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Lotta these tunes aren't on the records...I just never had the nerve to bother someone in their own home with some of this stuff - Dave Ray

Author Topic: Leadbelly lyrics  (Read 40631 times)

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Offline Rivers

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Re: Leadbelly lyrics
« Reply #45 on: February 20, 2009, 03:25:01 PM »
Now I'm wondering how it originated. Here's a groovy way to search Google books I found, when a standard Google internet search just retrieves a lot of noise:

http://books.google.com/books?ei=GjqfSZLHF4fgyQWEw4SaDQ&ct=result&q=%22like+the+dago+told+the+jew%22&btnG=Search+Books

Offline Rivers

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Re: Leadbelly lyrics
« Reply #46 on: February 20, 2009, 06:02:57 PM »
[edit: This is now in weeniepedia]

The phrase 'gee by the lamb', is that a cuss defused by an oblique reference to Christ do you think, or have I misheard 'lamb'? Perhaps it evolved from the vernacular, from 'gee-by-Christ' to 'gee-by-The-Lamb' is not too big of a stretch. I'm not convinced though.

I transcribed it blind first then did a lot of searching to see what others had come up with. There are a lot of dubious transcripts out there. Nobody else has "who made it black bad", you'd have to be a weenie and know some Lemon to hear that. I think it's right but as always I'm open to all corrections & comments.

The "Lord Donald" thing is vaguely Fairport Convention-ish and as such is likely totally wrong, much as I'm an FC fan til my dyin' day, and Huddie was into at least one of those olde english folk tunes, see Gallis Pole, so why not Mattie Groves? By the way I've always wondered how he first came to hear the folk tune on which he based Gallis Pole, does anyone know for sure or have a theory?

Also as usual in my latter days, I'm making no stabs at tuning/position, Chris and Andrew are way better at that then me.

BTW this is the other song on that 1935 collection that has Huddie "skinnin' for Johnny Rye, puttin' his initials on a mule's behind", the other song is "Honey, I'm All Out And Down".

Ox Drivin' Blues - Leadbelly
24 January 1935 NYC
ARC 16694-1 unissued
Transcribed from Leadbelly King of the 12-String Guitar, Columbia Roots 'N' Blues 467893
12 string in standard down 6 semitones to B and played in A(7) position, actual pitch is E flat

Whoa! back buck, and gee! by The Lamb!
Who made the back band? Cunningham
Whoa! back buck, and gee! by The Lamb
Who made the back band? Oh God damn
Whoa buck, and gee, by the lamb
Who made the back band? Oh God damn

[holler]This man he was drivin' twenty yoke of oxen
He was a long ways from home
And he looked down the road, looked like he could see his wife
And he 'gin to holler at the old oxen
"Kyyah! Whoa yeah buck, back up!"[/holler]

Whoa buck, and gee, by The Lamb
Who made the back band? Whoa, God damn

Eighteen, nineteen, twenty years ago
I'd take Shirl' to the party-oh
I'd take Shirl' to the party-oh
All dressed up in her calico
Whoa buck, and gee, by The Lamb
Who made the back band? Whoa, God damn

Me and my baby come a-walkin' down the road
Wind from her feet knockin' "Sugar In The Gourd"
Sugar in the gourd and the gourd on the ground
Want to get a sugar gotta roll the gourd around
Whoa buck, and gee, by The Lamb
Who made the back band? Whoa, God damn

[holler]"Kyyah! Whoa yeah, back up, whoa buck!"[/holler]

Whoa buck, and gee, by The Lamb
Who made the back band? Whoa, God damn

Whoah b(l)ack buck, and gee, by The Lamb
Who made the back band? Whoa, God damn
When I was skinnin' for Johnny Rye
Puttin' my initials on a mule's behind
Whoa buck, and gee, by The Lamb
Who made the back band? Whoa! God damn
[holler]"Kyyah! Whoa yeah, back up, whoa buck!"[/holler]
Whoa Buck, and gee, by The Lamb
Who made the back band? Whoa, God damn

Eighteen, nineteen, twenty years ago
Shirl' knocked down old Cotton Eyed Joe
Cotton Eyed Joe and-a Cotton Eyed Joe
Wouldn't let him dance for to sell his soul
Whoa buck, and gee, by The Lamb
Who made the back band? Whoa, God damn

==Notes==
<references/>

<ref>Whoa, back buck: Later song titles have 'back', he sometimes sings 'black' here</ref>
<ref>Gee: Animal team driver command to turn right. "Haw" is the command to turn left, "Whoa" to stop</ref>
<ref>"Gee! by The Lamb!", reference to Christ, defused exclamation venting frustration at getting the team to turn</ref>
<ref>back band: A strap going through the harness saddle to join the belly band either side. Takes the weight of the shafts or pole. In cart harness it is replaced by a chain running in a groove in the harness saddle, hooked to the shafts either side.</ref>
<ref>black bad: Alternative theory is "black bad", as in "too black bad". It actually sounds most like a hybrid, "black band"</ref>
<ref>Had fun feedin' on the sugar in the gourd: Could also be "Went for fishin' out the sugar in the gourd"
<ref>Sugar in the gourd: Various theories exist. Reference to coitus is the more likely, "gourd" as female reproductive apparatus, "sugar" as male, or semen</ref>

[edit: picked up corrections, added notes at bottom for inclusion in-line in weeniepedia]
[edit: picked up correction from cheapfeet]
« Last Edit: March 03, 2009, 03:39:19 PM by Rivers »

Offline waxwing

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Re: Leadbelly lyrics
« Reply #47 on: February 20, 2009, 11:39:16 PM »
Gee is the command, used by muleskinners and other teamsters, for the animal, mule, ox, whatever, to turn right. Haw is the command to turn left. Whoa (note spelling) is the command to stop.

