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You can't make no money layin' straight these days - Bo Carter, Doubled Up In a Knot

Author Topic: flood songs  (Read 6068 times)

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Offline a2tom

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flood songs
« on: July 13, 2005, 09:52:50 AM »
The following comes up on the quote oracle occasionally:

"At the peak of the great Mississippi River flood of 1993, the river in Iowa carried 435,000 cubic feet of water a second; at St Louis, after the Missouri River added it's waters, it carried 1 million cubic feet a second... In 1927... the Mississippi would be carrying in excess of three million cubic feet of water each second - J.M. Barry, Rising Tide The Great Mississippi Flood Of 1927 "

As someone who lived in St. Louis in 1993, I can tell you it was nothing less than awesome, if in a devastating way.  Even in the era of massive flood walls and other modern defenses, the power and consequences were remarkable.  People who lived on the river, for whom it was part of our daily lives, found ourselves routinely going down to where the levee used to be (now under 20 feet of water...) just to watch the river. It was just mesmerizing.  So the concept of a flood 3 times as bad as that is nearly incomprehensible to me (although I can't tell if that 3 million figure reflects the same point in the river, or farther downriver, toward the delta). 

In any case, I find myself wondering about the link to the blues.  I've got the basic facts down about the river, the delta, and so on.  And I have a vague but poorly defined sense that there are many songs from the era about the flood.  But what are they?  I've poked a bit on the web, but got mostly vague comments.  Sounds like a good "Weenie list topic" to me.  I admit to being more interested at the moment about songs about the flood, not just about the river/water in a generic sense (although that may too fine a line...).

So, what is your favorite 1927 flood song?

tom

Offline Slack

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Re: flood songs
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2005, 09:59:04 AM »
I'll get us started:

Charlie Patton's "High Water" comes immediately to mind.

Offline Slack

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Re: flood songs
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2005, 10:07:33 AM »
... more properly 'High Water Everywhere'.  Here are some others

Blind Lemon Jefferson - High Water Blues
Carl Martin - High Water Flood Blues
Casey Bill Weldon - Flood Water Blues
Big Bill Broonzy - Southern Flood blues & Terrible Flood Blues (same song?)

Anyway, the search facility on the Juke is pretty good.  ;D

Offline waxwing

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Re: flood songs
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2005, 10:17:43 AM »
I think there's a Barbecue Bob song about losin' his girl in a flood, but it doesn't come up in the first page of a juke search on BB so I couldn't find it. I guess that might be a different flood he's talkin' about.
All for now.
John C.

[Edit] Found it at Document: Mississippi Heavy Water Blues. Guess it is 'that' flood.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2005, 10:26:35 AM by waxwing »
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Offline a2tom

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Re: flood songs
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2005, 11:50:06 AM »
sure Slack, take everything with Flood in the title...  ;)  But I read a comment on the web that "nearly every pre-war blues artist had a song about the flood".  If so, plenty must have less obvious titles? 

The BBob is maybe part of the overall interest to me.  The thing about a river flood is how pervasive it is, and how long it persists.  You wake up with it and go to bed with it for weeks on end.  It would seem this event was so important and pervasive that it was impacting people who couldn't seem to have been directly affected by the water?

Anyway, are any of these (or others yet to come) particularly good songs?  Favorites?

tom

Offline Rivers

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Re: flood songs
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2005, 12:05:30 PM »
Mississippi Heavy Water Blues is mine. I seem to remember reading somewhere, sleevenotes perhaps, that the record company had one big hit with a flood song and shipped musicians down there specifically to write more songs about it, including Lemon from Texas and Bob Hicks from Georgia. So the emotion of the writing is arguably not as strong as it would have been for a local musician. Patton's High Water Everywhere would have more cred I guess. Miss. Heavy Water Blues is a gas to play on a 12 string.

