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Author Topic: SOTM 8-May-2015: The Greyhound Bus Station  (Read 1750 times)

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Offline frankie

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SOTM 8-May-2015: The Greyhound Bus Station
« on: May 08, 2015, 04:06:27 AM »
Greyhound buses seem to have captured the collective imagination of African Americans in the early 20th century as a symbol of freedom and escape. The line was founded in 1914 and was was well enough established for a singer named Alice Pearson to record Greyhound Blues in 1927. Subsequently, recordings by this title were made by Jim Jackson and Walter Coleman among others...  one notable cameo appearance is in the last verse of Robert Johnson's "Me And The Devil Blues:"

You may bury my body down by the highway side
So my old evil spirit can get a Greyhound bus and ride

Rather than focus on ALL the songs under this title and topic, I'll just tell you a story that unravelled  unexpectedly for me after listening to the George Mitchell Collection, and that features the Greyhound bus station.

Jesse Lee Vortis recorded When My Baby Got On Board, probably in the late 60s for George Mitchell:



I've not found any biographical information on Vortis, so he remains a mystery, at least to me. Upon first hearing it, I thought for sure that this song was unique - the main riff certainly was.  My friends Pat and Joe both shook their heads...  "Nope..." Joe said, "Carl Hodges recorded that in the 60s for Milestone. You don't know that record? You NEVER heard that record? That's a GREAT record! You GOT TO hear thart record."

Not many people get excited about this stuff the way Joe gets excited about this stuff.

Anyway, I sought out the Carl Hodges recording, thinking it might be the source recording. It was recorded on an old Milestone LP called "Ramblin' On My Mind - A Collection Of Classic Train And Travel Blues." You can hear the Hodges recording of Standing At The Greyhound Bus Station here:



The first thing you'll probably tell me is that beyond the words, there appears to be no musical relationship at all...  and I agree...  when I heard this, I just could NOT at all put together how these could be considered the same song. At any rate, the differences between them got me to thinking that there must be some third song upon which both of these are based, which might contain the seeds of both. Looking online for songs with "Greyhound" in the title, I found a lyric transcription for Lightnin' Slim's "Greyhound Blues", which appears to also use the same lyrics as the Vortis and Hodges songs. It was pressed as a 45rpm record in the early 60s, so may have been recorded earlier. Unfortunately, it hasn't been reissued yet on CD and no-one has yet seen fit to post their 45 of it on youtube. Maybe if I get real desperate, I'll pony up the money for the original 45, just out of abject, desperate curiosity...  see what happens?

Moving on...

Then by accident, I happened to be listening to volume 1 of Arthur Crudup in the car and his "Gonna Follow My Baby" came on. Crudup is the kind of player who has, more than anything else, a real SOUND..  so it was easy for me to be drawn into his music from the first notes. The opening lyric, however, really got my attention:

I was standing at that Greyhound bus station when my baby got on board

Here's the full tune:



Crudup recorded this sometime in 1942, so it's likely that this is the source of the other recordings.  The Lightnin' Slim recording remains a wild card and I would not be surprised to find a version under yet another name done by Lightnin' Hopkins sometime in the 50s. Do any of you recognize this set of lyrics from another song?

So, what's so interesting about these three songs? I'll tell ya..  it is just fascinating to me that three  completely different musical settings were wrapped around this set of lyrics. If we just take a moment to analyze:

Vortis: spanish tuning at G-flat
Hodges: standard tuning, E position, E-flat+
Crudup: crossnote at B-flat-

The centerpiece of the song as played by Vortis is a riff that features the minor third played in the bass on beats 2 and 3, followed by a treble riff that runs from C (1st fret, 2nd string) to D (open 1st string), up to a triplet pull off from F (3rd fret, 1st string) to D to C, finishing with a B-flat and G on the 3rd string. Vortis sings over the IV chord and what passes for the V chord. The IV chord is fingered as a partial barre at the 5th fret with the B-flat note added at the 8th fret of the 1st string and bent slightly. The V chord isn't specifically played, but suggested with just two notes: D and F, played off of the 4th string (open and the 3rd fret).

Hodges' recording is much more brooding, and leans heavily on the sharp IV note, a deeply unsettling sound. Beyond  the V7 chord, never really fully articulates chords, preferring to use a shuffle rhythm on the bass strings to push the song along. This gives the song a very stark feeling. One exception to this is the solo that starts about 2:34 - he changes to the IV chord both in the bass and uses a double stop: x0x650 - and riffs freely out of this position, using the B, A and G notes that are all available between the 5th and 8th fret on the first two strings. The sound has the effect of lightening the mood slightly before returning to the sung theme. It's a brilliant moment, in my opinion, and reminds me strongly of the playing of Lightnin' Hopkins and Carolina Slim.

