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I'm sitting here looking at all of this mud, and my gal got washed away in that Mississippi flood - Barbecue Bob Hicks, Mississippi Heavy Water Blues

Author Topic: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues  (Read 6020 times)

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Offline Pan

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Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« on: June 12, 2014, 06:07:52 PM »
Hi all

A fellow musician visiting Berlin lately, requested me to do this song with him as a duet, so I looked a little bit into it, and since we apparently don't have a devoted thread to the tune, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts.

To be honest, I had never considered playing the tune myself, partly because it's so widely covered, and partly because the later versions by the students of Rev. Gary Davis sort of have galvanized the tune into a set form of chords and lyrics.

But, as usually is the case, the more you look into a song, and it's different versions, the more you come to appreciate it.

According to Wikipedia, the song is originally a traditional tune, but two sources copyrighted a sheet music arrangement early on. One was published by Billy Smythe, Scott Middleton, and Art Gillham, in 1914 (and again in 1926); another by W.C. Handy as "Hesitating Blues in 1915."

The former version was recorded as an instrumental by Victor Military Band in 1916. After an intro, and a repeated verse, you'll hear the familiar 12 bar melody. The song also has a middle part, which isn't usually repeated in the vocal versions of the song.




The Smythe, Middleton, and Gillham version was recorded by Al Bernard as a cylinder recording in 1919.



Hesitation Blues ? Al Bernard

I?ll go down to the levee, take a rocking chair,
If the Blues doesn?t leave me, babe, I?ll rock away from here,
Oh, tell me how long, have I got to wait?
Oh babe, can I get you now, or must I hesitate?

I was born in the mountain, raised in the sand,
Chief occupation taking gals from their men
Oh, tell me how long, have I got to wait?
Oh give me 1-1-1-1-1, -or must I hesitate?

Instrumental

I?m going way out west, to marry an Indian squaw,
Have an Indian chief for a Pa-in-law.
Tell me how long, have I got to wait?
Oh babe, can I get you now, or must I hesitate?

I had a dream last night, that a rubber tyred hack,
Took me to the graveyard and forgot to bring me back.
Oh, tell me how long, have I got to wait?
Oh give me 11-11-11-7-11, must I hesitate?

Instrumental (spoken asides: ??? it, boys, ??? it. Mm. Don?t that man play a piano? Ha! Yes-sir!)

Never marry a fat girl, who says she?s just stout.
But there?s she?s in the bed, just to keep from ??? out.
Oh tell me how long, have I got to wait?
Oh babe, can I get you now, or must I hesitate?

A-never marry a thin girl, whatever you do,
If she pulls out the bathplug, she?s liable to go through.
Oh tell me how long, have I got to wait?
Oh give me 5-6 Oh 1-9 or must I hesitate?

Instrumental

I went out in the country, sat down by a brook.
Sat down on a bumble-bee, he backed up and pushed.
Oh tell me how long, have I got to wait?
Oh babe, can I get you now, or must I hesitate?

Cherrys make ???, apples give me the ???
But it takes ??? persimmon to
Oh tell me how long, have I got to wait?
Oh give me 11-11-7-11, must I hesitate?



Art Gillham also did this in 1925.



Hesitation Blues        -Art Gillham

(Spoken: Come on fingers, percolate, percolate, fingers.
Here?s where we do the meanest blues ever written, yes sir
.)

I?m going down to the levee, take a rocking chair,
If the blues don?t leave me, going to rock away from there.
Baby how long, how long I have to wait?
Can I get you now, must I hesitate?

I had a sweet mama, so bashful and shy,
When she mends her underwear, she plugs the needle?s eye.
How long, how long I have to wait?
Well, can I get you now, must I hesitate?

A doctor?s in love with my girl, they say,
I got her eating apples just to keep him away.
How long, how long I have to wait?
Well, can I get you now, must I hesitate?

I?ve met girls on railroad trains and on the river boats,
But my sweet mama?s got what makes a good mule eat it?s oats.
(Spoken: Tell me Honey, tell your Papa, how come you make him do like you do?)
Well, can I get you now, must I hesitate?

While you must love your neighbors, what the Good Book say,
But that don?t mean to love her, when her husband?s away.
How long, how long I have to wait?
Can I get you now, must I hesitate?

When I got home last night, I wasn?t there at all,
I looked through the ??? another mule in my stall.
How long, how long I have to wait?
Can I get you now, must I hesitate?

