collapse

* Member Info

 
 
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

* Like Us on Facebook

Ain't it nice to be nice when you can be nice - Jim Jackson

Author Topic: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology  (Read 16582 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline whigski3

  • Member
  • Posts: 48
  • Hi!
Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #15 on: February 06, 2005, 05:59:56 PM »
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


A book I am reading (The Civil War Chronicle) mentions that runaway slaves were referred to by the Union officers as "contraband".? Of course, this predates country blues (I think).? Sorry, can't help with the John Henry term.

-Bill
« Last Edit: April 18, 2005, 11:01:45 AM by Johnm »
I'm sitting here wondering, will a matchbox hold my clothes...

frgriggs

  • Guest
Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #16 on: February 12, 2005, 08:21:00 PM »
"John Henry" is a legendary American folk character, the hero of the folk song of the same name.  He was a black railroad worker who challenged a steam drill to a duel.  John Henry won, but "lay down his hammer and he died", overcome with exhaustion.  To the extent the story may have a basis in fact it's thought to have occurred at the Big Bend Tunnel in what is now West Virginia (not far from where I was born and the area where my family has been rooted for the past 230 years).

Since the "John Henry" of legend was black it's possible that the term was sometimes used as a general reference to a black man though I've never heard the name used in that way.  But in any case the Big Bend Tunnel was not built until after the Civil War.  My guess is that there was some artistic liberty taken by the filmmakers.

Offline uncle bud

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • Posts: 8314
  • Rank amateur
Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #17 on: May 25, 2010, 06:59:58 AM »
This "word of the day" showed up in my inbox and I thought I'd pass it along:

shivaree \SHIV-uh-ree\, noun:

1. A mock serenade with kettles, pans, horns, and other noisemakers given for a newly married couple.
2. An elaborate, noisy celebration.

verb:
1. To serenade with a shivaree.

    I used to attend shivarees and I can remember the preparation and planning involved.
    -- "Of pigs, jokes, and marriage." Lawrence World-Journal.

    When my father got married (yes that was the 50's) his male relatives pulled a "shivaree," where they set up all kinds of surprises for the newly married couple to find on their wedding night. This included the typical short sheeting of the wedding bed, changing the content of the groom's shaving cream can, and other gags.
    -- Isaac Grant Thompson, Irving Browne, Kentucky Folklore Record.

Shivaree is an adaptation of the French word charivari, which describes an old custom that celebrates a marriage. Shivaree is centered along the Mississippi.

Offline Stuart

  • Member
  • Posts: 2559
  • "The Voice of Almiqui"
Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #18 on: May 25, 2010, 08:42:07 AM »
I've actually heard shivaree used over the years. I remember hearing it in a couple of films and/or TV shows way back when. I believe that it was used in a rural and/or period context. Both the Weenie and the Mozilla  spell checkers flag it which speaks to it's current frequency of use.

Offline Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10458
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #19 on: May 25, 2010, 08:58:12 AM »
Hi all,
My mother has said that she and my dad were treated to a shivaree in Lawrence, Kansas, when they married there in 1944 or 1945.  Part of it involved being taken down the main street of the town in a wheelbarrow.  She described the experience as being simultaneously embarrassing and fun.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Lyle Lofgren

  • Member
  • Posts: 245
    • Lyle & Elizabeth Lofgren
Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #20 on: May 25, 2010, 06:43:16 PM »
Newlyweds were also subjected to shivarees in rural Minnesota, at least up to the mid-1950s (when I moved to the city). About a week after the couple returned from their honeymoon, all the neighbors would sneak up to the house at about 11 PM or so (when farmers are always in bed) and, at a signal, all begin pounding on various unmusical things, such as plow colters, or ringing cowbells. The couple would have to get out of bed and acknowledge the tribute, and they were expected to serve everyone ice cream and/or beer (although I can't imagine preparing for such an event, and I'm glad I got married in the city).

