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Author Topic: SOTM 25 September: Bottle It Up/Step It Up And Go  (Read 2595 times)

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Online Pan

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SOTM 25 September: Bottle It Up/Step It Up And Go
« on: September 25, 2015, 04:54:40 AM »
Hi all

My choice for the SOTM is the Piedmont blues classic “Step It Up And Go”, which was a hit for Blind Boy Fuller in 1940. I was aware that the song is much covered by later Piedmont musicians, but I hadn’t really checked for it’s origins. A song by another title, “Bottle Up And Go by Tommy McClennan seemed like a close relative. On a closer look, it actually precedes the Fuller song, which, at least to my ears, seems like an adaptation of “Bottle Up And Go”
So I dug a little deeper, referring mostly to this Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bottle_Up_and_Go ,and Bruce Bastin’s book “Red River Blues”, "Blues & Gospel Records" by Dixon, Godrich, and Rye, and of course to Stefan Wirz’s magnificent Illustrated Discographies.

To begin with, Papa Charlie McCoy recorded a song called “Bottle It Up”, accompanying himself with a banjo, and possibly with Tampa Red or Kansas Joe on guitar, in 1932. Frustratingly, I couldn’t find it online, to check if it has to anything to do with “Bottle Up And Go” If anyone can shed some light to this, I would be most grateful!

The Picaninny Jug Band recorded “Bottle It Up and Go”in 1932. The band had Will Shade on harmonica; Jab Jones on jug; Charlie Burse on vocals & guitar; Vol Stevens on vocals & mandolin; Otto Gilmore on percussion; and possibly an unknown:female on backing vocals (which I’m not really sure of hearing). The song was supposedly based on a "traditional piece known in the South"



They rerecorded the song two years later as The Memphis Jug Band, without Stevens; and with Charlie Pierce on violin; and probably Laura Dukes on ukulele.



Banjochris has transcribed the lyrics: http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=680.msg64966#msg64966

I love my baby and she loves me too
Don't keep a [price] on what she do

Chorus:
We gotta bottle it up and go, ah bottle it up and go
Now high-powered mama, your daddy's got your water on.

I wanna tell everybody what it’s all about
She's low and squatty but she's built up stout

I don’t drink no whiskey, I’m hanging round your barrel
Can’t have no fun until I see that gal

I’m gonna tell my ma, what you told my pa
I wouldn’t say yes but I can’t say no

I just bought my baby a new V8
Step on the 'ccelerator don’t make me late

I’m gonna sing this song, ain’t gonna sing no more
Looky here baby I’m ready to go

Come in here momma, let me tell you the truth,
Don't start no rough stuff, I gotta get it loose

I’m gonna tell my baby for the last time
Well look here mama why don’t you take your time


In 1936 Philip McCutchen A.K.A. Cedar Creek Sheik recorded a song called “She's Totin' Something Good” for Bluebird (104627-1). It resembles the later Blind Boy Fuller song “Step It Up And Go” to some extent. The song’s not on YouTube, but those who have access to Spotify can hear it at:
 
spotify:track:3Dv0JG43KRIz1oH6rw6rh2

In 1937, Sonny Boy Williamson recorded the song as "Got the Bottle Up and Go" (or "Got Bottle Up & Gone") (Bluebird 7012) with Big Joe Williams on guitar; and Robert Lee McCoy (Robert Nighthawk) on 2nd guitar and backing vocals.
These early versions of "Bottle Up and Go" include the refrain "High-powered mama, daddy's (or papa's) got your water on".




Tommy McClennan did his version in 1939. He plays in C position in standard tuning, and while he maintains a 12 bar structure, he changes from the IV chord back to the I chord a half bar “late”, giving the song a unique twist. Something like this:

||: I (riff) | I (riff) | I (riff) | I (riff) |

| IV | IV | IV I | V7 I |

| V7 | riff | I V7 | I :||

Follow this link to see Johnm’s more detailed analysis on the song’s form in relation with the vocals: http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=951.60
McClennan also famously got in trouble with the lyrics, refusing Big Bill Broonzy’s advice to skip the N-word from the lyrics. See the Wikipedia article for details.



