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Author Topic: The Boll Weevil  (Read 17286 times)

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Online Johnm

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Re: The Boll Weevil
« Reply #45 on: December 16, 2013, 06:17:53 PM »
Hi all,
One of the funkiest versions of "Boll Weevil" is certainly Tommy Jarrell's.  He sounds like he fiddled it out of DDAD tuning, and his fiddling shows the benefits of a stringed instrument not having frets, with his microtonal control of pitch.  I like how the phrase "his farmer" instantly establishes the pecking order.  That final verse is a beauty.



Boll weevil told his farmer, "You'd better treat me right.
I'll eat up all of your cotton, sleep in your grain nest tonight."

Boll weevil told his farmer, "You need no Ford machine.
I'll eat up all of your cotton, can't buy no gasoline."

I seen a spider runnin' up and down the wall
He musta been a-goin' to get his ashes hauled

I don't see no water, but I'm about to drown
I don't see no fire, but I'm a-burnin' down

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: December 16, 2013, 06:26:10 PM by Johnm »

Offline TallahatchieTrot

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Re: The Boll Weevil
« Reply #46 on: December 18, 2013, 04:17:18 AM »
John. Yes there is only one copy of Coleman's BoWeevil" and it was on Black Patti and found in the Memphis area around 1972. Vera Hall was from Livingston, Alabama where I worked at the college there for 5 years in thee early 1970s as a PR specialist. Jaybird Coleman grew up in Gainesville, Alabama, which is about 30 to 40 miles east of Livingston and is either on or very close to the Tombigbee River. Coleman moved to Bessemer,Alabama right after or just before WW One.
 I would suspect this accounts for the similarities in their melodies This is prime cotton country and is called the Black Belt of Alabama, since it is very rich soil for growing cotton. It has a high density of black sharecroppers like the Delta.gdw

Offline Pan

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Re: The Boll Weevil
« Reply #47 on: December 18, 2013, 05:30:18 AM »
Hi all

I just came across Fiddlin' John Carson's "Dixie Boll Weevil. It's too whupped for me to even try to transcribe the lyrics, but here you go anyway:



While at the topic, I looked up the McTell version, and sure enough, it can now be found on YouTube also. It is every bit as great as everyone said:



Cheers

Pan


Offline banjochris

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Re: The Boll Weevil
« Reply #48 on: December 18, 2013, 09:25:58 AM »
Here's Fiddlin' John Carson's "Dixie Boll Weevil." Sounds to me like he's in AEAE tuning, can't check the pitch at the moment. The last line is priceless.


Dixie Boll Weevil

The farmer said to the boll weevil, "I believe you're on the square,"
The boll weevil said to the farmer, "My whole dang family's there,
"Come to get your home,
"Gonna get your home."

The boll weevil said to the doctor, "You can cut out your little pills,
"But when I get through with the farmer, he can't pay no doctor bills,
"I'm gonna get his home,
"Gonna get his home."

The boll weevil said to the farmer, "I'll swing right on your gate,
"And when I get through with your cotton, you're going to sell that Cadillac 8.
"Gonna get your home,
"I come to get your home."

Farmer said to the merchant, "I want some meat and meal,"
"Get away from here you son of a gun, you got boll weevils in your field,
"Gonna get your home,
"He come to get your home."

The boll weevil said to the farmer, "You can ride in that Ford machine,
"But when I get through with your cotton, you can't buy gasoline,
"I'm gonna get your home,
"I come to get your home."

The boll weevil said to the farmer, "I certainly wish you well,"
The farmer said to the boll weevil, "I wish you was in Griffin, Georgia."


Offline Pan

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Re: The Boll Weevil
« Reply #49 on: December 18, 2013, 10:10:18 AM »
Here's Fiddlin' John Carson's "Dixie Boll Weevil." Sounds to me like he's in AEAE tuning, can't check the pitch at the moment. The last line is priceless.

Wow.

That's some impressive listening! Thanks Banjochris!