Lyle

Offline Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10458
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #21 on: May 25, 2010, 07:57:43 PM »
Hi Lyle,
I like your choice of verbs--"subjected" to a shivaree makes more sense than being "treated" to one!
All best,
Johnm

Offline doctorpep

  • Member
  • Posts: 290
Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #22 on: May 27, 2010, 01:42:39 AM »
Is a "C.C. Rider" a prostitute's boyfriend? I thought that the term referred to an easy man or woman and not that person's lover. If "C.C. rider" and "easy rider" are the same, the term(s) should refer to the girl or guy who uses the innocent person for money by offering sexual services in exchange, right? Or maybe the term just refers to easy women.

Also, what about the "sissy rider" theory? I read somewhere that the term comes from World War I, when some men turned to homosexuality due to lack of women present. I can't be sure where I read this, unfortunately. I doubt it was from direct testimony by Henry Stuckey (spelling?), the man who often played with Skip James and who fought over in Europe during the war. The homosexuality reference may have been related to the Ma Rainey version of the song, as discussed on Harry's Blues Lyrics. I probably just have Stuckey's name in my head because I remember reading about him being in France during the war.

Also, is it "John the Conqueror Root" or "Johnny Conqueroo"? Finally, I've never heard the mule definition of "Smokestack Lightnin'". Has anybody?
« Last Edit: May 27, 2010, 01:44:42 AM by doctorpep »
"There ain't no Heaven, ain't no burning Hell. Where I go when I die, can't nobody tell."

http://www.hardluckchild.blogspot.com/

Offline Bunker Hill

  • Member
  • Posts: 2832
Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #23 on: May 27, 2010, 03:52:23 AM »
Also, is it "John the Conqueror Root" or "Johnny Conqueroo"?
Probably worth visiting Catherine Yronwode website Hodoo in Theory and Practice, she sells the Root and will probably give a detailed description of history and use.

Offline Lyle Lofgren

  • Member
  • Posts: 245
    • Lyle & Elizabeth Lofgren
Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #24 on: May 27, 2010, 05:04:57 AM »
As to "Smokestack Lightning," all I know of is what Howlin' Wolf said about it. I found this on the internet and sent it in an e-mail to Cleoma way back in 2003:

From: Ray Astbury. (RASTB...@MACOLLAMH.UCD.IE)

Subject: Smokestack Lightning

Newsgroups: bit.listserv.blues-l

Date: 1997/12/19

Some time ago there was a discussion on the list of the meaning of this term.
Last week on BBC Radio 2 Paul Jones interviewed Marshall Chess. The following
is a transcription of the relevant bit:-

PJ:  Let's talk a bit about "Smokestack Lightning".  What about that

title?

MC:  Well, I myself as a kid, I didn't know what that meant, what's

"Smokestack Lightning".  So I asked Howling Wolf.  He said to me, 'Well, when
you were young in the South,' he said, 'there wasn't any TV, there wasn't any
radio.  You just really were alone at night.  And if there was a railroad
nearby, you looked for the smokestack lightning.'  I said, 'What's that?'  He
said, 'Well, in those days the trains ran on coal.  You could lay around at
night and, if a train went by, you'd see the sparks comin' out of the chimney
of the train and we called that smokestack lightning.'

                            Ray Astbury

PS: The sparks would shoot out of the smokestack when the fireman opened the firebox door to shovel in more coal. -- Lyle

Offline uncle bud

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • Posts: 8314
  • Rank amateur
Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #25 on: May 27, 2010, 05:16:18 AM »
The Wolf quote reminds me that there was an article in the local paper here recently about local musician Stephen Barry. Barry is a bassist who's backed just about everybody who has come to town to perform blues and knows a lot of people in the business. The story mentioned rehearsing a Howling Wolf song for Barry's band and having trouble figuring out the lyrics. So Barry just called Hubert Sumlin to ask. Sumlin replied that he had no idea what the lyric was but that they should just do what Wolf always did and make it up.