I strongly recommend JM Barry's book, Rising Tide, The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Also there's lots more good reading on floods, levees, development of the delta etc in the Calt/Wardlow Patton book. Honeyboy Edwards has some first hand accounts in his bio The World Don't Owe Me Nothin'. All these books give the strong impression floods were a big fact of life in the delta back then. How did they effect the blues? Just more misery piled on to the poor sharecroppers' wretched lives I guess.

Offline GhostRider

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Re: flood songs
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2005, 12:37:24 PM »
Howdy:

Does George Carter's "Risin' River Blues" count?

Alex

Offline NotRevGDavis

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Re: flood songs
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2005, 12:46:25 PM »
Would Memphis Minnies- "When the Levee Breaks" count?
Got the name, still workin' on the licks!

Offline Slack

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Re: flood songs
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2005, 12:48:24 PM »
Quote
sure Slack, take everything with Flood in the title...  Wink 

Clever isn;t it? ;)  And also "High water" -- but I should have just done "water" and I would have picked up the BBQ Bob.

Quote
But I read a comment on the web that "nearly every pre-war blues artist had a song about the flood".  If so, plenty must have less obvious titles?

I've never heard that generalization.  If you scan for "water" on the Juke you'll a few more that may be obscure like Muddy Water Blues - whcih may or may not hav to do with a flood.

edit: good one Gary.

Cheers,
slack

Offline a2tom

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Re: flood songs
« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2005, 12:55:50 PM »
All these books give the strong impression floods were a big fact of life in the delta back then.

On the one hand, I suspect this is a difference between the St. Louis experience, where the river more often than not is behaved (enough) to stay in its banks, and true floods are perhaps less common.  As opposed to the delta where things are flat and proably bordering on a flood most of the time by the basic geography.  On the other hand, there are floods, and then there are floods!  When entire communities dissappear under the river for a month - I hope that wasn't happening routinely.  (In St. Louis as I am sure elsewhere you have to get flood plain certification to buy/sell a house - people still insist on living in flood plains, though...).

Interesting about shipping folks in to write songs about it.  I don't doubt it in the least (and it explains the like of Texans and Georgians writing about the Mississippi) - there would have been plenty of time for it.

tom

Offline Johnm

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Re: flood songs
« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2005, 02:17:07 PM »
Hi all,
Great thread idea, Tom.  I think "Rising River Blues" absolutely qualifies, Alex.  I thought of a couple more:
   * Tallahatchie River Blues-Mattie Delaney
   * Boat's Up The River-John Jackson
   * Slidin' Delta-Tommy Johnson
I'm moving this thread to the Main Forum.  If the Train Songs thread can live there, I reckon the Flood Songs thread can, too.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Norfolk Slim

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Re: flood songs
« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2005, 01:07:02 AM »
John Lee Hooker's 'Tupelo'.

Offline a2tom

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Re: flood songs
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2005, 02:40:45 PM »
From some further web poking:

Bessie Smith, Back Water Blues
Lonnie Johnson, Broken Levee Blues

The Bessie Smith apparently was recorded early in 1927 and was released right at peak flood.  May or may not have been recorded with the impending flood in mind - maybe just lucky (in a manner of speaking)!

tom

Offline waxwing

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Re: flood songs
« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2005, 03:46:15 PM »
Back water usually refers to an area in a slough where there is no apparent current and is used as an adjective, "that back water town" meaning something like the middle of no where. Are you sure the song is actually about the flood, or any flood?
All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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Willie Brown's Liquor at CD Baby

Offline a2tom

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Re: flood songs
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2005, 04:56:32 PM »
Here's a link to the lyrics of the Bessie Smith song.  Also check out the definition below the lyrics.  Definitely about flooding.  I think your sense of back water/backwater is exactly the same - an area off the main flow, usually stagnant and nowhere - but important in a flood because that's where a lot of the excess water goes (in a retrograde fashion, hence "back" water).  Certainly doesn't seem like a desirable place to live - in backwater country.  Although nowadays sounds like maybe we call them flood plains and build expensive houses there!

http://blueslyrics.tripod.com/lyrics/bessie_smith/backwater_blues_version_1.htm

tom

 


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