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Author Topic: William Harris Lyrics  (Read 3551 times)

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Offline Johnm

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William Harris Lyrics
« on: June 07, 2012, 04:45:11 PM »
Hi all,
William Harris recorded "Bull Frog Blues" on October 10, 1928 in Richmond, Indiana.  Harris is one of the early Mississippi-born musicians like Freddie Spruell, who doesn't seem to fit in with the other music that came out of Mississippi from that period, at least based on the recorded evidence.  He backed himself out of D position in standard tuning for "Bull Frog Blues", and with the exception of John Hurt's playing, that position was relatively under-utilized by Mississippi musicians.  Harris's accompaniment is terrifically rhythmic and driving, one of the most intense accompaniments ever played in that position, and in some ways, is a precursor of John Lee Hooker's most famous boogie riff (though Hooker played it with an under-lying triple feel and Harris's rhythmic feel utilized straight eighth notes rather than swung eighth notes).
Lyrically, "Bull Frog Blues" is extremely catchy, and employs a stammering archetype in its first four bars, much as did Teddy Darby's "Built Right On The Ground".  William Harris goes to a 16-bar form for his third verse, returning to the IV chord.  Other versions of William Harris's seventh verse can be found in Virgil Childers' "Dago Blues", and the St. Louis musician Arthur Weston's "Gonna Tell You", which includes the thoroughly confused verse:
   I'm gonna tell you, baby, like the Dago told the Jew (2)
   You can't be my woman, Lord, and someone else's too

Have you ever woke up with them bull frogs on your, bull frogs on your, I mean, mind?
Have you ever woke up, mama, bull frog on your mind?
Have you ever woke up with them bull frogs on your mind?

Said, it rainin' here, mama, sun shinin' in you, sun shinin' in your, I mean, door
It's gonna rain today, mama, sun shine in your door
Gonna rain today, the sun is shinin' your back door

I'm gon' tell you this time, mama, ain't gon' tell you no, ain't gon' tell you no, I mean, more
I'm gon' tell you this time, mama, ain't gon' tell you no more
I'm gon' tell you this time, mama, ain't gon' tell you no more
I'm gonna leave you here, partner, and I won't be back here no more

I left you standin' here, buddy, in your back door, in your back door, bull frog blues
I left you here standin', mama, your back door
I left you standin' here in your back door cryin'

I got the bull frog blues, mama, can't be satis-, can't be satis-, mamlish -fied
I got the bull frog blues and I can't be satisfied
Got the bull frog blues and I can't be satisfied

Have you ever dreamed lucky and woke up cold in, woke up cold in, I mean, hand?
Have you ever dreamed lucky and woke up cold in hand?
Have you ever dreamed lucky and woke up cold in hand?

I'm gonna tell you, buddy, what a Chinaman told a, a Chinaman told a, I mean, a Jew
I'm gonna tell you what a Chinaman told a Jew
"You don't like-ee me, well I, sure God, don't like you."

Now, looky here, partner, see what you done to, see what you done to, I mean, me
Looky here, partner, see what you done to me
Now, looky here, partner, see what you done to me

Hey, the sun gonna shine in my back door some, my back door some, I'll say, today
The sun gonna shine in my back door some day
Hey, the sun gonna shine in my back door some day

All best,
Johnm 
« Last Edit: October 11, 2012, 05:26:54 PM by Johnm »

Offline banjochris

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2012, 08:41:55 AM »
I left you standin' here, buddy, in your back door, in your back door, bull frog blues
I left you here standin', mama, your back door
I left you standin' here in your back door cryin'

I love this verse for the first line; Harris sounds like he's enjoying himself so much he just has to say the title again!

Offline Johnm

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2012, 08:46:47 AM »
I agree, Chris, he really sounds wound up, and I don't think it's until he gets to the third line of that verse that he finally gets to what he meant to say!  I'm also a big fan of satis-mamlish-fied.

