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I woke up and remember having to go into my room to get some clothes or something out of my chest of drawers. I was very quiet, as I could hear Rev snoring and didn't want to wake him. Well, I got whatever it was and I was headed toward the door when I heard in a commanding voice,"Don't move or you're dead!". I turned around to see Rev with a .38 revolver in his hand pointed in my general direction, but sort of moving around so as to cover a wider target area. I remember screaming something to the effect of, "No--don't shoot." Rev replied, "One wrong move and you're dead." Well, then I started talking a mile a minute..."Rev, it's me, it's Barry, don't shoot Rev...I was only getting something from my chest of drawers..." Finally, Rev said, "Is that you, Barry?" The incident was soon over, and I had escaped with me life. I guess, from his perspective, it must have been kind of weird to be alone, blind, on the road 3,000 miles from home and rooming with a bunch of lunatic young musicians many years his junior. But to this day, the picture of Reverend Gary Davis that sticks in my mind the most is early in the morning, half-awake and blind as a bat, with a .38 in his hand pointed in my general direction. It was one of the most frightening moments of my life - Barry Melton

Author Topic: SOTM - May 24, 2015 - Pal of Mine - Blind Willie McTell  (Read 1652 times)

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Offline onewent

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SOTM - May 24, 2015 - Pal of Mine - Blind Willie McTell
« on: May 24, 2015, 01:22:46 PM »
Well, sounds like the weenies are starting to rattle the cages, so it's time to get going on SOTM #2.   :P

First off, thanks to frankie for suggesting this idea, and for setting the bar so high (well, not really the second comment, since it may be hard for me to reach).

I selected 'Pal of Mine' by Blind Willie McTell mostly because I know many on here could hear things in the guitar playing that I can't, therefore, I'll sharpen my take on a song that I love to sing.  Hope that doesn't sound too selfish of me.  Additionally, it's always fascinating to learn the history of a song, and its antecedents, and how others perceive the actual performances.    ... Also, I guess this is the last song BWM recorded, which makes it somewhat special right there.

It's also a reminder that what we call the country "blues" players  actually cast a really wide net when it came to repertoire.

It appears that McTell recorded the song three times, twice in 1949, and once in 1956.  But I'd guess that he'd been playing it for quite some time before he recorded it.

In the BWM Guitar Style - Queries and Tips, banjochris notes that on the '49 recording, McTell plays it in the 'C' position, with the actual key as 'F'.  Curley Weaver is playing along on these two takes in 'F', which makes it a bit tricky to follow McTell's guitar lines.

Here's a youtube clip of the '49 version with Weaver

http://youtu.be/N4_I027OYT4?list=RDN4_I027OYT4

And here's Willie solo in '56 (note that in his intro he actually references the original WWI era version)



And here's my humble version that I'd posted in the Back Porch a few years back (linked at the bottom):



It appears that the origin of the song begins during WWI.  Lieutenant Gitz Ingraham Rice, a Canadian officer who served in the First World War, is credited with composing Pal 'o Mine.  Here's an excerpt from a web source:

It was in this way that, in addition to singing and playing the piano for the concert parties, Rice turned his hand to songwriting. Rice became known for hit songs such as "Dear Old Pal of Mine", in which a soldier laments his absence from his girlfriend. The first line states, "All my life is empty, since I went away"; and the refrain affirms the soldier's loneliness: "Oh, how I want you, dear old pal". Rice's song was popularized by the singer John McCormack, who adopted it as his signature tune? It is a typical popular song of the First World War era and was recorded variously as a ballad, a waltz and a foxtrot, as well as being released in sheet-music form. Rice was on active duty in Ypres, Belgium, when he composed the theme of this song.

And here's that version from youtube:


Original sheet music (linked below):

But the real source version for McTell's own pieces is undoubtedly this version, 'Call Me Back Pal 'O Mine', from 1922, sung by Charles Harrison on Victor, with the composer listed as Harold Dixon, and lyricist as Lawrence Perricone:  (the link will take you to the LOC page)

http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/recordings/detail/id/9023/

So, points to ponder:

1.  What do you think are the connections between the 1918 version and the more McTell-like 1922 version, if any? 

2.  What are your collective thoughts on Willie's '49 version compared to his '56 version?

3.  What are some tips or suggestions in the guitar parts when comparing Willie's to mine?

Thanks for reading this, and I'd surely welcome any weenie versions of this great song.

