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There's no way in the world I can feel the same blues the way I used to. When I play in Chicago, I'm playing up-to-date, not the blues I was born with. People should hear the pure blues - the blues we used to have when we had no money. - Muddy Waters

Author Topic: Henry Townsend lyrics  (Read 6904 times)

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Offline Rivers

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Henry Townsend lyrics
« on: April 26, 2009, 07:55:36 AM »
Here's a topic covering Henry Townsend's lyrics and playing. His early recordings played on a metal body resonator are some of the most underrated deep blues around in my opinion. Though Henry was based in St Louis his music from that period sounds more like Delta blues. If you're not familiar with these recordings you owe it to yourself to track them down, particularly if you have a Style-O National laying around and are looking for some great non-slide licks and chords.

I'm going to go back and check my old transcriptions of Sick With The Blues, Mistreated Blues, Poor Man Blues, She?s Got A Mean Disposition and Henry?s Worried Blues individually before posting them, and hopefully expanding it to other songs over time. Here's the first one, please feel free to pitch in, and if you have ideas on capo and tuning let's discuss. I know there's some different theories on whether he's in a minor (cross-note) or major (Vestapol) tuning on some songs. I guess Henry's early non-slide playing in open tunings belongs in a couple of other topics running on the forum.

If there was no capo involved my feeling on this one is Vestapol open E tweaked up to sharp of F, could also be cross-note. Other good theories could be Open D capoed 3, which is definitely a good safe choice for playing along on a regular guitar. Though it sounds minorish I think he could be getting the modal sound by alternately killing the open 3rd string major 3rd, or fretting it at the first fret (sus 4) and third fret (modal, makes a 2 note chord). I find it easier to play that way but hey I could be wrong.  Here is "Sick With The Blues":



Sick With The Blues - Henry Townsend
Solo guitar
11 December 1933, Chicago, BB B5411
Pitch sharp of F, tuning ?, capo ?

People I?ve tried every doctor, every doctor in my neighborhood
Yes I?ve tried every doctor, every doctor in my neighborhood
But I haven?t even found me a doctor, who's capable of doing my blues any good

You had better leave her alone, she don?t mean a doggone thing
You had better leave her alone, she don?t mean a doggone thing
Ain?t but the one thing that she?s after, that is your doggone spending change

Mmmm, she wants to walk out of my door
Yes the girl that I wants now, people wants to walk out of my door
She just left me word tellin? me, she won?t come back to my house no more

[Instrumental verse]

But I?m going to try my best to leave her, Lord I?m gonna try to let her be
Yes I?m going to try my best to leave her, try my best to leave her be
I?m gonna try to find someone now, 'thinks the world in all of me

So bye, bye bye, baby that I?m leaving you
So bye, bye bye, reason now I?m leaving you
?Cause I?ve already found out that your love is not true
« Last Edit: June 29, 2020, 06:36:58 AM by Johnm »

Offline Rivers

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2009, 09:23:44 AM »
I set up the initial Henry stuff on Weeniepedia. Check out the stunning shot of Henry I snaffled off the web, playing a National: http://www.weeniecampbell.com/wiki/index.php?title=Category:Henry_Townsend

Offline Coyote Slim

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2009, 03:15:17 PM »
Right on, man...  Henry's music is always entertaining and inspiring:  musically and lyrically.
Puttin' on my Carrhartts, I gotta work out in the field.

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Offline Rivers

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2009, 07:44:36 PM »
Emotionally too. Love those bends, slurs and dead thumb vamps. To me Henry sounds very expressive as younger man. He mellowed a lot later on, at present I'm more drawn to the early material, that might change as I listen to more of it.

Offline Coyote Slim

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2009, 03:39:47 PM »
Yes, emotionally...

I think his earlier work sounds angrier (frustrated young man, ya know...); I don't think his later work is less expressive, just more subtle.  All of his work is "deep" to me.
Puttin' on my Carrhartts, I gotta work out in the field.

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Offline Rivers

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2009, 05:58:04 PM »
Here's one from Henry's first session. Dig the unusual single line bridge, which might have been an accident or intentional, whatever, it works great.

This has got me wondering about which song had the first recorded instance of the classic lines "don't mistreat me because I'm young and wild, you must remember you was once a child".  Here is "Mistreated Blues":



Mistreated Blues - Henry Townsend
Solo guitar
15 November 1929, Chicago, Columbia 14491-D
Pitch sharp of A flat, tuning ?, capo ?

[Intro 4 bars]

My baby just mistreat me night and day
Yes my sweet woman just mistreat me night and day
Oh she mistreat the poor man just to pass the doggone time away

And it?s baby, baby what have I done was wrong?
And it?s baby, baby what have I done was wrong?
Ah you mistreat me baby and drove me away from my home

Well I?m going now baby, and I won?t be back no more
I?m going now baby, and I won?t be back no more
Ain?t going to let you mistreat me, drive me 'way from your door

Mmmmm, well I might be a-mistreated and I won?t come to your house no more

Mmmmm, baby don?t mistreat me 'cause you know I?m young and wild
I said babe don?t mistreat me 'cause I?m young and wild
Oh you must remember baby one time you was a child

[Instrumental verse]

Well never mind, never mind babe, I?ve got my eyes on you
Well it's never mind, never mind, I?ve got my doggone eyes on you
And some old day pretty babe you?ll do like I want you to do

[Outro 2 bars]
« Last Edit: June 29, 2020, 06:38:12 AM by Johnm »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2009, 08:29:36 PM »
Rivers -- I have a couple very small suggestions on the lyrics -- in "Sick With The Blues" I think the 3rd line of the first verse begins
But I haven't even found nary a doctor
and the one-line bridge from "Mistreated" I think should start:
Mmmm, well I might feel mistreated.