I?ve got ?ham? in my name, I might be awful dum.
But I?ve got more ideas of loving, than Wrigley has gum.
How long, how long I have to wait?
Can I get you now, must I hesitate?

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,
I?ve got a black-haired mama, that the rain can?t rust.
(Spoken: Come on Mama, tell Papa how come you do?s like you do?)
Oh, can I get you now, must I hesitate?

I was born down in Georgia, raised in Tennessee,
When I get Hesitation Blues, my mama takes ?em away from me.
How long, how long I have to wait?
Oh, can I get you now, must I hesitate?
(Spoken: That?s it!)



The above mentioned versions are pretty much a standard 12 bar blues with the usual I, IV and V chords.

The W.C. Handy version shares the same melody as the Smythe, Middleton, and Gillham version, but the title is ?Hesitating Blues?, and the lyrics, and the harmony are slightly different. Handy's set of lyrics places the singer trying to make a long-distance call to a lover, and the hesitating is done by others, than the singer. The harmony is also slightly different, in the part where the common melody is used.

The James Reese Europe's 369th U.S. Infantry "Hell Fighters" Marching Band recorded the Handy version as an instrumental in 1919. After a brief intro you'll hear the familiar melody twice with a some variations, before the song modulates up a fourth, to another 12 bar blues theme, and finally to a melody, which resembles ?Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor?.
I've never seen Handy's sheet music, so I wouldn't know what variations are his own, but the chord changes in the familiar melody part appear on many versions credited to him, so I suppose they are his. If we look at this part of the arrangement, it's in the key of  F major, and the chord changes to the first 4 bars of the 12 bar blues are something like this:

|| Fdim7 F | Fdim7 F | Fdim7 F | F/C C#dim7 Dm7 , | to Bb7 ?

The F/C and the C#dim7 chord in the bar 4 get one beat each, while the Dm7 gets 2 beats.



Here is Louis Armstrong's beautiful version of Hesitating Blues, with Velma Middleton as a guest vocalist. I think the slower tempo reveals the beauty of Handy's chord changes much better.



Hesitating Blues    -W.C. Handy  -Louis Armstrong (LA) with Velma Middleton VM)

Hello central, what?s the matter with this line?
I wanna talk to that high brown of mine.
Tell me how long, will I have to wait? (VM, spoken aside: Won?t be that long) (LA, spoken: Okay, baby [laughs].)
Please give me 2-98, why do you hesitate? ( spoken: Good number for tomorrow, Velma [laughs].)

Oh, what you say? Can?t talk to my brown?
A storm last night, blew the wires all down.
Now, tell me how long, will I have to wait? ( spoken: Come on in this house, gal [laughs].)
Oh won?t you tell me now, why do you hesitate? (spoken: C?mon in there Velma, c?mon in there [laughs].)

Interlude 4 bars

VM: Say, Sunday night, my Beau proposed to me,
Said, he?d be happy, if his wife I?d be.
Said he, how long, baby will I have to wait?
Come be my wife, my Kate,
Why do you hesitate?

Say, I declined him, it was just for a stall,
He left that night on the Cannonball.
Honey, oh honey, how long, will I have to wait?
Will I have to wait? (LA, spoken: I don?t know ?bout you baby, but I?m ready, and I ain?t hesitating neither. [laughs].)
Oh won?t you tell me know, baby why do you hesitate?

Instrumental solos x2



Now you might wonder what, if anything, these ?jazz? versions might have to do with country blues? Let's look at those changes, and transfer them into chord degrees:

|| Idim7 I | Idim7 I | Idim7 I | I/5 #Vdim7 VIm7 | to IV7?

and transfer them into the key of C major

|| Cdim7 C | Cdim7 C | Cdim7 C | C/G G#dim7 Am7 | to F7?

Reverend Gary Davis was probably the first who changed the I chord to a VIm chord in the beginning of the song (C to Am), as we've come to know the song.  You'll notice that Handy's version also has a Vim chord, but it is used in a very different way, so assuming that the Reverend got it from Mr. Handy would be rather far stretched, in my opinion.
However, in some versions Rev. Davis plays a break in the song, using the similar Cdim7 to C progression Handy uses in his version. This might be a coincidence, but it makes me wonder, if he was, in some way or form, aware of Handy's changes, or variations of them.
Here's a very nifty instrumental version by the Rev. check out the part at around 3:14, for example, to see what I mean.