Tom
« Last Edit: May 24, 2015, 01:26:03 PM by onewent »

Offline EddieD

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Re: SOTM - May 24, 2015 - Pal of Mine - Blind Willie McTell
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2015, 02:25:28 PM »
Great song. Im going to dig in a bit to this song and try and post something that adds more than complimenting the song. haha ;)


Offline frankie

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Re: SOTM - May 24, 2015 - Pal of Mine - Blind Willie McTell
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2015, 05:38:14 PM »
Great topic, Tom!

These recordings are all pretty interesting. The 1918 recording seems to me to be a different song entirely - both melodically and lyrically...  only sentiment of the title seems to be the same. The LoC page lists Harold Dixon as the composer of the 1922 recording, and that one seems clearly to be related to the McTell recordings as you pointed out.  Can't help wondering if there's another recording of "Call Me Back, Pal Of Mine" from the teens out there that's more closely related to the 1922 Harrison recording...

Your recording is deeply McTell-y both vocally and instrumentally - that guitar in particular sounds great!

I might take a crack at this at some point, but it's pretty far outside my comfort zone...  I do have a couple of nutball ideas for doing it, though! You have been warned...

It's just great to hear that Weaver and McTell version...  I always forget those recordings!

Offline uncle bud

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Re: SOTM - May 24, 2015 - Pal of Mine - Blind Willie McTell
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2015, 09:23:24 PM »
Nice, Tom, interesting to hear those older versions, and yours again. Like frankie, I wonder if there were other recordings, or perhaps how popular the Harrison recording was.

I don't hear a relationship between the 1918 song and Harrison's. There seems to have been a fondness for the phrase in titles though - the Carter Family did Little Darling Pal of Mine, not a related song, and the Red Fox Chasers did the same tune as Little Sweetheart Pal of Mine. The McCormack record was very popular according to this: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/dear-old-pal-of-mine-emc/
Perhaps that's why the title pops up in other songs.

I was kind of surprised to see a number of covers of the McTell song on YouTube. I've always thought of this as an obscure one.

BTW, the Last Session version YouTube link doesn't work for me. I get a "video not available" message. I've seen this before and wonder what the deal is. Only available in certain regions?
« Last Edit: May 24, 2015, 09:30:27 PM by uncle bud »

Offline harriet

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Re: SOTM - May 24, 2015 - Pal of Mine - Blind Willie McTell
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2015, 05:31:25 AM »
Thank you for posting this great topic.

I think Mctell may have been familiar with both McCormack and Harrison versions as he mentions that he liked ithe song from 1916-17 in the later 1956 version and may taken from those and others he heard in both lyrics and melody where he felt it worked and come up with his own version to add to his repetoire.

Its always interesting to me to hear how there are different versions over time and I have no preference.

I don't have much of an ear for 12 string as I have not studied it or listened to much playing so my most educated opinion would be that I enjoyed your version.

Offline onewent

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Re: SOTM - May 24, 2015 - Pal of Mine - Blind Willie McTell
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2015, 07:06:46 AM »
Thanks, all, for your positive comments.  Hope I met the expectations for the SOTM idea.

@harriet:  good point about McTell's reference to the 1918 time period, not sure if he was referencing the '18 record or just the war time in general?  And, like you, I have no preference in versions, I like each for its particular charm.

@uncle bud:  Yeah, I'm wondering what was around, musically, between the '18 McCormack recording and Harrison's song.  You're correct about the phrase 'pal of mine', I think it was in the lexicon of the day (I remember hearing it (pal) a lot in the Little Rascals tv show iirc)
Also, the youtube link you mentioned works for me, anyone else having an issue with the '59 recording? (btw, youtube is 10 years old this month)

@frankie:  nutball ideas are good  ;)

...Tom

Offline Johnm

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Re: SOTM - May 24, 2015 - Pal of Mine - Blind Willie McTell
« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2015, 07:45:14 AM »
What a nice job you did, Tom, on an interesting topic.  Youtube seems occasionally to generate its own videos, usually with the name of the featured performer as the channel, perhaps based on the number of hits that the other videos by the performer are getting.  In any event, I've posted a couple of such videos in the "What Is This Musician Doing?" thread, and Canadians and on one occasion, a Weenie from Argentina, as well as some European Weenies have said they couldn't view such videos.  I think there might be international copyright issues that such videos don't satisfy in accordance with standards outside the U.S.

