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You'd better take this away from me before I hurt myself - Mose Scarlett, handing off soloing duties to Ken Whitely in concert

Author Topic: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"  (Read 7829 times)

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Online Johnm

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Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« on: November 28, 2008, 10:05:15 AM »
Hi all,
I was listening to Lemon's recording of "Jack of Diamonds" the other day and realized that I do not know what card game the lyrics are referring to.  It's not any variety of poker that I've encountered.  Does anyone know what card game is being spoken of in the lyrics to "Jack of Diamonds"?
All best,
Johnm

Offline Rivers

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2008, 04:41:58 PM »
I have no idea but will take a guess. 5 card stud, since in the first round you're betting on a face-up card, and the jack of diamonds only beats one other court card, the jack of clubs.

There's a verse in The Cuckoo (various titles) that also mentions the jack o'diamonds.

Another question I have is how did gamblers Lemon and Blind Blake play cards in the first place? Did Lemon play cards or just lift the ideas from an old song like the Cuckoo? We know (or think we know, since it was one of Big Bill's mixed-up accounts) that Blake played a lot of poker.

Offline banjochris

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2008, 12:13:32 AM »
I think it's likely that it's referring to Georgia Skin, since it's possible for any card to lose against any other card, depending what order they're drawn in. A Google search came up with a couple of people reporting rules, which make it sound like it's a variation of Faro. Rivers, I would think in stud that any ace, king or queen would beat a jack, and the suits wouldn't matter (they wouldn't in Faro, either). If there's a variation where that does happen, let me know.
Chris

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2008, 12:55:29 AM »
FWIW coincidently Chris Smith asked this of the PWBG on 18 October

"If anyone can tell me what game Blind Lemon Jeffferson was playing in
'Jack O Diamonds Blues', in which the jack of diamonds is apparently a
master card (since it beats the queen and the four), but not always (since
it's a hard card to play) I'll be obliged."

He only received one response from Paul Garon thus:

"I have no idea of this is relevant, but in one take of Minnie's
GEORGIA SKIN (but not in the other take), she sings something about
playing the jack of diamonds on out to the end, perhaps suggesting it
had a special meaning or function in the Skin game."

Offline Rivers

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2008, 04:12:00 PM »
Chris, suit hierarchy does apply in a stud poker face value tie. I see on wikipedia there is an alternative to the usual clubs diamonds hearts spades which goes diamonds clubs hearts spades, which would put the jack o'diamonds as the lowest ranking court card.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_card_by_suit
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five-card_stud

The j o'd is not a one-eyed jack (wild in some games) so no connection there.

I like the Georgia Skin theory but have no idea how it's played.

[edit] suit ranking applies in stud only to determine low-card to ante-up in the event of tie. So it doesn't fit.

[edit 2] I've now read 3 googled explanations of the Georgia Skin Game, all are different...
« Last Edit: November 29, 2008, 04:33:06 PM by Rivers »

JugStruggler

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2008, 05:00:34 PM »
Quote
Another question I have is how did gamblers Lemon and Blind Blake play cards in the first place?

It's most likely either lifted from other songs, or it could be original words based on stories they heard. 

Another options is that they were not completely blind and/or were not blind there whole lives.  I know the picture of Lemon shows him wearing glasses, and there is story he worked as a wrestler before taking to music (I'm sure others can correct my "facts").  If he was nearly completely blind he may have been able to distinguish cards by holding them up very close to his eye.

Offline daddystovepipe

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2008, 11:51:02 PM »
Mack McCormick explains in the liner notes of Mance Lipscomb 'Texas Songster' album (Arhoolie lp1001 or cd306) : "The many different versions  which are still circulated give a sequence of advice on how to bet the JackO'Diamonds in the popular game Monte in which the players bet for or against "layouts" of various cards.  After the bets the dealer turns up a card form the stack - called the Monte or Mountain - which determins the winning and losing bets".

This does not explain the game in detail but maybe the cardsharks under you can shed a further light on this... ;)

Offline banjochris

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2008, 02:23:01 AM »
Monte and Faro were pretty similar, according to the rules on this website:

http://www.shasta.com/suesgoodco/respite/

I'm sure there were lots of variations lost to history. Nowadays Monte is mostly thought of as the "find the lady" scam with three cards and a queen -- the variation on the old shell game.


Offline Chezztone

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2008, 12:46:57 AM »
I don't know what game Lemon is singing about. But I do know that blind people can play cards. There is a funny episode in Ray Charles' biography about a game where he was beating his opponent for a lot of money -- and then the landlady walked in and scolded the opponent, "Shame on you for taking advantage of a blind boy like that!" and broke up the game, leaving Ray laughing as he counted his winnings.
Also at last year's World Series of Poker there was a blind player who got pretty far.

Charles Freeborn

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2008, 09:10:49 AM »
You might shoot an e-mail to Steve James. He covers that tune (and quite well I'd say). Steve is quite the student of the genre and frequently knows the stories behind his material, or can make one up that will pass for true...
-C

Offline Rivers

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2008, 04:32:05 PM »
Steve's rendition is pretty much the Mance Lipscomb version, and he does credit Mance on the album. Same tune but it's got a lot more verses than Lemon's (or John Lee Hooker's). A lot more playing cards get rhymed. I've listened to it, and all the others, for more clues as to the game, no dice.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2008, 04:56:10 PM »
Ramblin' Jack Eliot's Cuckoo version contains a Jack o' Diamonds verse. He puts it over like only a doctor's son with a cowboy hat from Queens can (in other words fucking great!)
Eric Von Schmidt's early white person attempting bottleneck guitar version is a charming artifact of a bygone era.
Its on the Real Folk Blues of Eric Von Schmidt album, featured on the cover of Mr.Dylan's Bringin' it all Back Home.

The Mississippi Shieks have a Jack o' Diamonds/payday version I do believe.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
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Offline frankie

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2008, 05:08:48 PM »
The Mississippi Shieks have a Jack o' Diamonds/payday version I do believe.

The only song the Sheiks do that comes close to this is Bootlegger's Blues, which is a theme that was also rendered by Uncle Dave Macon as Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy, and Henry Thomas as Shanty Blues.  None of these share verses with Jack o' Diamonds or The Cuckoo that I recall, though...  which makes me think...  seems like most versions of The Cuckoo include a 'Jack o' Diamonds' verse, but I can't think of a single version of Jack o' Diamonds that includes a verse about a cuckoo....  what's up with that?

Offline Rivers

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2008, 05:32:13 PM »
Yeah, what is the connection between the two songs, I've always wondered about that myself. I assume The Cuckoo is older but have no idea really.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2008, 06:16:30 PM »
The Cuckoo, I believe, dates back to Elizabethan England. If it doesn't it should. In fact it should start back there tomorrow or the day before yesterday I don't care which. ;)

The Jack o' Diamonds verse was added by one Maurice Swainsbottom in 1837 as a way of advertising an illegal gambling casino on the Bowery in NYC. While this is a complete fabrication it is true that........awwww fuck it!
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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