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We have a special guest on harmonica, please give a nice round of acclause (sic) for... JOHN DYLAN - Muddy Waters, introduces Bob, Bottom Line 1975

Author Topic: Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues  (Read 17113 times)

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Offline Rivers

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Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues
« on: February 04, 2006, 07:23:25 AM »
Dated 1920 and often cited as the first recorded blues I believe Crazy Blues deserves some serious listening time from guitar players with a jazz/ragtime bent. It's a song very rich in distinct 'parts', I identify three, arguably four, verse variations flowing one into another.

This creates a strong melodic backbone on which to hang the narrative and sustained interest throughout. Each verse type's musical structure counts as 'interesting' tending to fall slightly outside the well-worn ragtime/ jazz/ blues progressions; some are downright weird.

The lyrics are controversial and have spawned several dissertations available on the internet. Leon Redbone made a nice cover version and goes into creative mumbling mode where Mamie sang: "I'm gonna do like a Chinaman, go and get some hop / Get myself a gun, and shoot myself a cop".

I will post some chords in a guitar-friendly key when I've finished figuring it out. Which could be quite a long time :P so if anyone else has a take on it please post away and maybe we can get some collaboration going.

This transcription courtesy of http://www.tokyo-blues.com/Crazy_Blues-lyrics.html


        I can't sleep at night
        I can't eat a bite
        'Cause the man I love
        He don't treat me right.

        He makes me feel so blue
        I don't know what to do
        Sometimes I'm sad inside
        And then begin to cry
        'Cause my best friend . . . said his last goodbye.

        There's a change in the ocean
        Change in the deep blue sea . . . but baby
        I tell you folks there . . . ain't no change in me
        My love for that man
        Will always be.

        Now I've got the crazy blues
        Since my baby went away
        I ain't got no time to lose
        I must find him today
        Now the doctor's gonna do all . . . that he can
        But what you gonna need is a undertaker man
        I ain't had nothin' but bad news
        Now I've got the crazy blues.

        Now I can read his letter
        I sure can't read his mind
        I thought he's lovin'me . . .
        He's leavint all the time
        Now I see . . .
        My poor love was Iyin'.


        I went to the railroad
        Hang my head on the track
        Thought about my daddy
        I gladly snatched it back
        Now my babe's gone
        And gave me the sack.

        Now I've got the crazy blues
        Since my baby went away
        I ain't had no time to lose
        I must find him today
        I'm gonna do like a Chinaman, go and get some hop
        Get myself a gun, and shoot myself a cop
        I ain't had nothin' but bad news
        Now I've got the crazy blues.

        Those blues.

        Composed by: Perry Bradford
        Originally sung by: Mamie Smith

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2006, 08:29:41 AM »
Bradford in his "unihibited" autobiography, Born With The Blues (Oak 1965), says this:

When my jazz band played for Mamie Smith to record the "Crazy Blues, we had no arrangements. They were what I called "hum and head arrangements." I mean we would listen to the melody and harmony of the piano and each man picked out his harmony notes.

It was crude, but the sound that Mamie and my Jazz Hounds planted that February morning in 1920 had such "down home" original corn in it that it has sprouted, grown and thrived all down through the years.

That's why I am glad to tell the truth about the beginning and give credit to whom credit is due.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2006, 08:32:35 AM »
"Hum and head" arrangements, I like it. There's some pretty serious harmonisation and counterpoint melody (I think, must listen again) going on though, part accidental I'm sure.

Offline SteveMcBill

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Re: Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2006, 08:39:55 AM »
Leon Redbone did a fingerstyle version (as I remember it - not played it for quite a while) of this - sadly I can't remember which CD at the moment !

Cheers.

Steve

P.S.: Just checked the net and it is on:

1. Live & Kickin? - CDLEM34
2. Double Time - Warner Bros - on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000002KGI/104-2766339-7928700?v=glance&n=5174 with music samples.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2006, 08:53:59 AM »
Hi Steve, I have Leon Redbone's version on Double Time. I tend to collect his records since he does such a good job of plundering ancient jazz history for guitar-arrangeable piano tunes which is also very much my thing at present.

