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Author Topic: Booker White Lyrics  (Read 17987 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Re: Booker White Lyrics
« Reply #15 on: January 02, 2011, 03:31:26 PM »
Hi all,
Booker White recorded "Black Train Blues" on March 7, 1940, at the beginning of the amazing 2-day session in which he was backed by Washboard Sam and ended up with 12 of the strongest Country Blues songs and performances ever recorded.  Booker accompanied himself out of A position in standard tuning on "Black Train Blues", and the song employed a phrasing archetype that Booker would use over and over in the course of the 2-day session.  Basically, what Booker did in his phrasing was shorten the instrumental response that answers each sung line.  He did this by the following means:  he would sing over the first two bars of each phrase, do a four-beat instrumental response and tag on two extra beats to accommodate the pick-up beats for the next vocal line.  The form for "Black Train Blues" maps out so, assuming four beats per bar unless otherwise indicated:

   |    IV7    |    IV7    |    I +2 beats  |

   |    IV7    |    IV7    |    I + 2 beats  |

   |    V7     |    IV7    |    I + 2 beats  |

Booker's lyrics for "Black Train Blues" are unusual in their use of interior rhymes in the opening lines of the verses.  "Haints" = "Haunts", ghosts or spirits.  Here is "Black Train Blues":

 

   My heart is filled with pain, I believe I'll catch the train
   My heart is filled with pain, I believe I'll catch the train
   The woman I love, she has another man

   Yonder come the train, and I ain't got no change
   Yonder come the train, and I ain't got no change
   All I can do is stand and wring my hands

   I don't feel ashamed, standin' and wringin' my hands at the train
   I don't feel ashamed, standin' and wringin' my hands at the train
   I ain't the first man the train left cold in hand

   That the same big black train that put me in a strain
   That the same big black train that put me in a strain
   I ride the train, keep the women from spendin' my change

   I don't see nothing but haints standin' at the train
   I don't see nothing but haints standin' at the train
   That the same black train that left me in a strain

   OUTRO

All best,
Johnm
   
« Last Edit: June 17, 2020, 06:54:38 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Booker White Lyrics
« Reply #16 on: January 02, 2011, 03:39:32 PM »
Hi all,
Booker White seemed a good candidate for a merged lyric thread, so I brought together pre-existing threads on "Jitterbug Swing", "The Promise True and Grand" and "Poor Boy", and merged them, keeping the original post titles with the exception of the thread starter.  We can take it from here now.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: Booker White Lyrics
« Reply #17 on: January 03, 2011, 10:18:09 AM »
Hi all,
Booker White recorded "When Can I Change My Clothes" on March 7, 1940, the same day as "Black Train Blues".  I believe "When Can I Change My Clothes" to be one of the most remarkable commercial Country Blues ever recorded.  The singularity of its lyric stance and the intensity of Booker's delivery make it unique.  Booker accompanies himself out of E position in standard tuning, playing with tremendous force and power.  For the melody, he borrows from "Shake 'Em On Down", a melody that I believe, but am not sure, was first recorded by Johnnie Temple.

I've always thought of the chorus blues archetype as essentially a Pop music convention, but "When Can I Change My Clothes" definitely makes me re-think that assessment, for it is so much more intense and closer to the bone than chorus blues normally are.  As great as the blues are and can be, there have only ever been a couple of lyricists that I've heard in the genre who could make something like this song--Booker White, Sleepy John Estes, Robert Pete Williams, and . . .? Booker's searing delivery paints the whole picture.  Here is "When Can I Change My Clothes?":



   Never will forget that day when they had me in Parchman jail
   Wouldn't no one even come and go my bail
   REFRAiN: I wonder how long, babe, b'fore I can change my clothes
   I wonder how long b'fore I can change my clothes

   So many days I would be sad and down
   I would be sad and down, lookin' down on my clothes
   REFRAIN: I wonder how long before I can change my clothes
   I wonder how long b'fore I can change my clothes

   So many days, when the day would be cold
   They would carry me out in the rain and cold
   REFRAIN: I wonder how long before I can change my clothes
   I wonder how long b'fore I can change my clothes

   So many days, when the day would be cold
   You could stand and look at the convict toes
   REFRAIN: "I wonder how long before I can change my clothes.
   I wonder how long b'fore I can change my clothes."

