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Author Topic: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology  (Read 16292 times)

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Ignatznochops

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Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« on: December 19, 2004, 10:58:07 PM »
In order to take a break from the (for me) tortuous process of trying to learn a few more Bo Carter tunes, I decided to look into the origin of some of the arcane terms that come up in his songs and others of the period. One such term was Jellybean, which shows up at least once in his repertoire, in Who's Been Here. For all those interested, here's what I found:

A Jelly bean or Jellybean was a young man who made great effort to dress very stylishly (usually to attract women) but had little else to recommend him; similar to the older terms dandy and fop and the slightly later drugstore cowboy. However, the word was also used as a synonym for pimp.

Now, according to the tune he must have been a jellybean because he "had his long shoes on". Any ideas what long shoes were?

I'd be interested in hearing about other now obscure references that show up in tunes from this period.

Joe
« Last Edit: April 17, 2005, 05:45:56 PM by Johnm »

Offline Slack

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Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2004, 08:26:38 AM »
Quote
Any ideas what long shoes were?

Hi Joe, I'm not sure why I think this - so I might be making it up.  :)  But I think long shoes were dress shoes with pointy toes (which made the shoes longer than your foot.)

cheers,
slack
« Last Edit: April 17, 2005, 05:46:32 PM by Johnm »

boots

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Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2004, 09:16:45 AM »
 
Quote

Hi Joe, I'm not sure why I think this - so I might be making it up.  :)  But I think long shoes were dress shoes with pointy toes (which made the shoes longer than your foot.)

cheers,
slack
Quote

That gets my vote, although likewise with no corroboration.

Boots

Ignatznochops

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Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2004, 10:06:33 AM »
Sounds reasonable to me. Here's another one - if you "get sloppy drunk on a bottle 'a bond", what's "bond"? Would this be legal liquor vs. moonshine?

Offline Montgomery

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Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2004, 10:12:17 AM »
According to the Patton box set:
"'Bottled In Bond' indicates liquor packaged under government supervision, a procedure that was suspended during the Prohibition years."  Stephen Calt says basically the same thing in his book on Patton.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2004, 10:21:27 AM »
Hi,
I don't know if it pertains here, but bonded whiskey is also whiskey that exceeds 100 proof (50% alcohol), like Wild Turkey, which is 107 proof.  A lot of the bourbons have versions which are not bonded and "special reserve" versions which are stronger, bonded, more expensive, and taste better (all those things).
All best,
Johnm

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2004, 11:25:26 AM »
According to the Patton box set:
"'Bottled In Bond' indicates liquor packaged under government supervision, a procedure that was suspended during the Prohibition years."  Stephen Calt says basically the same thing in his book on Patton.

The Calt/Wardlow book on Patton also has a glossary at the back.

There is a short glossary at Harry's Blues Lyrics site: http://blueslyrics.tripod.com/blueslanguage.htm#top


Ignatznochops

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Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2005, 01:11:17 AM »
Here's another mystery: Jim Jackson sang in "This Morning She Was Gone" about his departed significant other being partial to dancing that "grizzly bear". Having spent a lot of time in Montana, the only dance that I can think of associated with grizzlies would be the one where you drop to the ground in the fetal position and try your best to cover the back of your head.

Clearly he was talking about something else...

Any ideas?

Joe
« Last Edit: April 17, 2005, 05:47:43 PM by Johnm »


thehook

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Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2005, 02:37:22 AM »
Hi,
I don't know if it pertains here, but bonded whiskey is also whiskey that exceeds 100 proof (50% alcohol), like Wild Turkey, which is 107 proof.  A lot of the bourbons have versions which are not bonded and "special reserve" versions which are stronger, bonded, more expensive, and taste better (all those things).
All best,
Johnm
don't mean to jack the topic, but I heard somewhere that there were few differences between bourbon and whiskey. But differences nonetheless including but not limited to : Left to sit in different kind of barrels can't remember which specifically, different termperatures, different ammounts of time used and the oddest bourbon can only offically be liscend in kentucky. Any truth to any of this?
« Last Edit: April 17, 2005, 05:48:14 PM by Johnm »

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2005, 08:37:18 AM »
JohnH:

I have always assumed that whiskey is a generic term for distilled, grain based spirits. Here in Canada whiskey is rye based, in America whiskey is corn-based (bourbon) and in Scotland barley-based (scotch).

I'm a rye man myself. I find bourbon too sweet for my taste and most scotches too peaty (swampy).

I also like normal Canadian beer (Blue). I've been called a Philistine.

Good liquor gonna carry me down,
Alex


Offline ryan

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Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2005, 01:42:00 AM »
I thought for some this might be fun to have a glossary for slang terms of the blues.
take care,
Ryan

Back Door Man - A clandestine lover who must sneak out the back door as the as the husband/wife comes in the front door.

Balling the Jack - A railroad work term that quickly became a metaphor for lovemaking. It was also the name of a popular dance step in the 1940's.

Barrelhouse - A common nightclub (see juke joint). Probably named after barrels of beer needed to fuel proceedings.

Beale Street - A Blues hotspot in Memphis, Tennessee.  The area has been revived and is once again a thriving party scene.

