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We knows nothing much about the blues... we called it blues, we called it breakdowns, we called it blues and some people say it's square dances... We didn't know what it was; the achin'-hearted blues is slow, breakdowns is fast - Percy Thomas, who played in the Son Simms Four with Muddy Waters, interviewed by Paul Oliver, from Blues Off The Record

Author Topic: Early use of "blues" in song title?  (Read 2521 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Early use of "blues" in song title?
« on: November 14, 2006, 12:52:49 PM »
I was rummaging in a box of old photocopies and came across a tatty one of sheet music. It is written by, I think, two popular black song writers/perfomers of the time named Chris Smith & Euday Bowan though not sure.

Make of this what you will.
-------------
I've Got De Blues - 1901- 2/4 time
by Smith & Euday
 
Big Sam Jackson was a popular man,
Among Darktown's elite,
They made him toastmaster at ev' ry affair,
Cause his speeches were cert' ny a treat;

He took his Liza to a banquet last night,
As he rose to speak he spied,
His rival and his Lize, both a making goo goo eyes,
Then poor Sam forgot his toast and sadly sighed:

chorus

I've got de blues, I beg to be excused;
My heart is breaking and my head is aching
That is why I refuse;
I'm all confused, ma gal I 'spects to lose,
I can't make no toast tonight
Because I've got de blues

Sam thought he'd take Liza to a coon show,
He started out to walk,
He wore a very loud suit of clothes,
It was really quite loud 'nuff to talk;

He sat a moment on a bench in the park,
It had been painted blue,
His blood in anger boiled, when he say his clothes were spoiled,
And to moan these words was all he could do:

chorus

I've got de blues,
I beg to be excused
My heart is breaking and my head is aching
That is why I refuse;
I'm all confused, my clothes have been abused,
I can't see no show tonight
Because I've got de blues

Offline Rivers

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Re: Early use of "blues" in song title?
« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2006, 04:54:24 AM »
Hmmm, that one beat out Mamie Smith by 20 odd years. Which makes one realize there is an ocean of cool music we'll never get to hear, in its original form anyway.

Offline Pan

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Re: Early use of "blues" in song title?
« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2006, 06:18:39 AM »
This is interesting.

I think I've heard it claimed somewhwere that the expression "blues" was used in the 17th century England originally, before it had anything to do with afro-american music. If this is true, I wonder why we've heard so little of it. One would expect the expression to surface more in litterature and music.

Euday L. Bowan is an early ragtime composer ("12th Street Rag", among others), according to this link: http://nfo.net/cal/tb5.html (scroll down).
The 2/4 time signature perhaps indicates a ragtime piece, too.
So this clearly has to do with afro-american music. I wonder if it resembles anything we think as "blues" musically, although Bowman has several compositions with the word "blues" in the title: "Colorado Blues", "Fort Worth Blues", "Kansas City Blues" (!), and "Tipperary Blues" .

Anyway, ragtime has it links to blues, and you've got me curious, Bunker Hil.

Do you actually have the music printed on sheet? Any way/chance we could see/study it?

BTW I think Patton has been reportedly playing "Pony Blues" as early as 1910. That's the earliest notion of an actual blues song I know of. Can anyone think of an earlier song?

Cheers

Pan


Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Early use of "blues" in song title?
« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2006, 08:43:59 AM »
Anyway, ragtime has it links to blues, and you've got me curious, Bunker Hil.

Do you actually have the music printed on sheet? Any way/chance we could see/study it?
Not the sheet music. About 40 years ago I came across a 1930s book about Edwardian Music Hall in Westminster Public Library, Charing Cross Road, London. Thumbing through it I spotted that transcription which I copied using the machine in the library.

However, a decade or so ago it was reported somewhere that Tom Morgan (author of "Cakewalk To Concert Halls") actually turned up the original. I'm sure a quick Google will locate his website should you wish to contact him.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Early use of "blues" in song title?
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2006, 10:30:46 AM »
Coincidentally, I am poking through "Broadcasting the Blues" by Paul Oliver, made up of transcripts of radio broadcasts he did over the years, and in the transcript for the "Ragtime Millionaire" show, he mentions "I Got de Blues" in a discussion of Chris Smith. He also notes it is one of the first songs to be published with the word 'blues' in the title. However, Oliver dates it to 1912 in this book.

Chris Smith was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1879 and had a vaudeville duet with Elmer Bowman. He composed "Never Let the Same Bee Sting You Twice" in 1903, later recorded by Rabbit Brown. Smith also wrote (with Bert Williams) "Next Week Sometime", recorded by Alec Johnson, which leads Oliver to speculate whether Smith might have be the composer of "Mysterious Coon", also recorded by Johnson. Smith later wrote "You're in the Right Church but the Wrong Pew" and "Ballin' the Jack".

edited to correct birth date of Smith.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2006, 10:32:33 AM by uncle bud »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Early use of "blues" in song title?
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2006, 10:53:07 AM »
Veering slightly off topic, but BH's mention of Tom Morgan took me to Morgan's post-Katrina blog (a whole 'nuther topic, http://morleans.blogspot.com/). The blog had in its archive a what-I'm-reading link to a book I hadn't heard of called "Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult & Imitation in American Popular Culture" which looks like it might be an interesting read.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1585424986/

Probably not a book cover you'll carry around on the bus into work.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Early use of "blues" in song title?
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2006, 11:55:55 AM »
I've sent Tom Morgan an email concerning the 1901 sheet music of this song which I believe him to have in his possession. We'll see what transpires.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Early use of "blues" in song title?
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2006, 12:54:05 PM »
How about this for a speedy response:

Alan

I'd have to check the sheet to be absolutely sure but yes I would say it
is the same song. I have the lyrics up on my site at:

http://jass.com/deblues.html

I wonder where Paul Oliver came up with the 1912 date? Mine would have
come for the copyright sheet on the second page. It will take me a while
to dig it out of my archives but if I have time over the week I will look.
Elmer Bowman, not Euday Bowman was Smith's vaudeville partner, born in the
1870's and died in New York in 1916.

