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Author Topic: SOTM - January 29, 2016 - "Red River Blues"  (Read 1356 times)

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Online Johnm

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SOTM - January 29, 2016 - "Red River Blues"
« on: January 29, 2016, 06:18:29 AM »
Hi all
The Song of the Month for January, 2016 is ?Red River Blues?.  The Red River of which the song speaks runs from Texas, where it forms part of Texas? northern border with Oklahoma and Arkansas, into Arkansas, and from there into Louisiana, where it drains into the Atchafalaya River.  (There is another Red River in North Dakota and Minnesota.) 
The earliest recorded version of ?Red River Blues? that I?ve been able to find is from 1924, and was recorded by Lottie Beamon, accompanied by the Pruitt Twins, Miles and Milas.  Here it is:



The duet set-up of the twins is unusual in that one plays out of F position in standard tuning and the other plays out of E position in standard tuning, capoed to the first fret.  Here is a link to the lyrics of Lottie Beamon?s version of ?Red River Blues?:  http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=3516.msg45109#msg45109 .

Charlie ?Dad? Nelson recorded ?Red River Blues? accompanying himself on 12-string guitar in D position, standard tuning.  His version shares the title and 12-bar structure of the Lottie Beamon?s, but is a different song melodically and in its lyrics.  This is a trend you run into with this song--versions with the same title but having only that aspect in common with other versions.  Here is ?Dad? Nelson?s ?Red River Blues?:



The lyrics to ?Dad? Nelson?s version can be found at:  http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=10188.msg94459#msg94459 .

Henry Thomas?s version of ?Red River Blues? dates from 1928.  He used his quills on the song, and accompanied himself out of D position in standard tuning, capoed up.   He has, yet again, a different melody and lyrics for the song.  Here it is:



The lyrics to Henry Thomas?s version can be found at:  http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=1232.msg94613#msg94613 .

Leadbelly?s version utilized a 12-string guitar as did ?Dad? Nelson?s version, but is otherwise pretty different.  Leadbelly played his ?Red River Blues? out of A position in standard tuning (though tuned low).  Here is Leadbelly?s version:



INTRO

Tell me which-a way do the Red River run
Tell me which-a way do the Red River run
Ah, some folks say run, and run sun to sun

Lord, there's some folks say, run from sun to sun
Yes, there's some folks say, run from sun to sun
'Way down in Lou'siana, a-where their work was done

Tell me, pretty mama, which-a way you goin'
Tell me, pretty mama, which-a way you goin'
If you can't tell me, that's gon' be your ruin

SOLO

I got up this mornin', arms all around my brown
Yes, I got up this mornin', arms all around my brown
'Cause she told me which-a way the Red River, oh Lord, running down

Would you take a poor roller, oh, slave like me?
Would you take a poor roller, oh, slave like me?
I love my baby, you gonna let me be

Buddy Moss recorded ?Red River Blues? at his first solo session.  His version was a 12-bar blues, as have been all of the versions up to this point.  He has an odd misdirection in his intro, starting in F, but resolving to E.  Here is his version:


Buddy?s lyrics can be found at:  http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=143.msg72289#msg72289 .

Josh White?s 1933 version of the song, which he called ?Blood Red River? was to prove very influential, especially among East Coast players.  He played the song out of E position in standard tuning, and after a 16-bar opening solo pass, he switches to an 8-bar form, a la ?Key To The Highway? for the sung portion of the song.  After his version,  people playing the song tended to use his melody, form and lyrics, for the most part.  Here is his version:



SOLO

Which-a way, which-a way do that blood Red River run?
From my back window to the rising sun

Oh, I love her, Lord, I love her, tell this whole wide world I do
But the way you mistreat me, it's coming back home to you

FAUX HORN SOLO

Red River, Red River, whyn't you tell me what to do?
Mmmmmmm, worried as I can be

Ah, I love her, Lord, I love her but she treats me so unkind
Aw, she keeps me worried and bothered all the time

SOLO

Which-a way, which-a way, do that blood Red River run?
From my back window to the rising sun

Going to sing these blues, and I ain't gonna sing no more
'Cause the woman I love, Lord, she drove me from her door

Which-a way, which-a way, do that blood Red River run?
From my back window to the rising sun

An East Coast musician who recorded ?Red River Blues? after Josh White, but who did not cover Josh?s version was the Carter Family?s song-finder, Lesley Riddle.  Here is his version, a 12-bar blues played in E position:



SOLO

Tell me, baby, Red River run
Say, tell me, way Red River run
Run right by my window to the rising sun

Now, the Red River water drink like cherry wine
Now, the Red River waters drink like cherry wine
You take one drink you want to drink it all the time

