either Charlie Pickett or Son Bonds playing second guitar, with the guitars deployed in the same fashion as on "Fire Department Blues":   one playing out of G, standard tuning and the other capoed three frets up playing out of E position, standard tuning.  Instrumentally, the song is almost a dead ringer for "Fire Department Blues", with the same signature lick occurring from time to time, but with a bit more variety.
Once again, Sleepy John is singing about a friend/acquaintance, which from my point of view, always makes for a good blues lyric.  The "A" lines of the verses have a neat symmetry, too, with the first half starting with "Now", and the second half starting with "you know".  The first portion of the song practically amounts to an advertisement for the mechanical skills of his friend Vassar Williams, and for once, I think automobile repair is actually being discussed as opposed to sexual metaphors.  Verse four really comes out of left field, and when Sleepy John comes to the tag line, he sounds stricken, like he means it.  Once again, help with bracketed portions is appreciated.  I looked up Ripley on a Tennessee map, and it is in Lauderdale County, but that is not what Sleepy John is saying in verse four (though the word does begin with L).

   Now, I can straighten your wires, you know, poor Vassar can grind your valves (2)
   Then, when I turn your motor loose, and it sure will split the air

   Now, Vassar can 'lign your wheels, you know poor Vassar can tune your horn
   Now, he can 'lign your wheels, you know poor Vassar can tune your horn
   Then when he set it out on the highway, you can hear your motor hum

   Now, my generator is bad, and you know my lights done stopped (2)
   And I reckon I better take it over to Durhamville, and I'm gonna stop at Vassar Williams' shop

   Now I were raised in Lau'dale County, you know I was schooled on Winfield Lane
   Now, I were raised in Lau'er'ale County, and you know I was schooled in Winfield Lane
   Then, what I made of myself, I declare it was a cryin'-a shame

   Now, Brownsville is my home, and you know I ain't gonna th'owr it down (2)
   Because I'm 'quainted with them laws, and they won't let me down

Edited 11/15, as per correction and corroborration from dj and Bunker Hill
Edited 2/1/07 to pick up correction and clarification from banjochris

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 14, 2005, 06:00:35 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Easin' Back To Tennessee" in a guitar duet with one guitar (Sleepy John?) playing out of C, standard tunng and the other (Charlie Pickett?) capoed up three frets and playing out of A position in standard tuning.  The piece is pretty reserved instrumentally; there never are any fireworks, really. 
The song is a "chorus" format 12-bar blues, and the lyrics seem to allude to a period when Sleepy John may have been living in Chicago.  He sings the chorus with great feeling and sounds like he was really ready to return home.  Help with the bracketed portions would be appreciated.

   Now, woke up this mornin', couldn't hardly see
   Snow on the ground 'bout eight foot deep
   CHORUS:  Lord, have mercy, baby, what gon' come of me?
   You know I feel just like easin' back down into Tennessee

   Now Carl Williams in the office wants to see you alone
   I can't do nothin' where this white stuff on
   CHORUS:  Lord, have mercy, baby, what's gon' come of me?
   You know I feel just like easin' back down into Tennessee

   Now, I'm on the South Side, my buddy on the East
   I don't know whether he's got any place to sleep
   CHORUS:  Lord, have mercy, honey, what's gon' come of me?
   You know I feel just like easin' back down into Tennessee

   Said, car can't go, [mountain] too slick
   Prob'ly might slip back off in a ditch
   CHORUS:  as after verse 3

   Now, twenty-two twenty-four West Hubbard Avenue
   That's where you get my 1938 blues
   CHORUS:  as after verse 2

Edited, 2/23 to pick up correction from Bunker Hill

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Slack on November 14, 2005, 06:54:02 PM
Quote
It's very cool to hear about the earlier recording, "Back and Side Blues" employing the characteristic "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" phrasing, especially since I have never either heard it or heard of it before.  Perhaps it is on the Juke, though it seems a long shot.

This is indeed on the Juke... part of Weenieolgy CD II.  ;)
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: dj on November 15, 2005, 06:29:33 AM
John, I think Lauderdale is the right choice in the fourth verse of Brownsville Blues.  In the first line of the verse it sounds to me like Sleepy John sings "Lau'dale", and in the second line it sounds more like "Lau'r'ale".
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 15, 2005, 11:02:16 AM
John, I think Lauderdale is the right choice in the fourth verse of Brownsville Blues.? In the first line of the verse it sounds to me like Sleepy John sings "Lau'dale", and in the second line it sounds more like "Lau'r'ale".
And, fwiw, either of those could be what is garbled on post war versions I've listened to. Perhaps SJE had a problem getting his tongue around it.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 15, 2005, 11:43:14 AM
Thanks for the clarification and corroborration, David and Bunker Hill.? I should have considered the possibility that he was eliding some consonants.? I am glad to have the lyrics to "Brownsville Blues" more or less nailed down, because I particularly like that song.

Edited to add, I should have known that tune was on Weenie CD II, John D.? I've got it but I guess I haven't listened to it enough yet.? Thanks, Phil!?
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 15, 2005, 05:13:32 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Jack And Jill Blues" in 1938 with Hammie Nixon on harmonica and either Son Bonds or Charlie Pickett on guitar.  I think it is Son Bonds, because both guitars are playing out of G position in standard tuning.  Sleepy John uses the same signature lick fill phrase in the last two bars of the form that he had used several years previously in "Black Mattie Blues", with Yank Rachell and Jab Jones.  The melody to "Jack and Jill Blues", at least in the first four bars, is reminiscent to that of Charley Lincoln's "Jealous Hearted Blues".
The phrase "dry long so" in the tag line of the third verse is an interesting one.  I feel like I know what it means in context, but I don't know it's derivation.  Son House used it as well, I believe.  Does anyone know what its origins are?

   Now, the sun gon' shine in my backdoor someday
   Now the sun gon' shine, my backdoor someday
   Now the wind gonna rise, blow my blues away

   Now, sure as the stars shine in the world above (2)
   You know, life is too short t' worry 'bout the one you love

   Now, I ain't got no woman, ain't got no child to scold
   Now, I ain't got no woman, got no child to scold
   Reason I'm hangin' 'round here, stickin' here dry long so

   Now you never have told me how you want your rollin' done
   Now you never have told me, you want your rollin' done
   Now, I b'lieve you musta want me, roll from sun to sun

   Now, it was late last night when ev'ything was still
   Now, it was late last night, ev'ything was still
   Now me and my baby were playin' old Jack and Jill

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 15, 2005, 05:31:35 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Little Laura Blues" in 1941, with Son Bonds joining him on second guitar.  It is a great duet guitar performance with both guitars playing out of G position in standard tuning and clashing all over the place.  Sleepy John (I believe) adds to the tension in the first two bars of the form by rocking from the IV chord back to the I chord during a time when Son is just holding a I chord.  The rhythm really swings; it's not an overly quick tempo, but the backbeat is very strong.
Little Laura, according to Don Kent's notes to the Yazoo Sleepy John Estes CD, was a neighbor of Sleepy John's and the Jimmy referred to in the lyrics is Sleepy John's name for Yank Rachell.  Help with/corroboration of the bent bracketed phrase would be appreciated. 

   Little Laura was a gal, sh' s sixteen
   And Jimmy didn't want to listen to her dreams
   Little Laura was a dreamer, dreamed o' seventeen
   CHORUS:  She's the dreamiest gal, dreamiest gal I ever seen

   Now, she dreamed she was goin' with the man next door
   She dreamed she was kissin' him, oh, oh, oh
   She dreamed she was ridin', tall man's in a automobile
   CHORUS

   Now, she dreamed she was settin' in the grass by the mill
   She dreamed she had taken me from the gal on the hill
   Little Laura was a dreamer, most all her dreams fulfill
   CHORUS

   Now, she dreamed I was huggin' her close to my breast
   She told Jimmy that mucha the dream but she wouldn't tell the rest
   Li'l Laura was a dreamer, she dreamed o' seventeen
   CHORUS

   Now, she dream about lovin' from kisses on down
   She's the dreamiest gal for miles around
   Little Laura was a dreamer, 'most all her dreams come true
   She had a dream about lovin' and she know just what to do

Edited 2/1/07 to pick up correction from banjochris

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 16, 2005, 10:49:45 AM
Sleepy John recorded "Little Laura Blues" in 1941, with Son Bonds joining him on second guitar.? It is a great duet guitar performance with both guitars playing out of G position in standard tuning and clashing all over the place.? Sleepy John (I believe) adds to the tension in the first two bars of the form by rocking from the IV chord back to the I chord during a time when Son is just holding a I chord.? The rhythm really swings; it's not an overly quick tempo, but the backbeat is very strong.
Little Laura, according to Don Kent's notes to the Yazoo Sleepy John Estes CD, was a neighbor of Sleepy John's and the Jimmy referred to in the lyrics is Sleepy John's name for Yank Rachell.? Help with/corroboration of the bent bracketed phrase would be appreciated.?

Off ther top of my head this song is essentially the one John Lee Williamson recorded for Bluebird a couple of months earlier as She Was A Dreamer, with minor variations. Williamson also did it as Southern Dream but unable to recall if earlier or later than 1941. Can't believe that Don Kent failed to note this!
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 17, 2005, 11:14:28 PM
Hi all,
"Need More Blues" was recorded by the now-familiar combo of Sleepy John with Hammie Nixon on harmonica and either Charlie Pickett or Son Bonds on second guitar.  Both guitarists are playing in C position, standard tuning on this one. 
The lyrics in "Need More Blues" work in an unusual way.  The first verse, which follows a conventional AAB format gives birth to a chorus, and from the second verse onward the song switches into a chorus blues.  I think in verse three, when Sleepy John refers to a "box", he means a guitar.  In the soon-to-be-aired Bob West interview with Bukka White, he always refers to a guitar as a "box".  Of course, there's a sexual usage for "box", and Sleepy John may have meant that too.  The whole idea of the lyric is really interesting and unusual, that needing more all the time gets you in trouble.  Sleepy John may have a point.

   Need more--it have harmed a many men
   Need more--it have harmed a many men
   And that's the reason, I believe I'll make a change

   Now, somethin' to tell you, keep it to yourself
   Don't tell your sister, don't tell nobody else, 'cause
   CHORUS:  Need more--it have harmed a many men
   And that's the reason, I believe I'll make a change

   Now, bought some gloves, bought me some socks
   I believe Poor John, he needs a box, 'cause
   CHORUS

   Now, looka here, baby, see what you done done
   Done made me love you now your man done come, 'cause
   CHORUS

   Now, take me back, won't do y' mean no more
   Get all my lovin' you let Mr. So-And-So go, 'cause
   CHORUS

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 17, 2005, 11:54:18 PM
? ?Now, bought some gloves, bought me some socks
? ?I believe Poor John, he needs a box, 'cause
I once saw this transcribed as:
I believe Poor John, he sleep in a box! :)
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 20, 2005, 11:15:57 AM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded the oddly titled "Who's Been Tellin' You Buddy Brown Blues" with Hammie Nixon on harmonica and possibly another backing guitarist (Charlie Pickett?).  I think the record company may have selected the title because the song appears to be starting out as "Who's Been Tellin' You?" and takes a left turn almost instantly, never to return to the opening theme again.  The verse Sleepy John sings about Buddy Brown appeared several years earlier in Texas Alexander and Willie Reed's collaboration, "98 Degree Blues".
The song starts with two unusual eight-bar, one-chord stanzas, of the same type that Sleepy John used to open his "Down South Blues".  Were both songs recorded at the same session?  If so, perhaps the shortened opening stanza was an enthusiasm of Sleepy John's at that time.  After those two short verses, the song switches to a more conventional AAB 12-bar lyric structure. 
Sleepy John appears to pronounce the word "tellin'", "tellzin'" in the first line of the first verse.  In the second line of the first verse, I believe he uses a personalization of the word "whosoever", (found in the Gospel tune "Whosoever Will, Let Him Come") changing it to "whosonever", maybe to emphasize the falsity of the person who has been telling tales on him.  I do not know of another verse like the second in the country blues.  He may be saying "out" instead of "at" there.

   Baby, who, honey, who's been jivin' you?
   Then, whosonever told you, they did not tell you true

   Now, have you ever tried lovin' when you can't get it in your mind?
   Still, if you could find you some woman to treat you lovin' and kind

   Now, you used to be sweet, but I can't name you sweet no more (2)
   'Cause every time I come to your house, some man hangin' around your door

   Now, I'm gon' get up in the mornin', and I'm gonna do like Buddy Brown
   Now, I'm gon' get up in the mornin', I'm gonna do like Buddy Brown
   Now, I'm gonna eat my breakfast, baby, I b'lieve I'll lay back down

   Now, I know my dog anywhere I hear him bark (2)
   Now, I can tell my little woman, if I feels her in the dark

Edited 2/1/07 to pick up corrections from banjochris

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 20, 2005, 11:46:25 AM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Poor Man's Friend (T-Model)" with Hammie Nixon and a second guitarist, I believe to be Son Bonds.? Both guitarists are playing out of G position in standard tuning, and the second guitarist is working some of the same territory instrumentally that Tommy McClennan would a few years later.
Sleepy John's singing sounds influenced by Peetie Wheatstraw on this song.? He sort of breaks up Peetie's signature vocal lick, "ooo, well, well,", by starting each line with a "well, well", and then half-way through the tag line singing a downwards-moving falsetto "eee-eee".? Is this song a cover of a Peetie Wheatstraw song?? I couldn't find a Wheatstraw song with a similar title.?
One word that I had a heck of a time hearing on this is "winder", the term that Sleepy John uses for what we used to call the crank when we used it to start our tractor.? You can see that he places emphasis on not wanting to lose the crank, but also on the capacity of one Model T's crank to start all other Model Ts--Henry Ford's notion of interchangeable parts being appreciated by Sleepy John, at least.
One kind of nutty feature of this song is that you can hear someone, probably Son Bonds, doing an imitation of the sound of a flivver running after the first line of the third and final verses.? At one point, I think he also imitates the sound of steam escaping.? I guess you've got take your fun where you can find it.

? ?Well, well, when you see it in the winter, please throw your winde' ove' in the bin
? ?Well, well, when you see it in the winter, I want you t' throw your winde' ove' in the
? ? ? ? ?bin
? ?Well, well, prob'ly next spring, eee-eee, I wanta rig up my T-Model again

? ?Well, well, the T-Model Ford, I say is a poor man's friend (2)
? ?Well, well, it will help you out, eee even when your money's thin

? ?Well, well, one thing 'bout a T-Model, you don't have to shift no gear (2)
? ?Well, well, just let down on your brake and feed the gas, eee-eee and the stuff is here

? ?SPOKEN:? Sing it a long time for me, Buddy!

? ?Well, well, a V-8 Ford, and it done took to style (2)
? ?Well, well, it reach all the way from ninety, eee-eee down to a hundred miles

? ?Well, well, somebody, they done stole my winde' out on the road
? ?Well, well, somebody, done stole my winde' out on the road,
? ?Well, well, let's find somebody, eeeee, got a T-Model Ford.

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: MTJ3 on November 20, 2005, 12:40:22 PM
  The phrase "dry long so" in the tag line of the third verse is an interesting one.? I feel like I know what it means in context, but I don't know it's derivation.? Son House used it as well, I believe.? Does anyone know what its origins are?? ?

The following is the entire entry by Stephen Calt in explicating the idiom as used in "Come On In My Kitchen."

dry long so:

An' winter time comin', it's gonna be so
You can't make the winter babe, just dry long so
.

For no reason; for nothing; "without a cause." (Skip James)  An obsolete black colloquialism of unknown derivation.  Willie Moore explained it thus: "The way I always seen it, just like I come up and do somethin' to you an' you hasn't done nothin' to me--Now he done it 'dry long so.'  I'd often hear folks say that too."  Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Watching God (1937): Y'all know we can't invite people to our town just dry long so?We got to feed 'em somethin'."  Johnson's couplet apparently implies that a homeless girlfriend will find it necessary to trade sexual favors for shelter.

Stephen Calt, "The Idioms of Robert Johnson," 78 Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 4, p. 56 (1989)
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 20, 2005, 01:13:07 PM
Thanks very much for that information, MTJ3.  After reading it, I realized my contextual understanding of the phrase was wrong.  I thought it simply meant a hell of a long time.  The actual meaning is much more nuanced and mysterious.  In any case, it's really interesting to have a meaning that is so unobtainable through simple application of the dictionary definitions of the words.  It's sort of like, "You can't get there from here".  I guess that is the nature of idioms.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: waxwing on November 20, 2005, 06:43:58 PM
You guys just reminded me of a conversation I had a few years ago, shortly after I started playing guitar again and had gotten heavily into this music. I was working in a cabinet shop with three young men, two brothers and an uncle, who lived in West Oakland but still had strong ties to Mississippi and Louisiana, where one of them, Uncle Fred, had just been for a while and had married and moved back to Oakland. One day I heard one of them, Bobby, use the expression, "That's a dry long so." I asked him what he meant by that and he said, "You know, 'it's a dead cert', 'it's gonna happen for sure'". He told me the expression was still in use, both in Louisiana and Oakland.

So my interpretation of the line was, 'You can't make the winter, that's for sure.' This seems to make more sense than 'You can't make the winter, for no reason at all', which I have also seen stated by Scott Ainsley as an obsolete colloquial expression.

[Edit] After posting I realized I had't looked at the context of Jack and Jill Blues. I guess 'Reason I'm hangin' 'round here, stickin' here for sure' makes about as much sense as 'Reason I'm hangin' 'round here, stickin' here for no reason', unless you see the opening couplet to be his reason for staying?

