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All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up - James Baldwin

Author Topic: Blind Willie McTell lyrics  (Read 48545 times)

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hylaphone

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Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« on: March 25, 2004, 06:32:47 AM »
hi friends,

can anyone help me with the little song at the end of "Atlanta Strut" i cant make sense of the words..

????
prettiest girl in atlanta come steppin up to my door
she hugged me and she kissed me, called me sugarlump
???? like a grapevine round the stump

thanks!

Offline waxwing

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2004, 11:42:07 AM »
Just from memory, I think the last line is:

Threw her arms around me like a grapevine 'round a stump.

Can't remember the first line.
All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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Offline frankie

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2004, 03:39:23 PM »
I hear this:

Went up on the Kennesaw Mountain
Gave my horn a blow
Prettiest girl in Atlanta
Come steppin' up to my door
 
Hugged me and she kissed me
Called me sugar lump
Throwed them sweet arms around me
Like a grapevine 'round a stump

"Went up on the mountain/gave my horn a blow" appears frequently in the lyrics of blues and old-time songs.  I love the way BWM puts a little personal touch on the floating couplet.

Offline Richard

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2004, 10:34:47 AM »
I'd go with that, except I think he does it in one hit as one line -

"Throwed them sweet arms around me like a grapevine 'round a stump"
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline waxwing

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2004, 05:15:59 PM »
I've been workin' this song up on my 12 lately. Thanks in part to Ernie Hawkins' great video, but there's still some good stuff to work out, especialy since Blind Willie recorded three different versions. Lyrics-wise, I'm gonna stick to the first version. The lyrics, and some great lyrics they are, are pretty clear in Willie's nasal Georgian accent except for one line that he sings really fast. Even slowed down I'm having trouble making sense of what I'm hearing. I even have Bob McLeod's take on it, but it doesn't make a lot of sense so I'm not gonna tell you what it is so it doesn't cloud your mind like it has mine. I'm talking about the fifth verse, not counting the "Lordy, Lordy" choruses, about 1:56 in.
First two lines are:

?Don't you hear me, baby, (knock, knock, knock) rappin on your door?
?Don't you hear your daddy, (knock, knock, knock) rappin on your door?

I give it up to the Weenie Campbell Group Consciousness.
All for now.
John C.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2005, 01:38:00 PM by Johnm »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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Offline waxwing

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2004, 05:18:21 PM »
Woo Hoo! Only took me two tries to attach an mp3.
All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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Willie Brown's Liquor at CD Baby

Offline Rivers

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2004, 01:28:21 PM »
I hear 'Can I get out snake lemon and sassafras and just slide cross your floor'.

Snake lemon?  ???

Offline frankie

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2004, 09:11:59 PM »
I wish I could say I don't hear "snake lemon"...  what the...?  I don't hear sassafras - sounds to me more like "tap it flat".  I definitely hear "cross your floor" - not sure yet about what comes before.  I guess my verse looks like:

Can I get [out snake lemon] and tap it flat and [] [] 'cross your floor.

That line is identically undecipherable in two different takes!

Offline Slack

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2004, 10:26:52 PM »
I slowed the line down to half speed, but same pitch (which I'll attach) and I get this:

Get out, get out snake levitt and tap it flat and tip light 'cross your floor.

"snake levitt" is obviously not right, does not make sense? - someone's name?, maybe Lyle's cousin? something to "tap flat", who knows, a toughie.? Give a listen at half speed - makes a difference, I think the rest makes sense - "tip light"=tip toe lightly.? Also try it with different mp3 players, it makes a difference too (I like Cool Edit).

cheers,
slack
« Last Edit: April 19, 2005, 01:38:47 PM by Johnm »

Offline waxwing

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2004, 10:55:57 PM »
Right, you all see what I'm saying. And I had a brainstorm today, searched on the Document Site for Broke Down Engine and came up with two versions and an alternate take by our good friend Buddy Moss, as I had kinda figured. I checked McLeod and both the Moss versions have the identical verse (wouldn't you, with that knocking bit) transcribed almost identically. Unfortunately I dont have either of Buddy's versions. They appear on the first and second volumes from Document. If anyone else has one of these and could post it I would be grateful. So, McLeod has:

? Can I get down to snake level and tap it, plan to tip light across your floor

Slowed down 50% it sounds to me like:

? Can I ge'down snake (levit?) and tap it flat 'n' tip light 'cross your floor

That word sounds like a cross between limit and level, actually closer to limit, maybe, but it's really hard to make sense of it. I guess he's trying to say he could slide under the door like a snake? I really like your ending, Riv, "just slide cross your floor" but it really sounds like "tip light". I think his meaning is something like 'tip toe lightly 'cross your floor', maybe? I don't know. Any further ideas? This one could haunt me.
All for now.
John C.
[Edit] Hey Slack, didn't see your post. So we're pretty much in agreement altho' I do hear "Can I ge'down". I've been using Transcribe! which plays it right from the CD at whatever speed. Very good sound quality. Still no help, tho'. -J
« Last Edit: April 19, 2005, 01:39:34 PM by Johnm »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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Offline frankie

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2004, 07:47:05 AM »
I love the way he articulates the 'r' at the end of the word 'door', but not 'floor'!

Offline waxwing

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2004, 08:53:44 AM »
Yeah, I think there are other places he uses that hard 'R' sound but he's definitely not consistent.

So I was a little sleepy when I posted that Buddy Moss uses that verse in both his versions. Actually its only in both takes of Broke Down Engine No 2, which are both on Vol. 2 of his Document collection. Sure would like to hear if he says "level" more clearly.

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Willie Brown's Liquor at CD Baby

Offline Rivers

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2004, 12:19:13 AM »
>:D?OK sportsfans I'm gonna take a crazy stab here. I think he's talking about a hoodoo love potion. >:D

'Snake' - snake root. Hoodoo ingredient.

'Lemon' - oil and grated rind. Also a hoodoo ingredient.

'Sassafras' - I still think he's trying to say sassafras. I hear him stumble on the word, not surprising given the syllable count (17 in 4 bars) of the line. Sassafras is also, guess what, a herb used in hoodoo potions. Hey, 17 syllables, that's a haiku.

I dunno if this is a recipe for the famous 'snake oil' but the context is clear, my baby won't let me in, but: "if I take out snake, lemon and sassafras could I tip light across your floor?"

You can search cat yronwode's lucky mojo site for these three ingredients, www.luckymojo.com. Another tenuous but telling clue on cat's site, Johnny Shines sings 'I'm going surprise my baby, and I tipped up to her door' in Hoodoo Snake Doctor Blues, though the good doctor's snake in question is not vegetable or reptilian, if you get my drift.

Also, check out the last line of Broke Down engine:
"If you're a real hot mama, come take away daddy's weeping spell"

So I wonder "Spell as in magic?" I can't find a direct reference but it rings a very distant bell, as in casting a 'weeping spell' on someone. Maybe not though.

If you accept this theory it's a good bet McTell is making an old gag about the Hoodoo Doctors' power over other men's women. I suggest he's singing about (and for) a particular gal who's into magic, it sounds like a private joke between them. Maybe she's more impressed by magic than 12 string guitars. So what do we know about Willie's lady friends?? 8)
« Last Edit: April 19, 2005, 01:40:29 PM by Johnm »

Offline Richard

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #13 on: April 26, 2004, 07:46:54 AM »
Not that we are voodoo experts over here, but this makes sense to me.
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #14 on: May 30, 2004, 12:00:30 PM »
 >:D
For my very first posting on this wonderful forum....something that's going to no doubt crack you all right up!! What I've been hearing and singing for the past forty years has been: "Get out, get out, Blake, Lemon and tap it -flyin' two-ply cross your floor"!! In other words I thought it was an invocation of the spirits of McTell's recently deceased fellow blind musicians (in which case we're getting close to voodoo again....). I know - I must've been drinking too much snake oil and smoking too much sassafras......! Hey ho....back to the drawing board....