Crudup's recording is lighter in tone than Hodges' and less rhythmically insistent than Vortis'. After the first verse, he articulates the I and IV chord with the same two notes: C-sharp and G - the two note figure is played at the 8th and 9th fret  while functioning as the I chord, and then at the 2nd and 3rd fret while functioning as the IV chord. He uses the same basic fingering in these two positions, and the relationship of the two notes inverts when he moves from the 8th fret down to the 2nd fret: at the 8th fret, G is the lower note on the 2nd string, C-sharp is higher on the first. At the 2nd fret, C-sharp is the lower note on the 2nd string, G is higher on the first. This has the benefit of sounding amazingly good and sophisticated while at the same time being easy to  execute. Brilliant! Crudup's tone on the electric guitar is also astoundingly good - just the right balance of clarity and hair. In nearly all of his recordings, Crudup avoided a full V chord, preferring to suggest it with two notes: B and D, played on the 5th string, open and 3rd fret, respectively.

I hope you all found this interesting - the similarities and differences between these approaches were very exciting to me, and I hope you can see some of that yourselves. Any one of these would be an interesting song to try playing, but it would be equally interesting to take this same set of lyrics and adopt yet another approach (since we already have a precedent). I'll include the lyrics for all three songs below.  If you do get inspired to take a crack at this theme, just post it as a response to the thread.

Have fun!

When My Baby Got On Board - Jesse Lee Vortis

I was standing at that Greyhound bus station when my baby got on board
I was standing at that Greyhound bus station when my baby got on board
I was standing there begging, now, baby please don't go

When that Greyhound was leaving with my baby all inside
When that Greyhound was leaving with my baby all inside
All I could do, just hang my head and cry

Why should I stand here worrying? There's another bus going that same old way
Why should I stand here worrying? There's another bus going that same old way
I'm gonna find that girl I'm loving some old lonesome day


Standing At The Greyhound Bus Station - Carl Hodges

Yes I was standing at that Greyhound bus station when my baby got on board
Yes I was standing there begging, I said baby please

Yes when that Greyhound bus was leaving, had my baby all
Yes when that Greyhound bus was leaving, had my baby all
Lord I couldn't do nothing but hang my head

I said "Why should I'm crying? There's another bus going that same"
I said "Why should I stand here crying? There's another bus going that same"
I'll find that girl I love some old lonesome

spoken: Play it one time

Yes, I will buy me a ticket, I want to ride all night long
Yes, I will ride, baby, all
I want to find that girl I love although she have fooled

spoken: No use to be crying


Arthur Crudup - Gonna Follow My Baby

I was standing at that Greyhound bus station when my baby got on board
I was standing at that Greyhound bus station when my baby got on board
I was standing there begging, baby please don't go

Now, when that Greyhound was leaving with my baby all inside
When that Greyhound was leaving with my baby all inside
Well then I couldn't do nothing but hang my head and cry

Why should I cry? There's a bus going that same old way
Why should I stand here, crying? There's a bus going that same old way
I will find the woman that I love some old lonesome day

I'm gonna catch me a Greyhound, ride until its tongue touch the ground
I'm gonna catch me a Greyhound bus, ride until its tongue, Lord, touch the ground
I'm gonna follow the woman I love although she have put me down
« Last Edit: May 08, 2015, 08:25:10 AM by Johnm »

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: SOTM 8-May-2015: The Greyhound Bus Station
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2015, 06:46:39 AM »
Wow Frankie - you've written a thesis!!  ;D
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Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: SOTM 8-May-2015: The Greyhound Bus Station
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2015, 07:56:45 AM »
That's a great family of songs. Thanks for putting them together in this post!

Offline Johnm

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Re: SOTM 8-May-2015: The Greyhound Bus Station
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2015, 08:41:10 AM »
Thanks for introducing that set of different arrangements of essentially the same set of lyrics, Frank.  It's fascinating to hear the different approaches, and your analysis of what the different musicians are doing is really interesting.  I'd heard the first two performances before, but not the Arthur Crudup one.  That Jesse Lee Vortis always foxes me when he makes his vocal entries--it sounds like he's flipping the beat and then somehow mysteriously righting himself.  Does it seem that way to you?  I'm curious if I'm just screwed up in how I'm hearing it. 
Thanks for introducing the concept of this thread and doing the necessary research and study to make such an interesting inaugural post.  I hope some folks do come up with new versions of the song.
All best,
Johnm 

Offline blueshome

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Re: SOTM 8-May-2015: The Greyhound Bus Station
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2015, 08:47:32 AM »
Great stuff.
The riff in the Vortis seems like an attempt at the Crudup riff but perhaps ill remembered.