Cheers

Pan

Online Johnm

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Re: The Boll Weevil
« Reply #50 on: December 18, 2013, 01:09:14 PM »
Thanks, Gayle Dean, for the information on the Jaybird Coleman track and for the geographical information indicating that Coleman and Vera Hall were from close to each other in Alabama. 
Thanks also, Pan, for posting the John Carson and Willie McTell versions and Chris for providing the transcription to the John Carson version.  Like Pan said, good listening!  Fiddling John uses a different melody than I've heard used for "The Boll Weevil", very close to Charlie Poole's "White House Blues" or "If I Lose", or Red Patterson and the Piedmont Log Rollers' "Battleship of Maine".  It's a great melody, whatever lyrics are set to it.
All best,
Johnm

Online Johnm

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Re: The Boll Weevil
« Reply #51 on: December 18, 2013, 10:46:00 PM »
Hi all,
Yet another version of the Boll Weevil is Mance Lipscomb's "Ballad of the Boll Weevil", from his album "Trouble in Mind", on the Reprise label.  Mance accompanied himself out of C position in standard tuning for his version, and as was so often the case for him, he chose to play the melody on the guitar right under his singing.  In this respect, his accompaniment approach is much like that of Dock Boggs, who also liked to phrase the melody instrumentally right underneath his singing. 
Mance's lyrics have a lot of nice touches we've not seen elsewhere yet, especially in his last verse.  His version is surprisingly sympathetic to the boll weevil, considering the fact that he was a farmer for much of his adult life and most likely had to contend with the boll weevil at some point or other.

First saw old boll weevil, he was in the air
Next time I saw that boll weevil, he was stickin' on a cotton square
He found him a home, had to have a home

Farmer said to the boll weevil, "What you doin' on my farm?"
Boll weevil said to the farmer, "I ain't gon' do you much harm,
I'm a-lookin' for a home, I'm got to have a home."

Farmers all got together, said, "Let's poison our crops.
We don't stop that boll weevil, he'll eat up everything we got.
He's lookin' for a home, done found him a home."

Then they decided to take him, stick him in some ice
Stayed in the ice twenty-four hours, come out lookin' very nice
He had him a home, had a cool home

Then they decided to catch him, stick him in the sand
Stayed there thirty long hours, he stood it like a natch'l man
He had a home, he had a hot home

Farmers all decided, wonderin' what to do
"You done et up all our cotton crop, goin' in the corn patch, too,
Done found a home, done found him a home."

Now the boll weevil said to the farmer, "I'm your bosom friend.
I caused you to get four cents on every bale of cotton that you take to the gin,
I got a home, I done found me a home."

All best,
Johnm

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Re: The Boll Weevil
« Reply #52 on: December 19, 2013, 10:41:32 PM »
Hi all,
Oscar "Buddy" Woods' "Boll Weevil Blues" is so far from the norm in renditions of the Boll Weevil that it barely passes muster as a version of the song.  Woods accompanies himself, lap-style slide in GBDGBD tuning, and his solo sound here is notably rougher than in his work with rhythm guitarist Ed Schaffer as the Shreveport Home Wreckers.  Woods loved to play a flat VI chord in the sixth bar of a twelve-bar blues; it has something of the sound of a IV minor chord, but is a bit more exotic sounding.
Oscar Woods' lyrics here don't reference the boll weevil's effect on agriculture and the ability of farmers to make a living.  His take on the song is a really odd romantic plaint.  Read the lyrics and you'll see what I mean.  This one rates a big "Huh?"   I'd appreciate help with the bent bracketed sections.

Boll weevil, boll weevil, don't sing those blues no more
Boll weevil, boll weevil, don't sing those blues no more
Boll weevil here, boll weevil everywhere that I go

Boll weevil, boll weevil, ain't been away no time
Boll weevil, boll weevil, ain't been away no time
But since boll weevil left me, I b'lieve that I'm going to lose my mind

Says I went downtown, I bought me a bag of  scat
I brought it back home and I laid it on the shelf
I'm getting tired, sleeping by myself
I'm getting so lonely and tired, sleeping by myself

Now come here, boll weevil, tell me what you gonna do
Now you going to quit me, babe, and mistreat me too
Boll weevil, boll weevil, baby, tell me what you going to do
I hear it said that you gonna mistreat me, and then you're going to quit me, too

Edited 12/20 to pick up corrections from dj

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: December 20, 2013, 06:39:33 AM by Johnm »

Offline dj

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Re: The Boll Weevil
« Reply #53 on: December 20, 2013, 06:20:29 AM »
That third verse of Oscar Woods' Boll Weevil is really interesting.  The last line is certainly "I'm gettin' SO LONELY 'N' TIRED, sleepin' by myself".

