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Author Topic: Sexual innuendo in blues songs  (Read 5327 times)

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Offline frankie

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Re: Sexual innuendo in blues songs
« Reply #30 on: June 16, 2015, 07:30:23 PM »
The 'crocheting' line occurs in Matchbox Blues, doesn't it...  a quick check in Weeniepedia confirms it:

http://weeniecampbell.com/wiki/index.php?title=Match_Box_Blues

Lord, mama, who may your manager be?
Hey, hey, mama, who may your manager be?
Reason I ask so many questions, can't you make arrangements for me?

I got a girl cross town, she crochet all the time.
I got a girl cross town, crochet all the time.
"Baby if you don't quit crocheting, you gonna lose your mind."

Based on these two verses, it seems as if "crocheting" is a euphemism for prostitution - although it's possible he has a particular service in mind.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Sexual innuendo in blues songs
« Reply #31 on: June 16, 2015, 09:49:45 PM »
Which begs the question, does it not, how did the French word 'crochet' find its way into the double entendre lexicon. I'm thinking via New Orleans/Louisiana, but that's a long way from Wortham, Texas. Somebody out there knows.

PS I had not made the connection with manager = pimp before, thanks for that.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2015, 09:51:38 PM by Rivers »

Offline waxwing

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Re: Sexual innuendo in blues songs
« Reply #32 on: June 16, 2015, 11:30:26 PM »
Funny, I always thought Lemon was looking to make arrangements with the woman on the street because his gal across town was crocheting all the time. I always took it to mean she was diddling herself, since crocheting is done with a very small repetitive motion, generally in the lap, and didn't give a bother for him. Coupled with the usual admonition that masturbating will cause insanity. If she was prostituting, why wouldn't he just pay for her services instead of the hooker in the previous verse? But that's just me trying to find a linear thought when I shouldn't, I guess.

But does "to hook" in French mean "to prostitute" to a Frenchman (and was it so in 1910)? Or did the double entendre only occur after crochet became an English word?

Wax
« Last Edit: June 16, 2015, 11:36:09 PM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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Offline oddenda

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Re: Sexual innuendo in blues songs
« Reply #33 on: June 17, 2015, 02:23:01 AM »
The use of "crochet" I always felt referred to female masturbation/clitoral stimulation. Remember, I used to be a biologist!

pbl

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Sexual innuendo in blues songs
« Reply #34 on: June 17, 2015, 02:47:18 AM »
Always thought it referred to the making of tea cosies.

Offline Harry

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Re: Sexual innuendo in blues songs
« Reply #35 on: June 17, 2015, 05:43:55 AM »
Lord, mama, who may your manager be?
Hey, hey, mama, who may your manager be?
Reason I ask so many questions, can't you make arrangements for me?

Just realized that this verse was probably where Bo Carter got the idea for his song "Arrangement For Me Blues".
I'm pretty sure he recorded it later than Lemon did.

Offline banjochris

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Re: Sexual innuendo in blues songs
« Reply #36 on: June 17, 2015, 09:13:03 AM »
Lord, mama, who may your manager be?
Hey, hey, mama, who may your manager be?
Reason I ask so many questions, can't you make arrangements for me?

Just realized that this verse was probably where Bo Carter got the idea for his song "Arrangement For Me Blues".
I'm pretty sure he recorded it later than Lemon did.

Bo's "Arrangement" was 1938, I think, and "Match Box" was '27, so quite a while after. I would be amazed if he didn't get that from Lemon.

Offline Hamhound

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Re: Sexual innuendo in blues songs
« Reply #37 on: June 18, 2015, 12:32:45 AM »
It's been brought to my attention that DaCapo republished "Screening" in 1989 and was still listed in their 1999 catalogue.
Thanks for causing me to dig my copy out of storage (slight foxing, minor mould) - many years after I last sighted it (both flyleaf and bookseller sticker say 1989).

I must say that these days I find this style of writing pretty hard to read (with all respect to Paul Oliver). 

"So universally applied are sexual symbols in all forms of Negro Race music that they virtually defy criticism on aesthetic grounds"
Discussing jelly roll - "... and so 'jelly' becomes the semen, the rhythms of intercourse, the skill itself".