   So many days I would be walkin' down the road
   I could hardly walk for lookin' down on my clothes
   REFRAIN: I wonder how long before I can change my clothes
   I wonder how long b'fore I can change my clothes

   Never will forget that day when they taken my clothes
   Taken my citizen clothes and th'owed 'em away-ee
   REFRAIN: Wonder how long before I can change my clothes
   I wonder how long b'fore I can change my clothes

Edited 1/11 to pick up corrections from banjochris

All best,
Johnm

 
« Last Edit: June 17, 2020, 06:55:52 AM by Johnm »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Booker White Lyrics
« Reply #18 on: January 03, 2011, 12:43:37 PM »
Hi all,
Booker White recorded "Black Train Blues" on March 7, 1940, at the beginning of the amazing 2-day session in which he was backed by Washboard Sam and ended up with 12 of the strongest Country Blues songs and performances ever recorded.  Booker accompanied himself out of A position in standard tuning on "Black Train Blues", and the song employed a phrasing archetype that Booker would use over and over in the course of the 2-day session.  Basically, what Booker did in his phrasing was shorten the instrumental response that answers each sung line.  He did this by the following means:  he would sing over the first two bars of each phrase, do a four-beat instrumental response and tag on two extra beats to accommodate the pick-up beats for the next vocal line. 

Thanks for describing that phrasing pattern, John. It sure is effective, isn't it? I really like it.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Booker White Lyrics
« Reply #19 on: January 03, 2011, 05:22:34 PM »
Yep, uncle bud, I really like the way Booker phrased those songs, too.  I should have said that he reserves this phrasing model for his songs that are in an AAB lyric format, with the first line sung twice and answered by a concluding tagline.  He didn't use the archetype for either chorus blues, like "When Can I Change My Clothes", or for more freely phrased songs like "Aberdeen Mississippi Blues" or "Jitterbug Swing".  One thing I especially like about the phrasing model that Booker was using for his AAB songs in that 2-day session is the way that the shorter, "interrupted" instrumental response lends a greater sense of urgency to the phrasing.  This, taken in combination with the force and urgency with which Booker played and sang everything at those sessions, makes for a much more intense feel than what we're accustomed to hearing in an AAB-phrased blues.
All best,
Johnm   

Offline Johnm

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Re: Booker White Lyrics
« Reply #20 on: January 03, 2011, 05:33:30 PM »
Hi all,
As long as we're discussing aspects of Booker's performances that don't pertain strictly to his lyrics here, it's worth mentioning that part of the musical source of the heightened tension in his accompaniment to "When Can I Change My Clothes" results from the bass notes he's hitting with his thumb behind the I chord in the first four bars of the form.  He's playing in E, and despite the fact that he has a beautiful deep open E string to strike, he chooses instead to back those first four bars with a non-chord tone, the open A string, at which he hammers away.  The fact that he's pounding away at that low A beneath his E chord phrase really ups the ante with regards to building up tension through the first four bars of the form.  When he does resolve to A in the fifth bar, it's like the other shoe drops, and we get a release from the cumulative tension that built up in the first four bars.  The fact that the release of the tension coincides with the arrival of the song's chorus makes it all the more masterful.  I remember Phil Thorne mentioning that he listened for tension and release in the blues--well, Booker gave us a prime instance of that in "When Can I Change My Clothes".
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: January 04, 2011, 09:53:54 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Booker White Lyrics
« Reply #21 on: January 03, 2011, 06:24:43 PM »
Hi all,
John Lomax recorded Booker White while Booker was an inmate at Parchman Penitentiary, Camp 10, on May 23, 1939, and listed Booker's name as Washington (Barrlehouse) White, according to Keith Briggs' liner notes to "Bukka White-The Vintage Recordings", Document DOCD-5679.  "Sic 'Em Dogs On", recorded that day, may be Booker's first recorded slide number that he played out of cross-note tuning. It has the characteristic rocking on the third string, from the major third of the I chord to the root of the IV chord, a sound common to all of Booker's later cross-note slide tunes and absent from his earlier Vestapol recordings, like "Panama Limited". 
"Sic 'Em Dogs On" is a unique song and performance.  It is very freely phrased, with verses of varying lengths, and outlines an altercation between Booker and a local woman.  It sounds as though Booker's sense of what the money he had paid her entitled him to greatly exceeded her own sense of obligation for that amount.  It's an odd feeling to hear a prison inmate singing a song in which he is threatening to summon the law.  I'd appreciate help with the bent bracketed portion of the lyrics--I may have it right or not.  "Suc" is the past tense of "sic".  The call-and-response between the voice and guitar is so tightly knit that it doesn't make any sense to think in terms of Booker taking a solo in the course of the rendition.  I think this is about as good as it gets in Country Blues.  Here is "Sic 'Em Dogs On":