See here for Johnm’s transcription for the lyrics: http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=3070.30

 -----------------(Spoken: Yes!  Yeah)------------------------
   Got to bottle it up and go,
   Got to bottle it up and go,
   Now them high-powered women -------------------------(Spoken: Yeah)

   Now, she may be old, ninety year
   She ain't too old for to shift them gears
   She got t'-------------------(Spoken: Got to do what?  Tell me again)
   -------------------------------(Spoken: Got to bottle up and go)
   Now them high-powered women -------------------------(Spoken: Yeah!)

   Now I told my girl, the week before last
   The gage she's trimmin' just a little too fast
   She had to bottle it up and go
   She had to bottle it up and go
   Them high-powered women ------------------------------(Spoken: Yes, yes)

   Now the nigger and the white man playin' Seven-Up
   Nigger beat the white man, was scared to pick it up
   He had to (Spoken: Bottle up and do what?)
   ----------------------------------- (Spoken: Had to bottle up and go)
   Now them high-powered women ---------------------------(Spoken: Yeah-heh)

   "Now look here, baby, 'd'you stay last night?"
   "Ain't none o' your business, you don't do me right!"
   She got to ---------(Spoken: Got to do what?  Tell me again, I didn't understand you.)
   I got to bottle up and go (Spoken: I ain't gonna bottle it up)
   Now them high-powered women ----------------------(Spoken: Yeah-heh)

   Now, nickel is a nickel, a dime is a dime
   Don't need no girl if she won't whine
   She has to --------------------------(Spoken: Had to do what?)
   ----------------------------------------(Spoken: Had to bottle up and go)
   Now them high-powered women ----------------------(Spoken: Yeah-heh)

   Now my mama killed a chicken, she thought it was a duck
   She put him on the table with his legs stickin' up
   He had to ------------------------(Spoken: Had to do what?)
   He had to bottle up and go
   Now them high-powered women sure got to bottle up and go (Spoken: Yeah, play it man, now!)

   Bee-dop, beepum, bopum, bopum, bop, oh
   Deetum, beepum, bop, bop, bow
   Bopum, bopum, bopum, bop, beedop
   Beedum, bopum , bopum, bop, bow
   Beepum, bopum, bopbah, beebah
   Skeedah, skeedah, deedah, dah, dah

   -------------------------------------------(Spoken: Yeah-uh, huh)
   Got to bottle it up and go
   Got to bottle up and go
   Now you high-powered women sure got to bottle up and go

Here’s the Julius Daniels tune, where he supposedly got the controversial lyrics. Musically, it has  very little to do with McClennan’s song:



McClennan did a remake of the song in 1942, retitled “Shake It Up And Go”, with Ransom Knowling on double bass, and with different lyrics. The phrase “step it up and go” shows in the lyrics, so perhaps he was conscious of the Blind Boy Fuller hit song by the time of his remake?




Allison Mathis and harmonica player Jessie Stroller performed the song in 1941 at the Fort Valley Music Festival in Georgia, complete with the N-word line.

 

More on him on this AllMusic webpage: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/allison-mathis-mn0000013529/biography


The version that mostly inspired me, and got me started in the first place is Blind Boy Fuller’s “Step It Up And Go”, probably the most well known take on this tune and a big country blues hit record at the time (1940). Fuller’s manager, a shopkeeper named James Baxter Long is credited as a songwriter for this Fuller tune.. In Bruce Bastin’s book “Red River Blues”, Long claims that he had heard an older musician in Memphis doing a song called “You Got to Touch It Up And Go”, which he then supposedly morphed into “Step It Up And Go”. A few days earlier Charlie Burse had recorded an unissued song called “Oil It Up and Go” for the same record company, which might be the song that Long actually referred. On the other hand, as with Tommy McClennan, Fuller has the IV chord going a half bar “too long” – a distinctive feature that isn’t present with the Burse recording, and which definitely gives a charm of it’s own to the BBF take. Fuller recorded the song out of G-position in standard tuning, accompanied with washboard player George Washington A.K.A. “Oh Red” or “Bull City Red”. On this YouTube video you can see the O’Keh label with Long credited as the songwriter.



I was able to transcribe the lyrics with the kind help from Bunker Hill, some 5 years ago: http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=408.60

Had a little girl, she’s little and low,
Used to love me, but she don’t no mo’,
You’ve got to step it up and go,
Yeah and go.
Well you can’t stay and pat it,
And I’ll tell you you’ve got to step it up and go.

