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That's supposed to be a funny song - Muddy Waters on Hoochie Coochie Man, to Dave Van Ronk, as told to Elijah Wald, Escaping the Delta

Author Topic: Pink Anderson - High Yellow  (Read 6571 times)

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Offline Richard

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #15 on: April 20, 2004, 12:15:41 PM »
Interesting thread.

Which version of M&O are you referring to...? The only one I seem to have is one the three (first?) versions that Walter Roland recorded.

Also, didn't Georgia Tom and poss with Big Bill do a version as well?
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #16 on: April 20, 2004, 12:28:36 PM »
Hi Richard,

I was referring to the version by Patton protege Willie Brown. Recorded in 1930, I think. It was a bit of a tangent, in that the question I was responding to referred to racial characterizations and not violence against women. I was just offering another example of things I might be uncomfortable singing. :)

cheers,
uncle bud

Offline waxwing

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #17 on: April 20, 2004, 12:29:37 PM »
Willie Brown. Flip side of Future Blues. Recorded at the infamous Charley Patton/Son House Grafton, WI recording session in '29 for Paramount. His only extant solo work except for a version of Make Me a Pallet recorded much later by Lomax. There was a second 78 released but never found. I think Chicago Defender adverts exist.
All for now.
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Willie Brown's Liquor at CD Baby

Offline waxwing

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #18 on: April 20, 2004, 12:31:36 PM »
Dang, beat me by a minute UB.
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 Slack

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #19 on: April 20, 2004, 12:49:23 PM »
We talked about his some in the very old list.? I've performed 'Old Devil' and sung this verse:

I beat my baby with a rope and a line.?
I beat my baby man with a rope and a line.?
I beat my baby, ain't no joke, no lie this time.?
With a rope and a line until she went stone blind.

I just introduce it by saying who wrote it and what he was known for, the year written and that attitudes towards women have certainly changed.? (No woman came up to me later and accused me of perpetuating violence toward women.)? I love the era (and every era has its ugliness) and it is an oporrtunity to travel back in time.? I think if you "white wash" lyrics too much you miss the opportunity to travel back to a different era (I'm a romantic? ::) ) --- plus, I just don't care that much what an audience would think of me. :P
 
cheers,
slack
« Last Edit: April 19, 2005, 01:25:37 PM by Johnm »

Offline Richard

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #20 on: April 20, 2004, 04:08:11 PM »
Regarding M&O - well I to admit that Willie Brown is certainly someone I have not come across before and the G&D bible only lists him as doing about 4 sides altogther 1930 which are as rare as rockinghorse droppings so I'll let myself off the hook!
Would it be a total pain to post an mp3, be interesting to hear it - although having just said 'hear it' I notice the originals were of famed Paramount lo-fi quality... :-\

As to the substance of the rest of the posts, I rather think that if you are offering your version of song for public consumption then it's your perogative to change lyrics as you see fit much as you might change the arrangement to suit your playing. But, certain numbers may need to be as-is to make them work, in which case Slack has the right to approach by introducing them as such. Really, how long is a piece of string...  ;)
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #21 on: April 20, 2004, 06:00:05 PM »
Yes, Slack, this is one I was avoiding mentioning, if only to avoid rehashing old debates, but also because my introduction of the violence in some lyrics was straying off topic. I fully support your playing Old Devil (edited to add: or anyone playing it) and including that verse, especially if you are putting it in context. And on another level, like Frank noted, it's very different when you are playing something at, say, Port Townsend among people who know the song, the genre, and you. I wouldn't claim that by singing it you're perpetuating violence against women. That verse, in particular, is shocking in its violence but also very grimly poetic in a way. I understand someone choosing to sing it. These are matters of personal choice and comfort levels and my only point - poorly made - was that I personally don't feel comfortable singing some lyrics, especially the casual lines of violence tossed into an otherwise regular ol' country blues tune, and would be very hesitant about singing some of them in a regular performance situation, i.e., not a bunch of hard-core country blues maniacs.

