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I wouldn't play in Bentonia for a hundred dollars a minute - Skip James, from Steven Calt's bio

Author Topic: SOTM June 2019 Someday Baby / Worried Life Blues  (Read 380 times)

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Offline DavidCrosbie

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SOTM June 2019 Someday Baby / Worried Life Blues
« on: June 01, 2019, 05:58:16 AM »
This song has so much: a great tune, a great and unusual refrain, at least two great sets of verses, and a great title crying out to be stolen by other songs. And it's proved a great showcase for accompanists on harmonica piano or guitar.

Choose your favourite singer or band from the sixties and they've probably done an excellent version. I'll concentrate on the earlier records.

The first we know of it is as Someday Baby Blues recorded by  Sleepy John Estes in 1935 with Hammie Nixon on  harmonica. (Buddy Moss's earlier Someday Baby is not the same song.) When I was a boy, in the days before books by Blues scholars, Sleepy John was ? quite literally ? a legend. (At least that's what he was here in Britain). Some Jazz record collectors assumed that he was an archaic throwback. Big Bill humoured them with a tale of how as a young man he'd heard Estes as an old man singing the lead to track-lining crews. So many of us were later astonished to see him on a European tour. Hammie also came. He hadn't been a legend, but he made his mark as a showman. Still, I didn't realise what a fine musician he was.



Quote from: Sleepy John Estes
I don't care how long you gone
I don't care how long you stay
But that good kind treatment
Bring you back home someday
   Someday baby
   You ain't goin' worry
    My mind
    Anymore

Ah that wind
That old chilly breeze
Come blowin' through
Your BVDs
    But someday baby
    You ain't goin' worry
     My mind
     Anymore

If you don't quit bettin'
Boy them dice won't pass
It's gonna send you home
On your yes yes yes
   But someday baby
   You ain't gonna worry
    My life
    Anymore

It ain't but the one thing
That give a man the blues
He ain't got no bottom
In his last pair of shoes
   But someday baby
   You ain't gonna worry
    My mind
    Anymore

I tell all the people in your neighbourhood
You's a no good woman
You don't mean no good
   But someday baby
   You ain't gonna worry
    Poor John's mind
    Anymore
This was such a hit that John recorded a follow-up New Someday Baby in 1938 backed by a second guitar but without Hammie Nixon. I haven't heard any version that copies any of the new lyrics.




The lyrics and the guitar-harmonica sound of the first version were covered by Big Joe Williams with Sonny Boy Williamson in 1941. Joe largely sings John's lyrics, ending with this unexpected AAB couplet.

Quote from: Joe Williams
You can steal my chickens boy, you sure can't make them lay
You can steal my chickens but you, you sure can't make them lay
You can steal my best woman, but you sure can't make her stay



Also in 1941, Big Maceo Merriweather reworked the song with a new title Worried Life Blues, a new rhythm, and a new set of verses crafted to make a coherent text. Perhaps the most radical change was to sing the last line of the refrain without pauses. Tampa Red's guitar contribution is melodic but simple.



Quote from: Big Maceo Merriweather
Oh Lordy Lord, oh Lordy Lord
It hurts me so bad, for us to part
  But someday baby
  I ain't gonna worry my life any more

So many nights, since you've been gone
I been worried and grieving, my life alone
  But someday baby
  I ain't gonna worry my life any more

So many days, since you went away
I had to worry, both night and day
  But someday baby
  I ain't gonna worry my life any more

No boy! I ain't gonna worry my life no more! Yea! Yea.!

You on my mind, every place I go
How much I love you, nobody knows
  But someday baby
  I ain't gonna worry my life any more

So that's my story, this is all I got to say to you
Goodbye baby, and I don't care what you do
  But someday baby
  I ain't gonna worry my life any more

Months later, Bill Gaither recorded a cover with an unknown pianist and a guitarist tentatively identified as Jesse Ellery.



Maceo's record was such a hit that Alan Lomax twice came across musicians who had learned it in the course of his 1942 field trip to Coahama County. The first was by David Edwards before he was nationally known. Lomax as usual coaxed an assured, spontaneous performance with Honeyboy showing off his guitar licks. Could they have been even more impressive under the pressures of a commercial contract and studio recording?



The second was by the relatively obscure pianist Thomas Jaybird Jones and the totally obscure singer Minnie Lee Whitehead. It's reissued on a Document collection of field recordings, but unfortunately not uploaded to YouTube ? and I don't know how to. This is a shame. It's good to hear a woman sing the song.