Tom

Offline crookedtune

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Re: Early use of "blues" in song title?
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2006, 01:15:32 PM »
Blue has always been the color that denoted passivity and introspection.  I can't remember the details, but I remember reading references to "the blue devils" being a synonym for sadness or depression, possibly in one of the Shakespeare plays.  And of course, that term also got picked up, with a different meaning altogether, by many sports teams, including Duke University here in NC.  Finally, "blue devils" is another name for DTs suffered by those withdrawing from alcohol dependency, (not a joyous activity). 

It all seems kind of tangled up in time to me, but some of this may figure into the origin of using the word "blues" to describe certain music. 

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Early use of "blues" in song title?
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2006, 01:43:39 PM »
The confusion among dates made me go back to make sure I had got it right, and at least this time I did. Oliver writes:

Chris Smith went on to compose "You're in the Right Church but the Wrong Pew," which was adapted by many black singers; he also wrote the well-known dance number "Ballin' the Jack," and in 1912, with Elmer Bowman, "I Got De Blues" -- one of the first songs to be published with "blues" in the title.

Tom Morgan has a page on Chris Smith, BTW, at his site. http://jass.com/csmith.html.

Offline Pan

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Re: Early use of "blues" in song title?
« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2006, 01:49:05 PM »
Hi Uncle Bud and Bunker Hill.

Obviously you are more skilled with google than I am  :). Thanks for the links.

Crookedtune, I'm trying to find the reference to the 17th century, but I forgot where I've seen it.
However, concerning the etymology of the word "blues" I came up with this:  "An early reference to "the blues" can be found in George Colman's farce Blue devils, a farce in one act (1798)." on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blues#Etymology. The site also confirms the words' use for delirium tremens, as you mention. :-X.

A quote from this site: http://www.jomiwi.com/?cat=12 (scroll down): "The adjective blue has been associated with despondency and sadness since the 16th century. The noun the blues has been with us since 1741. The blues is a shortening of blue devils, demons popularly thought to cause depression and sadness. Blue devils have been around since 1616."

Anyway I think I've come across with a claim that W.C.Handy had a song published in sheet music in 1912 (maybe it was called Memphis Blues?), which was somewhere commented as being the "earliest" blues known to man. So If I Got De Blues really is from 1901 (and really is a blues) that would be 11 years earlier... I'll have try to find this again on the internet to be sure.

This is getting interesting  :)

Pan

Edited to correct myself: the year BH came up with is 1901, not 1910!
« Last Edit: November 17, 2006, 02:29:30 PM by Pan »

Offline Pan

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Re: Early use of "blues" in song title?
« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2006, 01:52:30 PM »
W.C Handy's Memphis Blues is from 1912, according to this site: http://www2.una.edu/library/handy/works.htm

Pan

Offline dave stott

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Re: Early use of "blues" in song title?
« Reply #12 on: November 17, 2006, 04:26:34 PM »
Hi all,

I have 2 Edison 4 minute Cylinder records in my collection with Blues in the title

Cylinder # 3924 Rainy Day Blues by    Yerkes Sax. Sextet
Cylinder # 4182 Broadway Blues by    Al Bernard

I can't seem to find my book that lists the year of issue... But my best guess is between 1910 - 1920.

Dave

Offline Rivers

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Re: Early use of "blues" in song title?
« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2006, 07:39:26 AM »
Since this has strayed a little from song titles this item from the weenie blues quotes collection has always intrigued me.
Steve C submitted it originally if I remember correctly:

"Wen he gets (up) in de mornin' he feels bad, and wen (he) goes to bed at
night he feels wusser. He tinks dat his body is made ob ice cream, all 'cept
his heart, and dat - dat's a piece ob lead in de middle. All sorts ob sights
are hubbering around, and red monkeys is buzzing about his ears... (D)em's
what I calls de bloos" - Sam Jonsing in an 1839 (!) New Orleans newspaper
« Last Edit: November 18, 2006, 07:42:01 AM by Rivers »

Offline MTJ3

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Re: Early use of "blues" in song title?
« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2006, 08:17:26 AM »
Although Handy (who did publish "Memphis Blues" in 1912--he decided he wanted to publish it in late summer of that year and got word of the arrival in Memphis of his published on September 27, 1912) reported hearing "East St. Louis" in St. Louis in 1892, and the "Going where the Southern cross' the Dog" in Clarksdale in 1903, and wrote somewhat about "folk forms," it is a matter of some frustration that he never really bears witness to much of specific interest on this particular issue.  On this point, he does state (Father of the Blues at p. 231), in pertinent part as follows:

"In truth, Memphis Blues is not the first title to combine the name of a city with the word 'blues.'  There was Richmond Blues decades before the Memphis Blues.  But it was not a blues; it was a six-eight tempo military march dedicated to a military company similar to the Washington Grays.  However, as a matter of fact, I have recently learned that an edition of Dallas Blues for piano, composer anonymous, arranged by M. Annabel Robbins, and published by Wand Publishing Co. of Oklahoma City, was registered for copyright by Hart A. Wand just two days before the publication of the Memphis Blues."

It's clear to me that Handy was keenly aware of this issue, and he was probably "keeping score," but for whatever reason, he wasn't talkin'.

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