Black Cat Bone - A mystical charm that is actually a bone from a black cat that has been ritually processed. Carried for good luck.

Blues - Musical form that came from rural African-American experience. Using flatted and bending notes in the common music scale, an ultra-emotional sound developed.

Boll Weevil - An insect that eats cotton. This pest was responsible for crop failures that plagued the South.

Boogie-Woogie - A Blues style most associated with the piano. From the ragtime and stride piano traditions of New Orleans and Kansas City, it evolved into a very Texas musical form.

Bourbon Street - Traditional party street in New Orleans, Louisiana. Famed for music and decadence.

Canned Heat - Sterno. Jellied alcohol that could heat your food or get you very drunk.

Captain - The big boss. The plantation owner or prison guard.

C.C. Rider - A prostitute's boyfriend or anyone who gets a free ride in exchange for sex.

Chicken Shack - A food establishment where a party could also be found.

Creeper - A clandestine lover who sneaks around town. The Midnight Creeper.

Delta - Fertile flat land in western Mississippi that was the heart of the slavery and cotton eras.

Dozens - An insult game usually about your mother.

Dust My Broom - Break up with a lover. Start an new life by cleaning out the old.

Eagle Rock - Popular dance from the 1920's

Flag a Ride - Hitchhike or jump a passing freight train.

Gandy Dancers - Railroad workers who straightened track to a call and response work song.

Gris-Gris - A magical spell or voodoo technique.

Hands - A collection of voodoo charms worn or carried for protection and luck.

Harp - A harmonica. Also known as the Georgia Saxophone.

Highway 51 - Highway runs north and south through the Mississippi Delta. It was the main route of the migration to Chicago.

Hobo - A homeless person who jumps on freight trains to travel the counrty. The source of some real Blues.

Honeydripper - A superlover. The one you love or hope to love.

Hoochie Coochie Man - A man obsessed with booze (hootch) and women (cootch).

HooDoo - A mix of African spirituality, Voodoo, and Christianity. Folk magic of the rural South.

House Party - Musical parties in an apartment or house instead of a club or juke

JellyRoll - A metaphor for the female genitalia.

Jinx - The bearer of bad luck. A mojo hand would be worn for protection from a jinx.

Jitterbug - A popular dance of the 1940's.

Jive - Bogus, false, or untrue. B.B. King sings "My momma says she loves me, but she could be jivin' too".

Johnny Conqueroo - A woody tuber related to the sweet potato used in a mojo hand.

Jug Band - A band using common items like a jug, washboard, or kazoos to play music.

Juju - African musical genre and another term for a mojo hand.

Juke Joint - A bar or club in the rural South. Sometimes just known as "jukes".

Killing Floor - The room where cows are slaughtered

Mojo - A magical spell or item. Someone could put some bad mojo on you or you could carry a mojo hand to ward off these evil intents.

Monkey - An addiction or addict. As in "monkey on my back".

Moonshine - Home made liquor usually distilled from corn.

Parchman Farm - Famous Mississippi prison that inspired the deepest Blues.

Piedmont Blues - Blues music that came from the East Coast and Appalachian Mountains.

Ramblin' - Blues music that came from the East Coast and Appalachian Mountains.

Rent Party - Musical parties in an apartment where admission was used to cover the rent.

Ride the Blinds - Riding a freight train.

Roadhouse - A juke joint or honky tonk next to a highway.

Root Doctor - Person versed in magical cures from plants.

Rounder - A real party animal and womanizer.

Sharecropping - Paying rent on your farm by giving most of the yearly crop to the farm owner. After the Civil War, this effectively kept African-Americans from economic advancement.

Slide - A guitar style that uses a glass or metal tube to slide on the strings, creating variable pitches.

Smokestack Lightin' - A mule fart. Some may say it describes a steam train in the night.

Stagger Lee - Criminal Folk hero who defined the "baddest of the bad".

VooDoo - Folk mysticism from the Caribean.

Yea You Right - New Orleans' answer to every question.

Wang Dang Doodle - A big party.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2005, 10:59:54 AM by Johnm »

boots

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Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2005, 07:27:23 AM »
Cheers Ryan very useful, fills in a few gaps in my knowledge.
However it needs editing again as a small section gets repeated.

Boots

Offline ryan

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Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #13 on: February 06, 2005, 12:37:46 PM »
I just edited the section you mentioned .  thanks Boots for mentioning that sorry as I posted around 2:00 in the morning and I was a wee bit drowsy.

Offline Wailing Wolf

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Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #14 on: February 06, 2005, 02:31:37 PM »
Hi Rleaf, great idea.  Looks like the right time for a question from Britland, where the banter is somewhat different and not all blues terms are readily understood.  There's an acronym somewhere on these pages I'll have to query if I can ever find it again but in the meantime:-

have recently watched the film "Gettysburg" during which a runaway slave was referred to by Union officers as a "John Henry".  Is this authentic? And if so, does this have any relevance to the recurrence of "John Henry" references/titles in country blues?  Or was he a single, legendary/real character? ???

Wolf
« Last Edit: April 18, 2005, 11:00:54 AM by Johnm »

 


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