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It wasn't but the one thing that ever started me to drink, Babe and that's when I sat down Lord and I began to think - Charley Jordan, Two Street Blues

Author Topic: Blind Willie McTell lyrics  (Read 52321 times)

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Offline Rivers

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #105 on: January 25, 2009, 01:46:59 PM »
Yep, sorry 'bout that, reading too fast on Taft probably.

Re. context, Shelton Brooks wrote Darktown Strutters' Ball in 1917 and he was black. Then there's The Cotton Club, and Irving Berlin's original lyric to Puttin' On The Ritz. There was a lot of high steppin' going on in Harlem and, I daresay, in other cities. McTell mentions things 'high society' in at least one other lyric, Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues, re. the Hampton Hotel, and Little Jessie "...wants everybody to do the Charleston whilst he dyin'". So we're not talking about someone with his mind way out in the sticks here.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2009, 02:11:50 PM by Rivers »

Offline waxwing

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #106 on: January 25, 2009, 02:25:16 PM »
I've used a collapsible top hat and though you can snap it open with just a bit of pressure to the inside or a strong rap against your other hand, it takes a bit of force to collapse the spring and flatten the hat. Being blind I don't think you could make the case that he hadn't actually used one but had only seen them popped open and so assumed they popped closed, too. Nor do I think that such a misconception would give rise to a commonly used phrase with that meaning. I think the top hat thing is a dead end.

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Offline Johnm

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #107 on: January 25, 2009, 02:38:42 PM »
Hi all,
I have never heard the phrase "tippin'" used in a blues lyric as a synonym for dancing, let alone "tripping the light fantastic".  "Tippin' in" is used to indicate tiptoeing in, or more accurately, sneaking in.  "Tippin' out" as used in the Simmie Dooley/Pink Anderson song and others utilizing the phrase could be rendered as "steppin' out", or going out for a night on the town.  I don't believe "tippin'" and trippin'" share either a common derivation or a common meaning.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Rivers

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #108 on: January 25, 2009, 02:49:33 PM »
John, "tripping" in this case means the same as "tipping", see this page, it's from Milton: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-tri1.htm

Quote: We?ve lost the sense now, because to trip here doesn?t mean to catch one?s foot and stumble or fall, but rather to move lightly and nimbly, to dance. This was what the word meant when it appeared in the language in the fourteenth century.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #109 on: January 25, 2009, 03:00:04 PM »
Hi Mark,
For Milton it may have meant that in the 14th century, but I don't see how that  pertains to the usage of 20th century African-Americans who had never read or heard of Milton.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Rivers

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #110 on: January 25, 2009, 03:06:08 PM »
Came in through Vaudeville, it was a show, Irish American, NYC, and according to one source possibly or probably in common use during the Twenties. I posted this earlier but see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trip_the_light_fantastic click on the link, going direct doesn't seem to work.

Quote:
The phrase is used in the second line of a 1927 song by Billy Murray and Aileen Stanley - 'I'm Gonna Dance Wit da Guy Wot Brung Me' - a comical duet between two New York types using one slang phrase after another in a vaudeville-like routine. The manner in which the phrase is used, suggests that 'tripping the light fantasic' was a not unusual bit of Roaring 20's slang.

Offline onewent

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #111 on: January 25, 2009, 03:17:26 PM »
Love that 'Tippin' Tom' lyric..if I hadn't been 'onewent' all these years... ::)

Re 'cut out' v. 'could I' .. after some listening at different speeds, to me, it's clear enough that I hear 'wonder could I ..' , although I like cut out better and will probably out of habit sing that phrase..

Quick review question:  how is a consensus reached on a disputed phrase/word?  ..and who make the change?

..good stuff, thanks..Tom

Offline Johnm

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #112 on: January 25, 2009, 03:24:43 PM »
Hi all,
I'm still not clear on why the currency of the phrase "tripping the light fantastic" pertains when what Willie McTell and everyone else is saying is "tippin'".  The word and the meaning are different.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Rivers

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #113 on: January 25, 2009, 03:27:54 PM »
Just a theory, it's the fact it's coupled with 'light'.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #114 on: January 25, 2009, 03:39:51 PM »

Re. context, Shelton Brooks wrote Darktown Strutters' Ball in 1917 and he was black. Then there's The Cotton Club, and Irving Berlin's original lyric to Puttin' On The Ritz. There was a lot of high steppin' going on in Harlem and, I daresay, in other cities. McTell mentions things 'high society' in at least one other lyric, Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues, re. the Hampton Hotel, and Little Jessie "...wants everybody to do the Charleston whilst he dyin'". So we're not talking about someone with his mind way out in the sticks here.