Offline jpeters609

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2012, 08:50:49 AM »
I agree, Chris, he really sounds wound up, and I don't think it's until he gets to the third line of that verse that he finally gets to what he meant to say!  I'm also a big fan of satis-mamlish-fied.

The best use of "mamlish" in any blues lyric, in my opinion. And it somehow gets at what mamlish "means" better than any attempted definition I've yet to see.
Jeff

Offline Johnm

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2012, 10:21:06 AM »
Good point, Jeff.  William Harris put it across, didn't he?

Offline Johnm

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2012, 10:38:36 AM »
Hi all,
William Harris recorded "Leavin' Town" at a session in Birmingham, Alabama on July 22, 1927, with Joe Robinson seconding him on guitar.  The duo used the same division of labor as was most often used by the Beale Street Sheiks, with William Harris capoed up, playing out  of the G position and sounding in C and Joe Robinson working out of C position with no capo.  It's a shame the duo didn't record more together, because this is a spectacular cut.
The song is a 16-bar blues which, like "Bull Frog Blues", employs a stammering archetype in the first line.  When they go for their solos, they solo to a 12-bar form, and William Harris comes in singing the tagline to the second pass through the form.

Tell me, mama, where you stayed last, where you stayed last, I said, night
Tell me, mama, where you stayed last night
Tell me, mama, where you stayed last night
Oh, your hair all wrinkled and your clothes ain't fittin' you right

Got up this mornin', could not keep from, could not keep from, I said, cryin'
I got up this mornin' and I could not keep from cryin'
Got up this mornin' and I could not keep from cryin'
Thinkin' 'bout my rider, she done put me down

The sun's gon' shine in, my back door some, my back door some, I mean, day
The sun's gon' shine in my back door some day
Said, the sun's gon' shine in my back door some day
I know my woman gon' come my way some day

SOLO: (Spoken during solo:  Harris:  Hey, boy.  Robinson: Say, boy, how you percolatin' now?  Harris: Boy, I ain't percolatin'.  Robinson: 'Vaporate.  Harris: Play 'em 'til I get sloppy.

SOLO:  (Spoken during solo: Harris: Play 'em 'til I get sloppy drunk.)
When I get drunk, well I sure won't drink no more

Listen here, woman, what my, dear old mother, dear old mother, I mean, say
Listen here what my dear old mother said
Listen to what my dear old mother said,
"These women and whiskey done carried my child astray."

Easy, mama, 'cause, trouble's bearin', troubles bearin', I mean, down
Take easy, mama, 'cause trouble's bearin' down
Easy, mama, my trouble's bearin' down
(Guitars finish verse)

Edited 6/8 to pick up corrections from banjochris, Alexei McDonald and Johnm

All best,
Johnm

« Last Edit: June 21, 2012, 06:55:49 AM by Johnm »

Offline banjochris

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2012, 11:22:32 AM »
I love that "mamlish-fied" too!

John, just from memory, I think the last verse of "Leavin' Town" is "trouble's bearing down" -- listen and see what you think.
Chris
« Last Edit: June 08, 2012, 11:23:55 AM by banjochris »

Offline LeftyStrat

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2012, 01:26:01 PM »
I've always heard the first spoken line as:

"Say boy, how yo' trouble is now?" , but given what you've got that follows, It wouldn't make a whole lot of sense.

My interest is piqued though.  I'll give it a few listens when I can really concentrate.
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Offline banjochris

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2012, 01:43:20 PM »
Couple of suggestions:

Pretty sure the spoken exchange in the middle begins:
H: Hey boy.
R: Hey boy how you percolatin' now?
H: Boy, I ain't percolatin'
R: ??? (but I don't think it's "there's a lead")
etc.

Also, last verse is "Easy, mama, 'cause, trouble's bearin', trouble's bearin', I say down,"
etc.

Chris

Offline Alexei McDonald

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2012, 01:45:13 PM »
For this bit:

SOLO: (Spoken during solo:  Harris:  Hey, boy.  Robinson: Say, boy, how you play the leads now?  Harris: Boy, I ain't played today.  Robinson: There's a lead.  Harris: Play 'em 'til I get sloppy.

