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Author Topic: Shipwrecks and the Blues  (Read 3891 times)

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Offline Blue in VT

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Shipwrecks and the Blues
« on: November 28, 2006, 10:04:46 AM »
Hey Weenies,

Looking for a little help on finding some good tunes that focus on, or at least mention, shipwrecks or other maritime disasters of some sort.  John M's excellent thread on the influence of the titanic story on the blues has got me wondering if there are other tunes out there that deal with shipwrecks.  I work at a Maritime Museum in VT and every summer we have a small event that has live music.  I considering putting together a set of tunes dealing with shipwrecks.

any help is greatly appreciated.

thanks,

Blue
Blue in VT

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Shipwrecks and the Blues
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2006, 10:22:21 AM »
Hey Blue:

One that springs to mind is the great "Lifesaver Blues" by Lonnie Johnson, which describes a sinking ship and subsequent rescue.

Alex

Offline waxwing

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Re: Shipwrecks and the Blues
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2006, 11:23:51 AM »
I remember John M's thread about Sleepy John's lyrics having a song about SJ falling from a ferry and almost drowning. That's close.

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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Offline phhawk

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Re: Shipwrecks and the Blues
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2006, 02:08:17 PM »
Bessie Smith did "Shipwreck Blues" and both Sara Martin and Clara Smith are listed as doing "Shipwrecked Blues".

Also Richard Rabbit Brown, Rev. Edward Wl Clayborn (The Guitar Evangelist), The Jubilee Gospel Team and Walter Roberts are all listed as doing "Sinking Of The Titanic".

Phil

rbuniv

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Re: Shipwrecks and the Blues
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2006, 08:45:41 AM »
Hello Blue;

Frank Hutchinson did a two sided record titled "Last Scene of the Titanic". If you are looking for songs other than country blues, there are a number of hillbilly songs about maritime disasters. Vernon Dalhart recorded songs about every kind of disaster, even one about a submarine. I have allot of this type of material in my collection of 78s. Let me know if you are interested and I'll take a look through my records.

RB




















Offline MTJ3

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Re: Shipwrecks and the Blues
« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2006, 08:34:22 PM »
The lyrics for several of the relevant songs are set forth below in chronological order of recording, with composer credits shown in brackets (with respect to which, note the "sibling rivalry" for such credit on the Clara Smith and Sara Martin sides).  The Clara Smith side and, in particular, the Martin side (with its "tango" accompaniment) are notable for their minor key (which should get them mention in another thread here).  The treatment of the first two verses in the Bessie Smith piece is particularly interesting in what is arguably its shift of the 9-10 bar lyrics to the 5-6 bars. 

You can listen to the sides by the Smiths, Martin and Johnson on www.redhotjazz.com

In the late 1930s, Walter Davis also recorded a song entitled "Lifeboat Blues," but I don't have (or at least can't find) a copy of and don't recall having heard it; I would be grateful if anyone else has and would let me know if it is based on Carr's song.

Clara Smith, "Shipwrecked Blues," recorded 3 April 1925 [Spencer Williams]

Ah, the gale is raging, and my ship without a sail.
Ah, the gale is raging, and my ship without a sail.
If the wind keeps on a-blowing, I won't be left to tell the tale.

Ah, the ship is sinking, and the lightning struck the mast.
Ah, the ship is sinking, and the lightning struck the mast.
And my crew is done deserted, I've got to stick here to the last.

Ah, I don't mind drowning, but the water is so cold.
No, I don't mind drowning, but the water is so cold.
If I must leave this good world, I want to leave it brave and bold.

Mama's shipwrecked, shipwrecked, she ain't got no time to lose.
Mama's shipwrecked, shipwrecked, she ain't got no time to lose.
Lord, if someone don't save me, I'll go down singing the shipwreck blues.

Sara Martin, "Shipwrecked Blues," recorded 5 September 1926  [Clarence Williams]

Oh, the gale is raging, and my ship's without a sail.
Oh, the gale is raging, and my ship's without a sail.
If the wind keeps on blowing, I won't be left to tell the tale.

Now my ship is sinking, and the lightning struck the mast.
Now the ship is sinking, and the lightning struck the mast.
And my crew done deserted, I've got to stick it to the last.

With no life preserver, tell me what I am to do.
With my life preserver, tell me what I am to do.
If my ship hits the bottom, I know I'll float the ocean blue.

Lord, I don't mind drowning, but the water is so cold.
No, I don't mind drowning, but the water is so cold.
If I must leave this good world, I want to leave it brave and bold.

Mama's shipwrecked, shipwrecked, she ain't got no time to lose.
Mama's shipwrecked, shipwrecked, she ain't got no time to lose.
Lord, if someone don't save me, I'll go down singing shipwrecked blues.

Lonnie Johnson  , "Life Saver Blues," recorded 9 November 1927

It's raining and storming on the sea, we're miles and miles from shore.
It's raining and storming on the sea, we're miles and miles from shore.
The way the waves is rocking the ship, we won't see home no more.

The wind is so strong, turning this old ship round and round.
These waves is so strong, turning this old ship round and round.
Something tells me won't be long before we're sinking down.

The captain say, "Get your life savers fasten them around your waist."
Captain say, "Get your life savers and fasten them around your waist.
Because we're sinking down, and the lifeboat is your safest place."

