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I'm a greedy glutton, eat fifty times a day. When I'm around a pigpen, they hide the slop away - Me And My Tapeworm, Sylvester Weaver 1927

Author Topic: Pink Anderson - High Yellow  (Read 6569 times)

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iplayamartin0016

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Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« on: March 30, 2004, 08:24:18 PM »
I've been listening a lot to Pink Anderson and today I was listening to Every Day In The Week.  He sings, "I don't love no high yella, I ain't crazy 'bout no brown.  Boy you can't tell the difference when the sun goes down"

What is high yellow?

Also does anyone play any of Pinks stuff and make it sound like his guitar playing?

Offline Slack

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2004, 08:37:24 PM »
Quote
What is high yellow?

This refers to a very light complected black woman.  Black, brown, yellow, high yellow - black men (I should say all men) have their preferences.

Pink Anderson has an incredible touch - Pink is on one the Grossman videos and it is fascinating to watch him play, incredibly long spidery fingers using positions that only long spidery fingers can reach.

cheers,
slack

Offline waxwing

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2004, 08:41:59 PM »
Hey, iplaya,
You'll actually find quite a few blues about the preferences for different skin tones of a singers "rider". Usually all three are mentioned: black, brown, and high yellow. A high yellow woman could possibly pass for white and was often considered, by prewar blues singers, to be too haughty and proud. A black woman was sometimes, tho' not always, thought to be low down and nasty. Most singers, who sang about such things, seemed to prefer a fair brown, in particular, a teasin' brown. (usual PC disclaimer)
Sorry I can't help you on Pink's guitar stylings. I'm really only slightly familiar with his prewar recordings, with Simmie Dooley, and not at all with his rediscovery stuff.
All for now.
John C.
Dang, you slipped in there on me, Slack.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2004, 09:18:07 PM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
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iplayamartin0016

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2004, 05:01:22 AM »
Thanks for the replies.  My imagination had run wild.

I'm actually starting to get some of his stuff with the great bass runs.  It's going to take some time but what doesn't?

Offline frankie

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2004, 06:11:15 PM »
Pink is great - I think my favorite re-discovery era recordings of his are on Gospel, Blues and Street Songs.? Half is Pink Anderson and the other half is Rev. Davis.? It's a tremendous collection of music.? He had a stroke later that affected his playing to some degree, and I think the recordings after this point (the two Bluesville albums and the film footage on Vestapol) don't necessarily show him at the best of his abilities, but they're still 100% Pink and fun to listen to.

In the film footage on Vestapol, Pink gets a lot of mileage out of snapping the treble strings - something I don't recall him doing so much in earlier recordings - maybe this is a good reason to bust out some of those recordings... hehehehe...
« Last Edit: April 19, 2005, 01:20:16 PM by Johnm »

Offline frankie

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2004, 08:19:52 PM »
I was just listening to Carl Martin on Testament again today - iplayamartin, if you like Pink's rediscovery recordings, you'll probably also like CM.  He's got a similar touch and something about the quality of his voice reminds me of Pink.  Great stuff!

iplayamartin0016

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2004, 08:23:47 PM »
I'll check out Carl Martin this weekend.  Thanks for the heads up.  I've been working on John Miller's lesson  Meet Me In The Middle and it's a lot like the way that Pink does it.  My goal for the next month or so is to get it to sound like Pink.  I think I can do it!

iplayamartin0016

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2004, 08:07:17 PM »
On the subject of high yellow, I thought I'd learn another John Hurt song and there it is in Big Leg Blues.

Some crave high yellow, I like black and brown.
Black won't quit you, brown won't lay you down.

I'm curious how many songs contain a reference to high yellow?  Also, when us middle-aged white boys sing these songs do you sing these lyrics? 

Offline Slack

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2004, 09:29:18 PM »
Quote
'm curious how many songs contain a reference to high yellow?? Also, when us middle-aged white boys sing these songs do you sing these lyrics?

I'd say quite a few songs refernce high yellow (and yellow).

It's up to you - some like to personalize lyrics, some like to sing the original (I like to sing the lyrics unless I cannot make them work rythmically, then I'll change 'em).? There is nothing wrong with middle age white guys singing these original lyrics, you can take Dick Justice as a model w/ "Picked Poor Robin" make that Cocaine Blues.

Here is an interesting link of old time racial terms - including High Yellow.

« Last Edit: April 19, 2005, 01:21:15 PM by Johnm »

Offline Rivers

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2004, 12:43:24 AM »
Lead Belly had a total thing bout them.

...I ain't gonna ring them yellow womens' doorbells (Yellow Womens' Doorbells).

...and this tune, Yellow Gal, that mentioned them in every single line, amazing achievement and quite a good tune to play as well:

Oh my yellow, oh my yellow, oh my yellow gal (4)

Yes, I went home with the yellow gal (2)
Didn't say a thing to the yellow gal (2)

Daddy got stuck on my yellow gal (2)
He got thirty years with the yellow gal (2)

She's pretty and fine, she's a yellow gal (2)
She ain't none of mine, she's a yellow gal (2)

She's pretty and fair, she's the yellow gal (2)
She's got pretty hair, she's the yellow gal (2)

Oh the preacher got stuck on my yellow gal (2)
He got ten years with my yellow gal (2)

She's long and tall, is the yellow gal (2)
I love that gal, oh my yellow gal (2)
« Last Edit: April 19, 2005, 01:22:42 PM by Johnm »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2004, 06:32:44 PM »
I'm going to take a different position on this one. I'm not normally one for political correctness, but the high yellow, brownskin and black designations in some tunes are a bit of a problem for me, depending on the context. Sometimes its relatively innocuous - kinda like singing about blondes, brunettes or redheads (which in itself may be offensive to some, I guess). But sometimes it's just plain offensive to modern listeners. There is an element of black-on-black discrimination to it that I, as a middle-aged white guy, would be uncomfortable singing. One interesting example of dealing with this is Pony Blues. Charley Patton sings:

And a brown-skin woman like something fit to eat
Brown-skin woman like something fit to eat
But a jet black woman, don't put your hand on me

As a white guy, I just don't think I'm going to sing this verse.