I always hear it as :

SOLO: (Spoken during solo:  Harris:  Hey, boy.  Robinson: Say, boy, how you percolatin' now?  Harris: Boy, I ain't percolatin'.  Robinson: [E]vaporat[ing].  Harris: Play 'em 'til I get sloppy.

Offline Johnm

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2012, 08:53:08 PM »
Thanks very much, Chris and Alexei, for the catches.  You're right in every instance, and re-listening helped me catch a couple of other things I missed in my first try.  I will make the changes.  "'Vaporate" is brilliant!
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2012, 09:36:37 PM »
Hi all,
William Harris recorded "Early Mornin' Blues" at a session in Richmond, Indiana on October 11, 1928, the day after he recorded "Bull Frog Blues".  Harris accompanied himself out of C position in standard tuning for the song, and utilizes a signature lick throughout that I have previously misidentified as being a C version of Lonnie Johnson's most famous lick.  In fact, the lick that William Harris plays is closer to being a C version of the signature lick Blind Blake played on his dropped-D tune, "Bad Feeling Blues", though the two licks sit slightly differently relative to the pulse.  William Harris was really versatile.  It's hard to believe that this was the same player who recorded "Bull Frog Blues" the day before, because "Early Mornin' Blues" is a set piece with a vengeance, and has none of the excitement of "Bull Frog Blues", despite being flawlessly played and sung.  Each of the three William Harris songs that we've looked at thus far in this thread was played in a different playing position from the other two, which is unusual, even for such a small sample.

I woke up this mornin', heard someone callin' me
I woke up this mornin', heard someone callin' me
It must've been my woman, leavin' up by Tennessee

Hey, baby, that ain't no way to do
Hey, baby, that ain't no way to do
Just got me lovin' you, turn your old back on me

I'm going to see you, pretty mama, when your troubles be just like mine
I'm going to see you, pretty mama, troubles be just like mine
I'm goin' to see you when, baby, your troubles is just like mine

I woke up this mornin', 'tween midnight and day
I woke up this mornin', 'tween midnight and day
I saw my rider, makin' her get-away

Well, I don't see why my baby treats me so bad
I don't see why my baby treats me so bad
And it's all I done, mama, hug and call you hon'

Hey, hey, mama, that ain't no way to do
Hey-ey, mama, that ain't no way to do
Just treat me dirty, that's the way you do

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: June 09, 2012, 11:04:50 PM by Johnm »

Offline blueshome

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #12 on: June 21, 2012, 04:52:53 AM »
I've had a mess around with trying to play "I'm Leavin Town". John, is the "G" guitar part not in Spanish? It makes the solo bass runs simple and doesn't seem to limit anything else going on.

Offline 143TallBoy

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2012, 05:56:23 AM »
Thanks Johnm for starting this thread. William Harris has always been one of the very best in my mind. He really has it all, great voice, great lyrics, great song variety and especially great guitar playing. There really isn't a bad song in the bunch. Kansas City Blues and Hot Time Blues are two more favourites, actually they're all favourites but those two stand out to my ears.

Offline Johnm

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2012, 07:00:45 AM »
Hi Phil,
In the duet version, I reckon William Harris is playing out of G, standard position himself, where the treble work sits easier, but if in a solo version of the song it makes both bass and treble more accessible to play out of Spanish, there's certainly no reason not to do so--it makes a lot of sense.
I agree about William Harris, 143TalBoy, he really was terrific.  I need to work on the rest of his songs.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #15 on: June 21, 2012, 10:04:36 PM »
Hi all,
For "Hot Time Blues", William Harris backed himself out of C position in standard tuning.  The song is a raggy 8-bar blues with a  | VI  |  VI  |  II  |  II  |  V   |   V   |   I   |   I   | progression.  Harris' playing on this one is somewhat reminiscent of Mance Lipscomb's playing, for he starts at a solid medium tempo, accelerates from beginning to end, and is really tearing by the time he gets to the end of the song.  His playing is very strong and he gets some especially neat syncopations towards the end of the form.  His singing is every bit as good as his playing, too.