So "gee by the lamb" would be "turn right by the lamb" whatever that might mean.

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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Offline banjochris

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Re: Leadbelly lyrics
« Reply #48 on: February 21, 2009, 12:04:13 AM »
I'm not sure about the "black bad," but it's possible. Most of the "Oh"s, I think should be "whoa". Also, the last verse is

Eighteen, nineteen, twenty years ago
Sure knocked down old Cotton Eyed Joe
Cotton Eyed Joe and-a Cotton Eyed Joe
Wouldn't let him dance for to sell his soul.

(The "and-a" in the third line gets one of those intrusive r's we noted in another thread, and the last line I'm pretty sure he's misspeaking -- he usually sings "save his soul" and it sounds like he stumbles a bit here.)

Also, I believe the song's in A position, but he always plays an A7 instead of A major, plus regular D and E shapes.
Chris

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Leadbelly lyrics
« Reply #49 on: February 21, 2009, 10:24:55 AM »
I agree with Chris, most if not all of the occurrences of oh or woh, should be whoa. Lead Belly recorded this song quite a few times, more often under the name Whoa Back Buck.

I'm pretty sure it's not black bad in "Who made it black bad? Oh God damn". That said, damned if I know what he's singing. It sounds phonetically like back ban/back bend. Not clear to me. This is an old work song, so I'm not sure what I'd think of as more "hipster" phrases like "too black bad" would be likely to appear.

Also I don't think he's singing Cheryl. It sounds more like a rough pronunciation of Sally, "I take Sally to the party-oh", with Sally sung as Sall' and perhaps Salluh. In other versions, he also does a "you take Sally and I'll take Sue" type verse. Not that that confirms anything but...

Re. "sell his soul" in the last verse Chris transcribes. In a version Lead Belly does with the Golden Gate Quartet, he sings a verse that goes

I taken my gal to a party-oh
All dressed up in her calico
Taken my gal to the party-oh
I wouldn't let her dance for to sell her soul

He actually hesitates more on the "sell" in that, singing it as s-s-ell...


I've attached a better quality version of the song in case it helps anyone get the "back ban"/"black bad" etc line.


[attachment deleted by admin]
« Last Edit: February 21, 2009, 10:26:13 AM by uncle bud »

Offline dj

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Re: Leadbelly lyrics
« Reply #50 on: February 21, 2009, 10:54:43 AM »
For the "black bad/back ban" lines, I think I hear pretty clearly "Who made the BLACK VAN...".  If my ears are correct, I'd assume the black van would be a paddy wagon/prison transport, or just possibly a hearse.


Offline banjochris

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Re: Leadbelly lyrics
« Reply #51 on: February 21, 2009, 11:05:40 AM »
After a little Googling, I think I have it. It's "Who made the back band" -- from Wikipedia on horse harnesses: Back band. A strap going through the harness saddle to join the belly band either side. Takes the weight of the shafts or pole. In cart harness it is replaced by a chain running in a groove in the harness saddle, hooked to the shafts either side.

And this little bid from An Encyclopaedia of Agriculture, 1825, talking about yoking oxen and horses:  Hence the necessity of not suspending the plough chains from the back of the animal by means of the back band, as is sometimes done, but of allowing them to hang freely so as to form a straight line from the collar blades through the muzzle of the plough to the point of resistance.
Chris

Offline Rivers

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Re: Leadbelly lyrics
« Reply #52 on: February 21, 2009, 06:18:24 PM »
Thanks folks, very educational as always. I had left my 'phones at work when I transcribed it. I've now retrieved them.

I'll give it some more listens and report back. So Lead is bewailing the 'back band' build quality, as in "Who made this POS?".

If it was an item that broke regularly and was generally the bane of an ox driver's life that would fit. I like 'back band' because of the perfect fit to context but would like to look at the "Who made the...?" more closely, just my gut feeling, something else could be in there.

I mean, it would be the first time in any country blues song, that I can think of, where a consumer was dissing a product, with a rhetorical question to boot. Doesn't mean it's not right though.

More context affirmation, he is talking about putting the team into reverse which would put pressure on the back band, with ensuing chaos if it broke, can you imagine...

Wax's Gee / Haw animal driver turn signals were new to me, thanks for that. So what the heck is "gee, by the lamb"? My gut feeling, there's more to it.

