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Author Topic: SOTM - Nov 6, 2015 - My Bucket's Got A Hole In It/You Can't Get In  (Read 956 times)

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Offline Lastfirstface

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I was listening to Gus Cannon's "Poor Boy, Long Ways From Home" and was struck by the way the melody of the song switches in its last three verses to follow the widespread and well known tune "My Buckets Got a Hole In It".



Thinking about Gus' choice of this tune led me to wonder about the origins of this melody and how it ended up being almost ubiquitous in American vernacular music. It's the sort of song that is usually credited as a "traditional" and various sources have attached it to near-mythical figures like Buddy Bolden. It seems that the earliest known written or recorded version of the melody, but not the particular set of words, is a piece of sheet music from 1914 by J. Paul Wyer and H. Alf Kelley entitled "The Long Lost Blues." The second theme of the song (starting at about :36s in the youtube version) lays out the familiar melody and changes. 



As far as I can tell this is the same song that was later recorded by Alura Mack and her accompanists (anyone have the discographical info for this one?)



To add another wrinkle, at some point the tune was also associated with another set of floating lyrics: "You Keep Knocking But You Can't Come In". The "You Can't Come In" lyric has a history all its own, and its not clear to me how/when it got mixed up with "My Buckets Got a Hole In It" or whether they were always attached as floating verses sung against the same (or related) melodies. In 1911 the Journal of American Folk-Lore published Howard Odum's transcription of a song he collected called ?I Couldn?t Get In? that seems to have some of the essential phrases that would show up in later versions, but its unclear what tune it might have been set too.  Variations of the ?Bucket? melody certainly show up in recordings with ?Can?t Get In? in the title such as Sylvester Weaver?s 1924 recording ?I?m Busy and You Can?t Come In?:



Irene Gibbons and the Clarence Williams Jazz Band recorded another version with ?Can?t Come In? lyrics over the ?Bucket? chorus melody. Incidentally, many later records credit Clarence Williams as the writer on ?My Buckets Got  A Hole In It? despite the earlier recordings. He?s also given writing credit on this song:



Also in 1928, Bert M Mays recorded a similar version singing and accompanying himself on piano:



In the same year, Tampa Red?s Hokum Jug Band recorded it as ?You Can?t Come In?



There are also instrumental recordings by early jazz bands built around the same or very similar melodies such as Louis Dumaine?s Jazzola Eight?s ?To-Wa-Bac-A-Wa? and the New Orleans Rhythm ?She?s Crying For Me Blues?, which are easy to find on youtube but I?ll omit here as I?m already crowding this post with embedded videos.

There are also examples of the ?Can?t Come In? lyric that stray further from the ?Bucket? melody, like James ?Boodle It? Wiggin?s 1928 ?Keep A Knocking? An You Can?t Get In?, which is built around a driving boogie woogie piano and seems to presage the Little Richard version. Continuing in this vein is Kokomo Arnold?s 1935 ?Busy Bootin?





The danger in conflating these tunes and sets of related lyrics is that it doesn?t reflect that several artists recorded both ?Bucket? and ?Can?t Get In? and must have viewed them as seperate songs. As mentioned above, Clarence Williams recorded each one and claimed songwriting credits on both. Alura Mack, mentioned early in the post for her recording of ?Lost Love Blues? also recorded ?I?m Busy, You Can?t Come In? accompanied by Herve Duerson on piano. Lil Johnson recorded both at separate sessions in 1935 and 1937:





By the time of Lil Johnson?s sessions, ?Keep Knockin? had made it?s way into Western Swing and been recorded by Milton Brown and HIs Brownies in 1936 and Bob Wills in 1938.



In 1939 Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five recorded it in a smooth Jump Blues style:



Speaking of late ?30s versions of these tunes, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the 1937 Washboard Sam recording of ?Bucket? with Punch Miller on trumpet:



I won?t attempt to document or even list all the subsequent recordings from 1940 onward, as that?s a bit of a monumental task. ?Bucket? and ? Can?t Come In? will probably forever be associated in the public consciousness with the 1950s recordings by Hank Williams and Little Richard respectively, and most of the subsequent recordings of these songs followed in the molds they set. The speculation around William?s version is that he might have learned it from a black shoe shine man called ?Tee Tot? who influenced his early guitar playing and singing. Little Richard?s version initially credited him as the writer but was later amended to Bert M Mays and Mayo ?Ink? Williams. His rollicking boogie rock version sort of splits the difference for me between ?Boodle It? Wiggins take and Louie Jordan?s more sedate later rendition.