All for now.
John C.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: dj on November 21, 2005, 07:33:21 AM
John M. Said about "Who's Been Tellin' You Buddy Brown Blues":

Quote
The song starts with two unusual eight-bar, one-chord stanzas, of the same type that Sleepy John used to open his "Down South Blues".  Were both songs recorded at the same session?  If so, perhaps the shortened opening stanza was an enthusiasm of Sleepy John's at that time.

Good guess, John!  Both songs were recorded as part of a four song session on July 9th, 1935.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 21, 2005, 10:37:32 AM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded the oddly titled "Who's Been Tellin' You Buddy Brown Blues"
(cut)
? ?Now, I'm gon' get up in the mornin', and I'm gonna do like Buddy Brown
? ?Now, I'm gon' get up in the mornin', I'm gonna do like Buddy Brown
? ?Now, I'm gonna eat my breakfast, baby, I b'lieve I'll lay back down
(cut)
As a side issue of no particular importance Kokomo Arnold recorded a Buddy Brown Blues in 1937. From memory the song is of the "mean old captain" genre, the only mention or connection with Buddy Brown being the last verse which is identical to the above.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 21, 2005, 11:07:45 AM
Well, well, when you see it in the winter, please throw your winde' over in the bin
Well, well, when you see it in the winter, I want you t' throw your winde' over in the ?bin
This couplet has been the subject of debate since time immemorial - well ceratinly since its first appearance on LP (Blues Rediscoveries, RBF11, 1966). I don't suppose this holds much credence but around 1972 Chris Smith (I think it was) went into print with this suggestion:

Well, well when you seize in the winter, please throw your valve in the bin
Well, well, when you seize the winter, I want you t' throw your valve in the bin

When I listen, I hear something sounding like "whilve".
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 21, 2005, 12:27:57 PM
Hi Bunker Hill,
That line in "Poor Man's Friend" is certainly tough to hear/interpret, but I'm pretty satisfied I've got it right.? I think that the concluding "v" sound comes from "ove'", Sleepy John's shortened version of "over".? The fact that Sleepy John mentions the "winder" in the first and last verses ties it all together, I think.? In the first verse, it seems to me that he is saying that he will not be driving the car in the winter in any event, but if you see the crank, put it in the bin so that he will know where to find it when he wants to start up the car next spring and use it again.? Of course, this may just be wishful listening on my part, too!
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 23, 2005, 07:32:11 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Street Car Blues" with Yank Rachell on mandolin and Jab Jones on piano.  It is one of their roughest numbers.  Yank's tuning is very wet on this one and his unisons and octaves are more approximate than was normally the case for him, and Sleepy John is for the most part simply strumming big chords.  Sleepy John's vocal phrasing on this one would be very tough to follow if you were not accustomed to it.  He inserts a one beat pause into his phrasing of the second bar of most of the four-bar phrases.  But then, he doesn't do it on occasion, too, so as an accompanist you just have to listen like crazy and try to land strongly when he finishes a phrase.
Sleepy John starts the song out talking about the, I assume, recently installed street car system in his town.  The "A" line in the second verse is really hard to hear; he appears to be talking about a place to catch a trolley, and I finally heard "Century and Poplar", though that may not be right.  Sleepy John really crafted his lyrics, you know.  He begins every repetition of his "A" lines with "I say".  It's a little touch, but it gives the whole thing a nice unity.

   Now, I know the people is on a wonder ev'ywhere
   I say, I know the people is on a wonder ev'ywhere
   Because they heard of Poor John, was strollin' 'round a 'lectric car

   Now, catch at Century 'n' Poplar, ride it down to Summer Street
   I say, I catch at Century 'n' Poplar, ride it down to Summer Street
   Lord, I'm gon' ease it down in Roebust catch my baby out on a midnight creep

   Lord, the reasonin' why, babe, I been so long writin' to you
   I say, the reasonin' why, babe, I been so long writin' to you
   Because I've been studyin' so hard, Lord, how to sing these blues

   SPOKEN:  Sing 'em, boy, for Mr. James
   
   Lord, I lost my papa and my dear mama too
   I say, I lost my papa and my dear mama too.
   Lord, I'm gon' quit my bad way of livin' and visit the Sunday School

Edited 11/24 to pick up correction from Bunker Hill

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 24, 2005, 10:14:06 AM
? ?Now, catch at Century 'n' Poplar, ride it down to Summer Street
? ?I say, I catch at Century 'n' Poplar, ride it down to Summer Street
? ?Lord, I'm gon' ease it down in Rover's catch my baby out on a midnight creep
SJE told Sam Charters in 1962 that "electric cars went from the south end of town to Summer Street".? He also said that Roebust (probably a phonetic) was a small town outside Memphis. Armed with this information and a bit of interpolation from a post war recording could it be:

Now catch the Central and crawl [aboard?], ride it down to Summer Street
I say, catch the Central and crawl [aboard?], ride it down to Summer Street
Lord I'm goin'ase it down in Roebust catch my baby out on a midnight creep

Rather iffy but something to chew upon. Yes?
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 24, 2005, 07:10:28 PM
Thanks for the tip, Bunker Hill.? I dug out my first Sleepy John re-issue on RBF yesterday after I posted the lyrics and saw the mention of "Roebust".? Boy, when it comes to transcribing lyrics, place names are my nemesis.? I will make that change, and as for the "crawl", I will check it out over this week-end while I'm away, and see how it sounds.? If he used it on a post-rediscovery recording, it seems like that was probably his intent on the original recording too.?

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 25, 2005, 03:32:22 AM
(cut) and as for the "crawl", I will check it out over this week-end while I'm away, and see how it sounds.? If he used it on a post-rediscovery recording, it seems like that was probably his intent on the original recording too.?
Must admit even on that it's an indistinct drawl and not much like what is heard on the original. So please don't hold too much store by that.? I'm not totally convinced myself. BTW thanks for reminding me of the RBF which I too unearthed to find the insert sheet is peppered with scribbled lyric amendments. Against Needmore I have added the 'harmed many men' refrain with the comment, "Are you deaf?". What an arrogant, sad teenager I must have been forty years ago! :( There are those who might say some things just don't change. :)
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 28, 2005, 12:09:20 PM
Well, you know, Bunker Hill, I don't think most teen-agers are very forgiving of what they perceive as their elders' short-comings.  Don't be too tough on yourself--I don't reckon I was exactly the soul of generosity at that age either.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 28, 2005, 12:38:36 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Drop Down (Don't Feel Welcome Here)" with Robert Lee McCoy and a washboard player who is not named on the CD where I found the song.  On "Mailman Blues", which I transcribed earlier in this thread, and which also features Robert Lee McCoy, I commented on his open harmonica tone.  John C. suggested that the open tone might be due to playing the harmonica on a rack.  I wasn't sure, because I thought Sleepy John was playing guitar on that number, which would remove any incentive to play the harp in other than the conventional manner.
After listening to "Drop Down" and several other songs featuring Robert Lee McCoy, I now think John C. was right on the money, that Robert Lee was playing both harmonica and guitar on "Drop Down" and "Mailman Blues", and that Sleepy John was handling the vocals only.  Robert Lee was quite a musician.  His harmonica playing was superb, really rhythmically crisp, and with excellent tone, and his guitar-playing interestingly varied.  On "Drop Down" he is playing in E position, standard tuning, and employing a sort of Jump Blues, four-to-the-bar accompaniment strum.  He may be flat-picking or using a thumb pick. 
"Drop Down" is a 12-bar (theoretically) chorus blues.  The aspect that must have made it tricky to accompany Sleepy John is his varied reading of the first line of the chorus, in particular the "aahh", which he stretches to different lengths almost every time he sings it.  The way the chorus is set up, the word "drop" is scheduled to arrive on the downbeat of the fifth bar, at the point in the form at which the IV chord arrives, with "here" arriving on the downbeat of the seventh bar, with the return of the I chord.  In practice, the front end of the chorus is pulled all over the place, and it is really admirable the way Robert Lee McCoy is able to keep the swingy groove clipping along behind such liberties of phrasing--no problem.  If you think this kind of thing is easy to do, try copying it.  You will pretty much have to memorize the entire rendition, and even then you will just have the way they happened to play it at that recording session.  It's one reason why assiduous imitation can only get you so far in this music.

   Now, the old lady, comin' down the line
   She were loaded in front, she were bouncin' behind
   CHORUS:  B'lieve I'll drop down, aahh, I don't feel welcome here
   Now, I'm gon' get me a woman for the brand new in-comin' year

   Went to the barbershop to get me a shine
   Say, "Go away, darkie, to that door down the line."
   CHORUS

   Met a old lady, had, jug of wine
   Say, "Go away, son, you can't play the liar."
   CHORUS

   Look here, baby, see what you done done
   It's, made me love you now your man done come
   CHORUS

   'Way down yonde' in the old West End
   Women down there look like section men
   CHORUS

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 28, 2005, 12:54:28 PM
Robert Lee was quite a musician.? His harmonica playing was superb, really rhythmically crisp, and with excellent tone, and his guitar-playing interestingly varied.?
For anybody interested here's his entire prewar sessions in chronological order (1936-41) along with one or two 'sound bites':

http://www.baddogblues.com/nighthawk/prewar.htm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 28, 2005, 08:06:25 PM
Hi all,
I was trolling through the back pages of the Weenie Main Forum today, and on page 9 found a link to one of Stefan Wirz's amazing discographies, on Sleepy John Estes, for anyone whose interest in his music has been piqued by this thread.  Thanks, Stefan!
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: MTJ3 on November 28, 2005, 10:40:59 PM
"Lawyer Clark"

"'Nother song was 'Lawyer Clark.'? Yeah.? A lawyer in Brownsville, Huey Clark.? Best lawyer they said, keep you out of jail.? He'd book John out of jail, a lot of times, 'cause John get drunk every holiday and go to jail.? They wouldn't make him pay nothin'.? Let him out when he get sober."

Interview of Yank Rachell.? Richard Congress, Blues Mandolin Man--The Life and Music of Yank Rachell, p. 32.

The Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee does not have a record of any Clark who was licensed as a lawyer fitting Yank's description.  Their early records could have been incomplete or Clark could have come up through an apprenticeship program before formal bar admission was required.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: dj on November 29, 2005, 04:57:25 AM
Quote
Sleepy John recorded "Drop Down (Don't Feel Welcome Here)" with Robert Lee McCoy and a washboard player who is not named on the CD where I found the song.

A good guess as to the identity of the washboard player would be Ann (or Amanda) Sortier.  She was Robert Lee McCoy's girlfriend (or wife) at the time, she played washboard, and she was present on vocals and washboard at the Robert Lee McCoy session recorded the day after "Drop Down (Don't Feel Welcome Here)".

Quote
Robert Lee was quite a musician.

I'd certainly agree with that.  Check out his Friar's Point Blues.  Not a flashy performance, but everything fits together just right.  It's on the Juke.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 29, 2005, 11:07:27 AM
Hi all,
Thanks, MTJ3 and dj for the additional information.? If that was Amanda Sortier playing washboard on "Drop Down", she was a hell of a washboard player.? She sounds great!
Sleepy John recorded "Clean Up At Home", playing out of C position, standard tuning, backed by Charlie Pickett, I believe, capoed three frets higher and playing out of A position, standard tuning.? Musically, "Clean Up At Home" is a 12-bar chorus blues, essentially the same as "Diddy Wah Diddy", but with different lyrics and heavier, rougher time.? Sleepy John slightly modifies the chorus following the last two verses.? It's a nice touch and makes the whole thing fresher.?
I need some help with the lyrics on this one.? In verse two, the blank space sounds like "bethted", which makes no sense at all.? I'm also unclear on the bracketed section in the next to last verse.? Any help would certainly be appreciated.? Incidentally, can anyone think of any other country blues songs that make suggestions for building "life skills"?? I can't think of any right off the bat.? "Clean Up At Home" may be a one-of-a-kind song, in terms of its subject matter.

? ?I wash my clothes, I hang 'em by the fire
? ?Get up in the mornin' they be thoroughly dry
? ?CHORUS:? Clean up at home, clean up at home
? ?Clean up at home, I 'clare you can't go wrong

? ?I went to the beer tavern, tryin' to make me a dime
? ?Said, "Go 'way, boy, clean up and git on some time."
? ?CHORUS

? ?Five cents cap and ten cent suit
? ?Then y'all think I'm tryin' to act cute, I want to
? ?CHORUS

? ?I was doin' somethin' that you can't do
? ?Go 'round on State Street, get a woman for a pot of stew, you have to
? ?CHORUS: Clean up at home, you have to clean up at home,
? ?Clean up at home, I 'clare you can't go wrong

? ?I played for the colored, I played for the white
? ?All you got to do, act kinda nice, you got to
? ?CHORUS:? Clean up at home, you got to clean up at home
? ?Clean up at home, 'clare you can't go wrong

Edited 11/29 to pick up phrase from Bunker Hill and dj
Edited 12/2 to pick up phrase from Bunker Hill

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 29, 2005, 11:54:19 AM
In verse two, the blank space sounds like "bethted", which makes no sense at all.?
In the version recorded at the 1964 Newport Concert he repeats the verse twice and it sound as if he's attempting 'bare t'vert' (beer tavern?) but given the context it doesn't fit.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: dj on November 29, 2005, 03:50:32 PM
I've always heard the first line of the second verse of "Clean Up At Home"as "I went to the downtown tryin' to make me a dime", i.e. John was going to sing on the street, but listening to it closely now, I'll be darned if I don't hear "I went to the beer tavern", with the v pretty much swallowed.  That fourth verse has got me stumped right now.

One thing that this song illustrates is how atypical Estes's vocabulary was, something he shares with Peg Leg Howell.  I certainly can't think of another blues song of that era that uses the word "thoroughly".
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 29, 2005, 04:10:27 PM
Thanks very much, Bunker Hill and dj, for the lyric suggestion.? I agree with you, David, after having been completely baffled by this line, "beer tavern", can be heard there pretty darn clearly.? I will make the change.? That line has been making me crazy.

I know what you mean about Sleepy John's unusual usages, David.? Another word he liked to use a lot was "probably".? Washington Phillips loved the word "certainly", as in
? ?I had a real good mother and father, they certainly stood the test.
Washington Phillips never missed an opportunity to use that word.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: MTJ3 on November 29, 2005, 11:08:34 PM
Re: Special Agent

Sorry to be late to the party on this.  Great topic.  I just don't have time to read it regularly and thoroughly.

This song was burned in my brain from the old RBF "Country Blues" record and has always been one of my favorites; I'm especially glad Johnm pointed out the metrical irregularity, because I thought it was simply that I was inept at counting. 

John Estes had recorded in Chicago on July 9, 1935, and July 17, 1935.  This song was recorded in NYC on April 22, 1938.  I had always thought of this as a narrative of his trip to one of his Chicago sessions.  In the first line of the first verse, he plainly says "left for Ripley;" in the second line, he could say a heavily elided "for," but it sounds more like "a," which he uses almost as a place holder in "Liquor Store," recorded on the same day as this song (as in "you can get everything you want a in my liquor store").  Centralia, where he is sitting in the fourth verse, is in south central Illinois (and, in fact, was named after the Illinois Central line); he's been caught by the special agent and put off the train, and needs to get to his recording session in Chicago.  The flies in the ointment of that theory are: (1) he didn't record in months that should have been cold when he would have left TN for Chicago for or left from Chicago following a session, and (2) if that is the story, the narrative thread isn't straight (i.e., he'd been put off in the fourth verse and makes his plea to be put off in a favorable location in the fifth verse).  In any case, perhaps it was only semi-autobiographical, he combined a number of incidents, there was poetic license, and all that--so maybe he said "for" in the first verse and really meant it.

In any case, a few comments or suggestions.  1. In verse two, I don'[t hear "97," I hear "manifest," which is slang for a fast train or a freight train.  2. With respect to verse three, "rail box" is sometimes used to mean "box car" (so freight rail box would be sort of redundant).  John had gotten on the train and climbed down through one of the hatches in the roof into the box car and had been surprised by the special agent sneaking over the boards on the box car, whom John didn't hear approach. 3. I don't hear "train" in the last line of the fourth verse (compare train earlier in that verse and in the previous verse).  I think I hear John say "drag," which is slang for a slow probably heavily laden freight train.  Of course, they didn't give him the alternative of riding a slower train; they just put him off, and he could only catch a slow train. 4. B&GR suggests that the accompanist is Son Bonds or Charlie Pickett.  Either way, exciting playing.

Best regards.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 30, 2005, 09:43:02 AM
Thanks very much for your careful listening to "Special Agent", MTJ3.  I agree with your corrections in virtually every instance, I think.  "Manifest" is correct for sure.  I had heard "manifest" but knew the term only in its shipping manifest connotation, and thus thought it didn't make any sense.  "Drag" is also dead on the money.  Your knowledge of the railroad terminology is really helpful in figuring out these lyrics.  I will make the changes.
I had not thought the lyrics were describing a particular trip, but it is interesting to hear how the geography as outlined in the narrative of the lyrics would not add up to a trip in sequence, in any event.  Sleepy John is one of the only blues singers I can think of with the consciousness to have a self-referencing line like, "I ought to be recording right now", or in another song, "The reason why, babe, I been so long writing to you is 'cause I been studyin', Lord, how to sing these blues".  He was really great.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on November 30, 2005, 12:51:16 PM
That fourth verse has got me stumped right now.
I've been busting my brains listening to this for half an hour and, don't laugh too loud, but sound to me like:

Go down on State Street, get a woman (f)or a pot of stew

Oh well... :(
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 30, 2005, 11:32:09 PM
Hi Bunker Hill,
I'm not liable to laugh at "for a pot of stew", because it beats the hell out of "four-post you", which was what I heard.  That is really a tough phrase to hear.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on November 30, 2005, 11:50:04 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Married Woman Blues" with Hammie Nixon on harmonica.  It is an odd tune, musically.  It is so pared back in terms of its harmony and melody that it is almost as if it is written in code; it's very close to being static.  Hammie plays a signature lick in the response bars, the third and fourth bars of each four bar phrase, that hearkens back to some of the earlier songs that Sleepy John recorded with Yank Rachell and Jab Jones that employed signature licks in the same fashion.  The sound on "Married Woman Blues" is almost as if Sleepy John and Hammie were trying to conserve energy.  It's hard to decide if it was a "make weight" tune, or simply in a deep trance.  It begins with one of the odd 8-bar stanzas that Sleepy John also used in "Down South Blues" and "Who's Been Telling You Buddy Brown Blues", both of which were recorded around the same time.