Say, it makes no difference what mama don't allow
We gonna have a good time right anyhow
Hey, mama don't have it here

Well, come on daddy, what do you say?
Just give me a kiss that very same way
'Cause mama don't allow it, ain't gonna have it here

Well, just want to tell you this one time
Mama, blues ain't nothin' but to worry your mind
Hey, baby, won't you take me back?

Well, it's take me back, try me again
Say, I may do better than what I once have been
Hey, baby, won't you take me back?

SOLO

Well you take me back, then try me again
I may do better, what I have been
Hey, baby, won't you take me back?

Oh, come on daddy, this ain't no joke
If you've got a good cigarette, just give me a smoke
Hey, baby won't you take me back?

Take me back and try me again
Say, we'll do better than what we used to do
Hey, baby won't you take me back?

Say, it makes no difference what mama don't allow
We gonna have a good time right anyhow
Hey, baby won't you take me back?

SOLO

Well, if you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree
Gal, stay out of my orchard, let my peaches be
Hey, won't you take me back?

SOLO X 2

Well, I tell you, buddy, this a natural fact
Whenever you quit me, I ain't gonna take you back
Hey, won't you take me back

SOLO X 3

All best,
Johnm

 


Offline Johnm

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #16 on: September 14, 2012, 09:31:28 PM »
Hi all,
Pan recently unearthed William Harris' recording of "Kansas City Blues" at YouTube and posted it on facebook.  It reminded me of how spectacular Harris' version of that song is.  Like Jim Jackson, Harris played it out of E position in standard tuning, but Harris took it at a considerably brisker tempo, and really drove it home.

I left up Main Street, started down Beale
Lookin' for the woman what's called Lucille, man,
REFRAIN: She done moved to Kansas City, she done moved to Kansas City
She done moved, baby, honey, where they don't 'low you

I tell all of you men what you mustn't do
Never love one woman like, think she love you
Call you honey, call you pie
Let things get a-loose, Lord, on the sly
REFRAIN: Then I'll move to Kansas City, I'll move to Kansas City
Then I'll move, baby, honey, where they don't 'low you

I'm just from the country, you know I'm easy to rule
Hitch me your cart, drive me for your mule
REFRAIN: Then I'll move to Kansas City, I'll move to Kansas City
Then I'll move, baby, honey, where they don't 'low you

My good girl quit me, she promised me today
She'd meet me down on Beale Street at the Panama Cafe
REFRAIN: Then I'd move to Kansas City, I'd move to Kansas City
Then I'd move, baby, honey, where they don't 'low you

I wished I was a catfish in the deep blue sea
I'd have all these women just fishin' after me
REFRAIN: Then I'll move to Kansas City, I'll move to Kansas City
Then I'll move, baby, honey, where they don't 'low you

I feel like jumpin' from the treetop to the ground
The girl I love, Lord, she don't want me 'round
REFRAIN: Then I'll move to Kansas City, I'll move to Kansas City
Then I'll move, baby, honey, where they don't 'low you

I tell all you men, right from this day
Never let your woman have her way
Some old day you ask her to stay
You look for her, she done gone away
REFRAIN: She done moved to Kansas City, she done moved to Kansas City
She done moved, baby, honey, where they don't 'low you

I wished I was a jaybird flyin' in the air
Build my nest some of these high browns' hair
REFRAIN: Then I'd move to Kansas City, I'd move to Kansas City
Then I'd move, baby, honey, where they don't 'low you

All best,
Johnm


 
« Last Edit: October 11, 2012, 05:31:57 PM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #17 on: September 19, 2012, 02:25:49 PM »
Hi all,
William Harris recorded "Leavin' Here Blues" at a session in Richmond, Indiana on October 11, 1928.  He backed himself out of C position in standard tuning for the song, and it uses the same melody and accompaniment as his "Early Morning Blues".  He pretty much plays the song the same from beginning to end; it's hard to believe this is the same musician who did a piece as exciting as "Bull Frog Blues".  The song has a strange quality in that Harris sings essentially the same verse for his first, second and fourth verses--it's really odd that way.  The last two verses sound improvised.