 :)
« Last Edit: April 20, 2004, 07:32:42 PM by uncle bud »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #22 on: April 20, 2004, 09:57:23 PM »
Hi all,
One thing that has occurred to me as I read the posts on this topic, with sympathy both for singing non-p.c. lyrics as a reflection either of the time from which they arose or recognition that "Everything is NOT beautiful, in its special way", but also  for rejecting lyrics on the basis of their arising from a racial context which the present-day singer doesn't share, or celebration of funky violence.  I have rejected lyrics in the past on moral grounds, but I've also rejected them on grounds of "believability", feeling like "This lyric just isn't me, and there's no use pretending it is.  And what's more, an audience, even one that has never seen or heard me before is going to know that too.."  I suppose you could say that in the Blues, you are dealing with a stylized form of expression that is talking about the human condition in a general sense, but over the years I've come to feel that if there is too big a gap between what lyrics are professing and what I, in fact, feel, it's like taking some kind of false loyalty oath.  I guess I can't sell it if I don't feel it.
All best,
Johnm   

Offline Rivers

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #23 on: April 20, 2004, 11:51:37 PM »
Sell it? Hell I can't even give it away.

Once backed a wildman friend, well known in gospel music circles, for a couple of tunes. One was "You Shouldn't Do That", Casey Bill Weldon. Lovely tune, very stupid lyrics. "I'm gonna take that pistol slap it in my baby's face... some lonesome graveyard will be her hiding place".

He's playing lap steel and I get to do the swing chops and pastoral doo-wop backup vocal part, urging "You shouldn't do that, you shouldn't do that" after each line. This guy takes wicked delight in being un-pc and everybody knows it so he gets away. Anyway I believe it's all a cartoon, as I said earlier.

Another time I was playing Hesitation Blues in a kitchen at a festival. The room was packed and it was going well. This girl puts on a guitar and starts picking along pretty good and sings a verse. We start taking alternate verses slagging off each others' respective sexes. It was very funny, the crowd loved it and I've been hoping to bump into her ever since.

See I think all this is related to The Dozens, that game they play where you insuilt people until someone loses it. Out of context it's just painful and embarrassing. In context it's very funny and just part of the tradition. We analyse this stuff too much I think, should get out and play more. Not on a stage, in a room full of people sitting around having a good time.

"...I will now perform See That My Grave Is Kept Clean by Mr. Blind Lemon Jefferson in the Key of E..." (cracks knuckles, coughs, crosses eyes, a respectful hush descends on the auditorium...)
« Last Edit: April 20, 2004, 11:57:01 PM by Rivers »

Offline Buzz

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #24 on: April 21, 2004, 10:00:12 PM »
Interestin thread.

Observations: 1. Agree with opinions that ifyou don't feel it, don't sing it. PC or not. Me, I am from New Orleans, knew high yellow and jet black Mamas, and though i never slept with any of them, I feel they are in my blood and history, and sing the lyrics as they occur.
2. Color of a Black woman relates to amount of white blood. Jet blacks were traditional African slaves, or as their own Black brethren referred/? still do--offensively-- to them in the old projects in N. O.: "field niggers" . I would never refer to anyone that way, but they do to each other. A slave who was the illegitimate offspring of the master, with any white blood was a mulatto or "house nigger"--AKA "home boy", "homey", and it depended on how much white blood  the person possessed, as to whether they were brown or yellow. Octaroons had 1/8 white blood, and could pass as white if the hair did not betray their racial heritage. Some even had light colored eyes. Today, with further gorgeous blending of the races, we have Vanessa Williams and Tyra Banks with their grace and beauty to demonstrate the lighter complexions of African Americans.

3. High Yellows were at one time scorned by Black African Americans as inferior, because of the white blood. I  was not there,  and still can't understand it, but that was because of their different experiences under Slavery and  Jim Crow. High Yellows  had very light brown pigmentation, to the point of almost appearing yellow, though if next to an Asian, the color would likely not appear 'yellow".

4. I believe there is only reference to different sexual talents or tastes of different African American women, based on their color, only because of old wive's tales, folk myths, oral tradition, voodoo, etc. Clearly there is no scientific basis for  any physical, sexual, psychological, or moral difference based on such differences. The song writers and performers heard it or experienced it  one way and believed it, and repeated the rumor/myth.

5. This is my accumulated experience, but I may be wrong. One could ask Phil or John Cephas, seriously.

6. Pink is terrific. John M has taught us a couple of his tunes and his techniques: Meet Me in the Bottom, his version Catfish Blues with unwound G. Ponk has a couple of nice tunes on the Smithsonian Folkways Anthology vol 4: That's no Way to Be, Play that thing. Also, Son House Depot Blues is on that, and HoneyBoy's Big Fat Momma, which  has great rhythym and beat.

So, there you have it. MHO. 8)
Miller
Do good, be nice, eat well, smile, treat the ladies well, and ignore all news reports--which  can't be believed anyway,

Buzz

Offline frankie

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #25 on: April 22, 2004, 08:18:29 PM »
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.

