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"Would you like to play with me?" - Henry Townsend's reply to soundman Warren Argo's query as to whether anyone would be playing with Henry at his concert set at the first Port Townsend Country Blues Workshop

Author Topic: blowing the joke  (Read 1638 times)

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Offline Chezztone

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blowing the joke
« on: May 20, 2007, 05:43:14 PM »
Forgive me (and tell me) if this has been addressed before. It seems like a perfect topic for this group. Let's cite and discuss instances of blues artists blowing the joke in their lyrics. In some cases these are very famous lines, but I think they got them wrong. Such as: Robert Johnson, "The woman I love, stole her from my best friend. Some joker got lucky, stole her back again." Clearly the punch line should be "That joker got lucky, stole her back again." It's funny when the same guy steals her back, not just "some" joker. Then you got Furry Lewis, "The woman I hate I see her every day. But the woman I love, she's so far away." Great joke, but he's got it backwards. It is much funnier if sung the opposite way, "The woman I love, she's so far away. But the woman I hate I see her every day." Now, some listeners think Blind Lemon Jefferson erred in his line about "Sitting here wondering will a matchbox hold my clothes. I ain't got so many matches but I got so far to go." David Evans has even suggested that he might mean matches of clothes, sets of clothes, in the second line. But I like it as Lemon sang it, I find it humorous in a surreal way. But maybe he did make a mistake? What do y'all think and do you have other examples? Cheers, SC

Offline waxwing

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Re: blowing the joke
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2007, 08:01:38 PM »
Hey Chezz,

Interesting, but I think the Furry line is not meant as a joke. Sure, the way you turned it around it is more pointedly funny, but the way Furry sings it, he finishes with the more poignant line, which turns the joke into something deeper, I think. After all, it is the woman he loves that he is left thinking about.

You could "fix" the Robert Johnson line by changing one letter, making "some" into "same".-G-

I love the way George Carter adds that line to the end of Ghost Woman Blues. After lamenting about how the ghost woman keeps him so thin, takin' all he gets from the L&N, he plays a break with the tag line "Let a joker steal this ghost woman 'way from me." Must have been a pretty common line.

I'm with you on the Lemon line. It's deep just the way it is, and I feel Lemon meant it that way.

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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mmpresti

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Re: blowing the joke
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2007, 08:43:38 PM »
The blues songs that I see jokes in are mostly commentaries, like in St. Louis Jimmy's and Roosevelt Sykes'

She got a face like a monkey
head like a teddy-bear

spoken by Sykes: What kind of woman is that?

Yank Rachel and Sonny Boy 1 have a lot of back and forth commentary that can be read as a joke, like in 38 pistol,

Rachel: I'm going to run and get my 38 pistol, I know my woman riding round in a V8 Ford
Sonny Boy: I'm glad I didn't meat you when you had it
Rachel: Run and get my 38 pistol, I know my woman riding round in a V8 Ford
Sonny Boy: I know you must be goin' out bear hunting or something

and Rachell's "Up North Blues" is a sustained joke about the cold weather in the North,

I stand in the window and I look out with tears all in my eyes (2x)
I would go outdoors, Sonny Boy, but I am scared that I may die

I would live in the North, but I ain't got sufficient clothes 2x
Sonny Boy: Yank, but you know they sell clothes up there
When the wind gets a blowin, Sonny Boy, I'm even scared to go outdoors

Also here's a corny one by Barbecue Bob in "Good Time Rounder"

There's 25 women in the this hotel, with me, you, and your brother, what time would it be? (2x)
That's very easy, mama, it'd be 25 after 3

Humorous jokes abound in the records of Butterbeans and Susie and Doctor Clayton. But I'd have to draw the line between blues songs that tell a joke directly and those which are played in a non-serious manner. Songs like Clayton's "Black Snake Blues" and Jelly Roll's "Make me a Pallet" sometimes gets me to laugh even though neither one of them is joking outright.

Offline markm

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Re: blowing the joke
« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2007, 06:46:44 AM »
My my all time favorite, thanks to Kokoma Arnold in Sissy Man Blues:

Woke up this morning with my pork grindin' bizness in my hand (R)

If you can't send me a woman please send me a sissy man

Mark

Offline uncle bud

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Re: blowing the joke
« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2007, 07:31:21 AM »
I think you guys are missing the point of Chezz's original post. I.e., the singer not getting the joke/line right in their delivery.

I can't think of any off the top of my head, but I agree with Wax that the line from Furry about "the woman I hate, I see her every day" could go either way. One as a joke, the other turning the joke on its head and coming up with something more expressive. Whether that was deliberate in this particular case, who knows. I could be wrong but I'm thinking even Furry sang it both ways over the years.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2007, 07:35:52 AM by uncle bud »

Offline markm

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Re: blowing the joke
« Reply #5 on: May 21, 2007, 10:06:16 AM »
Yeah, I know what Chezz meant, I just like saying pork grindin' bizness in my hand.

Mark

Offline Johnm

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Re: blowing the joke
« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2007, 11:58:16 AM »
Hi all,
One that I think is not really a blown joke, because it is not a joke line, but qualifies nonetheless as a blown line is in Clifford Gibson's "Bad Luck Dice".  He says:

   Just because you were a cheater, I won't give up the game (2)
   It don't break my heart to win, when I lose I feel the same

The order of "win" and "lose" in the tag line, makes no sense--it doesn't break anyone's heart to win, and it would be odd to to win as a result of another player's cheating.  Reverse the order, and the sense is clear.  A losing streak is not going to stop him from playing because he feels no worse losing than he does when winning.  It's like the old Charlie Poole song:

   If I lose, let me lose, I don't care how much I lose

Incidentally, I don't see what is so mysterious about Lemon's "Matchbox" line.  He's making rueful fun of his own impoverishment, i.e., he doesn't have enough clothes apart from the ones he is wearing to fill a matchbox.  In Luke Jordan's "Churchbell Blues", the same circumstances are used to taunt the singer.  And we know from Lemon's "Bad Luck Blues" that he's concerned with having "sufficient" clothes to go home.

All of which proves, if nothing else, that if you analyze humor enough, you are sure to wring whatever potential it had to cause mirth right out of it. 

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: May 21, 2007, 02:18:17 PM by Johnm »

mmpresti

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Re: blowing the joke
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2007, 01:49:54 PM »
If I understand what Chezz means correctly, I've got one,

Sonny Boy 2, in  "Eyesight to the Blind" sings,

Her daddy must be a millionaire, I can tell by the way she walk (2x)
But when the little girl starts to lovin', the deef and dumb begin to talk

then Joe Dison comes in with a slaptstick drum-roll and cymbal splash

The verse itself isn't really funny, but the drummer refers to it as a joke. I don't know, is this what is meant, Chezz, by "blowing the joke"?



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