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Don't listen for the changes, feel for the changes - Muddy Waters

Author Topic: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"  (Read 7740 times)

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Offline oddenda

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #30 on: February 04, 2009, 05:24:56 PM »
dj -

          I always thought that it was a garbling/mis-hearing of "smokes like lightning", which makes a bit more sense.

Peter B.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #31 on: February 04, 2009, 06:17:15 PM »
There's a supposed quote, provenance unknown,  on this page, scan for 'smokestack'. dj's flying sparks.

http://www.smoe.org/lists/joni/v2004.n494

When I wake up in the middle of the night worrying about this I wonder whether it was even a train, since factory chimneys always have a lightning conductor rod on them on account of being struck regularly. There is nothing in Wolf's lyric that even hints at it being a train, but it sure do sound like one.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #32 on: February 04, 2009, 07:17:20 PM »
Perhaps I should have quoted the whole Wolf verse, which has obvious connections to the Mississippi Sheiks' "Stop and Listen", and Charley Patton's "Moon Going Down", as well as Tommy Johnson's "Big Road Blues".

Oh, smokestack lightning, shining just like gold
Oh, don't you hear me crying?
Whoo-hoo, whoo-hoo

Compare to the Sheiks' Stop and Listen:

Crying, smokestack?s black, baby, and the bell it shine like gold
Now don?t you-a-hear me talking, pretty mama, oh
Smokestack?s black, bell it shining like gold
Crying, I found my baby laying on the cooling board

Or Patton's Moon Going Down:

Lord, the smokestack is black and the bell it shine like
Bell it shine like, bell it shine like gold

Wolf apparently later offered an explanation of the phrase that's very similar to what dj describes, but in light of the lyrical similarities to prior recordings, I can't help but think that was more likely a rationalization after the fact for a mishearing of the lyrics. Or perhaps his verse was coming from an original source and it's the others that are variations! I'm sure there's no way to prove either definitively. But it was certainly great to listen to Crying at Daybreak before making this post. Holy smoke.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #33 on: February 04, 2009, 09:36:18 PM »
Good points there UB

Offline dj

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #34 on: February 05, 2009, 04:05:32 AM »
Thanks to the link to the Wolf quote, Rivers.  I guess Smokestack Lightnin' points out what's probably a major reason for lyric variation: one mishears a lyric, but mishears it in a way that makes perfect sense to the mishearer, so the lyric gets passed on in its new form.  Kind of like DNA mutating in beneficial ways.

But my original point is that, if I'd never seen that train, the phrase "smokestack lightnin'" would never have made any sense to me.  Since I did, I made the same connection Wolf did.  But as steam engines have disappeared from the landscape, the meaning that Howlin' Wolf and I both independently arrived at has increasingly, as uncle bud so aptly put it, "gone AWOL".  One of the things I think of when a lyric makes no sense is that it probably made sense to the original performer, and if we could only revisit the historical circumstances and immerse ourselves in the culture present at the creation of the lyric, it would make sense to us.  Had the posters on this forum been gambling on the streets of Texas cities in the 1920s, we wouldn't now be puzzling over why the Jack of Diamonds was such a hard card to play, the meaning would be obvious.

Into the wayback machine, Sherman!         

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #35 on: February 05, 2009, 05:26:20 AM »
Wolf apparently later offered an explanation of the phrase that's very similar to what dj describes, but in light of the lyrical similarities to prior recordings, I can't help but think that was more likely a rationalization after the fact for a mishearing of the lyrics. Or perhaps his verse was coming from an original source and it's the others that are variations! I'm sure there's no way to prove either definitively. But it was certainly great to listen to Crying at Daybreak before making this post. Holy smoke.
Apropos of absolutely nothing, in 1993 I was given a book entitled ?Smokestack Lightning;Teenage Memoirs? by Lawrence Staig. I?ve never bothered to read it but the cover collage contains the Chess photo of Howlin? Wolf with guitar. It was for this reason alone that the giver thought it might be about blues and of interest to me.  ::)

