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The sky is crying, look at the tears roll down the street. I'm waiting in tears for my baby, and I wonder where can she be? - Elmore James, The Sky Is Crying

Author Topic: Mystery Titles  (Read 9578 times)

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Offline phhawk

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Re: Mystery Titles
« Reply #15 on: November 21, 2006, 08:55:07 AM »
The lyric "up the ride away" might make sense if you thought of it as a horseback ride away, indicating a general but relative distance.

It also occurred to me that a blues artist might have added a verse with the title after the fact. If a recording had become fairly popular and they were associated with that recording, it would not have been very difficult to add another verse with the title.

I wonder, just how important titles were to blues performers anyway? Was it something that was made neccessary by making recordings, or was it something that they emphasised all along?

 

Offline dj

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Re: Mystery Titles
« Reply #16 on: November 21, 2006, 09:44:19 AM »
Quote
Just how important titles were to blues performers anyway?

That's a really good question!  My sense, strictly from reading interviews with and about country blues singers, is that often their pieces were remembered by a "signature line" which then may have been shortened by the record company, and "Blues" added to let a buyer know that the song was a blues.  So if Dick Bankston remembered Charley Patton singing "Hitch up my pony, saddle up my black mare", that got shortened to Pony, and "Blues" added to make Pony Blues.  Similarly "Woke up this morning with the jinx all around my bed" became Jinx Blues. 

Obviously, things worked differently for professionally written songs and, I think, for everyone as they got used to providing material specifically for recording.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2007, 12:56:29 PM by dj »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Mystery Titles
« Reply #17 on: November 21, 2006, 03:51:27 PM »
Hi all,
I agree that a song's title may not have been all that significant to the singers themselves.  I remember Ishmon Bracey saying in the interviews he did with Gayle Dean Wardlow that his (Bracey's) own title for what came to be known as "Saturday Blues" was "Shaggy Hound Blues".  I suspect the most important thing was that a singer be able to identify a song by the way someone requested it, probably most often via a particularly memorable phrase of the lyric.
All best,
Johnm

Offline banjochris

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Re: Mystery Titles
« Reply #18 on: November 21, 2006, 11:03:03 PM »
Another weird title that just occurred to me is Lemon's "Booster Blues." I've always had the image of him playing this in front of the local Chamber of Commerce office. Any thoughts?
Chris

Offline Rivers

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Re: Mystery Titles
« Reply #19 on: November 22, 2006, 07:46:01 PM »
Re booster, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_locomotive#Booster_engines

Lemon does go down to the depot in Booster Blues so there is a railroad connection, though I don't hear 'booster' in the lyrics. Intelligent guess would be it was a slang term for a particular train.

Here's a Texas one: http://mopac.org/pic_locos.asp#tp610

Here's how it worked: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Booster_engine

Offline banjochris

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Re: Mystery Titles
« Reply #20 on: November 23, 2006, 12:18:33 PM »
Thanks for that Rivers -- that must be what it means. I'd always wondered about that title.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Mystery Titles
« Reply #21 on: November 27, 2006, 11:40:17 AM »
One of the better ones of the post war era is "Fishing Clothes" recorded by Lightnin' Hopkins for Stan Lewis in the 60s. The song is LH's rendition of Jefferson's Bad Luck Blues, and the first couplet sung contains "I ain't got sufficient clothes, doggone my bad luck soul"...

Offline frankie

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Re: Mystery Titles
« Reply #22 on: March 17, 2007, 01:01:26 PM »
Re: Lemon's "Right of Way Blues" - I found this line from the Mississippi Sheiks' "Somebody's Got To Help Me" that uses "right of way" in the same sense that Lemon does:

Now, when you will leave I hope you will stay
I may meet you down some lonesome right-of-way

Offline Coyote Slim

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Re: Mystery Titles
« Reply #23 on: March 18, 2007, 12:03:50 PM »
Good thread!  Reminds me of one of those videos of John Lee Hooker on youtube with English subtitles on it.  At on point John Lee says "I want you to dig this" and the subtitles say "I want you to DID this." 

And if you think those northern recording engineers had trouble understanding Bukka, Blind Lemon, and Papa Charley, imagine their consternation when they recorded Cajun and Creole artists like Joe Falcon and Amede Ardoin!   :D
Puttin' on my Carrhartts, I gotta work out in the field.

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Offline Johnm

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Re: Mystery Titles
« Reply #24 on: May 03, 2007, 12:50:36 PM »
Hi all,
On the new JSP "Mississippi Blues" set there are several titles by Willie "61" Blackwell, one of which fits this category, sort of in the same mis-heard category as Lightnin' Hopkins' "Fishing Clothes" that Bunker Hill posted about here previously.  The song is entitled "Rampaw Street Blues", and it's pretty clear as soon as Willie Blackwell starts singing that he is singing about Rampart Street in New Orleans. 
I don't recall hearing Willie Blackwell before.  He's really interesting, recorded kind of late, 1941, with Alfred Elkins playing the mysterious "imitation bass", which in this case is a hell of a good imitation, since it sounds exactly like a string bass!  Blackwell sounds as though he was an older man when he recorded, plays everything out of E standard, nice but nothing flashy.  Lyrically, he reminds me a little bit of the Cedar Creek Sheik, in that his song lyrics are peppered with references to personal friends and acquaintances whom he alludes to as though the listener shared their acquaintance too.  He's a bit eccentric, and his lyrics are original for the most part.  He is definitely worth checking out.
All best,
Johnm

Offline dj

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Re: Mystery Titles
« Reply #25 on: May 03, 2007, 02:14:33 PM »
My favorite misheard Willie Blackwell title is one of his Library of Congress recordings, which is apparently listed by the LoC as "Junian, A Jap's Girl Christmas For His Santa Claus", and was reissued on Travelin' Man 07, Mississippi Blues, with the slightly improved title of "Junior's A Jap Girl's Christmas For His Santa Claus".  The actual phrase that the title is taken from appears to be "I'm gon' send Junior a Jap skull f' Christmas for his Santy Claus".  It's a pretty grisly line, but it was recorded in July of 1942 and was not really atypical of the times.