   Says, "I'm goin' downtown and tell the Chief poli' you siccin' your dogs on me."

   She went to runnin', runnin' and cryin'
   She said, "Listen, Son, I ain't gonna do it no more, I ain't gonna do it no more."

   "You done got my money, now you tryin' to sic your dog on me."

   "That's all right there, girl, how you do men, you gon' cheat again."

   "I'm gonna tell the Chief you suc your dog on me, told me you didn't want me around."

   "Oh, Mister Chief, she done got my money now, siccin' her dog on me."

   She went to running and crying, says,
   "Sic 'em, Butcher, 'cause Spider, he won't bite."

   "If you take me back, I won't do it no more, baby, don't sic your dogs on me."

   She said, "Listen, daddy, don't you drive me, don't you drive me around."

Edited 1/4 to pick up corrections from banjochris and dj.
Edited 1/13 to pick up correction from Johnm

All best,
Johnm
   
« Last Edit: June 17, 2020, 06:57:40 AM by Johnm »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Booker White Lyrics
« Reply #22 on: January 03, 2011, 11:13:05 PM »
White is quoted at length telling the story behind this song in the Country Blues Songbook.

In later recordings of this, he sings "Sic them Butcher, Fido he won't bite," which I think is the missing line here, except for that word after Butcher, which sounds something like cross or 'cross to me.

Also perhaps worth noting in the Library of Congress recording after the line "If you take me back, I won't do it no more, baby, don't sic your dogs on me" you can hear John Lomax telling Booker: "One more."
Chris

Offline dj

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Re: Booker White Lyrics
« Reply #23 on: January 04, 2011, 04:53:18 AM »
I hear the line in question as:

Sic 'IM Butcher 'CAUSE SPIDER he won't bite

Though I suppose what I hear as SPIDER could be FIDO, pronounced "FIDER", with a bit of the "s" from 'CAUSE carried over at the start of the word.

Offline banjochris

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Re: Booker White Lyrics
« Reply #24 on: January 04, 2011, 09:37:18 AM »
I think you're right on the 'CAUSE, dj. All I know on the "Fido" is that's definitely how he sang it in the '60s. I'll go back tonight and listen again to see if I hear "Spider." My guess is he's just adding the r sound at the end as you suggested.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Booker White Lyrics
« Reply #25 on: January 04, 2011, 09:51:23 AM »
Thanks very much for the help, Chris and dj.  For the Parchman recording of the song, "Sic 'em, Butcher, 'cause Spider, he won't bite."  sounds dead on the money.  I will make the change.  I hadn't noticed Lomax saying "One more" before the final verse of "Sic 'Em Dogs On", though I had noticed him saying the same thing before the last verse of "Poor Boy".  I'm glad to get that line, thanks.
All best,
Johnm