I'm goin' away, mama, worry you off my mind
I'm goin' away, mama, to worry you off my mind
You keep me worried, bothered all the time

I'm leavin' here, mama, to worry you off my mind
I'm leavin' here, mama, to worry you off my mind
Say, you keep me worried,  bothered all the time

I know my woman, tell her by the clothes she wear
I know my woman, tell her by the clothes she wear
She wear two red pieces and great long curly hair

I'm goin' to leave here, mama, to worry you off my mind
I'm goin' to leave here, mama, to worry you off my mind
'Cause you keep me worried, bothered all the time

When you see me comin', mama, put your man outdoors
When you see me comin' put your man outdoors
You know I ain't no stranger, I been here before

I'm gonna get up in the morning, pack my trunk and go
I'm gonna get up in the morning, pack my trunk and go
And I won't be back here, baby, 'til you change your ways

I'm gonna leave this town, mama, and I won't get back 'til spring
I'm gonna leave this, town and I won't get back 'til spring
You treat me dirty, be home just the same

All best,
Johnm


Offline Drew.MS.Blues96

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #18 on: January 03, 2013, 02:47:10 PM »
Hi boys i hear Electric Chair Blues by Wiliam Harris this recording is indecipherable to me, tell me what you think...... the test is similar (equal) to 'Lectric Chair Blues by Blind Lemon Jefferson

I want to shake hands with my partner and ask him how come he's here
I want to shake hands with my partner, ask him how come he's here
I had a wreck with my family, they're gonna send me to the electric chair

I wonder why they electrocute a man at the one o'clock hour of night
 I wonder why they electrocute a man at the one o'clock hour of night
Because the current is much stronger, when the folks has turned out all the lights

I sat in the electrocutin' room, my arms folded up and cryin'
I sat in the electrocutin' room, my arms folded up and cryin'
My baby asked the question, was they gonna electrocute that man of mine?

I'm goin get me a taxi to take me away from here
I'm goin get me a taxi to take me all away from here
???? ??? ??? ???? ???? ???? to the electric chair

I feel like jumpin' in the ocean, I feel like jumpin' in the deep blue sea
I feel like jumpin' in the ocean, and like jumpin' into the deep blue sea
[But nothin' like that wrecked in my heart when they brought my]??? electrocuted daddy to me

thanks


Offline Johnm

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #19 on: October 02, 2015, 01:46:33 PM »
Hi all,
We have never finished the transcription of William Harris's version of "Electric Chair Blues", and listening to the available versions of the song, it's not hard to see why--all of the versions I've heard of the record are absolutely whupped.  I found a recently posted alternate take on youtube which is slightly better condition than the version I'd heard previously.  I'll post it here, with apologies to European Weenies who may not be able to watch this video:



Here is a version that everyone should be able to watch.  Unfortunately, its sound quality is considerably worse:



As you can see, this version was attributed on the record label to Alonzo Boone.  I think conventional wisdom has it that Alonzo Boone was a pseudonym for William Harris.  I would argue that the singer may very well have been Alonzo Boone; it is certainly not the same singer as the person who sang "Bullfrog Blues" and the other songs attributed to William Harris.  Harris probably supplied the guitar accompaniment which is one of the relatively rare instances of an early Country Blues accompaniment played in dropped-D tuning.  I think I have most of the lyrics, but would appreciate corroboration/correction of the bent bracketed passages.  I put the end of the tagline to the third verse and the last two verses in quotation marks because they're in the words of the prisoner's girl friend.  In the first verse, the first two lines are sung by the girlfriend and the tagline is sung by the prisoner.