   Now, don't never take a married woman to be your friend
   She will get all your money, play her same man back again

   Now, a married woman, she always been my crave
   Now, a married woman, always been my crave
   Now, a married woman gon' carry me to my grave

   Now, I looked down the railroad 'til my eyes got green and cold
   Now, I looked down the railroad 'til my eyes got green and sore
   If you don't come tomorrow, the next day will be my goal

   Now, it musta be train time, I hear the whistle blow (2)
   Now, it blows just like it ain't gonna blow no more

   Now, just as sure as the grass on this earth grow green (2)
   I ain't crazy about no woman that I ever seen

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: dj on December 02, 2005, 05:05:42 AM
Quote
I've been busting my brains listening to this for half an hour and, don't laugh too loud, but it sounds to me like:

Go down on State Street, get a woman (f)or a pot of stew

When I first read this I laughed so loud that you must have heard me across the Atlantic.  But after a few dozen more listenings, you may have something there.  John pronounces "pot" more like "pote".  This interpretation of the lyric does make some sense, as John would be boasting that his housekeeping abilities are something that women find attractive.  I like it, and am happy to go with this interpretation unless and until someone comes up with something better.

Apologies for that initial guffaw...   :)
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on December 02, 2005, 10:49:14 AM
Hi all,
It sounds like Sleepy John is saying "for a post due" on "Clean Up At Home" to me, but it makes no sense, and "for a pot of stew" does make some sense, particularly with the spin that dj has put on it, so until we come up with something more convincing I will make the change.  I do like the interpretation because it goes along with the general theme of self-improvement in "Clean Up At Home", something you don't encounter all that often in blues lyrics.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on December 02, 2005, 10:56:07 AM
It sounds like Sleepy John is saying "for a post due" on "Clean Up At Home" to me, but it makes no sense, and "for a pot of stew" does make some sense, particularly with the spin that dj has put on it, so until we come up with something more convincing I will make the change.? I do like the interpretation because it goes along with the general theme of self-improvement in "Clean Up At Home", something you don't encounter all that often in blues lyrics.
I think it rather surreal, all the same. ;D
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on December 08, 2005, 11:53:25 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Stone Blind Blues" in 1948, evidently for the Ora Nelle label, out of Chicago.? He is joined on the song by Hammie Nixon on harmonica, and someone playing either a bass drum or an unusually thuddy and toneless washtub bass; it's very hard to tell.? I checked and this cut is not on the Document releases of his complete pre-War recordings (with good reason, it's not pre-War).? I found it on a CD on the completeBLUES label, an English label run by Snapper Music, and it's number is SBLUESCD028.? I purchased the CD at a local Tower Records store and it cost under $10.00.? With 25 titles, it's a good deal if you can find it.
Musically, "Stone Blind Blues" works off of the 16-bar "Careless Love" archetype, as did "Floating Bridge Blues", that Sleepy John recorded several years earlier.? Somewhat surprisingly, Sleepy John capos up and plays "Stone Blind Blues" out of the G position in standard tuning, pitched at B.? He makes some interesting modifications to the chord progression, as follows.? The chord changes as they are normally played are shown in parentheses, the ones Sleepy John played are non-parenthetic.

|? ? ? ? ? I? ? ? ? ? ?|? ? ? ? ? I (V7)? ? ? |? ? ? ? ?I? ? ? ? ? ?|? ? ? ? I? ? ? ? ? |

|? ? ? ? IV (I)? ? ? |? ? ? ? ?IV (I)? ? ? ?|? ? ? ?V7? ? ? ? ? |? ? I (V7)? ? ?|

|? ? ? ? ?I? ? ? ? ? ? |? ? ? ? ? I (I7)? ? ? ?|? ? ? ? ?IV? ? ? ? ?|? ? I (IV)? ? ?|

|? ? ? ?V7 (I)? ? ? |? ? ? ? ? ?V7? ? ? ? ?|? ? ? ? ? I? ? ? ? ? ?|? ? I? ? ? ? ? ?|

Sleepy John had evidently lost sight in his one eye that previously had vision shortly before this song was recorded (he had lost sight in one eye as a child).? He sounds desolate as he sings about his situation.? The third verse is especially tough.? I would appreciate any help with the portions of the lyrics enclosed by bent brackets.

? ?Now, I been well-warned and I didn't take heed in time
? ?Now, I been well-warned, didn't take heed in time
? ?Now, I been well-warneded [sic], I didn't take heed in time
? ?I done lost my health and gone stone blind

? ?Now I'm 'ant to know your friends when you get down
? ?Now I want to know your friends, you get down (2)
? ?They be always askin' 'bout you, don't never come around

? ?Now, when you lose your eyesight, your best friend gone (3)
? ?Your [? ??? ?],? just people want to fool with you wrong

? ?Now, my mother and my father are both dead and gone (2)
? ?Now, my mother and my father, they both dead and gone
? ?You know they left me 'round here, still stumblin' along

? ?Now, I was standin' on the corner, close 'side the wall (2)
? ?Now, I was standin' on the corner, I was close 'side the wall
? ?Only way I c'd tell my friend I had to catch [these? ??? ? ]

Edited 12/13 to pick up line from Bunker Hill

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on December 09, 2005, 01:39:26 AM
Sleepy John recorded "Stone Blind Blues" in 1948, evidently for the Ora Nelle label, out of Chicago.?
Just on a point of information Bernie and Red Abrams, who owned Maxwell Radio and Records Store, were also behind Ora Nelle. About 35 years ago Bernie sold George Paulus a whole bunch of his unissued acetates of which one was the Estes. To quote Abrams "...everyone came in to make records to give a girlfriend or as a demo..." FWIW Abrams didn't recall who the washtub bassist or Estes's harmonica playing friend were.

I have the 70s Barrelhouse LP from which the Estes was undoutedly dubbed so I'll see if 'first generation' reissue is any clearer.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on December 09, 2005, 03:41:59 AM
Quote from: Bunker Hill link=topic=1763.msg14321#msg14321
I have the 70s Barrelhouse LP from which the Estes was undoutedly dubbed so I'll see if 'first generation' reissue is any clearer.
It's no clearer there, however Estes did an almost word for word recreation for Pete Welding in 1962 (Lost My Eyesight) and fwiw here's how the missing sections are sung on that:

that day [?] people an' friends won't fool with y' long
(? is run into 'people' and just can't fathom it.)

and

Only way I? could tell my friend I had to catch the bus

Perhaps this will aid a relisten John.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Stuart on December 09, 2005, 06:58:56 AM
John:

It looks like the CD in question, "Someday Baby Blues," is readily available--at the usual web stores, at least. Pricegrabber.com listed about 1/2 dozen. AllDirect.com has it for $6.65.

Here's the track list:
 
 1. Broken Hearted, Ragged And Dirty Too   
 2. Floating Bridge   
 3. Lawyer Clark Blues   
 4. Harlem Bound   
 5. Divin' Duck Blues   
 6. Liquor Store Blues   
 7. Watcha Doin'   
 8. Working Man Blues   
 9. Someday Baby Blues   
 10. Girl I Love She Got Long Curly Hair, The   
 11. Special Agent Blues   
 12. Easin' Back To Tennessee   
 13. Stone Blind Blues   
 14. Milk Cow Blues   
 15. Clean Up At Home   
 16. Tell Me How About It   
 17. I Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More   
 18. Jack And Jill Blues   
 19. You Shouldn't Do That   
 20. Stop That Thing   
 21. Hobo Jungle Blues   
 22. Brownsville Blues   
 23. Drop Down Mama   
 24. Everybody Oughta Make A Change   
 25. Time Is Drawing Near   

As you say, its a good deal. Thanks for the tip.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on December 09, 2005, 08:00:42 AM
It looks like the CD in question, "Someday Baby Blues," is readily available--at the usual web stores, at least. Pricegrabber.com listed about 1/2 dozen. AllDirect.com has it for $6.65.
Harlem Bound?is the other Ora Nelle acetate Paulus purchased.
None of the super Sam Phillips recordings present, can't for the life of me understand why. [written tongue firmly in cheek] ;D
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on December 09, 2005, 11:36:36 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Time Is Drawing Near" backed by the solo flat-picked guitar of Robert Lee McCoy (Robert Nighthawk).? McCoy is playing out of C position in standard tuning, and is really nifty here, with some of the more uptown-sounding playing out of C position this side of Gene Campbell.
"Time Is Drawing Near" is a 12-bar chorus blues, a format that Sleepy John really liked.? He was in sensational voice here, but his enunciation is, if anything, a bit harder to understand than usual.? He pronounces "drawing" with the added "r" that is often found inserted between consecutive syllables when the first ends with and the second starts with a vowel sound.? In the third verse, he pronounces "winter", "wunter", with a soft "u" sound, and pronounces "budding", "burding".? Any help with the bent bracketed phrases would be greatly appreciated.? I really like these lyrics; Sleepy John seems to have been more likely to drop into this kind of contemplative, philosophical mood than just about any blues singer I can call to mind.

? ?Now, it used to be the time, be gettin' two bucks a day
? ?But now we gettin' fifty cent, run 'em down for ['alf our] pay
? ?CHORUS:? Time, time is drawring near
? ?Now, can't you see?? More and more ev'y year

? ?Now, I 'member back in time, 'fore we got grown
? ?We daren't let sundown catch us away from home
? ?CHORUS

? ?Now, my mother used to say, "The sign will be."
? ?We couldn't tell summer from winter, no more by the budding of the trees
? ?CHORUS

? ?Now, it used to be the time, get a corn crop in March
? ?But now we can't get one in June, and neither July
? ?CHORUS

? ?Now, used to go to the church, just to work for soul
? ?But now we go, talk about one another's clothes
? ?CHORUS

Edited 12/10 to pick up corrections from Bunker Hill

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on December 10, 2005, 02:09:52 AM
I really like these lyrics; Sleepy John seems to have been more likely to drop into this kind of contemplative, philosophical mood than just about any blues singer I can call to mind.
Absolutely, a touch of Working Man's Blues about it. FWWI I think he's singing:

But now we gettin' fifty cent, rather than drawin' proper pay

and

Now, my mother used to say, the sign will be
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on December 10, 2005, 09:47:13 AM
Hi Bunker Hill,
Thanks very much for the help with the lyrics.  "The sign will be" is definitely on the money, and I have made the change.  Do you have a post-rediscovery recording of Sleepy John doing this one?  The reason I ask is that "rather than drawin' proper pay" makes great sense, but I can't get there from the phonetics I'm hearing on this version.  I will keep listening.  It took me a very long time to hear "girl" in the first verse of Ishmon Bracey's "Suitcase Full Of Blues".  Did Sleepy John do "Time Is Drawing Near" in his later years?
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on December 10, 2005, 11:05:29 AM
Did Sleepy John do "Time Is Drawing Near" in his later years?
Yes for Bob Koester in 1962 and remained unissued until Delmark revamped the Brownsville Blues LP (613) as a CD and added that along with five others. Can't lay hand to it at present (misfiled?), anybody else out there have the CD?
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on December 14, 2005, 12:11:52 AM
Hi all,
My discographical information shows that Sleepy John Estes recorded "You Shouldn't Do That" with Son Bonds playing guitar, Raymond Thomas doing "imitation bass", and Sleepy John playing kazoo in addition to guitar and handling the vocal lead.? The song is a bit of a departure from Sleepy John's normal repertoire.? It is a kind of jump blues, with Son Bonds and Raymond Thomas (I assume) singing a response line of, "Shouldn't say that, you shouldn't say that.", at the conclusion of each of Sleepy John's lines.? This, taken in combination with Son Bonds' swingy, four-to-the-bar strumming, makes for a far more uptown sound than I'm accustomed to hearing from Sleepy John at that point in his career.? Sleepy John's kazoo playing (or is it Son Bonds'?) is pretty spectacular on this cut.? In a solo after the third verse, the kazoo player launches into a whooping vocalization in the middle of the solo, reminding me a bit of the great tenor saxophone player Dewey Redman, who sometimes vocalizes while blowing his horn.
Once again, Sleepy John's lyrics are occasionally pretty hard to make out, so any help with phrases in bent brackets would really be appreciated.? The first verse makes sense if you think of Sleepy John counseling against being too hospitable to a visitor.

? ?Don't a man do wrong, tell the man make hisself at home? (2)
? ?He may come back, catch his head while you later on

? ?Man go out and gamble and lose all his change (2)
? ?He come back home and the wife have to bear the blame

? ?Don't a man act funny when a strange woman ease in town? (2)
? ?He stay out all night, he throw his homegirl down

? ?I noticed you never loved me when you fell down on my knee
? ?I noticed you didn't love me when you fell down on my knee
? ?Ya had been drinkin' that old moonshine and tryin' to jive poor me

? ?I won't play marble on my baby's marble ground (2)
? ?I don't be worried with the teef, I'm gon' move out the edge of town

Edited 12/14 to pick up correction from Bunker Hill
Edited 12/14, to make more changes

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on December 14, 2005, 11:47:47 AM
The first verse makes sense if you think of Sleepy John counseling against being too hospitable to a visitor.

? ?Don't a man do wrong, tell the man, "Make yourself at home."? (2)
? ?He may come back, catch his [head while] you later on

? ?Don't a man act funny when a strange woman ease in town? (2)
? ?He stay out all night, he throw his [hunger] down

FWIW I've always heard like follows, but that might just be me honing in on a later recording. Until I get a moment to listen I pass these on for consideration:

Don't a man do wrong, 'til a man make himself at home." (2)
He may come back, catch his head while you been gone

Don't a man act funny when a strange woman ease in town? (2)
He stay out all night, he throw his home girl down

The final verse was once the subject of great debate. From memory I seem to recall that it was accepted he's singing something like "tees" but one who knew their marbles (!) pointed out that there was (is?) a large marble named something like a "taw". No time to research this now but may feel moved to do so later.

Good luck and keep up the good work.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on December 14, 2005, 04:49:02 PM
Thanks for your suggestions, Bunker Hill, and as usual you have helped.  "Homegirl" is definitely right--it sounds right and makes perfect sense in the verse.  And you are right, there is a playing marble called a "taw".  What's weird is that what he's saying sounds nothing like "taw", but rather, "tees", as you note.  And how does "moving to the edge of town" play into the whole thing?  Your first verse makes more sense than what I heard.  Reconciling hearing with sense is really tough sometimes.
Incidentally, I somehow missed your suggestions for "Stone Blind Blues" until last night, and you had a good one in there, too.  Thanks so much.  I'm coming to realize what a luxury it is to have the later recordings of Sleepy John to do the comparisons with.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on January 01, 2006, 12:56:02 AM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Jailhouse Blues" backed by Robert Lee McCoy on harmonica and guitar, from the sound of it.  Musically, "Jailhouse Blues" is very close to "Mailman Blues".  Sleepy John is pretty free with his phrasing here, and it doesn't seem to faze Robert Lee McCoy one bit.
Sleepy John's lyrical stance is a bit unusual on this one; rather than trotting out the "I got a bum rap" cliche, he cops to his wrongdoing.  What great singing!  I could use some help on the last verse in the bracketed sections, and any help would certainly be appreciated.  Sleepy John pronounces the word I believe to be "squirrelly" something like "squally".

   Now, I was settin' in jail, with my eyes all full of tears (2)
   You know I'm glad I didn't get lifetime, boys, and I escaped the electric chair

   Now, I consulted lawyers, and I know durned well I was wrong (2)
   You know I couldn't get a white man in Brownsville, yes, to even say they would go     
   my bond

   Now, the sheriff, he arrested me, and he marched me 'round in front of the circuit court
   Now, the sheriff, he arrested me, you know he marched me 'round in front of the circuit court
   You know I knowed this thing was gettin' kind of squirrelly, I heard the city judge when he cleared up his throat.

   "Now, no more stew bowl and neither no more white rice (2)
   Now, y'all need not be uneasy, you won't have to take the workhouse advice."

Edited 2/1/07 to pick up corrections from banjochris

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on January 01, 2006, 02:00:43 AM
I could use some help on the last verse in the bracketed sections, and any help would certainly be appreciated.? Sleepy John pronounces the word I believe to be "squirrelly" something like "squally".
This is a brilliant song for the reason you give. The above verses have long been the subject of debate - 'verse unintelligible'? was Sam Charters's 1964 opinion of the final one.? ;D

A couple of decades ago I got involved in such a debate with somebody who was writing on the subject of prison songs in blues. After months of endless listening we came up with:

Now, the sheriff, he arrested me, you know he marched me 'round in front of the circuit court (x2)
You know I knowed this thing was gettin' kinda squalid, I heard the city judge when he 'clared Estes go.

Now, no more stew y'all boys, and neither no more white rice (2)
Now, y'all need not be uneasy, you won't have to take this workhouse advice."