SOLO

Now, I'm goin' to Red River, carry my rockin' chair
Lord, I'm goin' to Red River, carry my rockin' chair
If these blues don't leave me, I'm gonna rock away from here

OUTRO

A very strong field recorded version of ?Red River Blues? was done by Mississippian Frank Evans.  He did the song as an 8-bar blues, but with altogether different lyrics than those sung by Josh White.  Here is his version:



The lyrics to Frank Evans? version can be found at:  http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=10818.msg94829#msg94829

One later version of ?Red River Blues? that is especially appealing to me by virtue of being completely different, musically and lyrically, than any previously recorded version is that of Texan Lil? Son Jackson?.  Here is his version: 



The lyrics to Lil? Son Jackson?s version of ?Red River Blues? can be found at:  http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=136.msg89869#msg89869 .

A particularly spooky version of the song was recorded by Peg Leg Howell for George Mitchell and the Testament album that was put out shortly before Peg Leg Howell?s death.  Here is that version:



Here are the lyrics to Peg Leg Howell?s version:  http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=437.msg89550#msg89550 .

I don?t have any heavy scholarly observations to make about the song.  Perhaps the point could be made that the name of the river seems to have had a kind of poetic allure that may have contributed to so many people wanting to sing about it, including people who didn?t come from anywhere near the Red River and who may never have seen it.  Whatever factors contributed to the popularity of ?Red River Blues?, they ended up manifesting in a host of essentially different songs with that title, rather than one song sung over and over again by many different people.

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: May 09, 2016, 09:44:55 AM by Johnm »

Offline harry

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Re: SOTM - January 29, 2016 - "Red River Blues"
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2016, 08:26:21 AM »
Also an 8 bar


Offline Stuart

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Re: SOTM - January 29, 2016 - "Red River Blues"
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2016, 10:01:07 AM »
Here's a right sporty version from the modern era by our ol' buddy Larry Johnson, accompanied by some guy named John Hammond:



Which-a way, which-a way, that Blood Red River run?
My back door, Lord, to the rising sun

Go down to the camp, tell my brother, Bill
Well this gal he's lovin', sure gonna get him killed

That napper said, "Loader, bring me six foot of clay.
This Blood Red River risin' six foot a day."

Ahhh, Lord, say this hmmm, Lordy-Lord
A-this Blood Red River, risin' six foot a day

I ain't never loved, four women in my life
My Mother, sister, sweetheart and my wife

Which-a way, which-a way, that Blood Red River run?
My back door, Lord, to the risin' sun.  (Spoken: Take it out there, John.  Yeah!  Yes, yes!)

My Lord, Lord, Lord, mmmm, Lordy-Lord
Hey, hey, hey, Lord, Lord

Now tell me, babe, honey where'd you stay last night?
Your clothes ain't fittin' you, sure ain't talkin' right

Now which-a way, which-a way, a-that Blood Red River run?
My back door, Lord, to the risin' sun (Spoken: Come on with me now!)

Uhhh, ohhh, babe, hmm, Lordy-Lord
Hey, hey, hey, hey hey (Spoken: One more time!)

SOLO (Spoken: Yeah!  Uh, huh, yeah)

Which-a way, which-a way, a-that Blood Red river run?
My back door, Lord, to the risin' sun (Spoken: Yes, yes, yes!)





I couldn't locate it as a single, but it's the first song of the hour+ mix.
« Last Edit: February 29, 2016, 01:55:33 PM by Johnm »

Offline eric

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Re: SOTM - January 29, 2016 - "Red River Blues"
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2016, 10:32:34 AM »


Which-a-way do Red River run?
Which-a-way do Red River run?
Which-a-way do Red River run?

East-west, then run north and south
East-west, it runs north and south
Run by my sweet baby's house

I'm goin' to Dallas in the Fall
I'm goin' to Dallas in the Fall
I'm goin' to Dallas in the Fall

Wonder, do she ever think of me?
Wonder, do she ever think of me?
Wonder, do my baby ev' think of me?

Wonder, will she answer if I write?
Wonder, will she answer if I write?
Set down tomorrow and give my babe a try

SOLO

Thought I heard my baby call my name
Thought I heard my baby call my name
She called me so nice and so plain

SOLO

Bye-bye, I hate to see you go
Bye-bye, I hate to see you go
May not never see yo no more

I'm goin' to Dallas in the Fall
Goin' back to Dallas in the Fall
If I have to wear blue overhauls


« Last Edit: January 31, 2016, 11:15:49 AM by Johnm »
--
Eric

Offline Lignite

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Re: SOTM - January 29, 2016 - "Red River Blues"
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2016, 12:53:55 PM »
Richard Trice as Little Boy Fuller 1947



INTRO SOLO

Which-a way, which-a way do that blood Red River run?
From my back window, back to the rising sun

I'm goin', to that river, I'm gon' walk it up and down
Try to find me a place, Lord, deep enough to drown

I got a brown, cross-town, yes, she crochets all the time
Well, if you don't quit crochetin', I b'lieve you're gonna lose your mind

Go down, to that river, have a talk with my brother, Bill
Say, that woman he's lovin', sure gon' get him killed

SOLO (Spoken before solo:  Yeah!)

