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Hitch me to your buggy baby, drive me like a mule - Blind Lemon Jefferson, Rabbit Foot Blues

Author Topic: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics  (Read 40049 times)

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Offline Stuart

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #105 on: June 12, 2010, 06:33:59 PM »
Hi all,
"Papa Stobb Blues" was recorded on the same day as "New Jelly Roll Blues" and utilized the same personnel...I am stuck on the last line of the first and last verses...

   I whistled to the paper boy, the little boy stopped
   "What kind of paper, boy, have you got?"
   "I've got the Atlanta Journal, talk about the Mobile Flag
   I can tell you what [                 ?                           ]

Today at the PWBG, Chris Smith posted his lyrics for the last line :

"I can tell you where Sherman stopped his engine at."

as well as a question about the identity of "The Mobile Flag." He assumed that it was the name of a newspaper and couldn't find anything about a paper by that name.

Another member, Bruce Smith, suggested that "The Mobile Flag" is not the name of a paper, but refers to an Alabama regimental flag:

http://www.alabama37th.com/flag.htm

If this is the case, then there are two distinct subjects in the third line, with a conceptual break running right down the middle.

The Civil War reference makes sense to me. But of course whether or not this is what Peg Leg Howell actually had in mind is still an open question.

Offline dj

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #106 on: June 13, 2010, 06:29:05 AM »
I don't know that I'd go with a Civil War reference, but thinking of "mobile flag" as something other than a newspaper does raise other possibilities.  Was the mobile flag an event that was news in the Atlanta Journal at about the time that Howell recorded?  A horse race or automobile race?  Or a sports team from Alabama?  New possibilities for research, anyway.  It might help to revisit the last line of the verse.

   

Offline dj

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #107 on: June 13, 2010, 06:58:33 AM »
Could Howell be saying "flood" or "flash [flood]"?  On September 20th 1926 there was a hurricane that caused major flooding in Mobile.  Papa Stobb Blues was recorded on April 8th 1927.  Could Sherman/Sherma/German/Germa have stopped his engine in conjunction with this flooding?  Or does the last line talk about some separate event?  Research is ongoing.

Offline dj

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #108 on: June 13, 2010, 07:15:09 AM »
Rats!  I don't have online access to the Atlanta Journal from the 1920s.  If anyone does, scanning the headlines from September 20 - 30 1926 might prove illuminating.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #109 on: June 13, 2010, 11:02:59 AM »
In the newspaper biz, a flag refers to the name/logo of the newspaper displayed on the front page. Sometimes called a masthead (though I think of a masthead as something a bit different, coming from a different environment). The line could conceivably be not "Mobile Flag" but "Mobile flag".

Offline Stuart

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #110 on: June 13, 2010, 11:53:49 AM »
That "Mobile Flag/flag" has something to do with newspapers certainly follows from the first part of the line as well as from the verse, but it could also refer to something different, something that is contrary to our expectations. But what else is new? We've seen this in the past when trying to figure out lyrics and what they refer to.

You could be right, Andrew. Perhaps "Mobile F/flag" was a local way of referring to one of the Confederate flags (the one that is at present called the "stars and bars") that appeared as part of the masthead, and was a slang term for the paper. Perhaps. Possible. Likely? Any basis in fact? We'll have to dig deeper to see if there's any evidence that suggests that this could have been the case.

After listening to it a couple of more times and giving it some more thought, I think the third line might be understood as:

"I've got the Atlanta Journal, talk[ing] about the Mobile F/flag (or flood as dj suggests),"

I think that the paperboy might be hawking the paper the way paperboys are portrayed in films set in an earlier era: "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!" (Followed by the headline stories of the day.)

I think that the last line needs to be gone over some more. While Chris Smith's transcription certainly sounds close to what Peg Leg Howell sings, the line is still less than clear. And there's always the possibility of the mind filling in what the ear wants to hear. We've all been there.

If my thoughts about line three of the verse are correct and if there is internal consistency throughout the entire verse, then "talk[ing] about the Mobile F/flag (or flood, etc.) and whatever line four is about might just be referring to the news of the day--what sells papers. And as dj points out, finding out what this was may require going through the Atlanta Journal archives to see if it corresponds to actual events that were reported in the paper. Of course, the events mentioned could be fanciful, made up for the song. The research continues.