Yes, the influence of the lyrics of black songwriters of the late 19th and early 20th century, and the black musical theatre of the 19th century is a subject begging to be examined further, IMO, as I think I've said here on Weenie before, or at least to Wax on the phone.  :P And not just black songwriters but the popular musical theatre, period. One can find a good amount of info on these composers and their material in Spreadin' Rhythm Around by Jasen and Jones, though they do not examine the influence of the popular and theatrical material on later blues material much unfortunately. Blues sources moving from the city to the country is one way of looking at it, and for some stuff, I think strong arguments could be made mining this area. But in this case, so far things point more to folk sources, IMO.

Billy Murray has come up on Weenie before, as a composer in the context of the Todalo discussions. But there at least there are examples of the word todalo appearing in both traditions. So far, there's no evidence "tripping the light fantastic" appears in the blues vernacular that I know of.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2009, 03:40:52 PM by uncle bud »

Offline blueshome

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #115 on: January 26, 2009, 07:51:38 AM »
Another Tippin this time from the 40's

Erskine Hawkins And His Orchestra - Tippin' In / After Hours
Label:   RCA
Catalog#:   447-0169

In current "gangsta" usage "tippin" is cruising in your car to show off.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #116 on: January 26, 2009, 09:23:16 AM »
Thought I'd give Razor Ball another round. There are still some spots that are not solid. I've appended Sara Martin's version, which predates McTell by 5 years.

Razor Ball - Blind Willie McTell
Recorded Atlanta, Ga., 17 April 1930
C position, 12-string pitched around A

(All right, boys, let's talk about this Razor Ball)

Down at the Razor Ball given at the Razor Hall
Sluefoot Mose and old Cross-Eyed Joe didn't go in at all
They hung around outside,
This is what they spied ? what was it?
A big crap game in the hall, started in to fight
Joe got drunk, that wasn't all, went and turned out the lights
And then Manchester Charlie shot his automatic twin
Charlie grabbed his gal, and he [crawled across ten??/crawled across the tin] *
Police came and pulled the hall, down at the Razor Ball
I mean ball
Down around the Razor Ball

Doin the... shimmy she wobble and shakin' your...
Quit the shimmy she wobble and quit shakin' your hips
Down at the Razor, I mean Ball
Down around the Razor Ball

Playin' baseball and football and don't get enough
Playin' baseball and football and struttin' his stuff
Down at the Razor, I mean Ball
Down around the Razor Ball

(Play it a little bit now. Put a little good stuff in it. How you put that in there.
[Well that works] like a good drink of whiskey - play that thing again)

I heard another crap game was in the hall, started in to fight
Joe got drunk, that wasn't all, went in and turned out the lights
Mighty big chief shot his automatic twin
The high sheriff took the [couple] and double-crossed ten (COUPLE actually sounds more like CROUPLE/CRUPPLE. Wild speculative question: is there ever someone who plays a croupier-like role in the game of craps? Is McTell possibly garbling CROUPIER, or is there another form of the word?)
Rest of 'em came and got the crowd from down at the razor Ball
I mean
Down around the Razor Ball, shootin' craps
Down around the Razor Ball, playing cards
Down around the Razor Ball, they was gamblin'
Down around the Razor Ball, cuttin' on the corner
Down around the Razor Ball

(Put a little good stuff there now. I know you like it like that, Two Bits, 'cause I?m crazy about it myself. Hit it now. I know you're crazy about it.)