Sorry if I bored you to death with Hesitation Blues, but after haphazardly playing it with my buddy (who learned the tune from Roy Bookbinder), I grew to like it, and thought that at least some of you might be interested in all this.

Here's someone I don't know at all,  doing a nice instrumental version with the W.C. Handy changes.



And here?s someone, you might know, doing a nice rendition as well. ;)



I'd love to hear your thoughts on this tune!

The Wikipedia article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hesitation_Blues

A dedicated and growing songlist on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNEJV1lNKyyXTXG3Fo5MfEIjxLelbi790&feature=mh_lolz

Cheers

Pan

Edited to replace a dead YT link, and a bunch of unfinished lyric transcriptions.


« Last Edit: July 10, 2014, 06:22:43 PM by Pan »

Offline Pan

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2014, 10:51:02 AM »
Hi all

Here are a couple more interesting versions or remakes of Hesitation Blues, kindly suggested by JohnM:

Buddy Boy Hawkins, "Voice Throwing Blues":



Charlie Poole, "If the River Whiskey":



and David Honeboy Edwards' "I Love My Jelly Roll", discussed in the "What is this musician doing?" thread:



Cheers

Pan

Offline Pan

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2014, 10:09:28 AM »
Hi all

Here are a couple more notable early versions, that I had missed, kindly suggested by dj;

"The Hesitating Blues", Art Hickman's Orchestra, 1919.



"Hesitation Blues",  Al Barnard and the Goofus Five, 1930.
This is an early Western Swing version. Hesitation Blues seems to have been a favourite with both black and white audiences and musicians from early on, and country and western musicians play it as well.



Jim Jackson's version from 1930 is titled "Hesitation Blues", rather than "Hesitating Blues", but he starts with the W.C. Handy lyrics.



Cheers,

Pan


Offline Johnm

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2014, 10:24:37 AM »
Hi Pan,
Here is one of my favorite versions, from Smith Casey, whom I very much wish had been recorded so much more than he was!  Everything he did was just great.



All best,
Johnm

Offline Pan

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2014, 12:27:21 PM »
Hi Pan,
Here is one of my favorite versions, from Smith Casey, whom I very much wish had been recorded so much more than he was!  Everything he did was just great.



All best,
Johnm

Excellent, thank you John!

Cheers

Pan

Offline Pan

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2014, 02:52:28 PM »
Hi all

Here's a few more early versions of the tune, coming from a wide variety of musical styles:

"Hesitating Blues", by Arthur Collins, who was, according to Wikipedia, "an American baritone who was one of the most prolific and beloved of pioneer recording artists, regarded in his day as ?King of the Ragtime Singers.? 1916.



"Hesitation Blues", Bascom Lamar Lundsford, 1925, an unaccompanied version recorded for the Library of Congress. The lyrics mention the Boll Weevil, among other things.




"Hesitation Blues", Crying Sam Collins, 1927. Sounds to me like he's playing in C position, but what on earth is he doing during the first 4 bars of the verses? A great version, nevertheless!



?Hesitation Blues?, Wingy Manone (misspelled  Mannone on the record label) and his orchestra, 1936. Nice guitar solo there too. The personnel is: Wingy Mannone, vocals; and his orchestra. [Wingy Manone, trumpet; Joe Marsala, clarinet; Tommy Mace, alto sax; Eddie Miller, tenor sax; Conrad Lanoue, piano; Carmen Mastren, guitar; Artie Shapiro, string bass; Sam Weiss, drums



Cheers

Pan

Offline Pan

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2014, 03:30:58 PM »
Hi again

Crying Sam Collins lead me to Stuart's post on this thread:
http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=331.msg44833#msg44833 , where he mentions two blues divas, Sara Martin, and Esther Bigeou recording the W.C. Handy version in 1923.
The Red Hot Jazz links unfortunately don't seem to work anymore, and neither version seems to be on Youtube, but you can hear the Esther Bigeou take on Spotify, if you have acces to it.

http://open.spotify.com/track/5q4N9wkXG9huOE1u1tV6QN

Cheers

Pan

Offline Laura

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2014, 03:56:28 PM »
Pan, you're on a (jelly) roll!  How about some Leadbelly?

« Last Edit: June 15, 2014, 03:58:47 PM by Laura »

Offline Laura

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2014, 04:20:25 PM »
Here are a couple different Rev versions:



And the epic 11 minute version! (I reckon he could carry on for another 11!)


Offline Pan

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2014, 04:26:46 PM »
thanks, Laura!

