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Now your pistol's been fixed so it only shoots blanks; and when the third beer goes down, there's no room in the tank. You've got the forty year blues - Frontpage, Forty Year Blues (a commemoration of certain mortality)

Author Topic: Song of the Month, October 2017, "Shake 'Em On Down"  (Read 849 times)

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Online Johnm

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Song of the Month, October 2017, "Shake 'Em On Down"
« on: October 03, 2017, 03:34:24 PM »
Hi all,
I thought "Shake 'Em On Down" would make an interesting Song of the Month for October, 2017.  Evidently, the earliest recording of this song was Booker White's, from a session in Chicago on September 2, 1937, on which he was seconded by an un-named guitarist, with both musicians playing out of E position in standard tuning.  Booker's version utilized a melody previously recorded by Johnnie Temple, and is structurally a chorus blues, with each verse strung out over the first four bars of the form and the chorus arriving with the IV chord, in the fifth bar of the form.  One of the interesting things about the chorus is the non-explicit pronoun reference as to what exactly it is that needs to be shaken on down.  The reference could be sexual, relate to gambling, or in an explanation Booker himself evidently once gave, it could refer to strong-arming hobos for their money.  I like the way the chorus, however it is sung, sets up two possible courses of action, one of which is shaking 'em on down.  The conclusion reached?  I've got to shake 'em on down!  The lyrics to Booker's earliest recording of the song can be found at:  http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=2438.msg57342#msg57342
Here is Booker's first recording of the song:



Bo Carter recorded a stellar version of the song, working out of DGDGBE tuning.  Here it is:

 

In Bo's version, he actually sings,
  Must I keep dealin', or must I shove 'em on down
Bo's version of the song, apart from sharing the chorus blues structure of Booker's, has little else in common with Booker's version, lyrically or melodically.

Tommy McClennan recorded the song as "New Shake 'Em On Down, playing it out of D position in standard tuning at a session in Chicago on November 22, 1939.  His recording has the kind of super-charged energy that he had at that time--he burned brightly, but not so long.  His lyrics can be found at:  http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?Itemid=128&topic=3070.msg65425#msg65425 .  Here is his version:



Furry Lewis recorded a wonderful version, playing in his EAEGBE tuning (though tuned low, at C#) at his Sam Charters-produced session in Memphis in 1961, for Prestige-Bluesville.  His time here is so infectious, and he's earned his choice of tempos over a lifetime of music-making.  Here is his performance:



Furry's lyrics can be found at:  http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=167.msg91604#msg91604 .

Dr. Ross recorded a rocking version, which has, I believe, my all-time favorite tone for a harmonica played off of a rack, while he simultaneously plays his guitar in Spanish and keeps his one-man-band drum kit going.  It's not a full-on one-man performance, for he is joined by a pianist, too.  Here is Dr. Ross's version:



Detroit-based musician Bobo Jenkins had a pretty cool, funky electric ensemble version.  Here it is:



Present-day musician Thomasina Winslow has a strong version in dropped-D tuning.  I sure like her singing and "taking care of business" demeanor.  Nice and original guitar part, too.  Here is her version:



This listing of versions of "Shake 'Em On Down" is by no means exhaustive--there are plenty of other strong versions on youtube I've left for you all to put up here.  I should say, too, that there is a terrific version on Mr. OMuck's new CD, but I didn't want to post it without his permission.  Bring 'em on, and if you limit yourself to one or two new versions, more folks will be able to participate.

All best,
Johnm

 
« Last Edit: October 03, 2017, 04:30:05 PM by Johnm »

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Song of the Month, October 2017, "Shake 'Em On Down"
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2017, 02:36:10 AM »
Great song and what stands out for me, in all the versions you?ve chosen, is the outstanding quality of all the vocal performances.