Got a little girl, she stays upstairs,
Trying to make a living by putting on airs,
You’ve got to step it up and go,
Yeah, yeah.
Well you can’t stay and pat it,
And I’ll swear you you’ve got to step it up and go.

Play it for me now! (Instrumental)
Yeah, yes yes.
Oh shucks.

Front door shut, backdoor too,
Blind pulled down, what you gonna do?
Gonna step it up and go,
Yeah and go.
Well you can’t stay and pat it,
And I’ll tell you you’ve got to step it up and go.

(Instrumental) Yeah

Now a got a little gal, she’s name was Ball,
Give a little bit and she took it all,
You’ve got to step it up and go,
Wooh yeah.
Well you can’t stay and pat it,
And I’ll tell you you’ve got to step it up and go.

Me and my baby walking down the street,
Telling everybody but the chief police,
You’ve got to step it up and go,
Mmm, yeah.
Well you can’t stay and pat it,
And I’ll swear you you’ve got to step it up and go.

Play it again, now! (Instrumental)
Yeah!

See my woman; tell her (to) hurry home,
Ain’t had no loving since she been gone,
Got to step it up and go,
Yeah, yeah.
Well you can’t stay and pat it,
And I’ll swear you you’ve got to step it up and go.

Gonna sing this verse, ain’t gonna sing no mo’,
Heared my gal calling and I’ve got to go,
You’ve got to step it up and go,
Yeah, yeah.
Well you can’t stay and pat it,
And I’ll swear you you’ve got to step it up and go.

(Instrumental) Yeah!

The Charlie Burse tune isn’t on YouTube, but for those of you who have access to Spotify, you can hear it here: 

spotify:track:399QlFZ0GTycLKFVRUaHOG

Black Cats And The Kitten recorded "Step It Up And Go" in October 1940. The group consists of the female singer Valda Buggs, and an unknown backing band with a male voice. The lyrics are in the BBF vain, but the performance is a somewhat rigid R&B take on the subject. You can hear it on Spotify:

spotify:track:1Vjv0o7HbrgHwpz6oLAaf8


Perhaps not very surprisingly, Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry recorded a “Step It Up And Go No. 2” in 1941. McGhee had already done an unreleased version with Jordan Webb on harmonica, and Oh Red on Washboard; and a solo version in 1941. Terry and McGhee have recorded both "Bottle Up And Go” and “Step It Up And Go” many times over during their careers, swapping vocal duties. A version with Pete Seeger on banjo exists also.




According to Wikipedia: “John Lee Hooker has recorded several adaptations of "Bottle Up and Go", usually varying the lyrics. It has been identified as "one of the templates on which a significant slice of Hooker's early repertoire is based"” Some of the most notable include an acoustic solo one chord version called "Bundle Up and Go" in 1959 for The Country Blues of John Lee Hooker album (Riverside). Vocally he does a 12 bar blues thing, adding some scat singing to the form, but even if the melody hints at the IV or V chords, he never plays them.



Another one has him playing with a band for Galaxy, titled  "You Gotta Shake It Up and Go", this time with all the 3 chords.



Here’s he doing another one chord band version for Impulse:



And here’s another one chorder with the band Canned Heat:




Leadbelly recorded “Bottle Up And Go” several times, the first was in 1940 for the LoC. He also did a version for his last sessions in 1948. Here are three takes –I’m not sure when they were recorded, as the information on the videos is lacking. His take resembles the McClennan one pretty much.








Buster “Buz” Ezell recorded 3 takes (one with a “false start”) for the LoC in march 1941. None of them are available online, unfortunately.


Harmonica Frank Floyd recorded “Step It Up And Go” in his 1st session for Chess in 1951. He was a seasoned veteran for the medicine show circuit, and the 1st white artist to record for Chess. His version is very personal and absolutely marvellous with it’s unique form. He starts the sung verses as a 12 bar blues would start, but after reaching the IV cord, he launches into an instrumental interlude, which doesn’t follow the 12 bar blues form at all. He also only alternates between the I and IV chords, never going to the V chord at all! Great stuff!




Big Joe Williams had already played guitar on the 1937 Sonny Boy Williamson take. Here’s his own version:




Lightnin’ Hopkins, cool as always. He plays from the C position, treats the form freely as only he can, and while nodding to the McClennan version, really has a party of his own with the tune.