When Alvin Youngblood Hart - who'll never be mistaken for one of us middle-aged white hackers for any of a multitude of reasons - does this tune, he changes this verse in a way that is less potentially offensive, yet IMO still maintains the spirit of the country blues idiom:

Said them Memphis women (are) like somethin' fit to eat
Memphis women like somethin' fit to eat
But them Natchez women, don't you lay your hand on me

Thereby offending only women from Natchez ;D

So for me, it's context I guess. I'm equally uncomfortable with some of the non-chalant brutality expressed towards women in a number of country blues tunes, particularly when it's a sort of throwaway line and not, say, in the context of something more like a murder ballad. For instance, I sometimes fool around with M&O Blues (but that said, I should point out that I do not perform):

Now when I leave her I'm gonna catch that M & O
Now when I leave her I'm gonna catch that M & O
I'm goin' way down south where I never been before

'Cause I had a notion, Lord, and I believe I will
'Cause I had a notion, Lord, and I believe I will
I'm gonna build me a mansion out on Decatur hill

I said all off you men oughta be ashamed of yourselves
I said all off you men oughta be ashamed of yourselves
Goin' round here swearin' before, God, you got a poor woman by yourself

I started to kill my woman till she lay down 'cross the bed
I started to kill my woman till she lay down 'cross the bed
And she looked so ambitious till I took back ev'rything I said

And I asked her how 'bout it, Lord, and she said all right
And I asked her how 'bout it, Lord, and she said all right
But she never showed up at the shack last night

These are a series of pretty much unrelated verses, no story is really unfolding from verse to verse, and that penultimate verse is just over-the-top offensive in a modern context. You could sing, "I started to leave my woman till she lay down 'cross the bed" and not affect the spirit of the song much.

So, just like I wouldn't do Luke Jordan's Traveling Coon, some of those high yellow, brown, black verses I ain't gonna touch.

IMO  :)

Offline waxwing

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2004, 07:42:47 PM »
Interesting, UB,
I take an entirely different view of M & O Blues. The line about the men bein' ashamed of themselves seems to indicate to me that he's showing them how wrong they are about who's in charge, thinkin' they "got" some woman. Then I thought the next verse was "I tried to kill my woman", but all she had to do was lay down on the bed, look "ambitious" and he was disarmed, then she didn't even show up at the shack when she said she would. Something I often point out to audiences is that many songs depicting doing violence to a lover were really describing how they felt towards the white bossman who had done them wrong in an entirely different way.
But how 'bout the "mumblepeg" verse in Buddy Moss' New Lovin' Blues (BTW I recently heard the Mumblepeg line sung clear as a bell by McTell, who has quite a few references to various shades), where his mama tells him "Don't drank no black cow's milk and don't you eat no black hen's egg." I felt a little funny singin' that recently for a multi-cultural audience, since it could be construed that I'm referring to my white mother.
All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Willie Brown's Liquor at CD Baby

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2004, 08:55:38 PM »
Then I thought the next verse was "I tried to kill my woman", but all she had to do was lay down on the bed, look "ambitious" and he was disarmed, then she didn't even show up at the shack when she said she would.

Tried or started, either way I'd have a problem. I'd agree with the rest of your interpretation, but I don't think it diminishes the first part of the verse. I don't want to get carried away here. I was just offering it as an example off the top of my head. I've been known to play Pistol Slapper Blues, although in that one there's more context for the threat of violence as he's dealing with a crazy, drunk, murderous, cheatin' woman. In M&O it really seems to me to be a throwaway macho line.

Quote
Something I often point out to audiences is that many songs depicting doing violence to a lover were really describing how they felt towards the white bossman who had done them wrong in an entirely different way.

Never heard this theory. Sounds suspiciously academic. ;) Any songs in particular that fit this model? Interesting concept.

Quote
But how 'bout the "mumblepeg" verse in Buddy Moss' New Lovin' Blues (BTW I recently heard the Mumblepeg line sung clear as a bell by McTell, who has quite a few references to various shades), where his mama tells him "Don't drank no black cow's milk and don't you eat no black hen's egg." I felt a little funny singin' that recently for a multi-cultural audience, since it could be construed that I'm referring to my white mother.

Yes, I'd probably have a problem with that as well, depending on how sensitive I was feeling. :P It's a little more subtle though than, say, the Pony Blues verse. McTell, BTW, has the ultimate nasty song, A to Z Blues. Don't try singing that one in mixed company.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2004, 12:02:12 AM »
It's a cartoon world, you have to be a cartoon character.

Offline frankie

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2004, 12:26:48 AM »
I'm with U.B. on this - one way I look at it is that the terms yellow/brown/black refer to a kind of social judgement that is fundamentally outside my experience.? If it doesn't feel right coming out of your mouth, don't sing it.

That being said, I might sing the line if I was playing it for someone who knew me and the music well and we both understood that I was recreating a particular performance of a particular song.? I wouldn't sing the line if I was performing.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2005, 01:24:16 PM by Johnm »

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