And we floated all night long in the storm, lost miles and miles from shore.
And the water was freezing and the rain began to pour.
I say, "Girls and boys, let's pray, cause we won't see home no more."

[Instrumental break]

Uncle Sam's ship was coming painted in red, white and blue.
Uncle Sam's ship was coming painted in red, white and blue.
We say we live in New York City, red and white blue brought us all the way through.

Leroy Carr, "Lifeboat Blues," recorded 19 March 1929 [Carr]

We was on a lifeboat in the middle of the sea.
We was on a lifeboat in the middle of the sea.
I began to wonder what would become of me.

The storm was rising, and the wind began to blow.
The storm was rising, and the wind began to blow.
The boat was sinking, and we had no place to go.

The captain hollered, "Let the lifeboat down."
The captain hollered, "Let the lifeboat down.
This boat is sinking, and we will surely drown."

I put my baby in the lifeboat and kissed her bye, bye, bye.
I put my baby in the lifeboat and kissed her bye, bye, bye.
I hated to leave her, and I stood on the deck, and I cried.

Early the next morning, another boat it came along.
Early the next morning, another boat it came along.
When I woke up, I was in my baby's arms.

Bessie Smith, "Shipwreck Blues," recorded 11 June 1931

Captain, tell your men to get on board.
Cast your sail just pull into another shore.

I'm dreary in mind, and I'm so worried in heart.
All the best friends sure has got to part.

Blow your whistle, Captain, so your men will know what to do.
Blow your whistle, Captain, so your men'll know what to do.
When a woman gets dreary, ain't no telling what she won't do.

[Instrumental break]

It's cloudy outdoors as can be.
Oh, it's cloudy as can be.
That's the time I need my good man with me.

[Instrumental break]

It's raining, and it's storming on the sea.
It's raining, it's storming on the sea.
I feel like somebody has shipwrecked poor me.

« Last Edit: December 02, 2006, 07:29:05 AM by MTJ3 »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Shipwrecks and the Blues
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2006, 10:34:07 AM »
Thanks for the lyrics to all those songs, MTJ3--that's what I call service!  What odd songs they are, singing about the lightning striking the mast and the rest.  It seems so apropos of nothing, unlike the various versions of "The Titanic", which generally at least drew some kind of religious moral from the tale.  It makes me wonder if there are analogous topics in present-day Popular music that will seem as baffling to people who hear the music years from now.  It seems as though there must be.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Blue in VT

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Re: Shipwrecks and the Blues
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2006, 08:19:19 AM »
Thanks to all!!!

This is wonderfull info and will really help me out...I think it will be a lot of fun to put together a small "set" of tunes like this.  Now I just have to get to work on them...oh where does the time go!!!

Once again the Weenie's come thru

thanks again,
I'm off to work on my slide for Lipscombs version of the titanic story... :D

Blue...
Blue in VT

Offline MTJ3

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Re: Shipwrecks and the Blues
« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2006, 10:55:53 AM »
What odd songs they are...It seems so apropos of nothing...

Johnm, That's exactly right.  Having the same reaction, I started looking at this topic with reference to Carr's recording, which is pretty much sui generis among his recorded works, and I was examining it in terms of antecedents, trying to consider why it was a subject that would have attracted the attention of the Clara Smith/Sara Martin/the Williams brothers, Lonnie Johnson and Leroy Carr, etc.  I haven't been able to find any "popular song" of the 1920s on the same subject, and have cursorily reconfirmed that this morning by thumbing through Arnold Shaw's The Jazz Age. I know little or nothing about "country music" of that era; it may have been a song subject in that genre, but it seems unlikely that that would stimulate these possibly most urban of blues writers (if one of the Williams brothers did, in fact, write the song for which they each received composer credit). 

Whatever the case may be, Carr or Vocalion liked the song enough for him to record it once (possibly with a vocal by Chippie Hill) in what you might call the "Crossover Dreams" session on 13 February 1929 (from which "How About Me?" and "Think Of Me Thinking Of You" were the only issued sides out of eleven cuts) and again on 19 March 1929.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2006, 12:59:31 PM by MTJ3 »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Shipwrecks and the Blues
« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2006, 12:26:39 PM »
In the late 1930s, Walter Davis also recorded a song entitled "Lifeboat Blues," but I don't have (or at least can't find) a copy of and don't recall having heard it; I would be grateful if anyone else has and would let me know if it is based on Carr's song.
Apologies for taking so long to listen to this. 'Fraid it's a totally different song from the Carr and its theme concerns putting his woman on a lifeboat and shipping her to "some foreign, distant land" however the way she looked at him he couldn't bring himself to do it. And that's about as far as the lifeboat imagery goes.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2006, 12:27:59 PM by Bunker Hill »

Offline Richard

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Re: Shipwrecks and the Blues
« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2006, 01:55:10 PM »
Nothing to do with the post as such, but I used to play in little Bix type five piece and it was advertised as -

"The Titanic Tea Room Quartet - always goes down well"

Now wasn't that worth sharing  ;D
« Last Edit: December 04, 2006, 01:56:44 PM by Richard »
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline Blue in VT

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Re: Shipwrecks and the Blues
« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2006, 06:49:13 AM »
Richard....hahahaha..love that...too funny

Cheers,

Blue
Blue in VT

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