Buddy Moss did “Step It Up And Go” in 1966 at the Gas Light Auditorium, Washington, DC. (concert for the Folklore Society of Greater Washington) in New York City. He was backed by John Jackson (billed as "J.J.") on second guitar. You can hear the song on this video at around 18:06.



Larry Johnson recorded the song in 1959 and it was included in his 1969 album "Presenting the Country Blues". No song online. See the details:

http://www.wirz.de/music/johnsfrm.htm

Jamie Alston recorded the song for Peter Lowry's Flyright label in 1973. The song doesn't appear to be found online. See here for details: http://www.discogs.com/Various-Orange-County-Special/release/4653805
http://www.wirz.de/music/flyright/grafik/506n4.pdf

Hammie Nixon’s take from his last album "Tappin' That Thing", recorded in the 1980’s, produced by David Evans.



Album credits: http://www.allmusic.com/album/tappin-that-thing-mw0000034275/credits


Cecil Barfield’s take, recorded by George Mitchell sometime in the 1970’-80’s. He’s the only one doing a slide guitar version, that I’ve found so far.




Snooks Eaglin adds a funky New Orleans touch to his version  After the intro and his solo at around 2:19  he plays the form without the first 4 “stop chorus” bars, reducing the form to 8 bars. FWIW, John Jackson does the same thing in his version. An neat little arranging trick that I’m definitely going to have to steal! 




James “Son” Thomas:




John Jackson, much in the BBF vein:




Boo Hanks:




Algia Mae Hinton in a great film clip from a house party.




John Dee Holeman (seen also on the background on the Algia Mae Hinton video, I think), playing with Woody Mann for the Harlem Street Singer –Rev. Gary Davis movie.




Moses Rascoe


 
More on him: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/moses-rascoe-mn0000596722/biography


Cephas & Wiggins. Phil Wiggins is a real wizard on the harmonica!




Jimmy Lee Williams




B.B. King doing a song called “Shake It Up And Go” (although he sings “bottle up and go” half of the time).




Robert Nighthawk recorded a tune called “Take It Easy Baby” with Henry Townsend and Walter Davis in 1937. The song resembles “Step It Up And Go” quite a bit. Here’s the tune on Spotify:

spotify:track:01s0ZjT2L327c2KfmLX0EB

Later versions can be found on YouTube as well , as the song apparently stayed on his repertoire.


 
The Maxwell Street take with Big John Wrencher is particularly strong:




"Step It Up And Go" is such a popular song, that it has a life as a R&B song, a western swing tune and a bluegrass standard as well. I've tried to stick to what's in my subjective mind most relevant to country blues, but feel free to add anything that I might have overlooked, including your own take, if you have one. I'll see if I get around recording a version sometime soon.

Musicians who reportedly played “Step It Up And Go”, although never recorded it include Dolphus "Gus" Gibson, see the link below.
https://www.loc.gov/collections/blues-gospel-and-the-fort-valley-music-festivals/articles-and-essays/noncommercial-recordings-the-1940s/1950-to-1955/


Cheers

Pan

Edited to correct: Jamie Alston did record the song for Flyright, although it's not te found online.

Edited to add Black Cat And The Kittens take in 1940.

Edited to add: here's a YouTube songlist with as many takes of the song I could find: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNEJV1lNKyyUEIlNkZ6qsbYMEsgy6N0w4

« Last Edit: September 27, 2015, 04:09:30 PM by Pan »

Offline harry

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Re: SOTM 25 September: Bottle It/Step It Up And Go
« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2015, 05:20:33 AM »
Good job Pan. I love this song. Always liked the John Jackon version.

My (sloppy) take on this classic in the mp3 file below;

Online Johnm

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Re: SOTM 25 September: Bottle It/Step It Up And Go
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2015, 05:29:16 AM »
Wow, that's terrific, Pan!  It's going to take a while to listen through all those versions.  Well done!
All best,
Johnm

Offline Mark Miller

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Re: SOTM 25 September: Bottle It Up/Step It Up And Go
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2015, 06:23:46 AM »
Very cool, Pan!  What an amazing performance by BBF. Looking forward to the other versions too. This is one of those songs where you can really hear the relationship between country blues and rock and roll going way beyond the Delta. Harry, you want to post a video so we can see how it's done?