Talkin' about the Razor Ball, I mean
Screamin' 'bout the Razor Ball

Now there?s another crap game was in the hall, started in to fight
Joe got drunk, that wasn't all, went and turned out the lights
"Put your lights out, Callie, 'cause fightin's the game
Put me head of the list and don't forget to call my name"
Police came and got the crowd
Down at the Razor Ball, drinkin' gin
Down around the Razor Ball, don?t mean football
But down around the Razor Hall, neither basketball
But down around the Razor Ball, neither golf ball
But down around the Razor Ball

(Spank it a little bit now)

I mean that Razor Ball, where I found you
Down around the Razor Ball, where they've/they's?? made love
Down around the Razor Ball, where I left you
Down around the Razor Ball
(Play it now)

*Paul Oliver has "And that mark-shootin' Charlie, shot his automatic twin/Charlie grabbed his gal and he croaked off ten". I don't think that's it. See "Looking for the Bully", Nobody Knows Where the Blues Comes From, p. 118. Other solutions welcome. I think it's likely a nickname, like the original "Winchester Charlie" from the Sara Martin version.)

Down at the Razor Ball ? Sara Martin
Recorded New York City c. 5 November 1925

Down at the Razor Ball given at the Razor Hall
Sluefoot Mose and Cross-Eyed Joe didn't go at all
But they hung around outside
Oh and this is what they spied
Crapshootin' Ann was in the hall and started in to fight
Joe got drunk, and that ain't all, he went and turned out the lights
Winchester Charlie shot Automatic Slim
'Cause Charlie took his gal and doublecrossed him
The police came and pulled the hall, down at the Razor Ball

I said now Crapshootin' Ann was in the hall and started in to fight
Joe got drunk and that ain't all, he went and turned out the lights
Butcher Knife Sally said "fightin's the game
Put me head of the list and don't forget to call my name"
The police came and pulled the hall, down at the Razor Ball
I said now, down at that Razor Ball

edited the McTell lyric to pick up suggestions from Rivers and Onewent
« Last Edit: January 27, 2009, 07:30:31 AM by uncle bud »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #117 on: January 26, 2009, 02:52:08 PM »
Hi all,
 Blind Willie McTell recorded "It's My Desire" for Regal in 1949 or 1950.  It's a gospel number, credited to him, and he delivers one of his most impassioned vocals on record on the alternate take I heard on the Back Porch Boys CD on Delmark.  The phrase "all on earth" in the final verse is sort of swallowed.



   It's my desire to do some good deed every day
   My desire to help some, falter by the way
   It's my desire to bring back someone's gone astray
   It's my desire to be just like the Lord

   It's my desire to shelter someone from the cold
   My desire to bring back some wanderer to the fold
   It's my desire to do as I am told
   It's my desire to be just like the Lord

   It's my desire to teach some sinner how to pray
   My desire to help some traveller by the way
   It's my desire to lift up Jesus every day
   It's my desire to be just like the Lord

   It's my desire to see the Father and the Son
   My desire to see his face when all on earth is done
   It's my desire to hear him say, "My child, well done."
   It's my desire to be just like the Lord

All best,
Johnm
   
« Last Edit: July 16, 2020, 05:34:23 PM by Johnm »

Offline onewent

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #118 on: January 26, 2009, 04:33:24 PM »
uncle bud, I gave Razor Ball a few listens w/ phones and slower, and here's my take fwiw:
First sung line:  given sounds w/ a long e sound, sounds like 'even' but given makes more sense
Line 7 Sounds like 'Mighty Chuck Charlie' to me, really hard to discern.  I also know 'chuck' is a derogatory term applied by black folk to white folk, but probably doesn't apply in the context of this song.
The high sheriff took the [couple] and double-crossed ten:  'couple' sounds pretty clear to me and so does 'crossed off ten' rather than double crossed ten
And in the last refrain (or whatever you call the repeated lines) the second one sounds clearly to be not just 'they made love' .. I hear an 's' in there between they and made, like 'where they's made love'

Cool song! .. simple guitar part, but, a few years ago, when I tried to sing along, I couldn't put the voice part and guitar part together..but this one's on my bucket list ! 

Johnm:  thanks for the heads up on 'It's My Desire'..I don't have it, so I'll hunt it down!  It must be a good one..
Tom

Offline Rivers

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Re: Blind Willie McTell lyrics
« Reply #119 on: January 26, 2009, 05:46:06 PM »
Could that be "Manchester Charlie", which is a town 80 miles S. of Atlanta? Mispronounced slightly, sounds like My-chester:

 


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