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Hell is full of musical amateurs - George Bernard Shaw

Author Topic: Cripple Clarence Lofton Lyrics  (Read 881 times)

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Online harry

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Cripple Clarence Lofton Lyrics
« on: December 29, 2019, 04:57:49 PM »
Cripple Clarence Lofton – Policy Blues

April 12, 1935 in Chicago.

Eagle & LeBlanc: "This may be his [Clarence Lofton's] brother Elbert [sic]."

Document Records; "A recording was made for Bluebird by what appeared to be a man named Adam Wilcox employing the pseudonym Albert Clemens. The title recorded was Policy Blues and aural evidence makes it almost certain that the performer was Clarence Lofton moonlighting under a double disguise and trying to mask his memorable piano style by playing in a key he seldom used."

Guitar player uncertain. According to Stephen Calt and John Miller (liner notes of "Uptown Blues, A Decade Of Guitar-Piano Duets  (1927-1937)" it's Big Bill Broonzy.
I'm hearing it in the key of F but according to Calt and Miller it's in E.




If I don't catch policy buy me a 45
If I don't catch policy buy me a hard shootin’ 45
I’m getting tired of you policy writers telling me a plenty 'f lie

Now looka here policy writer I play both night and day
You gets my money then you walk away
And if I don't catch policy I'm gonna lay you low
Cause I’m getting sick and tired of you taking my dough
If I don't catch policy kill every writer I see
I’m getting tired of you policy writers 3-6-9-in’ poor me

Now looka here son you better not be late
That gig's gonna come out in the interstate
So you'd better get down and get down right
That gig's gonna fall out tonight
If I don't catch policy kill every writer I see
I’m getting tired of you policy writers 3-6-9-in’ poor me

The next day she come around I could tell from her look
I had played those numbers in the wrong book
Now I plays policy both day and night
And none of those numbers ever come out right
If I don't catch policy kill every writer I see
I’m getting tired of you policy writers 3-6-9-in’ poor me

Now looka here policy writer you better walk slow
I'm getting tired of you knocking on my back door
I plays policy I ain’t gonna play no more
I'm getting tired of playing 4-11 and 44
If I don't catch policy kill every writer I see
Cause I’m getting tired of you policy writers 3-6-9-in’ poor me


« Last Edit: January 06, 2020, 03:53:41 PM by harry »

Offline Thomas8

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Re: Cripple Clarence Lofton Lyrics
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2019, 05:27:11 AM »
Might be pitched between E and F, but can guarantee lofton played it in F. They just didn't play in E back then especially on the piano.

Online Johnm

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Re: Cripple Clarence Lofton Lyrics
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2019, 06:18:04 AM »
Hi all,
Broonzy, or whomever else it might be, is playing out of E position, standard tuning.  There's no way of knowing for sure how the piano was tuned, but if pianists say it was played in F, that seems fine.
All best,
Johnm

Online harry

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Re: Cripple Clarence Lofton Lyrics
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2019, 03:15:48 PM »
Yeah, Broonzy probably capoed on the 1st fret to play in F.
E is a awkward key for the piano. I learned it to some degree cause guitar players love it.
But I will never be as fluent in E than I would be in say C, G or F.

I you could help with the lyrics I would appreciated it. 

Offline jtbrown

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Re: Cripple Clarence Lofton Lyrics
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2019, 09:45:50 AM »
Harry,

I'm hearing "catch policy" rather than "get policy" throughout, and a quick Google search shows that's a usage that's attested in at least two published discussions of "playing policy." I hear the third line as you do, and I think it's probably "Daddy's" in the thirteenth line (though the way he pronounces it, it actually sounds a little more like "that is" to me.)

In the antepenultimate line, I hear something like "four 'leven and forty-four."