My problem now is that on relistening I'm not at all sure about any of this and there's no postwar version to compare. I nevertheless put it forward if only to be greeted with hoots of derision.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on January 01, 2006, 12:44:47 PM
Wow, I can see I am going to have to do some more listening to this one, Bunker Hill.  The idea of a judge giving advice on which items in the jail diet plan to avoid is an interesting one.  My initial reaction to "squalid" is dubious, but Sleepy John uses "consulted" in verse two as plain as day, and that's no more plausible than "squalid" on the face of it. 
It is a great performance, and I don't think I gave Robert Lee McCoy enough credit in my original post.  He must be one of the very best there has been at playing guitar and harmonica on a rack simultaneously, and doing interesting things on both instruments that are seemingly independent of each other.  I think Lightnin' Hopkins was influenced by his playing, too.  There's something about Robert Lee's playing in E that really seems like an omen of things to come a few years later with Lightnin'.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: banjochris on February 01, 2006, 03:35:58 PM
I can't figure out how to add a quote from so far back, but...

I've finally gotten around to reading through all these lyrics -- what a great job John M. -- I've been somewhat obsessed with Sleepy John lately.

Anyway, I have a suggestion for "Liquor Store Blues." I don't think John is singing "4th Street," but Forrest City, which is in Arkansas, not too far from Memphis.
Chris
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on February 01, 2006, 10:37:43 PM
Hi Banjo Chris,
Thanks for the good words, and thanks also for the correction to the lyrics of "Liquor Store Blues".  I went back and listened and you are certainly right--Sleepy John is saying "Forrest City" and not "Fourth Street".  I will make the change. 
Sleepy John is worthy of obsession, there can be no doubt.  I'm going to listen to "My Black Gal Blues", my particular favorite, right now--give myself a treat.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on February 18, 2006, 09:43:47 AM
Hi all,
Sleepy John Estes recorded "Vernita Blues" at a session in New York City on August 2, 1937, and was joined on the track by Hammie Nixon on harmonica and either Charlie Pickett or Son Bonds on second guitar.  From the way the guitars are right on top of each other, I am inclined to think that it was Bonds, but I certainly don't know for sure. 
"Vernita Blues" is played out of C, standard tuning, and apart from a standard issue amazing vocal from Sleepy John, has a couple of interesting structural twists.  The first and third verses begin with an 8-bar break in which the pulse switches to a double time feel, like so:

| I-IV | I-IV | I-IV | I-IV | I-IV | I-IV | I-IV | I-IV |
|       IV     |        IV     |       I       |       I       |
|      V       |       V       |       I       |       I       |

The double time feel is maintained through the change to the IV chord and through the second line, but the rate of harmonic change slows down to that of the slower tempo used in the rest of the song.
It's hard to know whether to make anything at all of Sleepy John's switching from Vernita to Alberta in verse four.  Since he doesn't switch back to Vernita halfway through the verse, it seems intentional.

   Vernita, honey, what you what me to do?
   Vernit', baby, what you want me to do?
   Now, I done ev'ythang, but I can't get along wit' you

   Now, see Vernita, tell her hurry home, had no lovin', since she been gone
   See Vernita, please tell her t' hurry home
   Now, I ain't had no lovin' since my Vernita been gone

   Vernita, baby, where did you stay last night?
   Vernita, honey, where did you stay last night?
   Now, you come home this mornin', yes, the moon was shinin' bright

   Now, met Alberta, 'cross to the sea, she didn't write me no letters, she didn't care for me
   I met Alberta 'way 'cross the sea
   Now, she didn't write me no letter and she didn't care for me

   Vernita, could anything I do to change your mind?
   Vernit', could anything I do to change your mind?
   Now, I could come to love you, if you would treat me nice and kind

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on February 19, 2006, 11:47:39 AM
Hi all,
Sleepy John Estes recorded "Stack O' Dollars Blues" in May of 1930, in a session that also yielded his "My Black Gal Blues" and the Yank Rachell-sung "Sweet Mama".  For the session, Sleepy John was joined by Yank on mandolin and Jab Jones on piano.  Coincidentally, Charley Jordan recorded his own "Stack O' Dollars Blues", his first recording, about one month later, but it is too different musically and lyrically, to be very closely related to John Estes's version of the song, which wouldn't have been released at that point anyway. 
The way the trio of Sleepy John, Yank, and Jab kept time is really difficult to fathom sometimes.  On the full-form solo that opens the performance, Jab Jones leads off with the same motif, reminiscent of "Blue Monk", that he used for "My Black Gal Blues".  Yank enters at the IV chord.  Jab is early to the V chord, but Sleepy John stubornly holds his harmonic ground and the band is together entering the first verse.
The song employs a complex hybrid phrasing archetype, combining a stammering first line, a la "Bullfrog Blues", with an enthusiasm interjection, like "Hey Lawdy Mama" or "Big Road Blues" at the tail end of the first four bars.  The way Sleepy John phrases the first four bars, especially towards the tail end of the line, is so loosey-goosey as to induce a kind of musical vertigo, but he ends up being consistent throughout the song in the following fashion.  Measures are four beats long unless otherwise indicated.

                                                                                 I heard a

 rumblin', I heard a rumblin', way down in the ground, hey now mama, and I
|          I              |              I           |         I  4 beats +2 beats              |

  heard a rumblin'     way down in the ground                                  Musta
|         IV             |          IV              |          I                 |          I        |

Been somebody        slowly jumpin'       down                               See two
|        V               |          V               |            I               |         I          |

The degree of tightness the band achieves is really impressive and makes you wonder whether they performed a lot together or were just a studio configuration that was unusually well tuned-in and listening to each other.  Whatever the case was, they achieve a perfect blend of looseness and tightness in their playing, and fly in the face of the notion that blues forms must necessarily be regularized in the course of converting a solo music to an ensemble music.
Sleepy John's "just as" in the second line of the first verse is barely audible.  He pronounces "weren't" in the final verse sort of like "warrant".

   Stack o' dollars, stack o' dollars, long as I am tall, hey now, mama, here's your
   Stack o' dollars, just as long as I am tall
   If you be my woman, you can have them all

   I heard a rumblin', I heard a rumblin', way down in the ground, hey now, mama, and I
   Heard a rumblin', way down in the ground
   Musta been somebody slowly jumpin' down

   See two women, see two women, walkin' hand by hand, hey now, mama, you see
   See two women, babe, walkin' hand by hand
   They just settin' up some plan, Lord, how to fool some man

   Went on the mountain, went on the mountain, looked down in the sea, hey now, mama, and I
   Went on the mountain and I looked down in the sea
   Niggers had my woman, Lord, and the blues had me

   Baby done quit me, baby done quit me, ain't said a mumblin' word, hey now, Lord, my
   Baby done quit me, ain't said a mumblin' word
   It waren't nothin' that she knowed, Lord, just somethin' she had heard

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on February 20, 2006, 10:02:27 AM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "I Wanta Tear It All The Time" in New York on August 2, 1937, and was joined on the tune by Hammie Nixon on harmonica, Charlie Pickett or Son Bonds on second guitar (very under-recorded) and Lee Brown on kazoo.  Musically, the song weighs in as a chorus blues in the "Diddie Wah Diddie" mold.  The song's similarity to "Diddie Wah Diddie" is heightened by the fact that Lee Brown uses that melody for his kazoo solo. 
Sleepy John had a way of rocking between chords that was distinctive and which, in this instance, freshens up a very familiar format.  He did it so:

   | C-C/G | C-C/G | C-C/G | C-C/G |

   | F--C   | F--C   |  F--C   |  F--C   |

   | G--C  |     G   |    C     |    C     |

I reckon Sleepy John is talking about dancing here, but I don't know.

   Tear it long, tear it wide, keep tearin' it down to my side
   CHORUS:  'Cause I'm a tearin' little daddy, I'm a tearin' little daddy
   I'm a tearin' little daddy, wanta tear all the time

   Tear it for the young, tear it for the old, I can tear it just dry long so
   'Cause I'm a tearin' little daddy, (instrumental response)
   I'm a tearin' little daddy, wanta tear all the time

   Tear it on the street, tear it at the show, y' know by that I wanta tear it some mo'
   CHORUS

   Tear it in the yard, tear it at the gate, y' know by that I can tear it kinda late
   CHORUS

   Tear it for Mae, tear it for Jo, y' know by that I wanta tear it some mo'
   CHORUS

   Tear it in the morning, late at night, y' know by that I can tear it just right
   'Cause I'm a tearin' little daddy, I'm a tearin' little daddy
   I'm a tearin' little daddy, wanta tear all--

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on February 20, 2006, 11:39:11 AM
I reckon Sleepy John is talking about dancing here, but I don't know.
He might be. FWIW in respect of this song back in the dark ages some etymological sage for one of the blues magazines traced through the origins of an 1800s expression "to go on a tear" (meaning a spree). One usage found from the 1920s was "tearing", the citation given (from memory) was along the lines of - "they bought bottles of whiskey and went tearing it here, tearing it there, tearing it everywhere" - which I think came from a Sinclair Lewis book. Having visualised this in my mind's eye, I shall spend hours hunting through boxes of mags looking for the thing. Who said, "get a life"? Yeah, you're right..... :(
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on February 20, 2006, 01:06:14 PM
Hi Bunker Hill,
Condolences on the search, and I hope what you're looking for turns up soon, but be assured that the nuggets you unearth are greatly appreciated here.  My idea that Sleepy John was referring to dancing when he spoke of "tearing it up" was based on hearing people describe good dancers as really tearing it up.  Also it's a bit of a strain to figure out any activity that would appropriately fit the various contexts in which he tears it up in the course of the song.  It's hard to imagine getting drunk for the young and old, although it would certainly be a thoughtful gesture.  I expect a lot of what happens in the lyrics amounts to settling for rhymes, too.  How tearing it up in the yard and at the gate would indicate anything pertaining to timeliness is a poser.  Once again, I find myself chewing more than I bit off!
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: waxwing on February 20, 2006, 07:00:59 PM
Now I coulda sworn we had a discussion about the phrase "just dry long so" a while back, but this is the only thra that comes up in a search. maybe it was on another forum (PWBL?). Anyway, this would seem to be an example where the meaning "that's for sure" would fit nicely, as in, "I can tear it just dry long so" meaning "I can tear it that's for sure".

All for now.
John C.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on February 20, 2006, 09:54:58 PM
Hi John C.,
Your memory is not failing you.  I think "dry long so" was discussed earlier in this thread in the context of the lyrics to "Jack and Jill Blues".  You're right on the money.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on February 20, 2006, 11:41:47 PM
Hi Bunker Hill,
Condolences on the search, and I hope what you're looking for turns up soon, but be assured that the nuggets you unearth are greatly appreciated here. 
You know what it was like when one was in the first flush of blues enthusiasm buying/reading the few books and magazines available, devouring the contents over and over again until they became part of one's psyche. Then, 40 years later, it all comes back to one like it was yesterday and yet you can't recall information contained in a book read only once the previous year. Well that me! :)
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on February 21, 2006, 12:29:42 PM
Sleepy John recorded "Easin' Back To Tennessee" in a guitar duet with one guitar (Sleepy John?) playing out of C, standard tunng and the other (Charlie Pickett?) capoed up three frets and playing out of A position in standard tuning.  The piece is pretty reserved instrumentally; there never are any fireworks, really. 
The song is a "chorus" format 12-bar blues, and the lyrics seem to allude to a period when Sleepy John may have been living in Chicago.  He sings the chorus with great feeling and sounds like he was really ready to return home.  Help with the bracketed portions would be appreciated.
(cut lyric transcript)
Perhaps a quick revisit is called for in light of something I spotted in Blues Unlimited 18 (January 1965, p.5), being a question & answer session Francis Smith conducted with Estes backstage at the Fairfiled Hall, Croydon in October 1964. Make of it what you will....

Enquiring about "Easin' Back to Tennessee". Decca 7516 Estes sings an address in this blues: it goes?

"Now, 2244 West Hubbard Avenue,
That's where you got my 1932".

Apparently this was a record-store that stocked John's records. Thus he gave it a free plug. But the meaning of 1932 is a little more obscure. I asked him what it meant and he said it was his "blues". This is hard to understand, for he didn't record a 1932 blues?and in any case this was 1938. Perhaps 1932 was an idiom of the time merely meaning blues in the same way that we might say 1932's for blues as a sort of rhyming slang. 1932 was of course also the Depression time generally associated with the blues. Possibly 1932 held some purely personal meaning for John relating to some experience in that year.

"Now I woke up this morning, couldn't hardly see,
Snow on the ground 'bout eight foot deep".

John mentioned that he was staying on one side of Chicago and his friends were on the other, and with all the snow on the ground, he was worried they wouldn't be able to meet up, and he was very lonely. This implies that he was singing about his experiences the previous August, for West Hubbard Avenue is (I gather) in Chicago, whereas as far as can be ascertained, this session was made in New York.

[I don't know how Smith heard "1932" but the annoying thing is that having now played the song, I think what he enunciates is - nineteethirtyablues - i.e 1938 blues. Oh dear, why did I start this?! :(]
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on February 21, 2006, 02:59:38 PM
Hi Bunker Hill,
Thanks for this input.  Any information of this type directly from the artist is particularly valuable.  It's interesting that your sense of the sound does not match up with Sleepy John's recollection of the lyrics, and not altogether surprising.  I think sometimes serious aficionados of a musician imagine that his or her mind is constantly recollecting recordings or performances of the past, when I think, based on my own experience, it may have been years or decades since the performance or recording even came to mind.  I sympathize with Bukka White, who upon rediscovery evidently blanked altogether on "Fixin' To Die", one of the greatest Country Blues tunes ever.  Life often ends up being filled with thoughts and concerns quite different than those that other people find fascinating.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on February 23, 2006, 04:18:10 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John Estes recorded "Government Money" at the August 2, 1935 session that also produced "Vernita Blues", "I Wanta Tear It All The Time", and "I Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More".  Unlike the other songs from that session, "Government Money" is a duet, pairing Sleepy John with Hammie Nixon on harmonica.  Musically, the song has no unusual features when viewed in the body of Sleepy John's work--he plays it in his favorite position, C in standard tuning, and the phrasing is not notably unusual or surprising.
Lyrically, "Government Money" find Sleepy John in his "civic commentator" mode, as in "Working Man Blues".  I particularly like these songs, and all the more for the rarity of songs of this type in the Country Blues idiom.  It's nice to encounter some Blues lyrics that are not so self-involved. 
I am missing a couple of crucial words here.  Any help with the bent bracketed portions would be greatly appreciated.

   Now, all the farmers, they oughta join the governor' loan (2)
   Now the governor give you three year's chances, then you could have something of your own

   Now, the governor fronts you a milk cow, a rooster and some portion of hens (2)
   You know, a loan through the spring, then you could have some money to spend

   Now, the women used to count on the bonus, but they are hollerin' on the rental check now
   Now, the women used to holler on the bonus, but they are countin' on the rental check now
   You know, I didn't go to the army, But I'm usin' this government money anyhow

   Now, the governor, he forced for the plant of plenty corn and wheat (2)
   You know along through the winter, you can have something to eat

Edited, 2/23 to pick up clarifications from Banjo Chris

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on February 23, 2006, 04:38:58 PM
Good on you, Bunker Hill!  I just went back and listened to "Easin' Back To Tennessee" and I think you are dead on the money about the last verse speaking of "1938 blues".  I have made the change.  Thanks!
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: banjochris on February 23, 2006, 04:54:39 PM
John--

In "Government Money," he's saying:

The women used to count on the bonus...

Which explains the reference to the army in the last line of the verse -- I think this was around the time that World War I veterans, hit by the depression, were clamoring for the bonus money they had been promised years before, and in 1932, the "Bonus Army" marched on Washington.

Here's a paragraph from a website, http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/snprelief4.htm, which I found just by googling bonus army:
In 1924, a grateful Congress voted to give a bonus to World War I veterans - $1.25 for each day served overseas, $1.00 for each day served in the States. The catch was that payment would not be made until 1945. However, by 1932 the nation had slipped into the dark days of the Depression and the unemployed veterans wanted their money immediately. In May of that year, some 15,000 veterans, many unemployed and destitute, descended on Washington, D.C. to demand immediate payment of their bonus. They proclaimed themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force but the public dubbed them the "Bonus Army."

Anyway, eventually troops were used to disperse them after the Senate voted not to give them their money.

In that last verse, he might be saying:
The governor, he force you for to plant plenty corn and wheat

Chris
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on February 23, 2006, 06:04:50 PM
Thanks so much for the clarification, Chris.  I was definitely not coming up with bonus, though the context made it perfectly clear that it was some source of income.  I like your solution for the last line, too, and have made the changes.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on February 24, 2006, 10:19:25 AM
Thanks so much for the clarification, Chris.  I was definitely not coming up with bonus, though the context made it perfectly clear that it was some source of income.  I like your solution for the last line, too, and have made the changes.
All best,
For those who might be interested in a Blues/gospel approach to the "The Bonus" there's an entire chapter devoted to the subject in Guido van Rijn's "Roosevelt Blues: African-American Blues & Gospel Songs On FDR" (Mississippi UP 1997). It's entitled, not unsurprisingly, When The Soldiers Get Their Bonus.  ;D
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: mmpresti on May 26, 2006, 10:04:16 PM
An' winter time comin', it's gonna be so
You can't make the winter babe, just dry long so.

All this goes against my blues logic. I've always sung it and understood it this way:

Winter time's coming, it's gonna be slow
you can't make the winter babe, that's dry long so

If you're dry and not out doors in the cold, then winter time won't seem so long. It won't seem long if you're warm and toasty and dry.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: mmpresti on May 27, 2006, 12:02:26 AM
Now, all the farmers, they oughta join the governor' loan (2)
   Now the governor give you three year's chances, then you could have something of your own

   Now, the governor fronts you a milk cow, a rooster and some portion of hens (2)
   You know, a loan through the spring, then you could have some money to spend


This is one of my favorite John estes songs, and I've been listening to versions of it sung by him for about ten years but never heard the one he recorded in 1935 with Hammie Nixon.