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #36 on: February 08, 2009, 01:28:04 PM »
Dingwall over in the Lemon lyrics thread offers a Jack o' Diamonds line transcribed from the Paramount Book of the Blues which has it as "Put the jack against the four, you will walk right in the door." This seems to be a Paramount error, as I think Lemon says "Bet" each time. However, other versions of the song vary the word used. Mance says "Play the Jack against...". And I am trying to remember where I have heard/seen the line delivered as "Set the Jack against the four..." "Set the Jack against the Queen, you will turn your money green" etc. "Setting" suggests laying it next to/on top of the four, rather than cards that are used to beat each other/bet against each other. Like in Black Jack. Don't know if that sets off any bells. Perhaps this too is how "Put" might have snuck into that Paramount version?

I can barely work the Solitaire game on my computer, so I bring all this up knowing full well I can't answer it.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2009, 01:30:53 PM by uncle bud »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #37 on: February 08, 2009, 01:35:29 PM »
It's hard to hear whether Smith Casey, in his version of Jack of Diamonds, sings "Played the Jack and the four" or "Played the Jack 'gin the four". I think the former but perhaps someone else can have a listen.

Offline blueshome

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #38 on: February 08, 2009, 03:08:01 PM »
In Bob Campbell's "Dices Blues" he has the line:

"My buddy played the Jack when he give me that hard-luck queen"

and in the following stanza:

"Jack o'diamonds, jack o'diamonds will turn your money green"

This would seem to refer to the same game with the jack beating the queen.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #39 on: February 08, 2009, 06:15:28 PM »
"My buddy played the Jack when he give me that hard-luck queen"

This line would seem to indicate some kind of passing game if his buddy "give" him the queen, and there is a version of Hearts, IIRC, where everyone passes three cards, first left, then right, then across. But there are many games with passing cards involved.

I don't see how this line indicates that the jack beats the queen, tho'?

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Offline Bill Roggensack

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #40 on: February 08, 2009, 10:51:31 PM »
My parents loved playing card games, and Hearts (in several variations) was one of them. This thread twigged a memory about a Jack of Diamonds variation, and sure enough, when I went looking:
http://www.ehow.com/video_4413272_the-jack-diamonds-variation-hearts.html
The "authority" indicates that this variation came into use in the early 20th century. My guess would be that the "power" assigned to JOD derives from similar "powers" borrowed from or inspired by an earlier game. Listening to the explanation certainly gives some perspective regarding why it is "a hard card to play!"

Does anyone know the siginifance of the JOD looking the opposite direction to all the other Jacks in the deck?
Cheers,
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Offline dj

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #41 on: February 09, 2009, 03:33:31 AM »
"Jack Of Diamonds", written by Hersal Thomas and Matthew Wallace and recorded by Sippie Wallace might shed some light on the matter.  All three were from Houston.  Hersal Thomas was Sippie's younger brother and Matthew Wallace was her husband and manager.  In the song, the Jack of Diamonds serves double duty, signifying both Sippie's lover and the card itself.  The relevant verse for this discussion is:

I love Jack of Diamonds but he was a cruel man
I love jack of Diamonds but he was a cruel man
He would play dice and cards and his game was old coon can

Which suggests that the card may have had some particular significance in coon can.



   

Offline Rivers

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #42 on: August 22, 2010, 01:27:40 PM »
I noticed another connection with Jack of Diamonds and coon can, apologies if it's already been mentioned. I was listening to the JSP Blind Boy Fuller set hunting lyrics for Red River Blues, he sings this:

My girl give me money, money to play coon can
Well Jack o' Diamonds [? sounds like "T-roll"] my hand

Mystery word could be "throw" I guess.



Offline banjochris

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #43 on: August 22, 2010, 02:46:35 PM »
Rivers, which song is that?
Chris

Offline Rivers

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Re: Query re "Jack of Diamonds"
« Reply #44 on: August 25, 2010, 04:53:13 PM »
Good question Chris. I checked the JSP Fuller (& friends) volume 2, and was surprised to see it's actually Virgil Childers doing Red River Blues.

I thought it was BBF having an off day, it doesn't have his drive. It's quite enjoyable though and "is what it is", I guess.

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