Cheers

Pan

Offline Pan

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2014, 03:19:54 PM »
Hi all

Speaking of a Jelly Roll, Jelly Roll Morton did a very enjoyable version of Hesitation Blues for the Library of Congress in 1938 (in fact, his entire recordings for the LoC appear to be a gem!).

There are transcriptions of the lyrics on the internet, but I'm not entirely convinced on all of them. Here's one source for the lyrics: http://www.maxcafard.info/jellyroll.html
Anyway, here they are, with some corrections and suggestions by yours truly (on the unsure parts, mine are the latter on the bent brackets). I would appreciate any help trying to get them right. Any other corrections are welcome as well! I especially don't hear the word "press" being used on the 6th verse. I believe "tetch" is some kind of a dialect pronunciation for "touch"? Could that be the word in question?

Hesitation Blues  -Jelly Roll Morton

(Spoken: Long time people thought I wrote this tune, I used to sell 'em little bit of leaf copies for 35 cents. I kept the sheet music 'til nobody could see it)
 
If I was whiskey and you was a duck,
I'd dive to the bottom and I'd never come up.
Oh, how long do I have to wait?
Can I get it now, do I have to hesitate?
 
If I had a woman, she was tall,
She made me think about my parasol.
Oh, how long do I have to wait?
Can I get it now, do I have to hesitate?
 
'N old lady by the name of Jane,
I hit her, knocked her right off her cane.
Oh, how long do I have to wait?
Can I get it now, do I have to hesitate?
 
Mama, mama, look at sis,
She's out on levee doing the double twist.
Lord, how long do I have to wait?
Can I get you now, do I have to hesitate?
 
She said, come in here, you dirty little sow,
You trying to be a bad girl, you don't know how.
How long do I have to wait?
Can I get you now, do I have to hesitate?
 
She said tetch my bonnet, tetch my shawl,
Do not not tetch my waterfall.
Oh, how long do I have to wait?
Yes, if I get you now, won't have to hesitate?

There's a girl sitting on a stump,
I know, know she's on the stump.
Just how long (spoken: it's a [dirty little place]), ah, do I wait? (spoken: couldn't say that)
Can you (!) get you now, do I have to hesitate?

Instrumental
 
Tell me baby, what you got on your mind?
I'm eating and a drinking having a lovely time.
How long... to wait?
Yes, to get you now, do I have to hesitate?

(from an Oral Interview with Alan Lomax, 1938)



Cheers and thank you

Pan

Edited as kindly suggested by Gumbo!
« Last Edit: July 01, 2014, 09:28:17 AM by Pan »

Offline Lastfirstface

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2014, 09:44:50 AM »
Reaves White County Ramblers did it in an old-time fiddle tune vein with some particularly odd vocal delivery:


Offline btasoundsradio

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2014, 09:58:20 AM »
also Burnette and Rutherford's "Curly Headed Woman"
Charlie is the Father, Son is the Son, Willie is the Holy Ghost

Offline Pan

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2014, 01:11:57 PM »
Thank you,

Lastfirtsface and Powerlinehorizon.



Cheers

Pan

Offline Old Man Ned

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2014, 01:59:52 PM »
And another version from Little Brother Montgomery


Offline Pan

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #15 on: June 18, 2014, 02:03:03 PM »
And another version from Little Brother Montgomery



Anither good one!

Thanks Old Man Ned

Cheers

Pan

Offline Pan

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #16 on: June 30, 2014, 05:09:18 PM »
Hi all

Isaac Youngblood did a nice and lively version of Hesitation Blues in 1966, with Herb Quinn on mandolin. He starts with the W.C.Handy lyrics.



Speaking about lyrics, I would appreciate any comments on my attempted transcription on Jelly Roll Morton's version on the previous page of this thread.

Cheers

Pan

Offline Gumbo

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #17 on: July 01, 2014, 07:43:32 AM »
She said [press/tetch] my bonnet, [press/tetch] my shawl,
Do not not [press/tetch] my waterfall.
Oh, how long do I have to wait?
Yes, if I get you now, won't have to hesitate?

There's a girl sitting on a stump,
I know, know she's on the stump.
Just how long (spoken: it's a [dirty little place]), ah, do I wait? (spoken: couldn't say that)
Can you [get] it now, do I have to hesitate?




In the bonnet and shawl verse I hear tetch (as in touch) and then in the last verse I think he stumbles and says "can you get you now".