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Offline blueshome

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Re: Song of the Month, October 2017, "Shake 'Em On Down"
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2017, 03:53:20 AM »
Real country from 1949



Offline blueshome

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Re: Song of the Month, October 2017, "Shake 'Em On Down"
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2017, 04:01:11 AM »
Now uptown with yet another interpretation of the key phrase"


Offline alyoung

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Re: Song of the Month, October 2017, "Shake 'Em On Down"
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2017, 05:00:14 AM »

Offline TenBrook

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Re: Song of the Month, October 2017, "Shake 'Em On Down"
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2017, 09:29:57 AM »
Thanks for putting this together John. Here's a fairly non-traditional version by Compton Jones, on what sounds like a diddley bow:


Offline DavidCrosbie

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Re: Song of the Month, October 2017, "Shake 'Em On Down"
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2017, 05:52:03 PM »
The Compton Jones recording is from  the Library of Congress Archive of Folk Culture CD
 
Afro-American Folk Music                          
from Tate and Panola Counties, Mississippi

It is indeed a diddley bow, and here is Jones playing it   

As David Evans explains in the sleeve notes:
Quote from: David Evans
The "bow diddley" or  jitterbug,  is  most  commonly  known  in  the  area  by  the  name diddley bow. It is a homemade instrument, constructed by stringing about four feet of broom wire horizontally on a wall between two staples. A bottle is wedged under the wire at each end to keep it taut. Snuff bottles are preferred for their square shape and large resonance chambers. The player strikes the string with the index finger of the right hand and changes pitch by pressing or sliding another bottle, held in the left hand, on the string. This instrument is very common in the black folk music tradition of Mississippi and less well known in other areas. It has never been re-ported in white folk music tradition.

The diddley bow is commonly considered to be a children's instrument in the area. If a child proves his ability on it, he may advance to a guitar (see track 9). If an adult does not own a guitar, however, he may continue to play this one-stringed instrument. Compton Jones has never learned to play a guitar, so that he still plays the diddley bow. At other times it will be played at parties when a guitar is unavailable.

The 'track 9' referred to is by Ranie Burnette

Of the guitar playing, Evans writes:
Quote from: David Evans
This is the same song as  the  previous  one,  played  on  the  guitar.  Ranie  Burnette  started out on a diddley bow as a boy but soon advanced to the guitar. His style of playing on this piece, how-ever, betrays many characteristics of his first instrument. He tunes the six strings to an open D chord, with a neutral third, and uses a small bottle placed over a finger of the left hand to press or slide on the strings. On this piece he uses the bottle only on the first string in close approximation of the manner of playing the one-string diddley bow. Burnette uses the other five strings of the guitar simply as a drone and for percussion. He obtains a variety of tonal textures by muffling these strings lightly with his right wrist while allowing the first string to sound clearly. His playing is also notable for its acceleration of tempo, a common characteristic of much Afro-American and African music. The piece moves from an eighth note = 138 at the beginning to an eighth note = 192 at the end.

On the song, Evans writes:
Quote from: David Evans
Ranie Burnette learned "Shake 'Em on Down" in the 1930s, probably not long after it was first recorded in 1937 by Bukka White. Burnette and Fred McDowell were the ones who popularized it in the area. The guitar part, however, had probably been first worked out by somebody on the diddley bow. It is in all respects unlike the guitar on Bukka White's record, which is not played with a "slider." Although Burnette' s version is musically quite similar to Compton Jones's version, the texts are quite different, having only the refrains in common. Even these are not exactly the same. Jones's refrain lasts only one line, and he sings it with only half of his stanzas. Burnette's refrain runs three lines with an instrumental break after the second. His text, though longer, is much more straightforward than Jones's, concentrating mainly on the theme of the man-woman relationship and the imagery of "shake 'em on down," which occurs as a phrase with much greater insistence here.

Offline blueshome

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Re: Song of the Month, October 2017, "Shake 'Em On Down"
« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2017, 04:11:16 AM »
Wouldn't be the same without him:


Offline blueshome

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Re: Song of the Month, October 2017, "Shake 'Em On Down"
« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2017, 04:23:51 AM »
Eddie uses the card dealing theme:



Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Song of the Month, October 2017, "Shake 'Em On Down"
« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2017, 05:40:02 AM »
Hi JohnM. This has always been a favorite of mine, but then I love almost everything Booker White ever recorded and of course I'd be honored to be included in this company. I'd never played the song before that recording of it. It just kind of came to me while i was fooling around in open G. As a result I've never been able to replicate it exactly to my satisfaction, it changes every time I play it. Spontaneity has its downsides.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Online Johnm

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Re: Song of the Month, October 2017, "Shake 'Em On Down"
« Reply #10 on: October 05, 2017, 09:05:56 AM »
Hi all,
I wouldn't normally post additional versions of a song by a musician who already has one version that has been posted, but I thought this version of "Shake 'Em On Down" by Fred McDowell with Miles Pratcher joining him on fiddle and Fannie Davis on backing vocals has such a remarkable timbre, by virtue of the sound of Pratcher's fiddle phrasing the melody along with Fred's slide, that it was worth posting, too.  I sure wish there was more recorded with this grouping.