I typed this all up a bit hastily this morning so I?ll go back and edit as I notice the errors, but I apologize for the rambling nature of the post. There?s a lot of ground to cover with these two songs! I?ll also try to work up a version and make a video if I get the time, and I look forward to other versions from anybody who has the time to record one.

Pete

Offline Johnm

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Re: SOTM - Nov 6, 2015 - My Bucket's Got A Hole In It/You Can't Get In
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2015, 09:02:04 AM »
Thanks very much for the post, the research and the topic, Pete.  Of all the versions you posted, the only ones I'm familiar with are the Sylvester Weaver, the James "Boodle It" Wiggins and the Kokomo Arnold, so I've got a lot of listening and catching up to do.  Thanks!
All best,
Johnm

Offline Lastfirstface

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Re: SOTM - Nov 6, 2015 - My Bucket's Got A Hole In It/You Can't Get In
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2015, 09:25:49 AM »
I had a minute to mess around so I thought I record a "quick and dirty" version. I'm not much of a singer, but I thought I'd give it a go for the sake of the thread:


Offline uncle bud

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Re: SOTM - Nov 6, 2015 - My Bucket's Got A Hole In It/You Can't Get In
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2015, 04:59:17 PM »
Nicely done Pete, really enjoyed that version - quick and dirty works. Now I need to go back and check out the original post. Looks like I've some listening to do like John, as there are a number of versions in there that will be new (or barely listened to) for me.

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: SOTM - Nov 6, 2015 - My Bucket's Got A Hole In It/You Can't Get In
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2015, 03:16:16 AM »
Another fine SOTM post and discussion. Really like your impromptu version Lastfirstface!

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: SOTM - Nov 6, 2015 - My Bucket's Got A Hole In It/You Can't Get In
« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2015, 06:48:59 PM »
Very nice Mr. Lastfirstface!
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline Slack

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Re: SOTM - Nov 6, 2015 - My Bucket's Got A Hole In It/You Can't Get In
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2015, 12:41:29 PM »
Yeah, great job Pete - all the way around!

Offline Johnm

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Re: SOTM - Nov 6, 2015 - My Bucket's Got A Hole In It/You Can't Get In
« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2015, 10:39:50 AM »
Hi all,
Yes, nice job on your arrangement of "The Bucket's Got A Hole In It", Pete.  It's great to hear people come up with their own ways of playing songs.
Kokomo Arnold's "Busy Bootin'" has an 8-bar form, and musically is much like a children's song, somewhat in the manner of Bo Carter's "Twist It, Babe".  Lyrically, the song is spectacularly impolite, and Kokomo Arnold's rendition is quite un-self-conscious and happy with being so rude.  It makes sense, though; if you're going to do this kind of material, it loses all of its impact and pizzazz if there is an apology for the content implicit in your delivery.  You need gusto, which Arnold had in spades.  The song is operating in the sort of insult realm that "The Dozens" similarly occupies.  Arnold plays it with a slide in Vestapol, his most favored position, though he was also comfortable in Spanish tuning and used it a good bit, too.

Busy bootin' and you can't come in, busy bootin' and you can't come in
Busy bootin' and you can't come in, come back tomorrow night, try it again

I met your mama in the alleyway, I met your mama in the alleyway
I met your mama in the alleyway, she's catchin' Honkies both night and day

SOLO (Spoken: Yeah!, Take it easy, greasy!  'Cause I'm busy bootin'.)

Don't you remember last Friday night?  Don't you 'member last Friday night?
Don't you 'member last Friday night?  You got out in the street and you want to fight

Keep talkin' 'bout the neighbor next door, keep talkin' 'bout the neighbor next door
Keep talkin' 'bout the neighbor next door, I caught her boogie-woogiein' down on the floor

SOLO (Spoken: I'm busy bootin'.  Go ahead, then!)