I'm goin', yes I'm goin', well, cryin' won't make me stay
Say, the more you cry the further you drive me away

Well, it hurts me to eat, well, it hurts my feet to walk
I went to eat my breakfast and it hurt my tongue to talk

I said, hey, hey Lord, say this world and two or three more
Boys, I ain't got no home, ain't got no place to go

 
« Last Edit: January 31, 2016, 10:39:01 AM by Johnm »

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: SOTM - January 29, 2016 - "Red River Blues"
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2016, 04:41:30 AM »
What a wide-ranging family of songs, and a fine choice for SOTM. I think I first heard this song from Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. I saw them at a coffee house in Montreal in 1969 and this song was included in their second set. You had to leave the coffee house and pay again for the second show! Shortly thereafter I saw and heard John Jackson play and sing this song at the Mariposa Folk Festival in Toronto, and I believe it was a staple in his repertoire throughout his lengthy career.

A couple of performances not yet quoted are here:



HARMONICA SOLO

Which-a way, which-a way, do the little Red River run?
Which-a way do the Red River run?

Now, it's some says it run, oh, north and south
But I say, run down injun territor'

HARMONICA SOLO

Now, I went, knocked to the gypsies, for to have my fortune told
Well, the gypsies all told me, doggone my bad luck soul

HARMONICA SOLO

I done walked, I done walked, 'til my feet got soakin' wet
Lookin' for my fair brown, I , ain't not found her yet

I done walked, Red River, I done walked it up and down
Well, lookin' for my baby, my baby can't be found

HARMONICA SOLO

Now, your house is on fire, now, your building's burnin' down
I'm gon' keep on walkin', baby, 'til I find my teasin' brown

Which-a way, which-a way, do the little Red River run?
Which-a way, do the Red river run?

Now it's some, say it run, both north and south
But I say it run, now, by my baby's house

HARMONICA SOLO

Come on home, come on home, lookin' for you all day long
But which-a way do the Red River run?

HARMONICA SOLO

Come on home, come on home, I need you all night long
Come on home to me, baby, I need you all night long

Late at night, late night, you don't want to keep my company
Come on home, come on home, baby, I need you right today

HARMONICA SOLO

Which-a way, which-a way, do the little Red River run?
Well, some say it run down, babe, north and south

But I say it runs, boys, injun territor'
But I say it runs to the injun territor'

HARMONICA SOLO
 
and here:



INTRO SOLO

REFRAIN: Which-a way, which-a way do the red Red River run?
It weren't no river, just a small stream where I come from

It will come a storm some night, come a storm some day
Come a storm some night, it will come a storm some day
When that stream would rise, it would wash my troubles away

SOLO

REFRAIN: Which-a way, which-a way do the red Red River run?
It weren't no river, just a small stream where I come from

I would go down to that river, I would set down on the shore
Go down to that river, I would set down on the shore
Oh Lord, hold my hand, don't let me fall overboard

SOLO

REFRAIN: Which-a way, which-a way do the red Red River run?
It weren't no river, just a small stream where I come from

That river is deep and that river is long
That river is deep and that river's long
And if I get across, then I'm goin' back home





« Last Edit: January 31, 2016, 10:57:09 AM by Johnm »

Online Johnm

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Re: SOTM - January 29, 2016 - "Red River Blues"
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2016, 06:52:12 AM »
Hi all,
Thanks to all who have posted versions of "Red River Blues".  Prof Scratchy's mention of John Jackson's version prompted finding the following clip.  It opens with a solo that is like an homage to Josh White's opening solo on his recording, and is a reminder that John Jackson, like so many of us, learned a great deal from records.  What a wonderful musician and person John Jackson was.



All best,
Johnm

Offline blueshome

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Re: SOTM - January 29, 2016 - "Red River Blues"
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2016, 06:59:20 AM »
John Jackson performed Josh White's version almost note for note and credited Josh's "78record".

John seems our posts crossed

Online Johnm

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Re: SOTM - January 29, 2016 - "Red River Blues"
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2016, 03:23:20 PM »
Hi all,
I found a few more versions of "Red River" at youtube. 