Offline Pan

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #18 on: July 01, 2014, 09:29:51 AM »
Thank you Gumbo, much appreciated!

I made the changes!

Cheers

Pan

Offline Pan

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #19 on: July 01, 2014, 06:03:51 PM »
Hi all

Moses Asch recorded stride pianist James P. Johnson doing the W.C. Handy's version of the song, sometime in the 40's. The version is interesting, in that it has B -part, that you usually don't hear elsewhere.

The song can be heard on Spotify:

http://open.spotify.com/track/7IRbH1zWiZhjj7PXjVGBQj

Here's a link to the Smithsonian Folkways recording, where you can hear a snippet from the beginning, and download the liner notes (with lyrics to the song):

http://www.folkways.si.edu/the-asch-recordings-1939-to-1947-vol-1-blues-gospel-and-jazz/b/ragtime/music/album/smithsonian

Cheers

Pan

Offline Pan

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #20 on: January 03, 2015, 05:12:46 PM »
Hi all

Stefan Wirz just posted two versions, not mentioned on this thread, of this tune on fb.

First, an (midi/computer?) interpretation of the piano score of W.C.Handy's "Hesitating Blues".



And more interestingly, Uncle Dave Macon's "Hill Billy Blues", which seems to be an adaptation of the tune.



Cheers

Pan




Offline Lastfirstface

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #21 on: January 04, 2015, 07:24:32 AM »
Uncle Dave's "I've Got The Mourning Blues" is in the same family as well.

Offline Pan

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #22 on: January 04, 2015, 09:17:40 AM »
Uncle Dave's "I've Got The Mourning Blues" is in the same family as well.

Thanks, Lastfirstface!



Cheers

Pan

Offline Pan

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #23 on: January 04, 2015, 06:52:50 PM »
Another one, by the Buck Mountain Band:



Cheers

Pan

Offline stunasty 55

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #24 on: February 13, 2015, 06:22:56 AM »
I love Lead Belly's version of this song, the introduction riff he plays is awesome, especially taking into consideration the style he plays it on his twelve string. Listening to Lead Belly's thumb and how it just hammers away is probably my favorite thing about him...

CHECK OUT JANIS JOPLINS HESITATION BLUES!


Offline roscoesmusic

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #25 on: February 21, 2015, 12:14:01 PM »
i like the holy modal rounders doin this tune. they had charlie poole down

Offline thickpete

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #26 on: February 24, 2015, 12:15:59 PM »
i like the holy modal rounders doin this tune. they had charlie poole down

Heh heh - fave of mine too.... first use of "psychedelic" in pop music lyric I believe.....



"D for doogie that made a fool of me...."


Offline Lastfirstface

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #27 on: February 26, 2015, 09:00:36 AM »
One more on the hillbilly side of things:


Offline Johnm

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #28 on: October 22, 2015, 12:38:18 PM »
Hi all,
For any folks who missed this thread, it's as though Pan anticipated the Song of the Moment idea.  Beautiful job, Pan, and so many different versions.
All best,
Johnm

Offline vonbiber

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Re: Hesitation / Hesitating Blues
« Reply #29 on: December 10, 2015, 02:43:03 PM »
I do this one on the ukulele:

If the River Was Whiskey (Hesitation Blues) (trad., Charley Poole version)

If the river was whiskey and I was a duck
I'd dive to the bottom and I'd never come up
Tell me how long---have I got to wait
Oh, can I get you now---must I hesitate

If the river was whiskey and the branch was wine
You would see me in bathing just any old time
Tell me how long---have I got to wait
Oh, can I get you now---must I hesitate

I was born in England, raised in France
Ordered a suit of clothes and they wouldn't send the pants
Tell me how long---have I got to wait
Oh, can I get you now---must I hesitate

I was born in Alabama, was raised in Tennessee
If you don't like my peaches, don't shake on my tree
Tell me how long---have I got to wait
Oh, can I get you now---must I hesitate

I looked down the road just as far as I could see
A man had my woman and the blues had me
Tell me how long---have I got to wait
Oh, can I get you now---must I hesitate

I ain't no doctor but the doctor's son
I can do the doct'rin' till the doctor comes
Tell me how long---have I got to wait
Oh, can I get you now---must I hesitate

Got the hesitation stockings, the hesitation shoes
Believe my Lord I've got the hesitation blues
Tell me how long---have I got to wait
Oh, can I get you now---must I hesitate

 


anything