Don't you remember when my door was locked?  Don't you remember when my door was locked?
Don't you 'member when my door was locked?  I had your mama on the choppin' block

Pretty mama, I'm tellin' you, pretty mama, I'm tellin' you
Pretty mama, I'm tellin' you, I'm sick and tired of the way you do

SOLO (Spoken: Pick it up now, Jackson!  Busy bootin'!  You can't come in!)

I'm busy bootin' and you can't come in, I'm busy bootin' and you can't come in
I'm busy bootin' and you can't come in, come back tomorrow night and try it again

Stop knockin' on my window pane, stop knockin' on my window pane
Stop knockin' on my window pane, you tell what you see, don't you call my name

SOLO (Spoken: I'm busy bootin'!  Can't come in!)

All best,
Johnm
 
« Last Edit: November 10, 2015, 11:02:35 AM by Johnm »

Offline Lastfirstface

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Re: SOTM - Nov 6, 2015 - My Bucket's Got A Hole In It/You Can't Get In
« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2015, 01:27:48 PM »
Thanks everybody, it was fun to dive into writing this after listening to all the different versions I had to work something up to play. I was roughly following what I heard as the Washboard Sam lyrics, which I think go like this:

Oh my bucket got a hole in it
Oh my bucket got a hole in it
Oh my bucket got a hole in it
Can't buy no beer

When you're walkin' down thirty first street
You better look around
The vice squad is on their beat
And you'll be jailhouse bound

We're standing on the corner
Everything was going slow
Can't make no money
Tricks ain't walkin' no more

Going to start a new racket
Going to start it out right
Going to sell moonshine in the day
And sell them dope at night

If I can't make money
Going to catch the Santa Fe
Going to drink good liquor
And let all women be

Offline blueshome

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Re: SOTM - Nov 6, 2015 - My Bucket's Got A Hole In It/You Can't Get In
« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2015, 04:25:27 AM »
I regularly perform "Busy Bootin," and John is quite right, you can't hold back or it doesn't work. A smile on the face is essential to get the message across though. I usually announce it as rock and roll from the 1930's.

Offline blueshome

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Re: SOTM - Nov 6, 2015 - My Bucket's Got A Hole In It/You Can't Get In
« Reply #10 on: November 11, 2015, 04:28:04 AM »
Using a bit of imagination, wouldn't it have been great if Jesse James had recorded a version?

Offline frankie

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Re: SOTM - Nov 6, 2015 - My Bucket's Got A Hole In It/You Can't Get In
« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2015, 03:36:34 AM »
Thanks for posting this - another great one that just seems to fly under the radar all the time. Nice take on the song, too!

Offline Lastfirstface

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Re: SOTM - Nov 6, 2015 - My Bucket's Got A Hole In It/You Can't Get In
« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2016, 09:07:23 AM »
Came across this one looking that interview clip I just posted in another thread. Thought I'd add it to this list:

https://youtu.be/WL6-SdOK1s8?t=1m30s

Offline Johnm

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Re: SOTM - Nov 6, 2015 - My Bucket's Got A Hole In It/You Can't Get In
« Reply #13 on: September 02, 2016, 12:41:04 PM »
Hi all,
Listening to John Jackson's rendition from the link in the last previous post in this thread, I was struck for the first time by how similar the chord progression, phrasing and melody of "My Bucket's Got A Hole In It" are to those same elements in "Midnight Special".  They're really very close, even though "Midnight Special" is long, and "My Bucket's Got A Hole In It" is short, at the back end of the form.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: September 02, 2016, 01:15:28 PM by Johnm »

Offline Lastfirstface

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Re: SOTM - Nov 6, 2015 - My Bucket's Got A Hole In It/You Can't Get In
« Reply #14 on: September 03, 2016, 08:52:30 AM »
Midnight Special might be deserving of its own SOTM. Lot's of good old recordings of that one and related tunes, including some great old time string band records like Wilmer Watts "Walk Right In Belmont."

 


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