The first lyric could also be interpreted this way, from the versions I've listened to, the one on the Newport Blues and Brownsville Blues albums:

All your people, they all at the (re)'gional government loan
All your people, they all at the (re)'gional government loan
You know the governor give you three year chance, then you could have something of your own

He may be referring to the regional loan offices established by the Veterans Administration beginning in the 30s. This is a timeline of VA history in the 30s http://www.75anniversary.va.gov/history/timeline/timeline-1930.htm. The VA camps were also giving aid at the Bonus March in '32.

On the Newport album, john seems to be singing the song from a woman's perspective, and her "man's gone to the army" in the last verse.

The second verse can be interpreted this way, but with another meaning

The governor fund/fined your milkcow, a rooster and some Forschner hen
The governor fund/fined your milkcow, a rooster and some Forschner hen
A loan, foolish thing, you could have some money to spend

Forschner and Hen and Rooster are knife brands, but Victorinox/Swiss Army, which makes Forschner cutlery, also sells Congress pocket knives which are similar to the Rooster/Hen make. I'm not sure what he's saying here, though probably referring to survival tools during depression, what does everybody else think?
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on July 08, 2006, 09:57:50 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Tell Me How About It" with Robert Lee McCoy (Robert Nighthawk) backing him on guitar and harmonica off of a rack, and probably Robert's female partner, alluded to by dj earlier in this thread, on washboard.  It must be said, first off, that McCoy's harmonica playing is sensationally good, both in terms of tone and phrasing.  He's one of the best harmonica players off of a rack I have ever heard.
"Tell Me How About It" is a 12-bar chorus blues, with Robert Lee McCoy backing Sleepy John out of the E position in standard tuning.  The lyrics are exceptionally difficult to understand.  Any help with the bent bracketed portions is appreciated. 

   Mist' Tom is good, [some say mean], haul in his cotton if he ain't got no team
   CHORUS:  Now, tell me how 'bout it, yes, tell me how 'bout it, tell me how 'bout it, Mist' Tom's all right with me

   You ever in Brownsville, go on to 19, over to the left sits Mist' Tom Mann's gin
   CHORUS:

   Mist' Tom ain't so tall, y'know he kinda low, everybody in Brownsville say he got plenty of dough
   CHORUS:

   You're out on the field, gettin' hand-out rules, ask for a little money, he said, "Boys, share the mule."
   CHORUS:

   Mist' Tom live in country, Mr. Robert in town, soon every mornin' Mist' Robert hit that black line
   CHORUS:

   [Sam Mann and ----run jams] on the truck, name's JY and they haul people's stuff
   CHORUS:

Edited, 7/12 to pick up clarification from Bunker Hill
Edited, 10/25 to pick up correction from banjo chris

All best,
Johnm

   

Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on July 09, 2006, 12:05:40 AM
You ever in Brownsville, go on to 19th, over to the left sits Mist' Tom Mann's gin
I've listened to this over and over again and I hear something totally different, don't laugh too loud but:

You ever in Brownsville, go on to 19th, old [Too] Hevinson, store man'ger there

Quote
You're out on the field, get an [         on the rule]
I'm guessing here but in a post war recording (not of this) he uses the expression "rides over on fields giving hand-out rules". Trouble is, I now hear what I want to hear! Over to somebody else...



Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on July 12, 2006, 10:07:18 AM
Thanks for the suggestions, Bunker Hill.  Oof, this is hard to hear!  The "hand-out rules" line sounds good and I will make the change.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on October 19, 2006, 10:54:12 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "When The Saints Go Marching In" on September 24, 1941, in Chicago, with the Delta Rhythm Boys, who according to the Document liner notes were Son Bonds on vocal and kazoo, and Raymond Thomas on imitation bass and vocal.  It actually sounds like there are two guitars on the cut, both being played out of G in standard tuning, but one using closed-position chords (Bonds, I suspect) and one playing open chords (Sleepy John).  The rendition opens with a very suave kazoo solo after a mystifying chordal vamp.  The song is done, as per usual, in a call-and-resonse style and has a number of verses I've not heard sung before.  The feel on this number is very swingy, and Sleepy John sounds right at home with the groove.

   KAZOO INTRO:

   Oh, when the crowd (when the crowd)
   Go marching in (go marching in)
   When the crowd go marching in
   Oh Lord, I want to be in that number
   Oh, when the crowd go marching in

   Oh, when the clouds (oh, when the clouds)
   Is swingin' low (is swingin' low)
   When the cloud is swingin' low
   Oh Lord, I want to be in that number
   Oh, when the cloud is swingin' low

   KAZOO SOLO:

   I'm gonna meet (I'm gonna meet)
   My mother there (my mother there)
   I'm gon' meet my mother there
   Oh Lord, I want to be in that number
   Oh, I'm gon' meet my mother there

   KAZOO SOLO:

   We gonna meet (we gonna meet)
   On the other side (on the other side)
   We gonna meet on the other side
   Oh Lord, I want to be in that number
   Oh, we gonna meet on the other side

   KAZOO SOLO:

   Oh, won't it be (oh, won't it be)
   Mighty day? (a mighty day)
   Oh, it be a mighty day
   Oh Lord, I want to be in that number
   Oh, won't it be a mighty day?

All best,
Johnm
   

   
   
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on October 24, 2006, 05:57:32 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John Estes recorded "Mary Come On Home" at a session in Chicago on June 4, 1940 at which he was backed for the most part by Robert Lee McCoy, and on a couple of cuts, McCoy's washboard-playing girlfriend, Ann Sortier.  "Mary Come On Home" is a chorus blues, and musically bears a very strong resemblance to "Clean Up At Home", recorded a little less than two years earlier.  Sleepy John sits out "Mary Come On Home" instrumentally, and McCoy's swingy solo flat-picked accompaniment in C is pleasingly expert.
Sleepy John changes the chorus as he goes along; in the latter verses, he has Mary speaking.  Any help with the bent bracketed portion of the second line of verse four would be appreciated.  I feel very close phonetically, but can not make much sense of what I have.  Tiptonville is near the Mississippi River, north and west of Brownsville.

   I started little Mary over across the creek,
   Soon as I got her somebody took her from me
   CHORUS:  Mary come on home, Mary come on home,
   Mary come on home, acknowledge you've done wrong

   I love little Mary, always will,
   Once in time she like to got me killed
   CHORUS:

   Took little Mary down to Tiptonville
   All the time she was out whe was raisin' hell
   CHORUS:  Won't you come on home, she want to come on home,
   Come on home, acknowledge I've done wrong

   Down in Lake County in that gumbo mud,
   'Fraid the mosquito bills keep on bitin' through 'her tub
   CHORUS:  Won't you come on home?  I want to come on home,
   I want to come on home, acknowledge I've done wrong

   I git to starin', I look all around,
   I asked anybody, "Little Mary in town?"
   CHORUS:  Won't you come on home?  I want to come on home,
   I want to come on home, acknowledge you've done wrong

Edited, 10/25 to pick up corrections from Bunker Hill and banjo chris

All best,
Johnm
   

   
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Rivers on October 24, 2006, 08:03:17 PM
[Bread and mosquito bill keep from bitin' through a tub]

Makes perfect sense! I've got to hear it but I don't have it, what CD is it on John?
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on October 24, 2006, 10:36:27 PM
Ooof, I know what you mean about making sense, Mark.  I have the song on the Document Complete Sleepy John Estes, Volume 2, which I was lucky enough to find recently as a result of suggestions of places to look from fellow Weenies.  I was able to order it from Down Home Music despite it being out of print, according to Document.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on October 24, 2006, 11:47:19 PM
   Down in Lake County in that gumbo mud,
   [Bread and mosquito bill keep from bitin' through a tub]
I've given this repeated listening and what I think I hear is

Down in Lake County in that gumbo mud,
Where mosquito bills keep on bitin' through her tub

But it's extremely difficult due to his enunciation and the way he runs words together. Also in the second verse is it possible he sings "Once in time she like to got me killed"? A rather convoluted way of saying, once upon a time she almost got me killed.

Just observations for debate. :)
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: banjochris on October 25, 2006, 12:51:01 AM
I agree with Bunker Hill that it's "Once in time she like to got me killed."

What about "'Fraid the mosquito bills keep on bitin' through her tub"?

Also, going back to "Tell Me How 'Bout It," I think he says "shove the mule" not "share". I'm still trying to decipher that last "Sam Mann" verse. What a killer.
Chris
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: banjochris on October 25, 2006, 01:54:44 AM
Another post on "Tell Me How 'Bout It" --

Having nothing better to do (except sleep) at this hour of the morning, I was browsing around the web and I typed in "Tom Mann Brownsville, TN" on Google and it popped out an address and phone number; there's also a Sam Mann and Pat Mann. Anyone feel like writing him a letter and asking him what Sleepy John was saying (I would assume about his dad or grandfather) in the song?

On Google Maps, I found Winfield Lane, mentioned in "Brownsville Blues" but couldn't find Bulleson Lane or whatever it is Sleepy John sings on "Down South Blues."

The search cleared up one thing on "Tell Me How 'Bout It," though -- the verse that's
You ever in Brownsville, go on to 19th, over to the left sits Mist' Tom Mann's gin
should be go on to 19 -- that's the number of a highway that goes through town and actually intersects with a Bobby Mann Road.

Also, near Brownsville and Ripley there were an Estes Lane and Newbern Lane, which I thought was interesting, though I would assume the streets are most likely named after whoever owned those two bluesmen's ancestors.

There were lots of Mann family-related hits on the web for the Brownsville area; I couldn't find any Clarks who were attorneys though...
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: dj on October 25, 2006, 04:37:10 AM
I'd vote for:

Down in Lake County in that gumbo mud,
Where the mosquito bills keep on bitin' through a tub

I suppose "through a tub" could be "through her tub", with "her", but with Estes pronunciation, it's more "huh" (a very open e and dropping the final r), and then he drops the initial h, so it turns into "uh".  I guess that's ultimately unknowable. 

Unless someone discovers that "tub" was local slang for a woman's night dress, in which case I'll switch my vote to "her tub".   ;)   
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on October 25, 2006, 09:58:50 AM
Hi all,
Thanks so much for the help, Bunker Hill, banjo chris and dj.  It's a lot to digest, but additional listening after all my previous listening makes me opt for the following suggestions:
   * I agree with Bunker Hill and banjo chris that the line in verse two should be "Once in time she like to got me killed"
   * Of the suggestions for the mystery line in verse four, I think chris's "'Fraid the mosquito bills keep on bitin' through 'er tub" matches Sleepy John's phonetics perfectly, assuming there is  a usage for "tub" that makes sense in this context!  I am certain the line in question does not begin  with the word "where", it begins with an "f" sound, for sure. 
I will make these changes, which I think are great!  And I will make the change to "19" in "Tell Me How 'Bout It" too, chris.  Good work.  I agree, the last verse in that song is tough, tough, tough to hear. 
If anybody is feeling listening/deciphering energetic, there is still the last verse in "Jailhouse Blues" to clear up, too.  Bunker Hill and I have made stabs at it, but I don't think we think it is settled by any means.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: banjochris on January 31, 2007, 11:34:27 PM
Nothing like reactivating an old thread, but the new "Keys to the Highway" feature sent me back here, and I saw some bits still in brackets and some other things and I have some suggestions. Rather than paste quotes I've just copied the lines from each song:

Floating Bridge
"Lord, have mercy where's we gwine?"
I think should be
Lord have mercy whiles we gwine. (in other words, while we die)

Down South Blues
Now I got a girl in Brownsville, she lives down on [     ?      ] Lane (2)

Browsing around on Google Maps, I found a town of Burlison about 15 miles or so west of Brownsville, right on the main turnpike leading west out of Brownsville. I don't think it's much of a stretch to think that before big highways were around, there probably was a Burlison Lane somewhere out on the west side of Brownsville, although John pronounces it more like "Bullison."


Brownsville Blues
Now, my generator is bad, and you know my lights done stopped (2)
   And I reckon I better take it over to Durham, and I'm gonna stop at Vassar Williams' shop
The "Durham" should be "Durhamville" -- you can hear him slur the "ville" as he goes to take a breath, and it's on the map too.

   Now, Brownsville is my home, and you know I ain't gonna th'owr it down (2)
   Because I'm 'quainted with [them laws], and they won't let me down
The "them laws" is right -- laws as slang for policemen, not laws literally.

Little Laura
Little Laura was a gal, sh' s sixteen
   And Jimmy didn't want to listen to her dreams
   Little Laura was a dreamer, dreamed 'ost ever't'ing
In both the verses where he sings this last line, I hear it as "dreamed of seventeen," i.e. dreamed of being 17.

   Now, she dreamed she was goin' with the man next door
   She dreamed she was kissin' him, oh, oh, oh
   She dreamed she was ridin' [to me] in a automobile
This is: "She dreamed she was ridin' [in a] tall man's automobile" (the "in a" are implied words, not words I can't make out here)

Who's Been Tellin' You Buddy Brown?
 Baby, who, honey, who's been [tellin'] you?
I think he's saying:
Baby, who, honey, who's been jivin' you? 

   Now, have you ever tried lovin' when you can't get it [at] your mind?
I think here he's saying "in your mind" -- i.e. when you can't get in the mood.

Street Car Blues
Now, catch at [Century 'n' Poplar], ride it down to Summer Street
   I say, I catch at [Century 'n' Poplar], ride it down to Summer Street
These street names are right and are still in Memphis today, although technically you would ride up to Summer Avenue.

Jailhouse Blues
"Now, I know most you [boys, and even know more white lies] (2)
   Now, y'all need not be uneasy, you won't have to take the workhouse [advice]."
Bunker Hill suggested "No more stew y'all boys, and no more white rice" or something like that --
I think the lines are:
Now, no more stew bowl, yes, and neither no more white rice,
Now y'all need not be uneasy, you won't have to take this workhouse advice.

The first line there, I think, is his wish from inside jail, followed by an assurance to his audience that they'll never get in his sort of trouble.
Let me know what you think
Chris
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: banjochris on January 31, 2007, 11:51:17 PM
And since I posted all that other stuff, I thought the least I could do is post a new song here. It's one of my favorites of John's post-war recordings: "Rats in My Kitchen" -- this is the version off "Brownsville Blues," plus one extra verse.

Brownsville Blues version

Oh them rats is mean in my kitchen, you know I done ordered me a mountain cat
Oh them rats is mean in my kitchen, I've ordered me a mountain cat
You know the way they 'stroyin' my groceries, man I declare it's tough like that.

You know them '61 and '62 rats, sure have treat' me mean
Oh them '61 and '62 rats, sure have treated me mean
You know they took me off of pork chops, they done put me on fatback and pinto beans.

Hey I came home last night, somewhere 'bout half past 10,
Oh I came home last night, somewhere 'bout half past 10,
You know them rats said "If you lookin' for groceries, poor John you better go and come again."

You know I was sittin' down with my baby, I was arguin' with my next-door [neigh]'bor [this might be "girl," I'm not sure]
Oh I was sittin' down with my baby, you know I was arguin' with my next-door 'bor
You know them rats done ate up all my groceries, they done started workin' on my brand-new tub.

You know I got five 'pendent children, on my disability check,
Oh I got five 'pendent children, on my disability check,
You know I got to go check on my workers, boy on account of them doggone rats.

From Miss. Delta Blues Jam in Memphis - Vol. 2
Every month, somewhere round bout the eighth
Every month, boy somewhere round bout the eighth
You know I go to my grocery store, I get me a right grocery bill straight.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on February 01, 2007, 11:43:31 AM
John you just gotta hear Estes recording he did of Rats for Sam Phillips (24 April 1952). It remained unissued until 1977 when Charly Records acquired UK rights to the Sun catalogue. It is out of this world, both lyrically and musically. If you can't find a copy on the internet let me know how I can get an MP3 to you.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on February 01, 2007, 01:00:50 PM
Hi Chris and Bunker Hill,
Wow, Chris, that is a lot of hard listening.  I wish I knew how to work the quote thing, but I'll just go case by case:
   "Floating Bridge"--"whiles" or "whilst" is correct, I think, and "Whiles" sounds closer to what SJ sings
   "Down South Blues"--I would be willing to take "Bullison Lane" at face value--it sounds perfect, but having a "Burlison" in the area makes it even more plausible.
   "Brownsville Blues"--"Durhamville" pronounced like "Durhamvull" is clearly what SJ sings, now that you point it out--great work!  I take the sense of "them laws" as you do.
   "Little Laura Blues"--I hear "Seventeen" maybe, but nothing that sounds like "of" in front of it.  The word that precedes "seventeen" sounds to me to conclude with an "s" sound, but maybe SJ elides the soft "f" in "of" and doubles up on the consonant starting "seventeen".
  "Tall man's" is phonetically plausible, but an awkward locution.  I'm not sure about that one.
   "Who's Been Tellin' You Buddy Brown"--"Jivin'" definitely has the right beginning, vowel sounds and conclusion.  I hear a "z" consonant sound in the middle of it, though.  I think it is probably right, though.  "In" as opposed to "at" in the other verse is correct, though he gives it the oddest vowel sound ever.
   "Street Car Blues"--I'm glad Century and Poplar are correct.
   "Jailhouse Blues"--I think this is the most impressive transcription of the bunch.  I had despaired of ever making sense of this verse, and I believe you absolutely have it.  Kudos to Bunker Hill, who years ago heard the "white rice", which I was very skeptical of.
This is really excellent work, Chris.  I will make the changes to the lyrics in the threads, and perhaps Uncle Bud can transfer the changes to the Keys to the Highway section.
I will have to hear "Rats In The Kitchen".  I would particularly be interested in hearing the version you cite, Bunker Hill.
All best,
Johnm 
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on February 02, 2007, 10:32:43 AM
   "Little Laura Blues"--I hear "Seventeen" maybe, but nothing that sounds like "of" in front of it. 
Perhaps since John Lee Williamson's She Was A Dreamer (recorded 6 months earlier) opening line was "Now, my baby was a girl she was sweet sixteen" SJE decided to make it slightly different by changing it to "seventeen". This is in jest, I hasten to add.I haven't yet listened to JLW's 1947 remake, Southern Dream, to see if it contains elements of the Estes.
Quote
"Jailhouse Blues"--I think this is the most impressive transcription of the bunch.  I had despaired of ever making sense of this verse, and I believe you absolutely have it.  Kudos to Bunker Hill, who years ago heard the "white rice", which I was very skeptical of.
I did? Then the little grey cells definitely ain't what they usta be...
Quote
I will have to hear "Rats In The Kitchen".  I would particularly be interested in hearing the version you cite, Bunker Hill.
An MP3 is on the way to you. I have to admit I experienced trouble locating where it was first issued. Thanks to Stefan's SJE discography page I discovered that its first release was on the 1986 Charly 9LP Sun box (from which I was going to MP3) but upon closer examination of Stefan's work found the title also included on the 1996 Charly 8CD set which was far easier source for me to create required digital file.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on February 02, 2007, 12:04:33 PM
You know them rats done ate up all my groceries, they done started workin' on my brand-new tub.
In the 1950s version it sounds like he's enunciating "bran tub" yet in this it does indeed sound like "brand-new tub". Or is it a case of my hearing what I want to hear in the former? :)
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: banjochris on February 02, 2007, 09:15:17 PM
Bunker Hill -- thanks for the tune -- here are the words:

You know the rats is mean in my kitchen, I have ordered me a mouteese* cat
Now  the rats is mean in my kitchen, I have ordered me a mouteese* cat
You know the way they carryin' 'way my groceries, oooh-oh boy, and everything that I've got.