Offline Slack

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Re: SOTM 25 September: Bottle It Up/Step It Up And Go
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2015, 06:50:21 AM »
Wow!  We've got our homework now!  Great job Pan, I look forward to exploring your post!

Offline One-Eyed Ross

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Re: SOTM 25 September: Bottle It Up/Step It Up And Go
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2015, 07:36:13 AM »
Well, my plans for today just changed....Looks like I'll be listening to a lot of music today.
SSG, USA, Ret

She looked like a horse eating an apple through a wire fence.

Offline Lastfirstface

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Re: SOTM 25 September: Bottle It Up/Step It Up And Go
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2015, 07:45:28 AM »
Great write up and an awesome variety of versions.

Offline CF

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Re: SOTM 25 September: Bottle It Up/Step It Up And Go
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2015, 08:00:11 AM »
Wow, great job Pan!
The Volume 14 of the Blues At Home series has an interview with James 'Son' Thomas about 'Bottle It Up & Go' & he said he learned it from Tommy McClennan. He said McClennan walked into an establishment (when Thomas was a boy) where his recording of 'Bottle' was on the Juke. To convince the owners that it was his record they turned the Juke off & he played it for them!
I'm continuing to look but where oh where is that Charlie McCoy recording available?

edited to add:
It could be the McCoy 'Bottle It Up' has not been found or is unavailable. The 2016 Tefteller calendar has two McCoy tunes from the same session as 'Bottle' & I think they're unreleased so that Feb 1932 session may be unissued
« Last Edit: September 25, 2015, 08:12:31 AM by CF »
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: SOTM 25 September: Bottle It Up/Step It Up And Go
« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2015, 09:04:43 AM »
Had a very pleasant time listening to all those versions! Such a great and ubiquitous song, and so many great performances. Thanks Pan for putting together such a comprehensive post at such short notice.

Offline harry

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Re: SOTM 25 September: Bottle It Up/Step It Up And Go
« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2015, 09:27:19 AM »
Harry, you want to post a video so we can see how it's done?

Sorry, I don't do videos. I don't even have the proper equipment for it.
The basis for my arrangement is from the tab/dvd The Blues Bag 1 by Happy Traum.
The song is also discussed on Toby Walkers "Blues Fingerpicking Freedom" but I don't own that one. Maybe a weenie member has this dvd?

Offline Lignite

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Re: SOTM 25 September: Bottle It Up/Step It Up And Go
« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2015, 09:36:10 AM »
Carl Story introduced the tune to his bluegrass audience in 1954 and plays it pretty close to the Fuller version; 

Offline harriet

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Re: SOTM 25 September: Bottle It Up/Step It Up And Go
« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2015, 09:40:50 AM »
Great job Pan, thanks.

Offline Lignite

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Re: SOTM 25 September: Bottle It Up/Step It Up And Go
« Reply #12 on: September 25, 2015, 09:43:50 AM »
A very raucous version by Maddox Brothers and Rose from 1950? Pre-rockabilly at it's most exuberant;

Online Pan

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Re: SOTM 25 September: Bottle It Up/Step It Up And Go
« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2015, 03:01:43 PM »
Thanks for the good words, everyone.

That's a nice version Harry, with some cool sounding walk-ups. Well done!

Cheapfeet, thanks for the additional information on Son Thomas and Papa Charlie McCoy. Let's hope the McCoy recording will be found one day.

Thanks for the additionla versions, Lignite. I've created a YouTube songlist with as many versions of the tune I could, find, and I've added your suggestions in it.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNEJV1lNKyyUEIlNkZ6qsbYMEsgy6N0w4

Cheers

Pan
« Last Edit: September 26, 2015, 12:54:08 AM by Pan »

Offline frankie

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Re: SOTM 25 September: Bottle It Up/Step It Up And Go
« Reply #14 on: September 26, 2015, 06:12:14 AM »
Epic Pan! Thanks for the playlist as that'll make listening a lot easier. Love Hooker's one chord take! Sounds like Nighthawk and Big Joe are backing up Sonny Boy on "Got The Bottle Up And Gone." And McClennan - forgot how much I like him. Fuller's take on it is even funkier in the context of some of the earlier ones. I love the way he lets the bass drop out on his breaks. He had such attention to detail.

It'll take me weeks to get through all of them....  that one really had legs!

Tags: SOTM