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The musicians that didn't know music could play the best blues. I know that I don't want no musicians who know all about music playin' for me - Alberta Hunter

Author Topic: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics  (Read 40156 times)

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Offline uncle bud

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #30 on: June 18, 2005, 09:26:36 AM »
[

I don't know much about Peg Leg Howell (a little education please). It seems he was a prolific recorder - late 20's and early 30's? , Document has 3 "complete" issues so he recorded 60 to 70 songs or more both solo and w/ string band?? ?
Document only has two volumes that I know of, on their Wolf imprint. If there's a 3rd, I'm going to get excited!

Offline Johnm

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #31 on: June 18, 2005, 10:11:15 AM »
Hi all,
I don't know very much about Peg Leg Howell's personal history, and most of what I know comes from the liner notes to "Peg Leg Howell & His Gang", Origin Jazz Library, OJL-22.  According to those notes, Peg Leg was born in 1888 in Eatonton, Georgia, about 50 miles southeast of Atlanta.  He attended school through the 9th grade and then helped his father on the farm.  He lost his leg in a shooting incident in 1916.  He took up guitar around 1909, and told blues researcher George Mitchell, who discovered him in 1963, "I learnt myself.  Didn't take long to learn.  I just stayed up one night and learnt myself."  He moved to Atlanta in his mid-30s and supported himself in a variety of ways, including selling moonshine, for which he was sent to prison in the early '20s.  Upon his release he most often supported himself "bustin' music", playing outside of stores or anywhere else a crowd might gather.  He so closely worked with fiddler Eddie Anthony that when Eddie Anthony died in 1934, Peg Leg gave up music.  All this information is from George Mitchell's interviews with Peg Leg.
George Mitchell recorded an album of Peg Leg Howell that was released in the 1960s on the Testament label.  The record has not survived into Testament's CD era catalog.  I have never heard it, though I would guess that someone at this site has, but people I know who heard it said it was pretty sad.  Evidently Peg Leg was in very poor health and had been living in dire poverty for some time prior to it being recorded.
I checked re your query about Peg Leg's tuning, John D., and he was not tuned to A 440; he was a bit sharp, but perfectly in tune with himself, and as I said, in tune with himself from one session to the next, which is quite unusual.
As Andrew said, I am only aware of two CDs in the Document catalog.  If there are more that would be a great thing!
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: December 27, 2006, 09:06:02 PM by Johnm »

Offline Slack

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #32 on: June 18, 2005, 10:46:45 AM »
Quote
Document only has two volumes that I know of, on their Wolf imprint. If there's a 3rd, I'm going to get excited!

Oops, sorry, my mistake - too much happy hour. ;-)

Quote
I checked re your query about Peg Leg's tuning, John D., and he was not tuned to A 440; he was a bit sharp, but perfectly in tune with himself, and as I said, in tune with himself from one session to the next, which is quite unusual.

Very interesting, thanks John --

Offline Johnm

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #33 on: June 18, 2005, 11:35:13 AM »
Hi all,
Another great solo tune of Peg Leg Howell's was "Sadie Lee Blues", a 16-bar blues that he played out of F in standard tuning.  After an introductory solo, Peg Leg relegates the guitar to an accompaniment role for the remainder of the song, but the accompaniment is so active that it is almost as though he played a continuous solo behind his singing.  This is tough under normal circumstances, but in the key of F it is particularly sporting.  As with "Walking Blues", he varies the accompaniment as he goes along, rather than playing a single nifty pass over and over.  I'm amazed that he could sing and play the continuous runs he plays under the IV chord, B flat, at the same time.  Very many of the runs that he plays, particularly behind his F chord, are quite similar to those played by Leadbelly in his F tunes, especially "Roberta".  I wonder if Leadbelly ever heard this record?  There's no way to know, of course.

   Been a dog in my family, drove from door to door (3)
   Since I swore to the Lord that I wouldn't be drove no more

   I got a lovin' sweet woman, her name is Sadie Lee (3)
   I love li'l Sadie, but Sadie don't love me

   I'm gonna buy me a pistol, mama, long as I am tall
   Gonna buy me a pistol, long as I am tall
   Buy me a pistol, long as I am tall
   I'm gonna shoot li'l Sadie, see her rise and fall

   I've been your dog, mama, ever since I been your man
   I've been your dog ever since I been your man
   I've been your dog, mama, ever since I been your man
   Say now I'm leavin', try to do the best you can

   Hard luck in the family, mama, done fell on me (2)
   Hard luck in the family done fell on me
   I'm worried and troubled, sweet mama, as I can be

All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #34 on: July 02, 2005, 10:22:55 PM »
Hi all,
Yet another great Peg Leg Howell number was his version of "Rock and Gravel Blues".  He played the song with a slide in Vastapol, capoed a good way up.  The song has a really neat signature lick that he plays as an instrumental response to the first two vocal lines of each verse, in which he leans on the dissonance between the fourth string fretted at the third fret played simultaneously with the open third string; they're a semi-tone apart so it's a pretty grungy sound.  I notice a similarity with other Peg Leg Howell slide tunes like "Skin Game Blues" in that he confines his use of the slide pretty much to the intro and the solo.  Behind his singing he sticks pretty much to conventional fretting.  It's interesting to see how far back some of these lyrics go, though as was often the case with Peg Leg Howell, there are some archaic turns of phrase that don't show up in later versions of the verses.