Brownie McGhee described the song as 'a good friend of mine's number but he's dead now, Big Maceo'. Yet in 1948 he recorded a very different Worried Life Blues as an instrumental with Sonny Terry. And his Brownie's New Worried Life with his brother Sticks was no closer. Still, ten years later, Brownie and Sonny performed this to an English audience. It's recognisably Maceo's song, but with one verse deriving ultimately from John Estes. And Brownie regularises the refrain slightly with a pause before anymore.



(Also in 1948, Leadbelly also used the words Ain't Gonna Let You Worry My Life No More to make a very different song.)

Around that time, Lightnin' Hopkins made  at least two recordings of his personal take on the tune. They were issued and reissued under different titles such as You're Not Going to Worry My Life Anymore (Worried Life Blues) or Someday Baby or simply Worried Life Blues. Sam brought a new (but changeable) set of verses to the song, with single-line guitar melodies that went way beyond Tampa Red's. This, I think, is the first of the recordings.

Quote from: Lighnin Hopkins
Now here's something' darlin', I want to tell to you
The low-down way you been doin',  that will never do
  But someday baby
  I ain't going' to...
 
I started saying I aint going to worry about you baby, but you know I ain't

You went out late at night darlin', you stayed all night long
You come in this morning, and you act like you was grown
  But someday baby
  You ain't goin' to worry my life any more

I just got to play it right now

Yes but if I'd have died, yes when I was young
You know I wouldn't be here today, with this narrowest run
   But someday baby
   You ain't goin' to worry my life any more

Now here's something baby, I didn't think you would do
You did cause me to mistreat my home, on account of you
   But someday baby
   You ain't goin' to worry my life any more



Another (much less famous) Texas singer Manuel (Manny) Nichols recorded this 1949 cover of Maceo's song.



In 1950, Big Maceo recorded Worried Life Blues No. 2, which is barely recognisable as the same song. Just cashing in on a successful title? Still, it's a nice record.



Lightnin' Hopkins also recorded a sequel, New Worried Life Blues, which is actually a reversion to the original Big Maceo version.



As far as I can tell, he continued to record more or less the same version, under the title Worried Life Blues.

There have been lots more recordings, mostly of the Maceo version. I'll leave you to post your favourites, but I feel I can't miss out this jaunty reworking of the Estes song by BB King. Unlike the Big Maceo tradition,  it emphasises the off-beat, and it seems to have been an inspiration to some later performers.



More versions pease!
« Last Edit: November 26, 2019, 06:31:30 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: SOTM ? June 2019 ? Someday Baby / Worried Life Blues
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2019, 06:27:59 AM »
Thanks, David, for the Song of the Month choice and a well-researched initial post.  I'll be interested to see what versions other folks find.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: SOTM ? June 2019 ? Someday Baby / Worried Life Blues
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2019, 09:00:33 AM »
Great song family. Here?s Otis Spann:



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Offline JRO

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Re: SOTM ? June 2019 ? Someday Baby / Worried Life Blues
« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2019, 11:42:20 AM »
Hi,

This is one of the first blues songs that hooked me in the late 1970's as teenager. First version I heard was Chuck Berry's one from 1960 (?)

.

This and Berrys version of Don't lie to me got me after Tampa Red and Big Maceo. Big Maceo made it 1945 also as



Fred McDowell's first lp's Delta Blues B-side starts with . The whole lp gets me still shivers after about 40 of listening it.

Big Bill Broonzy did his version of



and Muddy Waters did it as

. His lyrics differ a lot from original.
« Last Edit: June 01, 2019, 11:44:56 AM by JRO »

Offline Rivers

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Re: SOTM ? June 2019 ? Someday Baby / Worried Life Blues
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2019, 07:32:01 PM »
Yeah, cool song. Inspired by listening to the Sleepy John Estes version in the first video I picked up the guitar. John is sounding around B. I paused it and played it out of C position, it being late and me not being inclined to retune.

Never having tried it before I had not realized that for the last four bars of the verse the guitar just hangs on doggedly to the I chord and he sings the melody over the top. No V, IV, I. That was a revelation, to me anyway. What a great sound.

edit, later: Muddy's version is true to the Sleepy John original's changes, and what a powerful recording that is, whew.

I like this Hill Country groove take on it from Precious Bryant:

« Last Edit: June 05, 2019, 08:30:47 PM by Rivers »