I done stopped buyin' groceries, I'm gonna eaten outta paper sack (2)
Now the rats carryin' 'way my groceries, ooh-oh boy and everything that I got.

I was lyin' down last night, I was talkin' with my next door [neigh]'bor (2)
You know the rats 'stroyin my groceries, oooh-oh, bore a hole in my brand new tub.

I'm gon' call a 42 squad car, for protect me in my home (2)
You know the rats 'stroyin my groc', oooh-oh, work on my D-Con.

*By the '60s, he's changed this to "mountain cat," but it's obvious he's misremembering his source for this, Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Maltese Cat Blues," which has the title verse:
Rats is mean in my kitchen, I done lost my Maltese cat
Rats is mean in my kitchen, and I lost my Maltese cat,
I'm gon' make things right with my good gal, man it's tight like that.

Sleepy John makes that verse into something real, rather than just a cute opening line, IMHO. That '50s performance is really good and raw, with a very intense vocal. The last line is pretty grimly funny.
Chris

Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Richard on February 03, 2007, 06:02:21 AM
BH could you post the said mp3 on this thread or is that a bit hi-tech and I'm not being rude :)
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on February 03, 2007, 07:48:34 AM
BH could you post the said mp3 on this thread or is that a bit hi-tech and I'm not being rude :)
I tried but it's 3.5 meg and was taking an age and I had better things to do on the computer than watch a message telling me it was uploading. Perhaps Banjo Chris can post the mp3 I sent him.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: banjochris on February 03, 2007, 11:38:27 AM
No problem -- it's a bit overcompressed now, but not too bad.

[attachment deleted by admin]
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on March 01, 2007, 12:16:54 PM
Having nothing better to do (except sleep) at this hour of the morning, I was browsing around the web and I typed in "Tom Mann Brownsville, TN" on Google and it popped out an address and phone number; there's also a Sam Mann and Pat Mann. Anyone feel like writing him a letter and asking him what Sleepy John was saying (I would assume about his dad or grandfather) in the song?
Performing some much needed email "housekeeping" I came across this from David Evans dated 25th August 2004 - better late than never:

"This morning's Commercial Appeal (Memphis) newspaper contained an obituary of Pat Mann, Brownsville, Tennessee, farmer, cotton gin and store owner, who was the subject of a song by Sleepy John Estes.  Mann died Sunday at his home at the age of 93.  His gin and store are still standing on the road between Brownsville and Nutbush, though the store has long been closed."

Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: banjochris on March 01, 2007, 01:57:20 PM
Too bad Sleepy John (or Bo Carter, for that matter) never recorded a "Nutbush Blues."
Chris
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: banjochris on June 03, 2007, 09:48:56 PM
I purchased a copy of "Electric Sleep" today for only $4.99, which was pretty lucky, and listening to the recording of "Little Laura" on that album, he says "She dreamed she was riding in Tom Mann's automobile." I can almost make out one other line that was giving us a problem (the one that I thought sounded like "dreamed of seventeen," which is definitely wrong), but I was listening in the car -- when I can listen more closely I'll post it.
Chris
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: mmpresti on June 03, 2007, 10:06:11 PM
How did it get to be "dreamed o' seventeen". It does sound like that, but the line is supposed to be "she dreamed that southern dream", like the way Sonny Boy 1 sings in "Southern Dream", which is the song I thought JS was singing.

Little laura was a dreamer
She dreamed that southern dream
She's the dreaminest gal, dreamest gal I ever seen

I love his album "Electric Sleep", but some of the lyrics are really obscure, like on the first track of "Needmore" blues, does he really say,

I need money, I need some way to go
I mean, one gibbet's too slow

?

and I can hardly make anything out of "Newport Blues" on that album. Can anyone actually transcribe "Newport Blues" in its entirety?
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: mmpresti on June 03, 2007, 10:29:58 PM
Correction to the above, John wrote and recorded "Little Laura" in 1941 before Sonny Boy recorded "Southern Dream" sometime in 1944-47. So Sonny Boy is singing SJ's song.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on June 03, 2007, 11:28:28 PM
Correction to the above, John wrote and recorded "Little Laura" in 1941 before Sonny Boy recorded "Southern Dream" sometime in 1944-47. So Sonny Boy is singing SJ's song.
"Southern Dream" (12 Nov 1947) was just a later reworking of his 2nd July 1941 "She Was A Dreamer". Estes recorded Laura in September that year, so I'm guessing that SJE was inspired by that.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: banjochris on June 03, 2007, 11:38:08 PM
The "dreamed of seventeen" is just what I had suggested a while back. The "dreamed that southern dream" sounds right to me. I'll have a crack at Newport Blues when I get back to my home computer in a couple of days, but I can understand pretty big chunks of it -- unless someone else has a go.
Chris
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: mmpresti on June 04, 2007, 12:48:30 AM
?Newport Blues? from the album ?Newport Blues?

Miss, Soon I?ll reach Rhode Island,
Wherever Rhode Island be,
Nothin? but them big whales
And alligators throwin? them waves at me

Aside: Talk to me now, you all take your time,

Out in the park, they called us up on the stage
You know I felt just as shaky as I could,
Lord, 80,000 people be gazing at me

I saw a great crowd of people,
I know I wonder what is going on
But no one ((feelin? Ms. Kennedy miss John???))

Then Ms. Kennedy and Macmillan at home,
She?s in no place to have a fight
Nine months, and she?s goin? back home

?Newport Blues? on ?Electric Sleep?

Later on Friday
Everybody was sad,
We lost, best president we ever had,
But he gone home, gone back home,
He, staying away, too long?

Rode from town to town, holding up for a ride,
Some low down rider, took the president?s life,
But he going home, going back home,
He, staying away, too long?

Everybody vote, they don?t know what?s going on,
If we go (to war?) today, we won?t have no home,
But he gone home,  gone back home,
Hey, staying away too long?

I heard a news in air (amusing air?)
Wondered what could it be,
It weren?t nothin? but them sea birds
Singing those songs to me,
But I?m going home, goin? back home,
He staying away too long?

When I went on the stage,
Shaky as I could be,
Bout 85 people had their eyes on me,
But I?m gone home, going back home,
He staying away too long?

I take my blood pressure,
A hundred and three
Nothin? but salty water,
I drink right out the sea
But he?s gone home, goin back home,
He stayin? away too long?

Later on Friday
Everybody was sad,
We lost, best president we ever had,
But he?s gone home, goin? back home,
He staying away too long?

I have the notion
Down on the beach
The alligators and whales,
Throwin? them waves at me
I?m goin home, goin? back home
He staying away too long

White horses and cars,
All in a row
((I think Mr. Connery
Turned in his long white robe ???))*
But he gone home, goin? back home
He staying away too long


*maybe a reference to Dr. No's outfit 1962


Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: dj on June 04, 2007, 03:39:33 AM
Quote
(I think Mr. Connery
Turned in his long white robe Huh))*

I think that's a reference to then Texas Governor John Connelly, who was wounded when President John Kennedy was assassinated.  Since Connelly survived, he "turned in his long white robe" - he didn't ascend to heaven.

But, hey, I could be totally wrong about that.   :)   
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: banjochris on June 04, 2007, 09:59:38 AM
Boy that "Newport Blues" from the "Newport Blues" album is weird -- I get the feeling Sleepy John was making it up right then. The one on "Electric Sleep" is easier to get -- I hear a couple of different things in it, partially from listening to the same song, called "President Kennedy Stayed Away Too Long," on the "Miss. Blues Jam in Memphis" CD (the LP was called "Kings of Country Blues," IIRC.)

Quote
Rode from town to town, holding up for a ride,
Some low down rider, took the president?s life,
Rode from town to town, holding up for right,
Some low down rascal, took the president's life.
(I think the sense of this is either "standing up for rights" or "standing up for what's right")

Quote
If we go (to war?) today, we won?t have no home,
If Goldwater get in, we won't have no home.?
Quote
I heard a news in air (amusing air?)
I heard a news in the air

Quote
((I think Mr. Connery
Turned in his long white robe ???))*
I think Mr. Kennedy right to his long white robe.
(this line's a lot clearer in the other version of the song)

Here's "President Kennedy Stayed Away Too Long." I didn't transcribe the choruses; they're the same as "Newport Blues," sometime changing between "he gone home" and "I gone home"

Late on... everybody was sad,
We lost, best president we've ever had

Rode from town to town, holdin' up for right
Some low down... took the president's life

Everybody vote, they don't know what's goin' on
If Goldwater get it, we won't have no home

Mr. Kennedy got a mention (message) on the air, sayin' now must all chip in,
He have another mention, since he reach Washington D.C.

When I went on the stage, shaky as I could be
Bout 80,000 people had their eyes on me

White horses and the cars, all in a row
I think Mr. Kennedy have a right, to the long white robe

Chris
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: mmpresti on June 04, 2007, 03:44:40 PM
Thanks, Chris, I'm hearing the Goldwater line, but not the last line about the "long white robe". It sounds, on "Electric Sleep" that he's saying, "Mr. Ken' right, to the long white robe". I'll have to listen to the version on the Miss. Jam Session album. Although, it would be more poetic for Sean Connery (an actor JFK liked) yet in a movie that SJ probably couldn't  have seen on the screen, turned in the part of his enemy Dr. No. I'll have to hear the other track.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: banjochris on June 04, 2007, 03:59:25 PM
It sounds, on "Electric Sleep" that he's saying, "Mr. Ken' right, to the long white robe".

Yeah, he really swallows that line on "Electric Sleep." It's pretty clear on the other one (as clear as Sleepy John gets, anyway). It's a good thing that his records almost all have good sound quality -- imaging what we'd go through if they were in the shape Charlie Patton's records are in.
Chris
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Rivers on June 04, 2007, 05:48:13 PM
Long white robe - shroud, or KKK?  >:D
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: mmpresti on June 04, 2007, 09:32:42 PM
Both meanings are there. I think a lot of black people, especially in the South, saw Kennedy as someone who was going to fight racism and was allied with the civil rights movement in some respects. I grew up in New Orleans and my black neighbor, a woman in her 80s, always talked about how JFK was seen as a white civil rights leader in the eyes of a lot of southern blacks. Whether he really was or not is anybody's question.

But I think both meanings are there, he should wear the shroud and not the Klan. It's kind of like the old blues line that carries the meaning, "My skin is black but I'm white inside", where white represents purity of soul, honor, in other words none of the purely racial meanings the klan gave to white power.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: dingwall on June 10, 2007, 06:31:33 AM
These are a few suggestions re the lyrics above, given humbly, as some are doubtful.   Reference is to verse and line, for example, 3.2 means verse3, line2.   


BLACK MATTIE BLUES
1.1 Oh, Black Mattie, where did you sleep last night?
2.2/3 Now, I done spended all my money, "Goodbye, country guy."
3.1 Lord, my heart struck sorrow, tears come a-rollin' down.
4.2 Your life

LAWYER CLARK BLUES
1.1 Now, got offices in town, resident out on Shelby Row.
   I hear 'Row' clearly, and the 'l' and 'b' of Shelby, though still doubtful.
1.4 (Every chorus) I hear 'he'll', and later, 'I'll', rather than 'he/I'.

BROKEN-HEARTED, RAGGED AND DIRTY TOO
1.1 I hear 'broken-hearted' in both lines.   In the first line, 'broken-' is extended as 'brok?e?n-'
2.1/2 'settle down' but clearer in line2
3.3 I heard the bedsprings poppin' and I believe that I heard my baby cryin'.
4.1/2 How can I feel misery,   Maybe?

DROP DOWN MAMA
4.2 That's the onliest woman have mortgage on my soul. Here, 'have' is just discernible with a faint touch of 'v'.
5.2 You know I ain't no stranger, has done been here before.

SOMEDAY BABY BLUES
2.1 I asked that wind,-- maybe

WHATCHA DOIN'?
1.3 (and every chorus) Got to give an account, I hear
4.1 When a man's out workin',
7.1 Now, get up in the mornin',   This is very faint.
7.2 Ask her to cook your breakfast, swears you never did.   Very difficult to judge between 'you' and 'she'.   

FLOATING BRIDGE
1.4 Tell me five minutes time under water I was hid.   No 'the'.
2.1/2/3 'throwed', not 'thowed', but this just looks like a typing error
3.1/2/3 laid me across the blanket.   I suspect this has 'blanket' pronounced 'blank't'.  I hear a trace of 'l', and also 'bank' is unlikely, since he is in the house.
5.4 Go somewhere, settle down and make a crumb.
6.1 Now, people was standin' on the bridge, they were screamin' and cryin'.   This is faint.

Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: dingwall on June 18, 2007, 01:25:35 PM
I posted this earlier, but it didn't appear, so here is a repeat (more or less).
These are a few suggestions re the lyrics above, given humbly, as some are doubtful.   Reference is to verse and line, for example, 3.2 means verse3, line2.


BLACK MATTIE BLUES
1.1 Oh, Black Mattie, where did you sleep last night?
2.2/3 Now, I done spended all my money, "Goodbye, country guy."
3.1 Lord, my heart struck sorrow, tears come a-rollin' down.
4.2 Your life

LAWYER CLARK BLUES
1.1 Now, got offices in town, resident out on Shelby Row.
   I hear 'Row' clearly, and the 'l' and 'b' of Shelby, though still doubtful.
1.4 (Every chorus) I hear 'he'll', and later, 'I'll', rather than 'he/I'.

BROKEN-HEARTED, RAGGED AND DIRTY TOO
1.1 I hear 'broken-hearted' in both lines.   In the first line, 'broken-' is extended as 'brok?e?n-'
2.1/2 'settle down' but clearer in line2
3.3 I heard the bedsprings poppin' and I believe that I heard my baby cryin'.
4.1/2 How can I feel misery,   Maybe?

DROP DOWN MAMA
4.2 That's the onliest woman have mortgage on my soul. Here, 'have' is just discernible with a faint touch of 'v'.
5.2 You know I ain't no stranger, has done been here before.

SOMEDAY BABY BLUES
2.1 I asked that wind,-- maybe

WHATCHA DOIN'?
1.3 (and every chorus) Got to give an account, I hear
4.1 When a man's out workin',
7.1 Now, get up in the mornin',   This is very faint.
7.2 Ask her to cook your breakfast, swears you never did.   Very difficult to judge between 'you' and 'she'.   

FLOATING BRIDGE
1.4 Tell me five minutes time under water I was hid.   No 'the'.
2.1/2/3 'throwed', not 'thowed', but this just looks like a typing error
3.1/2/3 laid me across the blanket.   I suspect this has 'blanket' pronounced 'blank't'.  I hear a trace of 'l', and also 'bank' is unlikely, since he is in the house.
5.4 Go somewhere, settle down and make a crumb.
6.1 Now, people was standin' on the bridge, they were screamin' and cryin'.   This is faint.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on June 19, 2007, 10:54:00 AM
Hello dingwall,
Thanks for the suggestions.  I hope to work my way through them when I return home tomorrow.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on June 20, 2007, 01:55:18 PM
Hello dingwall,
I've listened to all of the Sleepy John songs you proposed corrections for, and here is what I found:

   *"Black Mattie"--In the first line of verse one, the word is "sleep" as you had it, rather than "stay", which I had
     In verse 2, I'm going to let the transcription stand, since Sleepy John does not enunciate enough syllables to say "spended" rather than "spent"
     In verse 3, I believe your "heart struck" is correct rather than my "heart's in"
     In verse 4, the second line, I'm satisfied "Lord, life" is correct rather than your suggestion, "Your life"

   * Broken-Hearted, Ragged and Dirty Too".  In the first line of the first verse, I am continuing to hear "broke and I'm hearted", despite the oddity of the usage, rather than the "broken-hearted" you suggest.
     In the opening line of verse 2, I'm continuing to hear "set down" rather than the "settle down" you suggest.  There are not enough syllables enunciated for "settle down", I believe.
     In the tagline of verse three, I do hear " I really heard" rather than "I believe that I heard" that you suggest.  In particular, I don't hear anything that sounds like "that"
     In verse four, the first two lines, I believe your "feel misery" is correct, rather than my "stay married".  This hearing was brilliant!