Offline Bunker Hill

  • Member
  • Posts: 2832
Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #26 on: May 27, 2010, 06:41:07 AM »
As to "Smokestack Lightning," all I know of is what Howlin' Wolf said about it. I found this on the internet and sent it in an e-mail to Cleoma way back in 2003:

From: Ray Astbury. (RASTB...@MACOLLAMH.UCD.IE)

Subject: Smokestack Lightning

Newsgroups: bit.listserv.blues-l

Date: 1997/12/19

Some time ago there was a discussion on the list of the meaning of this term.
Last week on BBC Radio 2 Paul Jones interviewed Marshall Chess. The following
is a transcription of the relevant bit:-

PJ:  Let's talk a bit about "Smokestack Lightning".  What about that

title?

MC:  Well, I myself as a kid, I didn't know what that meant, what's

"Smokestack Lightning".  So I asked Howling Wolf.  He said to me, 'Well, when
you were young in the South,' he said, 'there wasn't any TV, there wasn't any
radio.  You just really were alone at night.  And if there was a railroad
nearby, you looked for the smokestack lightning.'  I said, 'What's that?'  He
said, 'Well, in those days the trains ran on coal.  You could lay around at
night and, if a train went by, you'd see the sparks comin' out of the chimney
of the train and we called that smokestack lightning.'

                            Ray Astbury

PS: The sparks would shoot out of the smokestack when the fireman opened the firebox door to shovel in more coal. -- Lyle
Or perhaps a subconsciously half remembered verse from a Patton 78, Moon Goin? Down:

Lord the smokestack is black and the bell it shine like, bell it shine like, bell it shine like gold
Aw the smokestack is black and the bell it shine like gold
(spoken: Shucks boy you know it look good to me)
Lord I ain't gonna walk here, tarry 'round no more.

Or words to that effect not got the song to hand
« Last Edit: May 27, 2010, 06:45:20 AM by Bunker Hill »

Offline Parlor Picker

  • Member
  • Posts: 1614
  • Aloha
Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #27 on: May 27, 2010, 07:16:59 AM »
I'm with Bunker Hill on this one.

When first getting into blues music in the 1960s, I found such terms as "smokestack lightning", which I'd never heard before, really exotic, exciting language which really fired my imagination.
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline jpeters609

  • Member
  • Posts: 226
Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #28 on: May 27, 2010, 07:48:35 AM »
Is a "C.C. Rider" a prostitute's boyfriend? I thought that the term referred to an easy man or woman and not that person's lover. If "C.C. rider" and "easy rider" are the same, the term(s) should refer to the girl or guy who uses the innocent person for money by offering sexual services in exchange, right? Or maybe the term just refers to easy women.

Pep, check the Tags for a "C.C. Rider" discussion. It was given a pretty good once-over a while back! But I'm still of the persuasion that the easiest explanation is the best: in my opinion, "C.C. Rider" is a corruption of "see, see, rider" (as in, "See? See, rider? See what you've done?") Tommy Johnson's "Maggie Campbell" is a good example:

"Now see, see rider
See what you done, done
See what you done, done"

The repetition of "see" helps bolster this theory, me thinks. Later songs that misinterpreted the lyrics as "C.C. Rider" helped create a persona that didn't originally exist. In that sense, "C.C. Rider" is a figment of the imagination.

More lyrics: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/t/tommy_johnson/#share
Jeff

Offline Bunker Hill

  • Member
  • Posts: 2832
Re: Etymology of the Country Blues Lexicon and Blues Terminology
« Reply #29 on: May 27, 2010, 08:05:23 AM »

 But I'm still of the persuasion that the easiest explanation is the best: in my opinion, "C.C. Rider" is a corruption of "see, see, rider" (as in, "See? See, rider? See what you've done?") Tommy Johnson's "Maggie Campbell" is a good example:

"Now see, see rider
See what you done, done
See what you done, done"

The repetition of "see" helps bolster this theory, me thinks. Later songs that misinterpreted the lyrics as "C.C. Rider" helped create a persona that didn't originally exist. In that sense, "C.C. Rider" is a figment of the imagination.
It was once explained in a letter to a UK blues magazine by replacing See with Look thus:

"Now look here, look here rider
Look what you done, done
Look what you done, done"