The original Mamie Smith recording I have is pitched smack dab between the keys of E and F. Leon's version is in C, which is probably the the most obvious start key to go looking for a guitar arrangement, and is where I'm currently working on it.

The original is bordering on early "over production" with the band going full blast. It works real well trimmed down to a guitar arrangement.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2006, 09:17:11 AM »
Mark, Del Rey does a solo guitar version on X-Rey Guitar. Pretty mellow version actually. For Del. ;) It's still a fingerbuster though.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2006, 09:25:43 AM »
Cool, thanks Bud, that one got under the radar, will check it out. Del's in Austin soon, must call Steve and see whassup with the local gigs.

Offline GerryC

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Re: Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2006, 09:15:11 AM »
My former guitar teacher and still very good friend Roger Sutcliffe did an epic version of Crazy Blues on his album Under the Rubber Eagle (1988) which was re-issued on CD about ten years ago. He plays it in C and published tab for his version in his book Living with the Blues, published by Dave Mallinson Music in 1999. I don't know whether or not the book is still in print [although Roger still sells copies at his gigs] but you could try Dave Mallinson's website at www.mally.com  Failing that I could scan it and e-mail it to interested parties. It's a terrific arrangement in a ragtime/jazzy idiom with a finger-boggling instrumental break.

Cheerily,

Gerry C

Edited to add: Just checked Mally's website and the book is available there for the princely sum of ?2.00 (about $4.00). Grrr! It was ?10 when I bought it, even though Roger gives me a mention on p.41. Go to website and type "Roger Sutcliffe" into the search facility. It's a bargain full of splendid goodies.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2006, 09:23:21 AM by GerryC »
I done seen better days, but I'm puttin' up with these...

Offline SteveMcBill

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Re: Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2006, 10:15:51 AM »
Hi Gerry,

I'd say a definite 'Yes' to a copy of the arrangement if that's possible ?!

Cheers and thanks

Steve
steve.mcwilliam@btinternet.com

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues
« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2013, 08:39:01 AM »
Thought I'd give this a bump in light of the following

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-headstone-for-mamie-smith-blues-singer

Their aim is for $6,000 and have a long way to go. I made a measly contribution of $10 and will add $20 next month. As someone once said "every little helps"....

Offline jaycee

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Re: Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues
« Reply #10 on: August 03, 2013, 08:54:19 AM »
simply could'nt find the book on mallys website. i will ring him on monday and order a copy. i live extremely near him so maybe he will allow me to drive down and collect a copy from him.
jaycee

Offline daddystovepipe

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Re: Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2013, 11:08:43 AM »
mally.com has let me know that they don't have any of the books left.
Try Roger Sutcliffe directly or surf the net (I found a copy of the book for $12 and the cd for ?15, both + shipping)

Offline mick655

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Re: Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues
« Reply #12 on: August 05, 2013, 04:41:39 PM »
I want to thank Bunker Hill for posting about my indiegogo campaign to buy Mamie Smith a headstone. I write for Blues Revue, Blues Music Magazine, other venues and am writing a book about Mamie, her composer Perry Bradford, and the birth of recorded blues.

Of note, the last time a classic blues singer needed a headstone was Bessie Smith. Janis Joplin and Juanita Green bought it for her Philadelphia PA grave in 1970.

Odd sidelight: In 1946, when Mamie died, a group of German fans purchased a headstone and shipped it to New York. It never arrived and no one knows where or why.

Mamie died in Harlem and lies in unmarked ground in Staten Island, NYC. I hope to change that through Indiegogo.
Thanks,
Michael Cala

Offline Slack

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Re: Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues
« Reply #13 on: August 05, 2013, 08:55:47 PM »
Welcome Michael! 

Great film clip.  Every little bit helps, so I matched Bunkers contribution.

Offline mick655

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Re: Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues
« Reply #14 on: August 05, 2013, 11:00:04 PM »
Hi, Slack, thanks for the donation and kind words. Michael

 


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