I really like your own rendition of the song, and especially your singing.  You get that Willie McTell "mystery  chord", too, that F#6.  Well done!

Boy, John McCormack could generate some tone, couldn't he?
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: May 25, 2015, 08:54:48 AM by Johnm »

Offline harriet

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Re: SOTM - May 24, 2015 - Pal of Mine - Blind Willie McTell
« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2015, 08:32:04 AM »
@ onewent: this is what I heard him say beginning of the ' 56 clip and interpreted in my first post.  Its an extra bonus for me that he speaks in the clip as I find him to be an articulate, often  eloquent and poetic speaker.

"Now I'm going to play another little number here...back in World War I... everybody..seemed to.. make it.. lovely...I like to do that... in 1917 -16 17-but uh I liked this little number, so I 'm going to play this little number."
« Last Edit: May 25, 2015, 08:33:33 AM by harriet »

Offline onewent

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Re: SOTM - May 24, 2015 - Pal of Mine - Blind Willie McTell
« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2015, 11:21:51 AM »
@johnm thanks for the kind words  ... and re McCormack and his tenor tone, that was a really common way for males to sing in those days, based on what I've heard on old 78s.  Wonder if folks re-create that 'crooning' style as a hobby like we re-create the old blues sounds?

@harriet yes, that't what I heard too, my thoughts are that he didn't really say something like "a song I heard in 1918" or something like that, so I'm not sure if I'd use the '18 recording as a true source for BWM, but the McCormack one for sure.  I like the way he used WWI and lovely in the same sentence  :o  ...and yes, I could listen to him speak all day long for the reasons you cite.  He speaks on some other recordings, too, and especially memorable is when he won't take Lomax's bait regarding the n-word and white people disrespecting him.

I wonder if his/that accent still exists in the greater Atlanta area?

Tom


Offline Johnm

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Re: SOTM - May 24, 2015 - Pal of Mine - Blind Willie McTell
« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2015, 06:26:44 PM »
Hi all,
I thought it might be fun to do a different sort of arrangement for "Pal of Mine", so here it is.
All best,
Johnm

Offline uncle bud

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Re: SOTM - May 24, 2015 - Pal of Mine - Blind Willie McTell
« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2015, 07:11:09 PM »
Gorgeous, John. Love the low tuning too.

Offline Johnm

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Re: SOTM - May 24, 2015 - Pal of Mine - Blind Willie McTell
« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2015, 07:16:43 PM »
Thanks, uncle bud!  That is the baritone guitar that Todd Cambio made for me last Fall.
All best,
Johnm

Offline uncle bud

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Re: SOTM - May 24, 2015 - Pal of Mine - Blind Willie McTell
« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2015, 07:22:22 PM »
Aha, I was initially wondering whether it was a seven-string guitar, as the bass got so low. Baritone makes more sense. It sounds great.

Offline frankie

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Re: SOTM - May 24, 2015 - Pal of Mine - Blind Willie McTell
« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2015, 09:04:09 AM »
Nice take on the song, John...  wow! Love the waltz time and the deep baritone voice in the accompaniment. You've probably forgotten more about harmony than I'll ever know!!

Offline dj

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Re: SOTM - May 24, 2015 - Pal of Mine - Blind Willie McTell
« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2015, 10:43:23 AM »
There's an interesting Atlanta connection for Willie McTell's versions of Pal O' Mine.  On October 22 1928, Riley Puckett and Hugh Cross recorded Call Me Back Pal O' Mine in Atlanta for Columbia/Vocalion.  Puckett also recorded for the Skillet Lickers on the same day.  Unfortunately, I can't find a recording available on the internet for comparison to McTell's versions.  But the song was definitely in the air in Atlanta in the late 20's.