   Let's go to the river and sit down
   Honey, let's go to the river and sit down
   If the blues overtake us, jump overboard and drown

   It takes rocks, it takes gravels to make a solid road (2)
   It takes a lovin' fair brownie to satisfy my soul

   I've got a range in my kitchen, mama, cooks so nice and brown
   I've got a range in my kitchen, cooks so nice and brown
   I want some lovin' fary to turn my damper down

   Can't you tell me pretty, mama, where'd you get your lovin' from?
   So tell me, pretty mama, where'd you get your lovin' from?
   "T'ain't none of your business, I ain't gonna give you none

   I'm going away, mama, won't be back 'til Fall (2)
   You have mistreat me, you was the cause of it all

   Come here, sweet mama, sit on your daddy's knee
   Run here, pretty mama, sit on your daddy's knee
   Said, tell your sweet papa, what may your troubles be?

All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #35 on: July 12, 2005, 10:48:24 PM »
Hi all,
A really excellent number that Peg Leg Howell did with the mandolinist Jim Hill is "Monkey Man Blues".  Peg Leg opens the song with a slide intro in Vastapol, capoed well up, and as seems often to have been the case with him, pretty much jettisons the slide work behind his singing.  He was such a good player in Vastapol and Spanish, that you don't really miss the slide behind the verses.  Jim Howell's mandolin is faintly audible for the intro and outro, but is otherwise next to impossible to hear behind the sung verses.
Peg Leg's vocal on this song is notably "dirty".  He gets a rawer tone than was customary for him, and Jim Hill's humorous vocal interjections, which I did not transcribe, seem somewhat at odds with Peg Leg's vocal, which sounds dead serious.  The "doggone my soul, Lord, Lord" interjection at the end of the first four bars of each verse phrases out in a kind of bumpy fashion, and usually results in the fourth bar being long by two beats.  I can't think of another blues in which the second verse is sung by/about a man.  The next to last verse seems closely related to a lyric commonly found in both the Blues and Old-Time traditions:
   Oh the cat's got the measles and the dog's got the whooping cough
Frank Hovington used that lyric on his "Lonesome Road Blues" in the 1970s.

   Says I want all you women to strictly understand, doggone my soul, Lord, Lord,
   I want all you women to strictly understand
   When God made me he didn't make no monkey man

   I'm the big fat papa got the meat runnin' 'round my bones, doggone my soul, Hey Lordy Lord
   I'm the big fat papa, the meat runnin' 'round my bones
   Every time I quiver some good man lost his home

   I got a long tall woman the meat runs up and down her bones, doggone my soul, Lord, Lord
   Got a long tall woman the meat runs up her bones
   When she begins to quiver some good man's dollar gone

   My woman's screaming murder I ain't raised my hand, doggone my soul, Lord, Lord
   My woman's screaming murder I ain't raised my hand
   She want to quit me 'cause and love another man

   My gal got the fever my baby got the whooping cough, doggone her soul, Lord, Lord
   My gal's got the fever, baby's got the whooping cough
   Doggone a man let a woman be his boss

   I'm leaving mama, honey I won't carry you, doggone my soul, Lord, Lord
   I'm leaving, sweet mama, honey I won't carry you
   T'ain't nothin' up the country, good gal, that you can do

All best,
Johnm

Offline Slack

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #36 on: July 13, 2005, 07:08:55 AM »
I'm hoping, especially since you've teased us with all of these Peg Leg Howell lyrics, that you teach one of his Vestapol numbers - My vote is for Monkey Man Blues or Rocks and Gravel. ;)

Cheers,

Offline dj

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #37 on: July 13, 2005, 05:09:35 PM »
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Oh the cat's got the measles and the dog's got the whooping cough

I don't think I've ever really noticed that line before, but there it was on the Juke this evening in Big Fat Mamma by Brantley and Williams.  The song is really funny, in both the humorous and odd sense of the word.  It's a bunch of mildly salacious blues lyrics sung in the style of a gospel group.  I wonder who Brantley and Williams were, and what their audience made of this.