   * "Drop Down Mama"--I hear no trace of "have" in the second line of verse 4
     In verse 5, line 2, I think your "has" is correct and my "I" is wrong

   * "Someday Baby"--In the first line of verse 2, I think both my "hate" and your "asked" are wrong.  I think the line is, "I has that wind, that old chilly breeze"

   * "Whatcha Doin'?--In the choruses, I think your "an account" is correct, and my "in kind" is wrong.  Brilliant hearing!
     In line one of verse four, I am satisfied that "When a man does workin'" is correct, despite the oddity of the usage
     In line one of verse seven, I am satisfied "see her in the morning" is correct
     In verse seven, the tag line,I believe "near 'most dead" is correct

   * "Floating Bridge".  In verse one, line 4, the word "the" should be eliminated as you said
     In verse two, I believe Sleepy John pronounces "throwed" "thowed", so I'll let it stand
     In verse 3, the "blank't" you propose is correct, I think
     In verse five, line four, I believe "crop" is correct, not "crumb" though crumb would rhyme.  His mother wants him to farm.
     In verse six, line one, the "was standin'" you suggest is correct, but I hear no "they were"

   * "Lawyer Clark".  I do not hear "Shelby Row" or "Road", but do hear "Century Road" or Sentry Road"
     I do not hear the contractions "he'll" or I'll" in any of the choruses.

Thank you for all these suggestions.  I will make changes to the transcriptions as indicated and arranged to have the revised versions put into the Keys to the Highway section.
All best,
Johnm
 

Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: mmpresti on June 20, 2007, 09:28:01 PM
Hi, folks, I thought "in kind" in that song, "Watcha Doin?" was the original lyric. There is some variation. Sonny Boy later had a song called, "You Gotta Give an Account", basically the same song with the "account" fairly audible. That's how he interpreted it, anyway.

I have another correction to make here, Johnm. In "Working Man Blues" he sings in the penultimate verse,

"Let the snow and rain rot the grass, you know, that make (for life of the ground)" not "fertilizer for the ground"

He sang this song again, when he was rediscovered in the 60's and he sounds like he's singing on that track, "make for (the/new) life of the ground". 

,
Matthew

Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: banjochris on June 20, 2007, 09:36:29 PM
Matthew -- in "Working Man" Sleepy John doesn't really enunciate fertilizer -- he says it more like "fert-il-lies" with not too much "s" sound at the end. You can hear the "t" sound in both the '40s and '60s recordings.
Chris
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: mmpresti on June 21, 2007, 01:20:39 PM
But I'm not hearing the "for" after the "lies" even if he doesn't sing the fourth syllable in fer-ti-li-zer. I slowed this clip down on Transcribe! and decided that he could be saying "fertilie for the ground," in the one case if he pronounces his "er"s as "or"s and vice versa. B/c it sounds like he's singing, "f(or)-ti-lie f(er) the ground". I hear him extending the missing syllable in "for-ti-lies" to the beginning of "fer", so it sounds like he singing "life". This is what clinches it for me, the "er" sound in "fer" slowly glides back to an "uh". So he's singing "life of". Also, rotted grass is more mulch than fertilizer.

If you or johnm can show me an instance where SJ pronounces his "or"s as "er"s, I may change my mind. A truly difficult line to decipher!
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on June 21, 2007, 01:43:14 PM
Hi Matthew,
I can't really speak to Sleepy John's '60s recording of "Working Man", since I've not heard it.  I've always considered "fertilizer" as the intent of the line, though Sleepy John leaves off the "er" altogether and has only the tiniest possible trace of a "z" sound.  One thing that operates in favor of "fertilizer", despite Sleepy John's pronunciation, is that it scans perfectly in the beat structure of the line, which is to say, he allows exactly the amount of time and emphasis it would take to say "fertilizer" had he enunciated it cleanly.
Also, the portion of the line that is in question is followed by the word "for", not the word "of" as you have it in your interpretation, "for the life of the ground".  Sleepy John concludes his line "for the ground", very clearly.  "Fertilizer for the ground" makes sense--I don't think "for the life for the ground" does.  There's no soft "th" sound for the "the" you propose, either; it is definitely a hard "t" as in fertilizer.
I'm not convinced that Sleepy John would distinguish between decomposing vegetable matter and chemical fertilizers.  I think it's possible that he would view anything that enriched the soil to be considered fertilizer.
I agree it is a tough line to decipher.
All best,
Johnm   
Title: Re: Mando tunes: Yank Rachell, Sleepy John Estes, Noah Lewis CD JSP-CD 3406
Post by: dingwall on August 05, 2007, 03:35:12 PM
Re 'Milk Cow Blues', I would use 'husband' rather than 'huzman', and I hear the difficult verse as:

Now, some say TB and some says it was disease, and,
But it's the slow consumption, killin' you by degrees.
Lord, it's the slow consumption, killin' you by degrees.
Now, it's the slow consumption, and it's killin' you by degrees.
 
Title: Re: Mando tunes: Yank Rachell, Sleepy John Estes, Noah Lewis CD JSP-CD 3406
Post by: skip bosco on November 26, 2007, 08:51:18 PM
I have a friend who sings it...

Some says it was peas, some says it was greens...
Title: Re: Mando tunes: Yank Rachell, Sleepy John Estes, Noah Lewis CD JSP-CD 3406
Post by: dingwall on December 01, 2007, 11:40:28 AM
Regarding the difficult  verse,  here's Sonny Boy Williamson's (John Lee Williamson, Sonny Boy No. 1's) cover version of Sleepy John's mistitled 'Milk Cow Blues'.   It is quite clear with the difficult verse.   Document DOCD5058 has it.

BLUES THAT MADE ME DRUNK

Well, I asked sweet mama just to let me be her kid.
She said, I might get buggish, Sonny, and you couldn't keep it hid.
Well, looked at me and she began to smile.
She said, I thought I could use you for my man a while.
Lord, if you just don't let my husband catch you here.
Now, if you just don't let my husband catch you here.

Well, some said it was T.B., some said it wasn't nothin' but disease.
But it's this slow consumption's killin' people by degrees.
I know that it's slow consumption murdering people by degrees.
You know, that it's slow consumption killin' you by degrees.

Well, I went upstairs to pack my leavin' trunk.
And I never drunk no whiskey, you know, the blues made me sloppy drunk.
But I ain't never drunk no whiskey, but them old blues done made me drunk.
I never drunk no whiskey, blues that done made me drunk.

Well, I've got somethin' to tell you, baby, I want you to keep it to yourself.
I don't want you even tell Mr So-and-So, even warn nobody else.
But I don't want you to tell no, baby, please tell nobody else.
I don't want you even warn your baby, tell nobody else.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Mr.OMuck on September 04, 2008, 04:35:07 PM
Hi all,
"Divin' Duck Blues" is another one of the great early collaborations of Sleepy John with Yank Rachell and Jab Jones.  It has been covered a fair amount, but as most often seems to be the case with Sleepy John's tunes, either the lyrics or the melody are greatly changed in the course of re-doing the song.  I'm not certain about the phrase in bent brackets, so any help would be appreciated.
   
   Now if the river was whiskey, and I was a divin' duck
   Now if the river was whiskey, I was a divin' duck
   I would dive on the bottom, never would come up

   Don't never take a married woman to be your friend
   Don't never take, married woman to be your friend
   She will get all your money, give it to her other man

   Now, a married woman always been my crave (2)
   Now a married woman gon' carry me to my grave

   Now ain't it hard to love some else, then?  (2)
   You can't get her when you want her, have to use her when you can

   Now the sun gon' shine on my back door someday
   Now the sun gonna shine on my back door some day
   Now the wind gonna rise gonna blow my blues away

   Now I went to the railroad, looked up at the sun (2)
   If the train don't hurry gon' be some walkin' done

All best,
Johnm

And I always asumed this was Sleepy John's necrophiliac anthem.
I Always heard:

Now ain't it heard to love someone that's dead  2X
You caint use them when you want them got to use them when you can.



Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bunker Hill on September 05, 2008, 02:24:06 AM
And I always asumed this was Sleepy John's necrophiliac anthem.
I Always heard:

Now ain't it heard to love someone that's dead  2X
You caint use them when you want them got to use them when you can.
And from memory Sam Charters in his booklet to the Estes RBF album heard much the same. Necrophilia rules..... :o
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on February 18, 2009, 10:37:20 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John Estes recorded "Don't You Want To Know" backed by the Delta Boys (Son Bonds and Raymond Thomas) on September 9, 1941.  The rendition makes a great deal of solo space available for Son Bonds' kazoo playing.  The song is a chorus blues, and Bonds and Thomas sang the parenthetic response lines on the chorus.  Any help with the lyrics would be appreciated.

   KAZOO INTRO

   Now, to mess with this music I would be ashamed
   Stream-lined high steppers ain't none of your band
   CHORUS:  Don't you want to know?  (Don't you want to know?)
   Don't you want to know?  (Yes, we want to know!)
   We wrote this song, this, our own, compose

   Now, walkin' down the street you don't knowin' our name
   All of you say, "That's that stream-lined band."
   CHORUS:  Don't you want to know?  (Don't you want to know?)
   Don't you want to know?  (Yes, we want to know!)
   We wrote this song, this, our own, compose

   KAZOO SOLO

   I been pickin' cotton, I done got tired
   Boys, I done learnt a better job
   CHORUS:   Don't you want to know?  (Don't you want to know?)
   Don't you want to know?  (Yes, we want to know!)
   We wrote this song, this, our own, compose

   KAZOO SOLO
 
   I know the people at home begin to hunt
   These old boys told Miss Roos to get they's lunch
   CHORUS:  Don't you want to know?  (Don't you want to know?)
   Don't you want to know?  (Yes, we want to know!)
   We wrote this song, this, our own, compose

   KAZOO SOLO

   Talk about our music, make fun of our clothes
   We done worked up ourself, up with Major Bowes
   CHORUS:  Don't you want to know?  (Don't you want to know?)
   Don't you want to know?  (Yes, we want to know!)
   We wrote this song, this, our own, compose

   KAZOO SOLO

edited, 2/20 to pick up corrections from banjochris and dj

All best,
Johnm 

   
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: banjochris on February 18, 2009, 10:50:26 PM
John -- I'm surprised there were any pre-war Sleepy John lyrics left -- I thought you had gotten them all.

A couple of things on "Don't You Want to Know" -- I think it's possible he's saying "and none of your band" instead of "ain't" -- neither makes much sense, but I think you can take the brackets off "band."

In the chorus, I think the last line ends with "compose," not "composed" and he's using it as a substitute for "composition." I think he might be saying "this our own compose" and adding a weird sound to "our" -- it doesn't sound quite like "of" to me. But it could be "of our own compose" as well.

I think "hunt" is right in the fourth verse, and the second line is "These old boys told Miss [Ruth] to get thei' lunch." It sounds more like "Roos," so it could be a last name, but given that John's delivery is a little -- how shall I put it -- wet? sometimes, I think Ruth is the most likely.
Chris
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on February 18, 2009, 10:59:25 PM
Hi Chris,
Thanks very much for the suggestions.  I will give them a good listen.  This song was actually the only remaining untranscribed pre-War Sleepy John tune.  I've been hiding from it, like Texas Alexander's "Normangee Blues".  I think we have a good chance of getting them both transcribed now, and that's good.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: banjochris on February 18, 2009, 11:03:42 PM
I'm still bothered by that last verse of "Tell Me How 'Bout It." I'll listen to it in the car, only half paying attention, and think I hear something, and then go back and listen and it's all gibberish again.  :o
Chris

Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: dj on February 19, 2009, 04:38:03 AM
I'm substantially in agreement with Chris on his comments, though I hear the second line of the fourth verse as "These old boys told Miss [Ruth] to get THEY'S lunch."

I've always heard the last line of the chorus as "We wrote this song, this's our own compose", with "our" drawn out to two syllables - "ow-er".
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: dj on February 19, 2009, 05:45:15 AM
Quote
I'm still bothered by that last verse of "Tell Me How 'Bout It."

"Sam Mann and Henry run jams on the truck, "Mann's State Wide" 'n' they haul people's stuff" is how I hear that.  "Jams on the truck", I assume, is trucks jammed with stuff.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on February 20, 2009, 08:30:50 AM
Hi dj,
Thanks very much for the help with the lyrics on "Don't You Want to Know".  I agree that Sleepy John says "they's lunch".  I think, too, that he draws out the word "our" in the way you and banjochris suggested--it's that soft "v" sound in there that had me confused.  I guess you just run into stuff like that. 
As an unrelated pronunciation aside, I remember being baffled by Country singers, when I was a kid, pronouncing "never", "nelver".  Mike Seeger still does this.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: banjochris on March 12, 2009, 08:00:29 PM
I was listening to "Street Car Blues" in the car today and something occurred to me about the first verse, which we have here as
Because they heard of Poor John, was strollin' 'round a 'lectric car

In a '60s recording he sings this as
Now they heard of Poor John got struck by a 'lectric car

Clearly that isn't what he sings on the original, but I think maybe the line in the '30s version should be:
Because they heard of Poor John, was 'stroyed by a 'lectric car.

Also, going back and looking for the "Street Car" lyrics, I came across the words here to "Stone Blind," and I think I can offer some suggestions for the gaps:


   Now, when you lose your eyesight, your best friend gone (3)
   Your [   ?   ],  just people want to fool with you wrong
...
   Now, I was standin' on the corner, close 'side the wall (2)
   Now, I was standin' on the corner, I was close 'side the wall
   Only way I c'd tell my friend I had to catch [these   ?    ]

The last line of that first verse is "Your own dear people won't fool with you long"
and the last verse, based on listening to the '40s version and a couple of versions from the '60s, ends I believe with "catch the exhaust."
Chris
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on March 13, 2009, 08:57:25 PM
Thanks, Chris, for re-visiting the lines in the Sleepy John Estes songs that I was unable to hear when I was transcribing his lyrics.  I am away from home for several days but will give a listen when I return.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Bricktown Bob on March 14, 2009, 05:53:56 AM
I've always heard the last line of the chorus as "We wrote this song, this's our own compose", with "our" drawn out to two syllables - "ow-er".

I've always heard it as "it's of our own compose."  I can make myself hear "this," but I can't make myself not hear "of" -- and "this of our own compose" falls short of the sense made by "it's ..."  Seems like everybody's satisfied with "this," though, so maybe I should just hear it that way to myself.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: banjochris on February 28, 2010, 09:19:46 PM
Thought I would bump this because I was listening to Sleepy John in the car and suddenly heard something differently that I think clears up a line in "Lawyer Clark" -- I believe the first line ends with "70 road," not Century or Shelby. US 70 runs right through the middle of Brownsville (and is the town's East Main Street).
Chris
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: maddoggirl on March 02, 2010, 12:01:44 PM
Thought I would bump this because I was listening to Sleepy John in the car and suddenly heard something differently that I think clears up a line in "Lawyer Clark" -- I believe the first line ends with "70 road," not Century or Shelby. US 70 runs right through the middle of Brownsville (and is the town's East Main Street).
Chris

I really like this idea and it does seem very likely. It also sent me off on a little Google Maps tour of Brownsville, where I got a tremendous kick out of finding both Wilson and Bradford Streets, as mentioned in Fire Department Blues. Some of the streets mentioned appear to either no long be there or to have been renamed, but I suppose that's to be expected.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: maddoggirl on March 02, 2010, 12:33:31 PM
This whole topic, by the way, has prompted me to do a little research/essay procrastination  ;)

On a Tennessee genealogy forum I found the following:

"John Clark married Mary Ann Alford in Haywood Co, Tn Jun 1, 1851. They had multiple children - the one I descend from is John Peter Clark - born in Wellwood, Haywood Co. He married Georgianna Holmes Nov 22, 1874 in Wellwood. Georgianna was born in Wellwood in 1856, daughter of Jesse Wells Homes of Shelby Co, TN, and Martha Elizabeth Cobb. John Peter Clarke was issued a license to practice law in Haywood Co in November 1878"

Now, Wellwood is about 7 or 8 miles away from Brownsville, and such a small town that it seems conceivable that he might have had his practice in the larger town of Brownsville.

Also, possibly a coincidence, but you know that line "Out on 70 road/ Got a nice little lake/ Right inside the grove'?
Guess what the area around the strip of Hwy 70 which connects these two towns is called? ... Willow Grove.
Just a thought.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: banjochris on August 07, 2010, 12:30:34 AM
OK, bumping this one again. I think between dj, who suggested the last line of the verse last year, and myself, I think we finally have a plausible last verse for "Tell Me How About It." See what you think -- John is really swallowing his consonants and singing fast on this one. I think it's

Sam Mann in th' engine room, James on the truck,
Mann's Statewide and they haul people's stuff.

Chris
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Mr.OMuck on December 11, 2010, 06:39:32 AM
On Floating Bridge Blues I think that he was not laid across any version of blanket but rather a SINK perhaps pronounced somewhere between SINK & SANK. ;=}
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on December 11, 2010, 09:17:19 AM
Hi Phil,
I think you're right--I've never been happy about that "blanket".  A sink makes sense, too, he was drenched.  I will re-listen and make the change.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Mr.OMuck on December 11, 2010, 11:15:31 AM
And he proceeds to bring up a gallon & a half of water!
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: blueshome on December 11, 2010, 11:31:53 AM
I always heard "bank".
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Mr.OMuck on December 11, 2010, 02:17:31 PM
Just listened again, first is sank (sink) second is bank and third is sink so I think bank was an error and that the intention was sink (or sank).
The last line I'm hearing as People on the bridge was screamin' & cryin' 3x Lord have moicy wheres we gwine
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Gumbo on April 11, 2011, 07:57:14 AM
Registration Day
my first Sleepy John Estes tune and still one of my favourites
but what is that last line? pick up secret ?? I don't get it.