Todd Brown

Online Johnm

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Re: Cripple Clarence Lofton Lyrics
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2019, 09:47:22 AM »
Hi Harry,
I'm hearing "If I don't CATCH policy" every time that line repeats in the song.  In the last verse, third line from the end, I think he sings, "I'm gettin' tired of playin' four-eleven-and forty-four".  Any other changes seem relatively minor.
All best,
Johnm

Offline waxwing

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Re: Cripple Clarence Lofton Lyrics
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2019, 02:29:35 PM »
I imagine we'll hear much more from catyron on this as I think she has published regarding Dream Books for Policy numbers. It is known that because many listeners would know certain numbers that corresponded to images from dreams, singers would use the numbers and the audience would know what they mean, or go look them up.

I found this page about Policy Pete's Dream Book, on which several pages are displayed, and found 3-6-9 for two dream images, "evidence" and "short arm". There could be others, as not all pages are displayed. 4-1-1 comes up as "baggage", "groceries" and "pistol shot". There are only single digit numbers used in the book, so 4-11-44 doesn't compute.

I think Lofton is saying he is tired of being "short armed", i.e, not paid off, which would require reaching out. I think it should be transcribe "Iím getting tired of you policy writers 3-6-9-in' for me" which is also how it sounds to me.

Cat?

Wax
« Last Edit: December 31, 2019, 02:31:32 PM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

ďJust because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.Ē
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Offline waxwing

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Re: Cripple Clarence Lofton Lyrics
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2019, 03:10:01 PM »
Actually, further research brought up catyron's page about the very subject. She defines 4-11-44 (or "four-lebenty-fortyfour" as Lofton sings it) as meaning the policy game itself and other sources of fortune, and states, after long discussion of the combination, that 3-6-9 can mean "excrement".

https://www.luckymojo.com/auntsallys.html

So, much as I liked Lofton saying he was tired of the policy writers "short arming" him I think he was probably saying they were "sh****ng" on him.

Thank you, catyron! I have visited your site many times and hope to make it to your store before I leave the Bay Area.

Wax
« Last Edit: December 31, 2019, 03:11:05 PM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

ďJust because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.Ē
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Offline Stuart

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Re: Cripple Clarence Lofton Lyrics
« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2019, 03:35:14 PM »
There's a copy of Policy Pete's Dream Book on eBay:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/123855318013

And copies of Aunt Sally's Policy Players Dream Book as well.

The NYC Public library has copies of both in its holdings.

BTW: "Policy Pete" is Pete Quinn

Offline jtbrown

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Re: Cripple Clarence Lofton Lyrics
« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2019, 05:38:45 PM »
I agree with Wax that Lofton is using 3-6-9 as a verb, and after listening again with headphones I'd propose one further revision to the lyrics Harry has posted: I think it's probably not "3-6-9 is for me," as Harry has transcribed it, or "3-6-9-in' for me" as Wax has suggested, but "I'm gettin' tired of you policy writers 3-6-9-in' poor me."

Wax, thanks for the link to Catyron's site Ė fascinating.

Todd

Online harry

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Re: Cripple Clarence Lofton Lyrics
« Reply #10 on: January 01, 2020, 06:58:45 AM »
I think you got it Todd. Especially when listening to another version of "Policy Blues" that Lofton rerecorded a few years later (this time in the key of C).
I made the changes to the lyrics but I'm still not sure about everything. If anyone has a copy of Macleod's Yazoo and Document books where this song is probably transcribed let me know. I sure would like to read his take on this.


« Last Edit: January 01, 2020, 07:03:48 AM by harry »

Offline waxwing

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Re: Cripple Clarence Lofton Lyrics
« Reply #11 on: January 01, 2020, 01:56:46 PM »
Sure Harry, no problem.

Just want to point out that, particularly in the early days of Document, Johnny Parth was using any example that he could get a collector to send him a tape of, so the quality varied and we have much better examples today. For Lofton's "Policy Blues" Bob Macleod was transcribng from the CD L-1042, which was a reissue of the Yazoo 42 LP. Seems like Bob had a pretty good version to work from tho' as he has picked up a couple things we missed. Bob continually upgraded his files and was a regular poster on the WC Lyric board until very shortly befor his death, particularly in the massive Lemon Jefferson thread, as well as Tommy Johnson and others. "dingwall" was his logon if memory serves. Just wanted to pay my respects.

