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Author Topic: SOTM December 2018 Hey Lordy Mama / Meet Me In The Bottom  (Read 1646 times)

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Offline Lignite

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Re: SOTM December 2018 Hey Lordy Mama / Meet Me In The Bottom
« Reply #30 on: December 12, 2018, 06:36:42 PM »
So do you think Brownie on the earlier version was going through his period of doing the electric band driven R&B tunes for the different independent labels in NYC without Sonny and it might of rubbed off on this cut? Later when he and Sonny got established as a traditional blues music duo with the folk music crowd, he may have decided to go back to a more authentic traditional presentation with his personal interpretation of the Buddy Moss version.

Offline DavidCrosbie

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Re: SOTM December 2018 Hey Lordy Mama / Meet Me In The Bottom
« Reply #31 on: December 13, 2018, 07:12:44 AM »
I posted not so long ago on Sam (Samuel) Gary in another topic
Can you give a link to your post, alyoung? I've found some more information, but don't want to duplicate.

Offline Rivers

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Re: SOTM December 2018 Hey Lordy Mama / Meet Me In The Bottom
« Reply #32 on: December 13, 2018, 08:13:24 AM »
I posted not so long ago on Sam (Samuel) Gary in another topic
Can you give a link to your post, alyoung? I've found some more information, but don't want to duplicate.

Here you go. I posted it to the How did that get recorded? thread in November after it turned up while doing my homework on the song: https://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=708.msg105475#msg105475
« Last Edit: December 13, 2018, 08:14:58 AM by Rivers »

Offline DavidCrosbie

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Re: SOTM December 2018 Hey Lordy Mama / Meet Me In The Bottom
« Reply #33 on: December 15, 2018, 12:01:57 PM »
Here you go. I posted it to the How did that get recorded? thread in November after it turned up while doing my homework on the song: https://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=708.msg105475#msg105475

Thanks, Rivers. I've done some looking up and posted a reply on that other thread.

Offline DavidCrosbie

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Re: SOTM December 2018 Hey Lordy Mama / Meet Me In The Bottom
« Reply #34 on: December 23, 2018, 05:48:46 AM »
A while back, Rivers asked me for a link to the Ralph Willis recording I listed. I couldn't find one, and I now see why.

I have an iTunes playlist with all my versions of Hey Lawdy Mama. One is by Ralph Willis, but I wrote it up too quickly ? not noticing that Willis's title is Tell Me Pretty Baby.



I'll make the due alteration to the table I posted.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2018, 04:14:59 PM by DavidCrosbie »

Offline Rivers

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Re: SOTM December 2018 Hey Lordy Mama / Meet Me In The Bottom
« Reply #35 on: December 23, 2018, 09:50:04 AM »
Wow, a western swing version! I like it.

Offline DavidCrosbie

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Re: SOTM December 2018 Hey Lordy Mama / Meet Me In The Bottom
« Reply #36 on: January 08, 2019, 06:19:59 AM »
I've long  been puzzled by the image of somebody leaving from a river bottom, but then travelling exclusively by train. I've just found an explanation in Max Haymes' Railroading Some.

Haymes believes the reference is to the M&O Bottoms ? the adjacent land almost on a level with the Warrior River, along which part of the M&O Railroad ran.

Offline Johnm

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Re: SOTM December 2018 Hey Lordy Mama / Meet Me In The Bottom
« Reply #37 on: January 08, 2019, 08:45:28 AM »
Hi David,
The notion that the lyric refers to a particular bottom is extremely doubtful to me.  What makes the lyric work is its universality.  There is nothing in the lyric to suggest that the train leaves from the bottom, rather that it is just the meeting place to pick up the shoes and clothes, boots and shoes, whatever.  Moreover, the word "bottom" does not just refer to low ground adjacent to a river, it can also refer to a neighborhood of a town, generally thought of as the wrong side of the tracks.  Why should the lyric be referring to the "M & O Bottoms", when nothing else in the lyric refers to the M & O? 
All best,
Johnm

Offline DavidCrosbie

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Re: SOTM December 2018 Hey Lordy Mama / Meet Me In The Bottom
« Reply #38 on: January 08, 2019, 06:09:07 PM »
John,

Haymes' argument is that the terms Bottoms frequently applied to the terraces at three different heights along the Warrior River, and that the regions like this were called Bottomlands.