They're calling from 18 on up to 36
some of us leaving our homes
in a terrible fix

Oh but you've got to go
you trying to win this race
You know by the help of the Lord
we'll see our wife and mothers' face

now let's go boys pull up for your town
if you ever get back home, you'll be on your
same old paid ground
Oh but you've got to go ...

now your boss man may be rich
have all kind of change
when uncle sam calls you that don't mean a thing
Oh but you've got to go ...

Now, poor mother do worry - i know how she feels
thinking 'bout her son
out on the battlefield
But you've got to go ...

now if y'go to the camp boy, hopin' to act rough
they put you in that old guard house an' make you
pick up cigarette butt
Oh but you've got to go ...

edited to pick up correction from banjochris

Sleepy John Estes - Registration Day Blues (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osDHC-SdnnU#)
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: banjochris on April 12, 2011, 11:10:01 PM
Thanks for the link to the song. Last verse is:

Now if y'go to the camp boy, oh babe don't act rough,
They put you in that old guard house, they make you
Pick up cigarette butts,
But you got to go...

Chris
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Gumbo on April 14, 2011, 05:15:15 AM
Cigarette! doh

thanks Chris, that makes much more sense!
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: MTJ3 on April 21, 2012, 08:25:12 AM
This post is relevant to Reply #116.  In that post, I had speculated that John had left Ripley, not that he had left for Ripley, and that the vocalization between "left" and "Ripley" was a "place holder" similar to one he used elsewhere (sort of a prosodic element).  In the version of "Special Agent" that John recorded for George Mitchell, John clearly says "left for Ripley."  See my transcription of that recording below.

"Special Agent"
Recorded Brownsville, TN, 1962
The George Mitchell Collection, vol. 9

Oh, when I left for Ripley, weather was kind of cool (2x)
He said, "Boy, y'all be careful. Prob'ly you might catch the flu."

Oh, a special agent up the country sure is hard on a man.
Oh, special agent up the country sure is hard on a man.
You know they put him off when he hungry, won't even let him ride no train.

Yeah, sitting down in Centralia, sure was feelin' bad.
Oh, I was sitting down in Centralia, sure was feelin' bad.
You know they wouldn't let me ride no fast train, they put me off on a doggone drag.

Special agent, special, please let me ride.
Oh, special agent, special agent, put me off close to some town.
You know I got to do some recordin', you know I ought to be recordin' right now.

Oh, I hung that manifest, and I went down in the freight rail box.
Oh, I hung that manifest, you know I went down in the freight rail box.
You know I could hear them special agent, boy, when they come tippin' over the top.
Title: City Hall Blues
Post by: cru423 on March 11, 2013, 08:49:55 PM
Got Those City Hall Blues

Oh, stay in the middle of the street
Boy, don't hit the sidewalk at all (2x)
You know Mr. Buddy will get you,
Boy, to help pay that new city hall

When you hear Mr. Buddy's siren blowin'
Boy, please pull off on the side (2x)
Now he will take you down to that big-house
Boy, it's bad on the inside

Oh, when you out, late hours at night
Boy, be careful how loud you talk (2x)
You know Mr. Buddy don't get you drink
Boy, he get you for that old eggshell walk

Oh, if you ain't got your kneaded flour
Don't cut your switch oven on (2x)
Now Mr. Buddy will get you
Boy, that's another tip for the city hall

I wanna use your phone
I wanna call 1-3-6-9 (2x)
You know Mr. Buddy in the front
Boy, that big dog back down behind

I wanna call up Mr. Buddy
Get him to tax me in my home (2x)
You know he done broke up all the crap game
Boy he bet on his rye corn

extra verse from "Brownsville Blues", Delmark, 1969 version:

Mr. Buddy told me to crawl in
Roll of the dice
enjoy the rim (2x)
I told Mr. Buddy I ain't drunk
He said, "Poor John, you sure is full of gin"


Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: cru423 on March 19, 2013, 11:03:15 PM
In "Stone Blind Blues" back on page 9 the missing lyrics are:

Now when you lose your eyesight, your best friend gone (3x)
Your own *dear people* won't a-fool with you long

I was standing on the corner, close side the wall (3x)
On the way I could tell my friend I had to catch *the road*


Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Gumbo on February 09, 2014, 04:56:11 PM
for the last verse of Jailhouse Blues:

   You know I knowed this thing was gettin' kind of SQUALID, I heard the city judge when he cleared up his throat.

   "Now, no more stew BALL and neither no more white rice (2)
   Now, y'all need not be uneasy, you won't have to take THIS workhouse advice."

Late to the party but the sun ain't up yet!

I agree with Bunker Hill about Squalid, and also hear Stewball ( a kind of meatball perhaps?) and 'this' in the last line.

EDIT I see banjochris has already suggested 'This' advice in that last line.

What a great read this thread has been! Thanks to Johnm for all your transcriptions and insights and also to Bunker Hill for all the fascinating additional info!

Quote
I'm still bothered by that last verse of "Tell Me How 'Bout It."

"Sam Mann and Henry run jams on the truck, "Mann's State Wide" 'n' they haul people's stuff" is how I hear that.  "Jams on the truck", I assume, is trucks jammed with stuff.

I agree with Henry and I think it's
MANN'S FREIGHT, WHY! an' they haul peoples stuff
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Mr.OMuck on July 01, 2014, 06:26:05 PM
After consulting with my esteemed colleague Dr. Rufus T. Firefly Conte he pointed out that the line in the Yank Rachel ayuhored Divin' Duck Blues that I had always considered to be the only extant example of a reference to Necrophilia in Blues

"Now Ain't it hard to love someone that's dead,
Now ain't it hard to love someone that's dead
You cain't to use them when you want to got to use them when you can."

Is actually


"Now Ain't it hard to love someone as them
Now ain't it hard to love someone as them

You cain't to use them when you want to got to use them when you can."

                   
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Regulus Blues on May 09, 2018, 05:11:05 PM
FWIW in the lengthy 1974 interview conducted with Estes & Nixon by Kip Lornell (Living Blues 19, Jan-Feb 1975) the latter  refers a train named the "Mae West" thus:

Q:How long did you stay in Chicago?
Nixon: We didn't stay too long. Just in and out. We were riding them old freight trains then. We made that record about Mae West. We'd ride that Mae West a lot, put it down in Chicago Heights.

Later on in the interview Estes is asked what he thinks were his best ever records and one of them he names as 'Mae West'!

I've looked in B A Botkin's A Treasury Of Railroad Folklore (Crown, 1953) in the chapter on railroad and freight train nicknames but can't spot this one.

Just registered after finding this thread looking for Sleepy John lyrics, what a fantastic resource! Couldn?t resist adding my two cents  ;)

I couldn?t find anything relating to Mae West freight trains either.

However, the Pennsylvania Railroad N6B cabin cars were known as ?Mae Wests? due to the curves of their cupolas up top.

I guess the PRR could have had a line running through Chicago Heights during the 30s, but I can?t find anything specific as yet.

But it does seem like he?s referring specifically to a freight train called the Mae West. I don?t really know enough about trains, would they have mixed passenger and freight cars?

If these are what he?s referring to, he does sing that he came in ?on? a Mae West, so maybe those cupolas made good hiding spots?
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Regulus Blues on May 09, 2018, 05:36:38 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Hobo Jungle Blues" with Hammie Nixon on harmonica and either Charlie Pickett or Son Bonds on guitar.  Since both guitarists are playing out of C position in standard tuning, if my theory holds true, the second guitarist would be Brownsville Son Bonds, since he and Sleepy John did not play out of different positions on the songs that we know they played together ("Lawyer Clark", "Little Laura" and Working Man"). 

Is it confirmed that this recording was done in this tuning? I?ve tried playing it as C position in standard, but to me it sounds much closer in flatted Spanish with a capo, from the open 5th string position.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on May 09, 2018, 05:41:03 PM
Hi Regulus Blues,
Welcome to Weenie Campbell.  Sleepy John never recorded in Spanish tuning on his early recordings.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Regulus Blues on May 09, 2018, 06:33:25 PM
Hi John, thanks! This is a great site by the way - I?ve finally decided to register after many years of constantly finding you in google search results for blues guitar. Easily my number one resource for learning blues, so thanks once again :)

If SJE never played in Spanish tuning at that point, then I?m inclined to believe that whoever the other player is, is playing in Spanish (sorry if that dents your earlier theory).

I can hear the standard playing coming from John now, with the driving rhythm and that little run from the 6th to 5th string, but there are bits and pieces that I can only seem to replicate in Spanish.

That lovely little lick in the final verse that echoes Nixon?s harp sounds to me like a slide up from 2nd to 3rd on the 2nd string followed by the open 1st string in unison with the second note.

Besides this (although I?m not sold on it yet), there seems to be a run played on the lower strings much like John?s 6th to 5th string run that I mentioned above, but utilising the octave effect of the DGDG arrangement in Spanish, which only really comes to the fore in the final seconds of the recording.

It?s on the 2nd, third and open frets again... something like G0h3p0 and hD2p0 or hD3p0, then the open chord

I suppose it can probably be played either way - it just sounds a bit more full to me, like an open tuning would.
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on May 10, 2018, 09:04:12 AM
Hi Regulus Blues,
Both guitarists are playing in C position, standard tuning, tuned about a whole step low.  Neither is playing in Spanish.  The lick in the last verse is achieved by hammering to the third fret of the first string from the second fret and then re-picking the third fret, and perseverating on that lick.  Many times in the course of the song Sleepy John and Brownsville Son Bonds play a fill on the second and third strings, bent fourth fret of the second string, first fret of the second string, second fret of the third string back to the first fret of the second string, in unison.  Brownsville Son Bonds didn't record anything on which he played in Spanish either, whether backing Sleepy John Estes or on his solo cuts.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Regulus Blues on May 10, 2018, 11:10:49 AM
Hi John,

Thanks for the info, in the cold light of day (and now that it?s not too late at night to play) I can hear those lines far clearer.

I guess the mistake I?m making is in trying to reconcile both guitar parts into one (for which Spanish tuning seems to work quite well, but it?s clearly not what was originally played).

One more thing if I may... When you say C position, am I right in saying this is like playing an open C chord in standard tuning... Or does position refer to the location of the capo, whilst playing from an open E chord shape - or can it be either? That?s a distinction that?s always confused me  ::)
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on May 10, 2018, 11:14:55 AM
Hi Regulus Blues,
C position means working out of a C shape in standard tuning (possibly tuned up or down or capoed) at whatever pitch the guitar ends up sounding in.  In the case of "Hobo Jungle Blues", both guitars are tuned a whole step low, so they're sounding in Bflat.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Regulus Blues on May 10, 2018, 11:48:23 AM
Ahh, okay - that?s what I had originally thought, but I think I managed to confuse myself somewhere along the line...

I?d seen one of Tommy McClennan?s songs (another that I thought was in Spanish) described in another thread as being played from G position in standard, which I took to mean play it from an open G shape.

This didn?t sound right at all until I capoed up and played from an E shape, which I thought was odd. But eventually the penny dropped and I guessed it meant to play G barred?

Thanks for your help John, I think I?ve got it all cleared up now  :)
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on May 10, 2018, 02:27:01 PM
Hi Alex,
Yes, if you look at the table of Tommy McClennan positions/tunings, most of the time it will just say G, standard which would mean he was playing in G without a capo on tuned at standard pitch.  For "New Highway 51" though, it says "G, standard at A" which would mean playing in G position in standard tuning and capoing to the second fret so that the rendition sounded in the key of A.  Whenever a playing position description is followed by the phrase "at ___", it means the player was either tuned high or low or capoed, so that the key at which the rendition sounds and the position that was used to play the song are not the same.  I hope this helps.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Regulus Blues on May 10, 2018, 02:44:29 PM
That is exactly the song I was thinking of - I hadn?t spotted that ?at A? bit. Well then... now I have a choice of three ways to play it :D

Cheers John!
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: RichardW on January 22, 2019, 03:42:07 PM
Hi all,
"Someday Baby Blues" was recorded by Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon in 1935, as was "Drop Down Mama", and like it, was played out of C position in standard tuning.  "Someday Baby Blues" is an unusual 16-bar "chorus" blues, and it's structure is discussed in the 16-bar blues thread on the Main Forum.  Like "Drop Down Mama" it never goes to the V chord. 
Listening to the rendition, you get the distinct impression that for Sleepy John, the guitar's primary function was to accompany vocals.  I am hard put to think of a country blues singer/guitarist of Sleepy John's generation who gave his guitar less solo space.  The fact that he ends the song with a very nifty and complex run that he executes with perfect aplomb makes his choice to feature the guitar on his cuts so sparingly all the more mysterious.  He could really play.  Why did he choose not to?  Perhaps the answer is in his great singing.

   I don't care how long you're gone, I don't care how long you stay
   But that good kind treatment, bring you back home someday
   CHORUS;  Someday, baby, you ain't gonna worry my mind anymore

   I has that wind, that old chilly breeze
   Come blowin' through your BVDs, but
   CHORUS

   If you don't quit bettin', boys, them dice won't pass
   It's gon' send you home on your yas yas yas, but
   CHORUS

   It ain't but the one thing give a man the blues
   He ain't got no bottom in his last pair of shoes, but
   CHORUS

   I tell all the people in your neighborhood
   You's a no-good woman, you don't mean me no good, but
   CHORUS

All best,
Johnm

Many thanks for this and other Sleepy John lyrics, Johnm! I have a couple of thoughts about this one - not necessarily corrections. Well, one correction. On the last verse, he just sings 'you don't mean no good' rather than 'you don't mean me no good'. I know Muddy sings that in Trouble No More, which was the first incarnation of this song I knew (actually it was probably the Allmans' cover, come to think of it).

In the third verse (don't quit bettin'), when it goes to the chorus bit, is it possible he's actually singing 'life' instead of 'mind' the one time? It just sounds a bit different to the other ones where you can hear the M sound on My and Mind following similarly. I dunno what the story is with the Big Maceo Worried Life and how that came about or if I'm just being swayed by all the covers in mind...

Last thing is when I've been singing this I've tended to sing 'ah that wind' in the second verse, as that makes more sense to me than 'I has that wind' which suggests he has low temperature flatulence, not to say that that's not what he's singing, especially in light of the BVDs thing.   ;)
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on January 22, 2019, 04:57:28 PM
Hi RichardW,
Thanks for the lyric catches.  I agree, he does sing "life" in the chorus following the third verse, and he does sing "mean no good" in the first line of the last verse.  I found another mistake, in the first line of the fourth verse, he sings,
   It ain't but the one thing THAT give a man the blues
I do think that in the first line of the second verse that I had it wrong, and what he actually sings is:
   I HAVE that old wind, that chilly breeze
I can clearly hear the "v" in "have".  I will make the corrections.

Thanks also for putting up the links to performances you and Prof Scratchy and Thomas and Snake Hips did.  I've seen a couple already and quite like them.  Good singing you did on the songs you sang, and all concerned sound great!
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: RichardW on January 22, 2019, 11:46:01 PM
Cheers John!  :D
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: RichardW on January 23, 2019, 12:07:37 PM
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Easin' Back To Tennessee" in a guitar duet with one guitar (Sleepy John?) playing out of C, standard tunng and the other (Charlie Pickett?) capoed up three frets and playing out of A position in standard tuning.  The piece is pretty reserved instrumentally; there never are any fireworks, really. 
The song is a "chorus" format 12-bar blues, and the lyrics seem to allude to a period when Sleepy John may have been living in Chicago.  He sings the chorus with great feeling and sounds like he was really ready to return home.  Help with the bracketed portions would be appreciated.

   Now, woke up this mornin', couldn't hardly see
   Snow on the ground 'bout eight foot deep
   CHORUS:  Lord, have mercy, baby, what gon' come of me?
   You know I feel just like easin' back down into Tennessee

   Now Carl Williams in the office wants to see you alone
   I can't do nothin' where this white stuff on
   CHORUS:  Lord, have mercy, baby, what's gon' come of me?
   You know I feel just like easin' back down into Tennessee

   Now, I'm on the South Side, my buddy on the East
   I don't know whether he's got any place to sleep
   CHORUS:  Lord, have mercy, honey, what's gon' come of me?
   You know I feel just like easin' back down into Tennessee

   Said, car can't go, [mountain] too slick
   Prob'ly might slip back off in a ditch
   CHORUS:  as after verse 3

   Now, twenty-two twenty-four West Hubbard Avenue
   That's where you get my 1938 blues
   CHORUS:  as after verse 2

Edited, 2/23 to pick up correction from Bunker Hill

All best,
Johnm

I had a search to see if Carl Williams was mentioned elsewhere on the thread/forum but couldn't find anything. Only, I hear it is 'call William in the office', which seems just as sensible?  ^-^ Also I've been singing can't do nothing 'while' this white stuff on, i.e. it's still snowing, but it does 'sound' like he's singing 'where'.

On the car can't go bit, could he be singing 'margin' as in road margin, as he mentions a ditch in the next line?
Title: Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
Post by: Johnm on January 23, 2019, 04:06:51 PM
Hi RichardW,
I think it is "mountain" rather than "margin".  People in the U. S. don't use the word margin in this context, we use the term "shoulder" to describe the side of a road.  I'm satisfied with the other questionable areas.
All best,
Johnm