The first line line is something like "Says I went downtown, I bought me A BAG [o' scat?]". 

In that first line, Woods might be talking about a mojo bag, a charm to bring his lost lover back.  You'd buy the bag with the appropriate charms in it, put it on your shelf, and your lover would come back.  According to Catherine Yrwonde's Lucky Mojo website, the charm for bringing back a lost lover would be the bone of a black cat.  On the other hand, I've found several places online that mention scat as a slang term for whisky, so he might have gone downtown and bought a bottle of booze.

I can't help thinking that the title "Boll Weevil" is a mishearing of some woman's name, but I'll be darned if I can think what the name would be.   

Online Johnm

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Re: The Boll Weevil
« Reply #54 on: December 20, 2013, 06:45:03 AM »
Thanks very much for the help, dj.  "Scat" it is--I had that written down as one of the phonetic possibilities, and it is much the best in that regard, perfect, in fact, but I couldn't see any sense in it.
I think Oscar Woods meant "boll weevil", sure enough.  He references the line found in many of the versions in his first verse, "Boll weevil here, boll weevil everywhere".  It's hard to imagine "boll weevil" as a pet name or love monicker, though.  It sounds like she was here and everywhere in his thoughts.
I will make the changes.
All best,
Johnm

Offline dj

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Re: The Boll Weevil
« Reply #55 on: December 20, 2013, 07:03:07 AM »
Quote
He references the line found in many of the versions in his first verse, "Boll weevil here, boll weevil everywhere".

You're right, John.  I guess if Oscar Woods was singing this song to a room full of cotton farmers, it would be thought pretty funny to be pining for the boll weevil.

Online Johnm

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Re: The Boll Weevil
« Reply #56 on: December 31, 2013, 01:37:24 PM »
Hi all,
Charlie Patton's "Mississippi Boweavil Blues" is certainly one of the most striking versions of the Boll Weevil.  He played it out of Spanish tuning with a slide.  The song is felt in 2, and is in cut-time, with a seven bar form, the last bar of which has an extra "breath catcher" beat.  With his very unusual one-line verses, Charlie Patton was able to fit in a hell of a lot of verses over the course of his rendition.  I'd very much appreciate help with the couple of bent bracketed passages.  I know this song's lyrics have been transcribed elsewhere, but I'd like to get our own transcription of the lyrics.  In the first verse, Charlie plays the word "air" with his slide.  Each sung line is responded to by the slide, the wordless voice.



It's a little boll weevil, see him movinin' a-in the -------, Lordy

"You can plant your cotton and you won't get a half a cent, Lordy."

Boll weevil, boll weevil, where's your native home, Lordy?

"A-Lou'siana raised in Texas is a-where I's bred and born, Lordy"

Well, I saw the boll weevil, Lord, a circle, Lordy, in the air, Lordy

A-next time I seed him, Lord, he had his family there, Lordy

Boll weevil left Texas, Lord, he bid me fare-you-well, Lordy (Spoken:  Where he goin' now?")

"I'm goin' down in Mississippi, gonna give you 'n' Lou'siana hell, Lordy"

Boll weevil said the farmer, "Think I treat you fair, Lordy" (Spoken: How is that, boy?)

"Suck all the blossom and leave you half your square, Lordy"

A-next time I seen you, you know I had your family there, Lordy

The boll weevil neither wife would sit down on the hay, Lordy

Boll weevil told his wife, "Let's take this forty here, Lordy"

Boll weevil told his wife, said, "I b'lieve I'll linger long, Lordy" (Spoken: Go on, I wanta tell 'em about it.)