Re-reading the whole The Blue Blues chapter, no mention of oral sex - unless abusing someone by calling them 'a cocksucker' counts - cf. Speckled Red's 'unexpurgated' Dirty Dozens.

Offline Hamhound

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Re: Sexual innuendo in blues songs
« Reply #38 on: June 18, 2015, 01:26:06 AM »
Without wishing to be prurient - does anyone know of blues referencing oral sex - specifically or in entendre ?
Someone asked me this recently. There are certainly thousands in the modern rap genre.
I couldn't think of any in pre-war blues though
Ramrod Blues - Mississippi Sheiks

I'm not hearing it..

Robert Johnson - Milk Cow Blues

Yes probably, but really obtuse with the calf metaphor

I think this one might fit the bill... "draw on my cigarette until you make my good ashes come". I'm not sure it qualifies as double entendre tho.

Bo Carter's Cigarette Blues - yeah, definitely. Mitigated slightly by the fact that Bo insisited that *everything* was dirty and he wants you to know it. I'm sure he would have composed lascivious tunes about trimming your toenails or painting the house.

According to Stanley Edgar Hyman, it exists in Robert Petway's "Cotton Picking Blues." 
  She's a cotton pickin' woman, Lawd, she do's it all the time...

He writes that it is "one of the stock euphemisms for orogenital intercourse."  He also says Blind Lemon Jefferson sings of it with the line "She crochet all the time."
 

I don't buy Stanley E. Hyman on either the Petway or Jefferson lyrics. Considering the ubiquity of cotton in southern states, and the massive role played by black populations in farming it. The most common task of all, pickling cotton, is what - an obscenity?  It doesnt ring true to me.

The interpretation of Jefferson's 'crochet-ing' seems willful and odd too without evidence.

The use of "crochet" I always felt referred to female masturbation/clitoral stimulation. Remember, I used to be a biologist!

pbl

I always thought - like waxwing & oddenda - that the crocheting Lemon refers to was a reference to masturbation.
Mainly  from the "you gonna lose your mind" lyric - followed by an image of a woman with her hands down in her lap making small rapid repetitive movements, as she 'crocheted'
But the prostitution interpretation would fit better with 'who may your manager be' - which has always struck me an odd and interesting colloquialism.   Aside from the Lemon and Bo Carter uses of 'manager' I have a vague feeling others may have also used 'manager' in the blues, maybe in a different context. Could be that I'm confused tho..

FWIW, Steve Calt, in his Barrelhouse Words book, is unequivocal - a manager = a pimp. As there were occasionally more things in heaven and earth than were dreamt of in Calt's philosophy, he adds "It unaccountably surfaced in the 1983 Tom Cruise movie Risky Business'.    :)

As to "crochet" - he makes no offering.


Offline jphauser

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Re: Sexual innuendo in blues songs
« Reply #39 on: June 18, 2015, 05:36:45 AM »

According to Stanley Edgar Hyman, it exists in Robert Petway's "Cotton Picking Blues." 
  She's a cotton pickin' woman, Lawd, she do's it all the time...

He writes that it is "one of the stock euphemisms for orogenital intercourse."  He also says Blind Lemon Jefferson sings of it with the line "She crochet all the time."
 

I don't buy Stanley E. Hyman on either the Petway or Jefferson lyrics. Considering the ubiquity of cotton in southern states, and the massive role played by black populations in farming it. The most common task of all, pickling cotton, is what - an obscenity?  It doesnt ring true to me.

The interpretation of Jefferson's 'crochet-ing' seems willful and odd too without evidence.

The use of "crochet" I always felt referred to female masturbation/clitoral stimulation. Remember, I used to be a biologist!

pbl

I always thought - like waxwing & oddenda - that the crocheting Lemon refers to was a reference to masturbation.
Mainly  from the "you gonna lose your mind" lyric - followed by an image of a woman with her hands down in her lap making small rapid repetitive movements, as she 'crocheted'


Possibly picking cotton is also a reference to masturbation (repetitive motion/losing your mind).  Below is a verse from Robert Petway's "Cotton Pickin' Blues."