Sorry if this is a bit off-topic, but the line just jumped out at me.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #38 on: July 14, 2005, 10:32:21 PM »
Hi all,
I think we can handle a little thread creep, dj.  I share your interest in lines like
   Oh the cat's got the measles and the dog's got the whooping cough.
In the earlier blues and Old-Time music you seem to encounter more lyrics that are apropos of nothing, just kind of nutty or enigmatic.  Lemon Jefferson excelled at these.  I particularly like, from "One Dime Blues"
   I bought the morning news (3)
   And I bought a ceegar, too.
Also the final verse of William Moore's "One Way Gal" is pretty hard to beat
   We walked and talked and then we went away (3)
   And then we went into a cabaret.
I'm particularly drawn to the kind of blues that seems to run from pillar to post in terms of its verses, much like Peg Leg Howell's "Coal Man Blues", that begins this thread.  The sort of lyric free-associating that seems to happen in this kind of blues seems much more tied into folk music and less tied into Tin Pan Alley than the "thematic" blues, in which all the verses pertain to the title and the title is reiterated in the last verse, like a product placement in a Hollywood movie.  I have to admit I don't get too wound up about the thematic blues lyric.  For a thematic blues lyric gone awry, check out Blind Lemon's  "Balky Mule Blues", which fairly early on shifts its topic to "Bearcat Blues" and by the time it ends has long since forgotten it began as "Balky Mule Blues".  It's really interesting what ended up happening on records . . . .
All best,
Johnm

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #39 on: July 15, 2005, 09:15:01 AM »
Papa Charlie Jackson, of course, recorded The Cat's Got the Measles...

Not actually my fave Papa Charlie tune.

Offline banjochris

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #40 on: July 15, 2005, 03:52:27 PM »
In the earlier blues and Old-Time music you seem to encounter more lyrics that are apropos of nothing, just kind of nutty or enigmatic.? Lemon Jefferson excelled at these.? I particularly like, from "One Dime Blues"
? ?I bought the morning news (3)
? ?And I bought a ceegar, too.

I always thought this was completely logical, actually. He's just telling us what he did with his one dime.

For a thematic blues lyric gone awry, check out Blind Lemon's? "Balky Mule Blues", which fairly early on shifts its topic to "Bearcat Blues" and by the time it ends has long since forgotten it began as "Balky Mule Blues".? It's really interesting what ended up happening on records . . . .

I can picture the 78 of this, with the picture of Lemon and the little yellow ribbon above his head, reading "Blind Lemon's Mixed Metaphor"? ;)

Chris

Offline banjochris

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #41 on: July 15, 2005, 03:55:30 PM »
John-- here's a Peg Leg Howell-related question.

I've fooled with "Low Down Rounder Blues" for a long time. At first I thought it was in vestapol, but the high end never sounded quite right, and now that I try it in C, as per your earlier post, I can't quite get that descending lick to sound right. Any pointers on that would be appreciated.

Chris

Offline Slack

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #42 on: July 15, 2005, 05:19:56 PM »
Quote
Quote from: Johnm on Yesterday at 11:32:21 PM
In the earlier blues and Old-Time music you seem to encounter more lyrics that are apropos of nothing, just kind of nutty or enigmatic.  Lemon Jefferson excelled at these.  I particularly like, from "One Dime Blues"
   I bought the morning news (3)
   And I bought a ceegar, too.

Quote
I always thought this was completely logical, actually. He's just telling us what he did with his one dime.

I think this is too literal.  I've always thought of this verse - which is the last verse - as a punch line... Blind Lemon was a comedian. 

Playing on the street all day, day after day.... I think the line is a check to see who is really listening to his song.  The gathered crowd chuckles at the last line -- ahh, success.

Relatively speaking, BLJ was not hurting for money.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2005, 05:22:53 PM by Slack »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #43 on: July 15, 2005, 10:05:41 PM »
Hi all,
Nice to see that all it takes is a little digression to get people interested.  I have to admit I applied no psychology or interpretation to Lemon's verse from "One Dime", but just took it at face value.  I like it that way--it has a nice "so what" after-effect.
I will get back to you on "Low Down Rounder" after I get back from Elkins, Banjo Chris.  I am not altogether confident that I have it figured out properly at this point.  It is a very odd piece.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Rivers

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #44 on: July 16, 2005, 03:13:21 PM »
All of which does highlight the lyrical brilliance of Lemon. Visual cameos, social backdrops, 1920s vernacular and in-jokes makes for a very rich experience. We tend to focus on his playing for obvious reasons but close listening to his lyrics is like flicking through a pre-depression magazine. Blind Willie Johnson had a similar penchant for rich documentary. Probably a good thread in its own right.

Now back to Peg Leg Howell, about whom I admit I know nothing.