I thought this theory was put forth as an explanation of certain types of abuse within African American families, and was connected ultimately to slavery.  I'm not saying that it can't be applied to blues lyrics - are you saying that blues lyrics depicting violence toward women are speaking in "code"?  It's interesting, but I've never come across that before.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #26 on: April 23, 2004, 10:41:24 AM »
Hi all,
I've been thinking about your post, Mark, and some of the stuff you brought up.


Anyway I believe it's all a cartoon, as I said earlier.


Certainly a lot of stuff is cartoonish, "Tight Like That", "Your Biscuits Are Big Enough For Me", the whole Hokum side of things.? But then you have "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues",
"Last Kind Word", "That's No Way To Get Along", and a whole slew of Blues which are not remotely cartoonish.? Of course it is possible to be stupefied by respect, but I am not particularly interested in hearing cartoonish renditions of Skip James or Lil Son Jackson material.? And with Skip in particular, I've wondered how he functioned in situations where he was expected to entertain--probably played a lot of piano. I saw him perform, and I think the last word I would use to describe what he was putting across would be "fun".?
For the Hokum side of things, an earnest approach is just silly, of course, and is guaranteed to suck the fun of out of stupid material like Bo Carter's "Beans", or Lonnie Johnson's "Blues For Murder Only".? (Come to think of it, an earnest rendition of "Beans" would be side-splitting.)? Basically it seems like you have to own what you do, and if you are going to sing some Dirtball material, you need to be the Dirtball.?

Quote
We analyse this stuff too much I think, should get out and play more. Not on a stage, in a room full of people sitting around having a good time.

Hear, Hear!

Quote
"...I will now perform See That My Grave Is Kept Clean by Mr. Blind Lemon Jefferson in the Key of E..." (cracks knuckles, coughs, crosses eyes, a respectful hush descends on the auditorium...)

I reckon there has to be something better than this, but I don't think a "party" version is the answer.? It seems like you just have to get to the point with your material where it all sounds right coming out of you, and you can go where you want to with it.?
I looked at the preview?of this message and I don't know how to work the quote thing.? Sorry about that.
All best,
Johnm

[edit: fixed up the quote thing for ya!]
« Last Edit: April 19, 2005, 01:28:36 PM by Johnm »

Offline Rivers

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #27 on: April 23, 2004, 12:06:24 PM »
John, great post, brings the discussion nicely into balance. My 'cartoon' allusion was a 180 degree position that was lurking on the sidelines. There are two ends of the spectrum, fun and serious. Playing social music takes in both and all points in between.

Humor can be sophisticated and up front if you can muster the panache to carry it off and context is everything. Example that comes to mind is Johnny Cash singing San Quinten Blues to a room full of lifers who are cheering and laughing. 'San Quinten, you're a living hell to me'.

Whether or not it's judged to be appropriate is in the domain of the audience. Whether you choose to play it or not is your judgement based on some animal survival reflex probably. Personally I can't be bothered to sing about stuff I have to explain or apologise for.

Re. country blues cartoons, there are a lot of them. Besides hokum there's Frankie, Stack 'O Lee, John Hardy, Kassie Jones, the lighter side of murder & mayhem, visual stories spaced out like frames on the funny page. That's the way I see them, visually. Sometimes I see speech bubbles...

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #28 on: April 23, 2004, 07:34:17 PM »
For the Hokum side of things, an earnest approach is just silly, of course, and is guaranteed to suck the fun of out of stupid material like Bo Carter's "Beans", or Lonnie Johnson's "Blues For Murder Only".? (Come to think of it, an earnest rendition of "Beans" would be side-splitting.)?

I don't want no more navy beans, boys I don't want no more
I don't want no more navy beans, they're 'bout to make my stomach sore
I ate 'em last night and the night before, when I got through I couldn't shut my door
I don't want no more navy beans, boys I don't want no more

I have worked on this one. Great tune for a song about intestinal difficulties. (I think I've now taken this thread so far off topic it's irredeemable? :P )
« Last Edit: April 19, 2005, 01:29:49 PM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Pink Anderson - High Yellow
« Reply #29 on: April 20, 2005, 11:33:36 PM »
Hi all,
I recently re-read this thread in the course of de-farkling (removing glitches) from the Forum.  I thought some of you might find it interesting; it gets at some issues pertaining to choice of material and performance of this material.  See what you think.
All best,
Johnm

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