From Frank Hovington:



SOLO X 2

Which-a way, which-a way, woman, does the Blood, Blood River flow?
From my back window, flows to the rising sun

Gonna sing, sing the blues, just as long as I please
I'm gon' sing these blues, to give my poor heart ease

Which-a way, does that Blood, Blood River flow?
From my back window, flow to the rising sun

I love her, yeah, I love her, tell the whole wide world I do
And the way you mistreat me, coming back home to you

Which-a way, which-a way, woman, do you want your rolling done?
Want your back to the ground, yeah, your face to the rising sun

If I could holler, like a mountain jack, go up on the mountain, call my baby back
Tell me, baby, does that Blood River flow?

Which-a way, which-a way, woman, does that Blood, Blood River flow?
From my back window, flows to the rising sun

SOLO

Which-a way, which-a way, baby, does that Blood, Blood River flow?
From my back window, flows to the rising sun

Now, which way, which-a way, baby, does that Blood, Blood River flow?
From my back window, flows to the rising sun

I love her, yeah, I love her, tell the whole wide world I do
And the way you mistreat me, coming back home to you

From Bill Jackson:



Now, which-a way, which-a way, does the Blood Red River run?
From my back window, babe, to the rising sun

Now, some says it runs east, now some says it runs west
But I believe to my soul, baby, it runs straight up and down

SOLO

Now the Red River, Red River, is so long, deep and wide
I wanta see my baby, stand on that other side

Well, I looked down the road, just as far as I could see
'Nother man had my woman and the weary blues had me

I'm gonna buy me a razor, with a great long shiny blade
I'm gonna cut my initials in my baby's face

I'm gonna buy me a shotgun, just as long as I am tall
I'm gonna shoot that man, just to see him fall

SOLO

Oh, three ways to Richmond, two ways to Baltimore
By the Norfolk & Western, and that C & O

Now if I live, and I don't get killed
I'm gonna make my home down in Jacksonville

SOLO

I'm gone, going to the river, in a brand new rocking chair
If the blues overtake me, gonna rock on away from here

Now, look, here woman, look what you done done
Done made me love you, now your man done come

SOLO X 2

If you don't, b'lieve I'm sinkin', look what a hole I'm in
If you don't b'lieve I love you, look what a fool I've been

Red River, Red River, is so long, deep and wide
Can't see my baby, standin' on that other side

And from Virgil Childers:



The lyrics to Virgil Childers' version can be found at:  http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=7907.msg63893#msg63893 .

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: February 01, 2016, 04:28:20 PM by Johnm »

Offline Gumbo

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Re: SOTM - January 29, 2016 - "Red River Blues"
« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2016, 04:13:12 PM »
Clarence Williams recorded two versions of this in 1928 one a tuba led slow march with his Jazz Kings


and one with his Washboard Five

Offline harry

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Re: SOTM - January 29, 2016 - "Red River Blues"
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2016, 01:20:49 PM »

Offline evan

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Online Johnm

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Re: SOTM - January 29, 2016 - "Red River Blues"
« Reply #12 on: March 28, 2016, 04:31:48 PM »
Thanks for posting that link, ceepatton, that is a neat find.  Do you know anything about James Henry Diggs?
All best,
Johnm

Offline evan

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Re: SOTM - January 29, 2016 - "Red River Blues"
« Reply #13 on: March 28, 2016, 05:05:28 PM »
I do not, Johnm. I just happened upon him on that website. The Digital Library of Appalachia is a really fun site to explore!

Online Johnm

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Re: SOTM - January 29, 2016 - "Red River Blues"
« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2016, 06:07:07 PM »
Hi all,
Here are the lyrics to "Red River Blues", as performed by James Henry "Crip" Diggs in the link found by ceepatton.  Despite having done the whole song as an 8-bar blues, Diggs switches to a 16-bar form for his final solo.  He was recorded in Roanoke, Virginia in 1963.

SOLO

Which-a way, which-a way do that blood Red River run?
Umm, right through my door, face to the risin' sun

I'd rather drink muddy water and sleep in a hollow log
Let the doggone people treat me like a low-down dog

Well, I'm goin' where the water, and it tastes like cherry wine
'Cause the run old water taste like turpentine

I said, "Mamie, Lord, Mamie, tell me what is on your mind."
"Well, all of these men, ain't none of them is mine." (Spoken: Oh, Mamie!)

SOLO

All best,
Johnm



Online Johnm

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Re: SOTM - January 29, 2016 - "Red River Blues"
« Reply #15 on: February 05, 2017, 02:56:27 PM »
Hi all,
I've attached a version of "Red River Blues" by the Mississippi musician Roosevelt Holts.  It is from his album, "The Franklinton Muscatel Society".  Unfortunately, the is very little of his recorded repertoire up on youtube, but at least you can listen to it via the .mp3.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: March 24, 2017, 06:38:12 AM by Johnm »