[edit: disregard the next bit, I just reread Chris's post] And is that really "Lord Donald" in there, transported from ye olde medieval Englande? Surely not, but that's what it sounds like!
« Last Edit: February 21, 2009, 06:47:31 PM by Rivers »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Leadbelly lyrics
« Reply #53 on: February 21, 2009, 06:42:13 PM »
Re. Lord Donald, see Chris' post of that verse. I think he's right. Although I wonder if instead of "Sure knocked down old Cotton-Eyed Joe" it's "Sall' knocked down", with Sall' pronounced more as Shall'.

In a version from the live concerts in Austin and New York on Document, Lead Belly does a spoken intro where he explains the oxen get stuck in a ditch full of water or something. Perhaps they have back band trouble. :P

Offline Rivers

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Re: Leadbelly lyrics
« Reply #54 on: February 21, 2009, 06:52:15 PM »
Yep, got it, see my edit re the spurious "Lord Donald".

One thing is clear, driving an ox team was a ***** of a job.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2009, 06:56:09 PM by Rivers »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Leadbelly lyrics
« Reply #55 on: February 22, 2009, 01:06:09 AM »
Wax's Gee / Haw animal driver turn signals were new to me, thanks for that. So what the heck is "gee, by the lamb"? My gut feeling, there's more to it.

I think you were absolutely right about it being a reference to Christ, and in the song is basically just a euphemism for saying:
Whoa, buck and gee, by God.
Chris

Offline Rivers

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Re: Leadbelly lyrics
« Reply #56 on: February 22, 2009, 06:24:53 AM »
Cool, thanks for bringing it back 360. I'm glad you believe that "Gee, by The Lamb!" is correct. He's struggling to turn the team and venting his frustration. Will give it initial capitals and an exclamation mark to make it clear after I've run through it again this morning under the cans. Personally I think we've achieved the best-ever translation of this song, that I can find anyway.

I would like to add all the other versions I have of it over time, many of them have some pretty classic folk/blues verse variations.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Leadbelly lyrics
« Reply #57 on: February 22, 2009, 07:27:28 AM »
Updated. After relistening, the cotton-eyed Joe verse I swapped-in "Shirl' knocked down..." in place of "Sure knocked down...", I believe Shirl' is the gal being mentioned in the calico verse, and it sounds more correct to me and punchier.

Finally, had a loss of confidence in this verse, meaning there's one key phrase we haven't got. I had "Black buck" for the ??? below, it's not right:

Ain't my baby come a-walkin' down the road?
??? feedin' on the sugar in the gourd

Also, "Ain't" is indistinct and sounds almost like it could be "Me and..."

Carried forward the updated summary, with placeholders for all the songs sequenced per the running order:
From Columbia Legacy "King of.."
Title  1st pos. chord or
open tuning name
 
  Semitones
down from E
 
  Pitch 
Packin' Trunk
Spanish, Ab
n/a
Ab
Becky Deem, She Was a Gamblin' Girl
E
6
Bb
Honey, I'm All Out And Down
D
6
Ab
Four Day Worry Blues
D
6
Ab
Roberta Part I
F
6
B
Roberta Part II
F
6
B
Death Letter Blues Part I
A
Death Letter Blues Part II
A
Kansas City Papa
E
6
Bb
Fort Worth & Dallas Blues
G
5
D
You Don't Know My Mind
G
Ox Drivin' Blues
A(7)
6
Eb
Daddy I'm Coming Back To You
C
Shorty George
C
4
Ab
Yellow Jacket
A
T.B. Woman Blues
A
3
F#
Pig Meat Papa
F
My Baby Quit Me
A

I've done a draft of Roberta Part I and will post later, after any final comments on Ox Drivin' have come in.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2009, 03:59:56 PM by Rivers »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Leadbelly lyrics
« Reply #58 on: February 22, 2009, 12:53:09 PM »
Rivers, after listening to this and another couple recordings of this song, I think the sugar in the gourd verse is:

Me and my baby come a-walkin' down the road?
Went for fishin' out the sugar in the gourd
Sugar in the gourd and the gourd on the ground
Want to get the sugar gotta roll the gourd around

Also:
Packin' Trunk: sounds like Spanish on a 6-string to me
Four Day Worry: D
Roberta: F
Death Letter: A
You Don't Know My Mind: G
Daddy I'm Coming Back to You: C (Is this the earliest recording of a black artist covering Jimmie Rodgers? and did we list this in the waltz thread?)
Yellow Jacket: A
T.B. Woman: A is right
(and you left off the last two [I can see why, they're listed over on the right under his picture])
Pig Meat Papa: F (and the recording sounds like it's unnaturally slow to me)
My Baby Quit Me: A

Chris



Offline Rivers

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Re: Leadbelly lyrics
« Reply #59 on: February 22, 2009, 01:10:00 PM »
I just listened again and heard "Me and my baby come a-walkin' down the road / Had fun feedin' on the sugar in the gourd". I can't hear a 'shh' sound as in fishin', I can put a note?

Thanks for other positions. Yes I think we got 'Daddy...' in the waltz thread.

Yes I missed two, thanks, will add them.