This particular bottomland was called the M&O Bottoms by Big Joe Williams, although his version of the song in question has Meet me round the corner.

Harriet McClintock, a singer who had lived and picked cotton in the Warrior River Bottoms, sang for John Lomax

Quote from: Aunt Harriet McClintock
Way down in the Bottom
All the cotton so rotten
You won't get your hundred here today

Her bottom would have been the 'first terrace' ? the lowest and most likely to flood.

Here is Haymes' attempt to square the geography:

Quote from: Railroading Some
...it is likely that the various versions of 'Meet Me In The Bottom/Lawdy Mama' were learnt from records, although the oral tradition would have helped the spread of this song from Georgia to North Carolina to Mississippi. Indeed, the M&O Bottoms would have seen sea-going commerce, as the Warrior River is navigable as high as Tuscaloosa, thereby stimulating an international cultural exchange, in much the same way as Mobile, New Orleans and other ports on the Eastern Seaboard. The Tuscaloosa branch of the M&O itself continued on to Montgomery, Ala., where its tracks shared the Union Station with the L&N, the Western Railway of Alabama, the ACL and the Central of Georgia. All these railroads fanned out over the South, acting as a conduit for the oral transmission of the blues


OK, it's not entirely convincing, but it's an interesting argument. And it just might be the case.

Haymes cites earlier records which identify the Black Bottom as an area. The trouble is that early records deliberately confused the area, the dance and the woman's backside.

However, I've found a song where Bottoms definitely refers to land liable to flood ? Bottoms Blues by Texas Alexander.

Quote from: Bottoms Blues
Take me out of these Bottoms before the high water rise
Take me out of these Bottom, people, before the high water rise
You know I ain't no Christian man, and I don't want to be baptised

Aha! Mance Lipscomb sings the same verse in Foggy Bottom Blues. ? complete with Lawdy Mama, Great God Almighty.

And Georgia Tom sings in Mississippi Bottom Blues:

Quote from: Mississippi Bottom Blues
Mississippi Bottom, where the water rises high
Them women they got something, hold you till the day you die

Mississippi Bottom, filled with mud and clay
Mississippi woman, she stole my heart away

Offline Rivers

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Re: SOTM December 2018 Hey Lordy Mama / Meet Me In The Bottom
« Reply #39 on: January 08, 2019, 06:32:36 PM »
Living in Austin for ten years I came to think of the bottom lands as the low lying areas inland from the actual river mouth. I seem to remember some discussion of that in Lornell/Wolfe Leadbelly bio but my memory may be deceiving me. Time to read it again, what a terrible chore, one of my favorite books.

I think it likely that the setting for some versions of the song was a jailbreak. Prisons are seldom located on prime real estate land. Not all versions, just some. "Bring my shoes and clothes, when I come out the window..." etc
« Last Edit: January 08, 2019, 06:39:22 PM by Rivers »

Offline Johnm

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Re: SOTM December 2018 Hey Lordy Mama / Meet Me In The Bottom
« Reply #40 on: January 08, 2019, 06:38:52 PM »
My point is, what was the Warrior River to Buddy Moss?  What was the Warrior River to Shirley Griffith, to Bumble Bee Slim?  I'd venture to say that most of the people who covered the song never heard of the Warrior River.  I think such an interpretation of the lyrics is trying to get to a particularity of intent in the original lyric that shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how Blues lyrics work and evolve.
 

Offline Rivers

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Re: SOTM December 2018 Hey Lordy Mama / Meet Me In The Bottom
« Reply #41 on: January 08, 2019, 06:43:13 PM »
On the detail, I do agree with you, no way of telling and not at all relevant.

I think it's a very old joke among ex cons, set to music. Moss actually recorded his before getting seriously sent to prison though, looking at the dates.