He left and leavin' Lou'siana, raised and goin' to Arkansas, Lordy

Well, I saw the boll weevil, Lord, a circle, Lordy, in the air, Lordy

Next time I seed him, Lord, he had his family there, Lordy

Boll weevil told the farmer, "I think I treat you fair, Lordy"

"Sucks all the blossoms and leave you half your square, Lordy"

Boll weevil, boll weevil, where your native home, Lordy?

"'Most anywhere they raise cotton and corn, Lordy"

Boll weevil, boll weevil, call that treatin' me fair, Lordy?

The next time I seed you, you had your family there, Lordy

All best,
Johnm









 
« Last Edit: January 03, 2014, 06:34:27 AM by Johnm »

Online Johnm

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Re: The Boll Weevil
« Reply #57 on: January 13, 2014, 01:04:48 PM »
Hi all,
Leadbelly is unusual in having recorded two different versions of the Boll Weevil, with different melodies and sets of lyrics (though some of the verses are shared).  I think Leadbelly's earlier recorded version was influenced by Ma Rainey's version, based on melodic similarity, but as you can hear at the end of the attached video, he says of this version that it's they way that the song is sung in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  Sure enough, the melody to this version is very close to that done by Alabamans Vera Hall and Jaybird Coleman.  Leadbelly accompanies himself out of A position in standard tuning, tuned very low as per usual, and his pulse is a joy to hear.



Farmer asked the boll weevil, "A-where you been so long?"
I been down in the bottom, a-with my long clothes on."

Farmer taken the boll weevil, he put him in the ice
Boll weevil said to the farmer, "You treat me mighty nice."

Farmer taken the boll weevil, he put him in the sand
Boll weevil said to the farmer, "You just like a man."

Man said to the old lady, "What do you think of that?
I got one of them boll weevils out of my Stetson hat."

SOLO X 2 (Spoken: Yeah!)

Farmer told the boll weevil, "Guess I wish you well."
Farmer said to boll weevil, "I hope you burn in hell."

Boll weevil said to the farmer, "I'm gonna put 'em right on your gate.
I get through with your cotton field, you'll sell that Cadillac 8."

Boll weevil said to the farmer, "I'm gonna treat you mean.
When I get through with your cotton fields, can't buy no gasoline."

SOLO: (Spoken: Yeah!)

Spoken:  That's the way they sing that down in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: January 13, 2014, 01:12:19 PM by Johnm »

Offline Willie Poor Boy

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Re: The Boll Weevil
« Reply #58 on: March 06, 2014, 08:19:59 PM »
Here is his other version which he recorded at least 6 times.



It is one of the few songs where he includes a verse claiming authorship for the song--as he does in Fannin Street as well. 

The other song below is in a different key and not about insects but every time I listen to it it reminds me of his Boll Weevil song--the repeated verses in Boll Weevil about "looking for a home" come close to matching the verses in Untitled that "it was in that war."

It stands as a fragment about the Spanish American War.  I've been meaning to start a thread about family resemblances among the songs in Lead Belly's recorded output--these two seem to share a few genes.  I'd be tempted to say the Untitled song was the ancestor to the Boll Weevil song given the order of respective historical events they deal with but it would be difficult to substantiate that.  If it were the source that wouldn't necessarily vitiate his claims to authorship for the Boll Weevil song




Offline blind zippo

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Re: The Boll Weevil
« Reply #59 on: March 07, 2014, 04:28:27 PM »
Have you checked the" Boll Weevil" by old time country musicians. W.A. (ADD) Lindsey and Alvin Conder. Conder was a member of the Weems family. The tune is very much like the one used in Leadbelly's  "In that War". They also recorded at the same session (Feb. 1928) the unissued"In That War".  The tune further crops up in Jimmy Yates' Boll Weevils" Blood War" ( Sept.1928) as well as Leonard Rutherford and John D. Foster's Bloody War(Jan.1929), Yates probably influencing Rutherford and Foster.

 


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