She's a cotton‑picking woman : Lord she does it all the time
If you don't stop picking cotton now baby
 I believe you sure going to lose you mind

Offline waxwing

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Re: Sexual innuendo in blues songs
« Reply #40 on: June 18, 2015, 08:38:16 AM »
Oral sex:

Candy Man: just the title, really, but 'Candy man's stick 9 inches long, you oughta see the way the hogs chew that corn.'

Salty Dog: There's only one way to know if something is salty.

For that matter, any reference to the taste of something, "sweet jelly roll" etc., has an oral implication to it.

As Oliver says, these references are so pervasive most folks can't see the forest for the trees.

Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
CD on YT

Online Johnm

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Re: Sexual innuendo in blues songs
« Reply #41 on: June 18, 2015, 12:31:28 PM »
I think the lyric from John Hurt's "Candyman" is
   He can sell it as fast as a hog can chew corn
All best,
Johnm

Offline waxwing

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Re: Sexual innuendo in blues songs
« Reply #42 on: June 19, 2015, 10:45:02 AM »
Actually listening close (as opposed to relying on my faulty memory) I think it's "He SELLS it ('s) fast ('s) a hog can chew HIS corn" and I'm not sure those comparatives ('s) are really in there.

None the less, as I mentioned, merely referring to taste along with other images of candy ("don't melt away") certainly leads one to ideas of oral sex, and why choose an image of eating corn as a comparative after describing his stick as 9 inches long? Of course, there's confusion with drugs, which the song seems clearly about in other renditions, but ambiguity is usually a good thing.

Another song which conflates drugs and oral sex might be Hattie McDaniel and Papa Charlie Jackson's Dentist Chair Blues ? Parts 1 & 2.

Edit to add: I realized later I should mention I was listening to the 1928-9 version of MJH's Candyman.

Wax
« Last Edit: June 19, 2015, 11:48:28 AM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
CD on YT

Offline Rivers

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Re: Sexual innuendo in blues songs
« Reply #43 on: June 20, 2015, 06:33:09 PM »
Re crochet, I started considering the fact that it's both a noun and a verb. As a verb, '(To) crochet', does not translate directly as 'to hook', according to my research on various translation sites.

As a noun though, 'Le crochet' does seem to translate directly as 'the hook'. So, if the prostitution theory is correct, when the word crossed the Atlantic, the noun usage of 'crochet' became 'verbed' as 'to hook'. American English does this all the time, 'nouning' verbs and 'verbing' nouns, drives me crazy but it's interesting and keeps the language moving along,

Also, so far I've found no evidence that the French language uses crochet as a colloquialism for prostitution. Which makes the gulf wider still, that would make it an entirely American construction.

One thing I do know for sure, I may be completely wrong.

Offline Hamhound

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Re: Sexual innuendo in blues songs
« Reply #44 on: June 22, 2015, 11:32:59 PM »
The 'crocheting' line occurs in Matchbox Blues, doesn't it... 

- And also in Lemon's Easy Rider Blues, with a near-identical verse about crocheting


As a noun though, 'Le crochet' does seem to translate directly as 'the hook'. So, if the prostitution theory is correct,
when the word crossed the Atlantic, the noun usage of 'crochet' became 'verbed' as 'to hook'.

I tried to do a bit of linguistic digging on this too.
Spoke with a friend who's French - who rejects any connection in the French language of crochet = prostitution. He came up with many many *other* words for hooker - both modern and archaic - but none with relevance here.

'Hooker' is - without any doubt - an American construction, apparently dating to the mid 19th century.

Listening to the songs again, I think the "Who may your manager be?" verse has - as is common with Lemon - nothing to do with the girl across town crocheting verse.  In other words, we're looking for a narrative connection where perhaps there is none.
Lemon's verses frequently bounce around all over the place in terms of what he sings about.

So I reckon the girl with the manager *is* a hooker, but the crocheting girl is being admonished to stop that solitary pleasure she's so keen on
"Stop it or you'll go blind" instead of "Lose your mind" might have made it more explicit, but I believe the meaning is the same - she is pleasuring herself.

I don't know that use of 'crochet' is really what you might call part of "the double entendre lexicon" - as far as I know only Lemon ever used it, and only in these 2 songs.  But there may be more that I don't know about ..

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