Willie Blackwell was rediscovered sometime in the 1960s.  I know I've seen a picture of him taken then.  I thought he'd recorded at the same time, but I don't see a listing for him in the new Fancourt-McGrath postwar discography and can't find anything online.

Bunker Hill, are you around, and do you know anything about postwar Blackwell interviews and recordings? 

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Mystery Titles
« Reply #26 on: May 03, 2007, 11:22:21 PM »
My favorite misheard Willie Blackwell title is one of his Library of Congress recordings, which is apparently listed by the LoC as "Junian, A Jap's Girl Christmas For His Santa Claus", and was reissued on Travelin' Man 07, Mississippi Blues, with the slightly improved title of "Junior's A Jap Girl's Christmas For His Santa Claus".  The actual phrase that the title is taken from appears to be "I'm gon' send Junior a Jap skull f' Christmas for his Santy Claus".  It's a pretty grisly line, but it was recorded in July of 1942 and was not really atypical of the times.

Willie Blackwell was rediscovered sometime in the 1960s.  I know I've seen a picture of him taken then.  I thought he'd recorded at the same time, but I don't see a listing for him in the new Fancourt-McGrath postwar discography and can't find anything online.

Bunker Hill, are you around, and do you know anything about postwar Blackwell interviews and recordings? 
Ron Harwood interviewed him in 1968ish and wrote about the event in Jazz Journal. Re the LoC recording Jim O'Neal gave a lengthy explanation of this in Living Blues a decade or so back. Tony Russell used to own a copy tape of the entire interview which, I think, also contained a few songs.

I scanned these and thought posted at WC but maybe it was somewhere else equally hungry for Blackwell information. ;D Haven't time now to search for them but over the weekend will start a new topic with these items.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2007, 11:24:57 PM by Bunker Hill »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Mystery Titles
« Reply #27 on: May 10, 2007, 08:23:50 AM »
Hi all,
Yet another tune that a record company gave a title that was a phonetic approximation of what the performer was singing is Mississippi Bracey's "Stered Gal".  As you listen to the recording, he is clearly singing "Stir It, Gal". 
All best,
Johnm

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Mystery Titles
« Reply #28 on: May 10, 2007, 09:41:47 AM »
Yet another tune that a record company gave a title that was a phonetic approximation of what the performer was singing is Mississippi Bracey's "Stered Gal".  As you listen to the recording, he is clearly singing "Stir It, Gal". 
Indeed so and first brought to our attention in 1973 by the note writer of Lonesome Road Blues (Yazoo 1038) who said "...mistitled Stered Gal (a recording executives translation of Stir It, Gal)..." Some guy named John Miller wrote that. Is he known to you?  ;)

mmpresti

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Re: Mystery Titles
« Reply #29 on: May 10, 2007, 02:40:22 PM »
I've been exploring the songs I know that seem to follow up Lemon's "Booster Blues" and there seems to be something more along the same theme, that has to do with internal disease and medicine.

First of all, I found an Alex Moore lyric in his song, "Boogyin' in Strassburg"

When your woman don't hug and kiss you
Play like she useta
You know she's foolin' around with some other booster

He also speaks of dressing his head with "salve" and sleeping with a "gravedigger".

The main theme in the first line of Lemon's song, however, goes through a number of blues lyrics,

When my left foot itches, something's going on wrong
But when my right foot itches me, I sure can't be here long

In the song line when he goes to the depot he says, "the blues oertake me and the tears come rollin' down". He also, "keeps a conversation with the land lady to keep from cryin'"
This seems to be along the same theme as Sunnyland Slim's, "Smile on My Face"

Smile on my face, darlin', but tears flowin' around my heart (2x)
You see me laughin', well I'm just laughin' to keep from cryin'

See me worried, you know somethin's going on wrong (2x)
Lord, I got a smile on my face, but tears is all around my heart

Then in Doctor Clayton's "Something Going on Wrong":

When my left eye starts to quiver, it makes my heart beat real slow (2x)
Each and everything the boss say, makes me want to pack my clothes and go

I'm going to buy me a switchblade, long as my right arm (2x)
So I can just tell my baby, somethin' going on wrong

Again in Howlin' Wolf's "I Ain't Superstitious"

When my right hand itches, I gets money for sure (2x)
But when my left eye jump, some body got to go

What strikes me about Howlin' Wolf's number, is that he is talking somehow about superstition in relation to animals and possibly diseases that animals have, "the dogs all howlin' over the neighborhood, that is true side of death, baby that ain't no good". A "Booster" could refer to a railroad car, but it could also mean a booster vaccine that you get for something like rabies. Vaccines like that can cause hemiplegia in either side of body. Although I'm listening to Walter Davis number, "I Think You Need a Shot" and I see no trace of these themes in relation to "booster". But if other material comes up, this could be a blues critique of clinical medicine.

Does anyone else have more information on the tradition of "Somethin's Going on Wrong" or songs mentioning hemiaesthesia?



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