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Booker White Lyrics
« Reply #26 on: January 04, 2011, 09:52:12 AM »
Hi all,
As long as we're discussing aspects of Booker's performances that don't pertain strictly to his lyrics here, it's worth mentioning that part of the musical source of the heightened tension in Bukka's accompaniment to "When Can I Change My Clothes" results from the bass notes he's hitting with his thumb behind the I chord in the first four bars of the form.  He's playing in E, and despite the fact that he has a beautiful deep open E string to strike, he chooses instead to back those first four bars with a non-chord tone, the open A string, at which he hammers away.  The fact that he's pounding away at that low A beneath his E chord phrase really ups the ante with regards to building up tension through the first four bars of the form.  When he does resolve to A in the fifth bar, it's like the other shoe drops, and we get a release from the cumulative tension that built up in the first four bars.  The fact that the release of the tension coincides with the arrival of the song's chorus makes it all the more masterful.  I remember Phil Thorne mentioning that he listened for tension and release in the blues--well, Booker gave us a prime instance of that in "When Can I Change My Clothes".
All best,
Johnm

John:

Little Hat Jones made use of this device in this six accompaniments in the "Corpus Blues" mold. In the first four bars (E position, Standard tuning), as you mention, even with a perfectly good low open E string, he double thumbs (E to A) into the open A string and thumps on it. When the IV chord arrives, the does an identical thumb into A and the tension is released. 'Though LHJ would not be happy with NO dissonance, so he adds the 3rd fret, second string (D) to his A chord to get it back!

Both Texas players LHJ and Funny Papa Smith often use non-chord tone monotonic bass behind some of their tunes, again often when the chord tone is available, which is probably just for the reason you describe. Sounds cool, if you can get past the ear grate (which is lessened by the damping of the bass strings). Hungrey Wolf is a good example.

Alex

Offline Johnm

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Re: Booker White Lyrics
« Reply #27 on: January 04, 2011, 12:01:29 PM »
That's a good point, Alex, and there are other players, Mance Lipscomb and Bo Carter among them, who were not exactly fastidious about matching up the notes they were hitting in the bass with the chord being played.  With Mance at least, I think the time-keeping function of the bass was far more important than the note being struck.

I think another factor that may have come into play with players like Booker and some of the St. Louis players like Clifford Gibson and Jaydee Short, who rarely pick the sixth string, is that the string being struck in the bass may be determined as much or more by the way they positioned their right hands and what was comfortable from that playing position than the sound of the note or pitch being struck.  In other words, it's possible that for their right hands, a spacing which allowed for the thumb to strike the fifth string and the index finger the first string was comfortable, and a spacing that had the thumb striking the sixth string and the index finger the first string felt a little too wide and difficult to control, or drive as hard as these players preferred to do.
All best,
Johnm

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Booker White Lyrics
« Reply #28 on: January 04, 2011, 03:19:44 PM »
I figured I would pitch in here since I have High Fever Blues transcribed. Booker recorded it March 8, 1940. He is tuned quite low, playing out of C position pitched a little sharp of A.  Here is "High Fever Blues":



High Fever Blues - Booker White

I'm taken down with the fever, and it won't let me sleep
I'm taken down with the fever, and it won't let me sleep
It was about three o'clock, before heat would let me be

I wish somebody would come and drive my fever away
I wish somebody, come and drive my fever away
This fever I'm havin', sho' is in my way

The fever I'm havin', sure is hard on a man
The fever I'm havin', sure is hard on a man
They don't allow my lover, come and shake my hand

I wonder what's the matter with the fever, sure is hard on a man
I wanna know what's the matter, how come this fever hard on a man
Doctor said, "Ain't the fever, just your lover has another man"

Doctor, get your fever gauge and put it under my tongue
Doctor, get your fever gauge and put it under my tongue
Doctor says, "All you need, your lover in your arms"

I wants my lover, come and drive my fever away
I wants my lover, come and drive my fever away
Doctor says she'd do me more good in a day, than he would in all of his days

edited to pick up correction from Johnm
« Last Edit: June 17, 2020, 06:58:46 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Booker White Lyrics
« Reply #29 on: January 04, 2011, 06:22:14 PM »
Thanks for posting "High Fever Blues", uncle bud.  I think the tagline in the first verse might be
   It was about three o'clock, before HEAT would let me be
All best,
Johnm

 


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