Edited to add: Following Andrew's idea, line three could also be understood as:

"I got the Atlanta Journal, [I'm] talk[ing] about the Mobile F/flag,"

Where "the Mobile F/flag" is a slang term for the Atlanta Journal. Just a another wild guess...
« Last Edit: June 13, 2010, 12:29:10 PM by Stuart »

Offline Alexei McDonald

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #111 on: June 14, 2010, 01:36:26 AM »
I'm a bit late to this discussion, but I thought I'd chip in with this.   There's a swing-era tune called "Mobile Flag stop : catching the 8.02 local".   It's a train imitation instrumental recorded by Johnny Messner, so I think that the Mobile Flag is a train or a railway station, not a newspaper.

Offline frankie

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #112 on: June 14, 2010, 04:13:19 AM »
Alexei - I think the term that PLH is using and the "flag stop" referred to in the Johnny Messner song are probably unrelated...  a "flag stop" (going from dim memory - a friend's dad was a railfan in high school!) is a minor train station that a train only stops for when there is a signal from the station (when the train is flagged down, so to speak).

Offline Alexei McDonald

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #113 on: June 14, 2010, 06:39:25 AM »
Alexei - I think the term that PLH is using and the "flag stop" referred to in the Johnny Messner song are probably unrelated...  a "flag stop" (going from dim memory - a friend's dad was a railfan in high school!) is a minor train station that a train only stops for when there is a signal from the station (when the train is flagged down, so to speak).

Curses, I had hoped I was making a bit of progress there!  :)

Offline coco

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #114 on: June 11, 2012, 07:52:24 PM »
Certainly the most striking feature of the song is the grisly opening verse.  It is hard at this time to imagine the place for such a verse in a popular music with a primary function of entertainment.  Certainly, you encounter really tough verses in this music from time to time, but this one seems particularly ghoulish.  There is nothing in the performance that indicates Peg Leg intended it to be construed in a humorous light; rather, he sings it with the flat emotional affect of an Old-Time singer like Dock Boggs doing a murder ballad.

   Says, I'll cut your throat, mama, drink your blood like wine
   I'll cut your throat, mama, and drink your blood like wine

John, you and I have had discussions about these kinds of lyrics before  - particularly violence against women in old blues lyrics, and especially out of context, throwaway lines - and have agreed that, for ourselves, there are certain things we can't imagine singing. This line has always struck me as so ghoulish as to be poetic, albeit in the darkest way. I could see incorporating it into a bad man ballad or murder ballad somehow. It is a pretty astonishing image regardless of what era you're in. I have a vague recollection of a similar line appearing somewhere else from another CB artist. I can't recall and could be mistaken.

Anyway, if I was a woman, this is not a guy I'd be looking to date...  Yikes!


I HEARD THIS BY JELLY ROLL MORTON

Offline Rivers

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #115 on: June 11, 2012, 07:59:11 PM »
Please feel free to elaborate, without Caps Lock on.  :)

Offline Cleoma

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #116 on: June 12, 2012, 05:34:52 AM »
The last verse of Skinny Legs Blues by Geeshie Wiley is similarly gruesome.   And, similarly sung without scenery-chewing or any particular emphasis.  Floating verse?  Way to show how tough you are?  Maybe for some people it's a challenge and a come-on at the same time?

Online Johnm

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #117 on: June 12, 2012, 09:29:11 AM »
It seems like it's also a kind of bragging, however grisly it may be.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Ale_Buster_Ponti

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #118 on: August 30, 2014, 02:00:05 AM »
Hello, I'm from Italy so I'm not really introduced to south slang, about "Hobo Blues": what does "iron my overall" means? Could it be "hire my overall"?. Thank you all!

Online Johnm

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Re: Peg Leg Howell Lyrics
« Reply #119 on: August 30, 2014, 06:03:47 AM »
Hi Ale_Buster_Ponti,
"Overalls" are heavy work wear, a one-piece sort of work jump suit.  In blues lyrics, the singer often asks that his jumper (another work wear item) be starched and his overalls ironed (pressed).  I don't know why the singer needs such well-cared-for work clothes, but I think it is mostly because "overalls" rhymes (sort of) with "cannonball", the name of a train.  Maybe, too, the singer wants to look sharp at all times, so starched and ironed jumpers and overalls are wanted for that reason.  Trying to explain it makes me realize I've heard such verses many times before and never really thought about them!
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: August 30, 2014, 06:33:36 AM by Johnm »

 


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