Interestingly, in the notes this is labelled as the 1943 version, but in the last volume, where Lofton's complete works are transcribed, the correct '43 version is given and it is indicated that this is the earlier version. My comments are in brackets[].

"Policy Blues"
Cripple Clarence Lofton
Transcribed by R.R Macleod

If I don't catch policy, buy me a forty-five.
If I don't catch policy, buy me a hard-shootiní forty-five.
Iím gettin' tired of you policy writers tellin' me a PLAINTIVE LIE.

Now LOOKY here policy writer, I play IT both night and day. [Lofton doesn't sing "it"]
You gets my money, then you walk away.
And if I don't catch policy, I'm gonna lay you low.
'Cause Iím gettin' sick and tired of you takin' my dough.
If I don't catch policy, kill every writer I see.
Iím gettin' tired of you policy writers three-six-nine-iní poor me.

Now LOOKY here son, you better not be late.
That GIG'S gonna come out in the Interstate.
So you'd better get down, and get down right.
THAT GIG'S gonna fall out tonight.
If I don't catch policy, kill every writer I see
Iím gettin' tired of you policy writers three-six-nine-iní poor me.

The next day she come around, I can tell from her look.
I had played those numbers in the wrong book.
Now I plays policy both day and night.
And none of those numbers ever come out right.
If I don't catch policy, kill every writer I see.
Iím gettin' tired of you policy writers three-six-nine-iní poor me.

Now LOOKY here policy writer YOU'D better walk slow. [I don't hear the "'d"]
I'm gettin' tired of you knockin' on my back door.
I plays policy, I ainít gonna play no more.
I'm gettin' tired of playing four'n'eleven-and-forty-four. [I'd make it "four'n'eleb'nty-forty-four"]
If I don't catch policy, kill every writer I see.
'Cause Iím gettin' tired of you policy writers three-six-nine-iní poor me.

I put some cans on and gave a close listen and I agree with Bob on "plaintive lie" and, for sure the first "That gig's" and probably the second. I don't hear the "it" or the 'd on "you'd, and the looky/looka is a toss up.

Wax
« Last Edit: January 01, 2020, 02:14:12 PM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

ďJust because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.Ē
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Online Johnm

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Re: Cripple Clarence Lofton Lyrics
« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2020, 02:54:33 PM »
Hi all,
I am extremely dubious of "plaintive lie".  I think he's singing "tellin' me a-PLENTY OF LIES", with "of" somewhat swallowed.
All best,
Johnm

Offline waxwing

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Re: Cripple Clarence Lofton Lyrics
« Reply #13 on: January 01, 2020, 04:37:59 PM »
Well, Johnm, after having listened another dozen times, I can't see that you could hear a difference between the two ways of transcribing the sounds, except that it's pretty clear that there is no "s" at the end of "lie". But then, that's a common singer's rule not to end on a sibilance, just leave it off. I checked Michael Taft's Concordance and no one he has transcribed uses the word "plaintive", so tips it away from that direction. I wonder if there are other examples of Loften using the "a-this", or "a-that" instead of just saying "telling me plenty of lies"? (I remember you brilliantly parsing the "a-goin'", and "a-fishin'" in HT's "Fishin' Blues") He does make a big effort to get the "a" in there, almost like someone else may have written the line and instructed him how to say it? What does it all mean?

Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

ďJust because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.Ē
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Online Johnm

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Re: Cripple Clarence Lofton Lyrics
« Reply #14 on: January 01, 2020, 04:58:03 PM »
Hi Wax,
Re-listening, I believe plenty is both preceded and followed by "of".  I think he is just saying that he has been lied to on many occasions, and he's tired of it.  There's no reason to impose a stricter standard of grammar and syntax in this one line ending than in the rest of the song.  I just don't believe that he sang the word "plaintive", and in any event, why in the world would policy writers be prone to "a plaintive lie"?  What's next, a lachrymose fib?  I think we're chewing more than we've bit off.
All best,
Johnm 

 


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