Offline frankie

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Re: SOTM 8-May-2015: The Greyhound Bus Station
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2015, 02:14:46 PM »
That Jesse Lee Vortis always foxes me when he makes his vocal entries--it sounds like he's flipping the beat and then somehow mysteriously righting himself.  Does it seem that way to you?  I'm curious if I'm just screwed up in how I'm hearing it.

It definitely seems that way to me, John. In trying to play it myself, I tend in to come in wherever I feel like it and then hold a note until I can get a toehold on the rhythm.

Offline frankie

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Re: SOTM 8-May-2015: The Greyhound Bus Station
« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2015, 02:17:26 PM »
Wow Frankie - you've written a thesis!!  ;D

It just kinda got away from me...  a couple of people have already pointed out stuff I missed.

This is just one example of what one of these postings could be... this is arguably too obscure a topic for an inaugural post, but it's where my head has been at. This could just as well have been about "Make Me A Pallet..."  and that would be a REALLY good topic!!! (hint hint hint)

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: SOTM 8-May-2015: The Greyhound Bus Station
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2015, 11:19:36 PM »
Wowie, zowie Frank what a superb piece of work. You should work on it and get it published in one of the magazines.

If it's of any use, Sonny Terry recorded it for Alert in 1946 which I have on a 1950s British Melodisc LP compilation (Broonzy, Terry/McGhee/Guthrie).

Harry Oster recorded Carl Hodge's performing it in 1959 first to appear on a Tradition compilation of Angola inmate recordings.

The Jesse Lee Vortis first saw the light of day on the UK LP Revival label see Stefan W's discog:

http://www.wirz.de/music/revivfrm.htm

Offline StoogeKebab

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Re: SOTM 8-May-2015: The Greyhound Bus Station
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2015, 11:33:26 PM »
An interesting read indeed -

Out of interest anyone may have, here is a film of Crudup performing his song (starts a little of the way in)


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Offline Lastfirstface

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Re: SOTM 8-May-2015: The Greyhound Bus Station
« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2015, 08:28:11 AM »
Great inaugural SOTM! 

Offline Slack

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Re: SOTM 8-May-2015: The Greyhound Bus Station
« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2015, 12:51:48 PM »
Yes, great post frankie, and great idea!  I'm looking forward to getting an education!

And thanks for posting that great Crudup film clip. I love Arthur Crudup and glad to see him this doing this song in a band setting(with his sons apparently)!

Offline Zoharbareket

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Re: SOTM 8-May-2015: The Greyhound Bus Station
« Reply #11 on: May 10, 2015, 04:26:55 AM »
Thanks a lot, Frankie! I've learned a lot from your post.

Z

Offline uncle bud

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Re: SOTM 8-May-2015: The Greyhound Bus Station
« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2015, 08:39:57 AM »
Great post, Frank. I was unfamiliar with both the Carl Hodges and Arthur Crudup versions. Neat to hear the different treatments -- and of a song that is not traditional, and recorded relatively late as well.

I wonder if anyone has asked George Mitchell recently about Vortis, who he was, where he came from. Whether there is any more! Miss Maybelle and this one are favorites...

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: SOTM 8-May-2015: The Greyhound Bus Station
« Reply #13 on: May 10, 2015, 08:46:11 AM »
Came upon this today whilst youtubing:
« Last Edit: May 10, 2015, 08:54:17 AM by Prof Scratchy »

Offline frankie

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Re: SOTM 8-May-2015: The Greyhound Bus Station
« Reply #14 on: May 10, 2015, 09:30:41 AM »
Great call, Prof! There's NO excuse for my having missed THAT one! Ouch!

Thanks for the kind words, everyone - particularly you Bunker Hill.  I suppose this kind of thing might find a likely home in a magazine, but I rather like using a forum like this, as ephemeral as it might seem. There's something about the way listening, discussion, thought and playing can all enjoy some crosstalk in this format that appeals to me.

And thank you for the additional details as well. I've been a-looking for that Hard Time Mississippi LP... rare!
« Last Edit: May 10, 2015, 11:18:48 AM by frankie »

 


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