Offline DavidCrosbie

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Re: SOTM December 2018 Hey Lordy Mama / Meet Me In The Bottom
« Reply #42 on: January 09, 2019, 07:29:03 AM »
I think it's a very old joke among ex cons, set to music. Moss actually recorded his before getting seriously sent to prison though, looking at the dates.
Yes, I used to think it was a joke. What changed my mind was the realisation that so many verses in so many versions were about leaving a lover by rail.

Incidentally, what Buddy Moss and Curley Weaver sang was Meet me at the river ? which to me sounds less like an escape. A trivial point ? don't hold me to it.

What interests me about this song (among others) is the interplay between composition and transmission.

The Blues records we enjoy listening to are practically all compositions ? in the sense that the performance has been planned to last approximately three minutes. Outside the Vaudeville and Jazz idioms, singers hadn't  learnt them from written texts. Some were essentially original compositions, but many were based on hearing performances by other singers. Historically, such oral transmission has promoted variation. The twentieth century recording industry made it much easier for singers to learn and copy from repeated listening to the same performance. Songs like Meet Me In The Bottom illustrate composition using all three processes ? pure invention, oral transmission with variation, and copying of recorded performances.

As Jeff Taft has shown, even original Blues verses may resemble the product of oral transmission in that they're often constructed with formulas, typically half-lines sung to a two-bar musical phrase, which are widely shared in the tradition.

I concede John's point that many Blues compositions are fairly random collections of verses. But what interests me is the way that some tunes and formats attract and cling on to verses and formulas which are rarely if ever used in other Blues songs. Hey Lawdy Mama/Meet Me In The Bottom is both a tune and a format. And the records are rich in repetition of verses and formulas, many of them unheard or seldom heard in other songs.

The Taft concordance is currently off line, so I can't check. But I believe that the phrase Meet me in the Bottom is not used to any significant extent in other Blues songs. If I'm right, then this is central to the song ? not just a case of everybody copying Bumble Bee Slim. Weaver and Moss didn't sing exactly this, but they did sing something with a similar meaning:  Meet me at the river.

Haymes' argument depends on two propositions
  • The phrase Meet me in the Bottom was essential to the song from the start.
  • In its earliest version, Bottom  referred to the M&O Bottoms
.
I reckon the first is quite likely true. The second is more tenuous ? but not as ridiculous as John implies. Singers located far from The Warrior River could quite easily identify the Bottom as some local Bottom that they were familiar with.
« Last Edit: January 09, 2019, 08:20:36 AM by DavidCrosbie »

Offline Johnm

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Re: SOTM December 2018 Hey Lordy Mama / Meet Me In The Bottom
« Reply #43 on: January 09, 2019, 08:52:35 AM »
Hi David,
My primary quibble with the theory that the song originally referred to the Warrior River Bottoms is that not a single version of the song that I'm aware of even mentions the Warrior River or the M & O.  Blues singers were perfectly capable of mentioning place names explicitly in their lyrics when they wanted to do so--blues lyrics abound in verses with explicit place name references.  The Max Haymes notion that the lyric originally referred to the Warrior River bottoms is an example of a hypothesis playing fast and loose with the evidence available in the lyrics themselves, which is close to nil.  Put another way, he is trying to pour five gallons of significance into a pint container of content.
All best,
Johnm 
   
« Last Edit: January 09, 2019, 09:20:31 AM by Johnm »

Offline Stuart

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Re: SOTM December 2018 Hey Lordy Mama / Meet Me In The Bottom
« Reply #44 on: January 09, 2019, 08:59:01 AM »
As Jeff Taft has shown, even original Blues verses may resemble the product of oral transmission in that they're often constructed with formulas, typically half-lines sung to a two-bar musical phrase, which are widely shared in the tradition.

cf. The work of Millman Parry and his student, Albert Lord.

My teacher, C.H. Wang, applied their ideas to the earliest extant Chinese poetry in his diss at Berkeley which was reworked into The Bell and The Drum.

So I guess we're looking at and listening to a specific manifestation of an ongoing human phenomenon. (What else is new?  ;) )