I'm gonna shake hands with my partner, ask him how come he's here
I'm gonna shake hands with my partner, ask him how come he's here
I had a wreck with my family, they gonna send me to the electric chair

Why do they electrocute a man if he just walk out, at night?
Why do they electrocute a man if he just walk out, at night?
'Cause the current is much stronger when the folks turn out all their lights

I walked in the electrocuting room with my arms fold up and cryin'
I walked in the electrocuting room with my arms fold up and cryin'
My baby, she asked the question, "When they gonna electrocute that man of mine?"

"I'm gonna catch me some taxi, take me on away from here.
I'm gonna catch me some taxi, take me on away from here.
'Cause it's the death for me to see my man to that 'lectric chair."

"I seen wrecks on the ocean, wrecks on the deep blue sea.
I seen wrecks on the ocean, wrecks on the deep blue sea.
I seen wrecks in my heart, when they brought my electrocuted daddy to me."

Edited 10/2 to pick up correction from LeftyStrat

All best,
Johnm       
« Last Edit: October 04, 2015, 02:48:56 PM by Johnm »

Offline LeftyStrat

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #20 on: October 02, 2015, 01:53:48 PM »
Hey John,

If i may, I'd like to offer a possible completion for the line you have in brackets there in the 2nd verse:

I've always heard:

Why do they electrocute a man at the one o'clock hour, at night?

Either got that from listening to Lemon's version (i tend to like this one better though), or a transcription I read somewhere way back when. I can't remember.

Another bit i've heard differently is in the last line:

I've seen wrecks in my heart when they brought my electrocuted daddy to me

Is it possible that i'm at least in the ballpark?  :)

Lefty

« Last Edit: October 02, 2015, 02:36:52 PM by LeftyStrat »
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Offline Johnm

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #21 on: October 02, 2015, 08:06:45 PM »
Hi Lefty,
Got to admit, I don't hear "one o'clock hour" in any way.  There's a "j" sound in there followed by a "w" sound (which "one" has), but nothing that I can hear that sounds anything like "hour".  You may have gotten the "one o'clock hour" from the post immediately prior to mine.  I'll re-listen for "brought" in the last verse.  Thanks for the ideas.
All best,
Johnm
EDITED TO ADD:
In re-listening to that first problem area, it's sounding now like:
   Why do they electrocute a man if he just walk out at night?
The sound is a very close fit, but the meaning is certainly more iffy.
RE-EDITED TO ADD:
In re-listening to the tagline on the last verse, you were spot on, Lefty!  Good catch, and I will make that change.  Thanks!
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: October 02, 2015, 08:28:20 PM by Johnm »

Offline LeftyStrat

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #22 on: October 02, 2015, 09:40:34 PM »
y'know....you could be right about that first line...now that I'm hearing it again in my head, it sounds just about right.   "The one o'clock hour at night" line may have just filled in from the image of everyone having their lights out (as mentioned in the next line) at that time, so the "current (would be) much stronger" for the chair.

I'll be first to admit though, that there are some lyrics out there that have taken me close to 20 years or so of listening to finally understand.  It just happens every now and then that I hear a certain line and think  "Ahhh..So *that's* what that line is!!"  I'd give an example, but they're probably to numerous to list :)

Glad I could be of some help with this one...or any other lyrics I can add to.   You're helping me realize that my ears may not be as bad as I think they are.

Lefty
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Offline jpeters609

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  • Posts: 222
Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #23 on: October 11, 2017, 01:43:15 PM »
John Tefteller has announced the discovery of one of the missing William Harris 78s: "I'm A Roamin' Gambler"/"I Was Born In The Country." They're not quite the propulsive barn-stormers that we've come to know from "Bullfrog Blues" and "I'm Leaving Town," but based on these clips they should leave most of us satis-mamlish-fied:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoqRanKqJ5U&feature=youtu.be
Jeff

 


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