And one more--Fred McDowell live with Johnny Woods on harmonica.  Boy, were these two musicians locked in!  They listen and know each other's every instinct, musically.



All best,
Johnm   
« Last Edit: October 05, 2017, 01:28:55 PM by Johnm »

Online Johnm

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Re: Song of the Month, October 2017, "Shake 'Em On Down"
« Reply #11 on: October 05, 2017, 09:07:55 AM »
Phil,
I tried to post your version, but even with a customized setting I couldn't get the file small enough to post.  Could you give it a try?  You might have better luck--I hope so.
All best,
Johnm

Offline DavidCrosbie

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Re: Song of the Month, October 2017, "Shake 'Em On Down"
« Reply #12 on: October 05, 2017, 07:15:26 PM »
Quote from: Johnm
Fred McDowell with Miles Pratcher joining him on fiddle and Fannie Davis on backing vocals has such a remarkable timbre, by virtue of the sound of Pratcher's fiddle phrasing the melody along with Fred's slide, that it was worth posting, too.  I sure wish there was more recorded with this grouping.

As I read the documentation
  • Miles Pratcher played guitar; it was Bob Pratcher who played fiddle. The second melody line is by Fanny Davis on comb and paper.
  • Two tracks were recorded by Fred with Miles alone
             When You Get Home, Write Me A Few Of Your Lines
             Drop down Mama
  • Five tracks were recorded by Fred, Miles and Fanny Davis
              Fred McDowell's Blues (aka Going Down South, Old Original Blues)
              Shake 'Em On Down (twice)
              Going Down To The River (aka The Sun Rose This Morning)
              Going Down That Gravel Bottom (aka Gravel Road Blues, Going Down The River, Going To The Races)
All have been issued and reissued, some of them many times. If there are any that you don't have, they can be heard in the Como I and Como II sections of the Southern U.S. 1959 and 1960 set of sound recordings at http://research.culturalequity.org/rc-b2/audio-ix-session.jsp?d-49653-p=2

The two versions of Shake 'Em On Down are extremely similar. I'm think the one Johnm posted may be the first. They're both great.

Fred varies the order of his verses, and varies what he does between the verses, but the core of the lyrics is something like this:
Quote
If you
Come to my house, you don't find
Me around, you know we
Some other place, baby, gonna
Shake 'em on down, Lordy
Must I Lord

If you
See my baby, Lordy,
Standin' around, you know we
Gettin' ready now, mama, we gonna
Shake 'em on down, Lordy,
Must I Lord

Put your
Knees together, baby, let your
Backbone move
It ain't a woman in town cain't shake 'em
Down like you, Lordy,
Must I, Lord

Went up the hill, baby, Lord to
Get some ice
Before we got back, baby, we
Shook 'em down twice, Lordy
Must I, Lord
« Last Edit: October 05, 2017, 07:37:55 PM by DavidCrosbie »

Online Johnm

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Re: Song of the Month, October 2017, "Shake 'Em On Down"
« Reply #13 on: October 05, 2017, 09:34:11 PM »
Hi DavidCrosbie,
Thanks for the additional information.  If Bob Pratcher played the fiddle, and Miles Pratcher played guitar, then who is playing the fiddle on "Shake 'Em On Down" if Miles is playing on the cut and Bob is not?
All best,
Johnm

Offline frankie

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Re: Song of the Month, October 2017, "Shake 'Em On Down"
« Reply #14 on: October 05, 2017, 10:47:46 PM »
"Shake 'Em On Down" by Fred McDowell with Miles Pratcher joining him on fiddle

Hi John - That is Miles Pratcher, who does sing and play guitar for Bob Pratcher's fiddling, but that's not a fiddle he's playing with Fred McDowell...  that's a comb!

Yessir - red hot comb-licks...  that's what that is.