Also, I'm pretty sure he's playing in cross-note on these two selections -- you can hear the minor/major third hammer-on quite often, especially in the licks at the end of vocal phrases just before he plays the tonic. Also, he plays chords at the 4th and 7th frets that would be simple D-shapes in cross-note (or standard) but that would be damned awkward in Vestapol.
Chris

Offline Rivers

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2009, 04:37:03 AM »
Thanks Chris, I will check it out tonight in detail.

I'm very open to being convinced on the cross-note tuning theory, since both you and Johnm are in that camp. I'll see if I can find the passages of play you're describing and work it through.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2010, 09:53:55 AM »
Hi all,
Henry Townsend recorded "Poor Man Blues" at his first session, in Chicago on November 15, 1929.  He was all of 20 years old at the time and must rank with Buddy Moss as one of the most precocious country blues talents ever to record.  Perhaps Henry's early musical maturity becomes somewhat more explicable when you consider that he left home at the age of 9! 
At this early stage of Henry Townsend's career, his solo style centered on one-chord numbers, played for the most part (though not exclusively) in cross-note tuning.  His songs were very freely phrased, and more than most players, he regularly employed instrumental "digressions", often in the middle of a sung line, thriving on a riff until he was ready to finish singing the line.  His right hand technical arsenal was formidable.  He could shift seamlessly from time-keeping to lead with his thumb, running brush strokes in both directions with thumb and fingers, and vigorous popping of the first string at rapid tempos.  The degree of freedom with which he moved between his different right hand approaches makes him ferociously difficult to copy.
"Poor Man Blues" was played out of cross-note tuning, pitched a little sharp of A flat.  Like another of his early pieces, "Jack of Diamonds/Georgia Rub", "Poor Man Blues" is played with a right hand approach that sounds very banjo-influenced, employing a thumb lead, and in the case of "Poor Man Blues", never striking a string below the fourth string, resulting in a sound quite like the banjo.  Like many of Henry's early numbers, "Poor Man Blues" has enough musical ideas and information for four or five of most people's songs.  Lyrically, Henry Townsend operates from a stance that his lyrics worked from for his entire performing life, centering on problems between men and women and leaving.  Here is "Poor Man Blues":



   And it's never mind, never mind, babe, I got my doggone eyes on you
   And it's never mind, never mind, baby, got my doggone eyes on you
   And some old day, pretty babe, do like I want you to do

   When I was sick and down you drove me from your door
   I was sick and down, baby, drove me from your door
   Now, you know that I was a poor man, sleeping out in the ice and snow

   And, baby, I'm gonna see you when you, babe, do something, I swear, that's wrong
   See you, baby, when you do something I swear is wrong
   When you mistreat me, babe, I'm gonna send your plea back home

   That's all right for you, babe, I am gwon pawn my watch and ring
   That's all right, babe, pawn my watch and ring
   I done give you my money, I can give you most anything

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: June 29, 2020, 06:39:17 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2010, 12:39:30 PM »
Hi all,
Henry Townsend recorded "Don't Love That Woman" at a session in Chicago on February 25, 1935.  It is the only one of Henry Townsend's early solo recordings in which he accompanied himself in Spanish tuning.  By the date at which it was recorded, solo guitar recordings by St. Louis musicians were well on the way to becoming a thing of the past--the great majority of songs recorded by St. Louis blues guitarists from that period usually had at least a piano in addition to the guitar, and sometimes additional instruments.  In any event, Henry Townsend's playing on the cut gives no indication that Spanish tuning was unfamiliar territory for him--he's utterly fluent in it.
Henry Townsend's lyrics here are complex, shifting narrative voice over the course of the song. In some verses, like the second, he addresses his partner.  In the final verse, it sounds as though he is receiving advice from a friend, or possibly giving advice to a friend considering involvement with his erstwhile lover.  His observations with regard to relationships gone bad are acute, and not just a string of cliches. He takes a rare (for him) solo to conclude the performance.  Here is "Don't Love That Woman":



   Yes, I talked to my babe and I told her that she was wrong
   Yes, I talked to my babe and I told her that she was wrong
   She said she wouldn't stop drinkin' and stayin' out all night long

   "So go ahead, kind lover, go ahead and have your way
   You go ahead, kind lover, you go ahead and have your way
   That'll be all right, kind woman, you will see your mistake someday."

   Mmmmmm, world is dark and gloomy, people, what can I do?
   Yes, the world is dark and gloomy, people, what can I do?
   Although I know she don't love me, but I just can't keep from feelin' blue

   I's just sittin' down, thinkin', whilst the time was rollin' on
   I's just sittin' down, thinkin', whilst the time was rollin' on
   I know she don't love me, otherwise you wouldn't have treated me wrong

   So man, don't love that woman, she don't love you, nobody else
   So man, don't love that woman, she don't love you and nobody else
   Oh, you couldn't expect much better when she don't even love herself

   SOLO

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: June 29, 2020, 06:40:14 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #10 on: November 16, 2010, 11:52:51 AM »
Hi all,
Henry Townsend recorded "Long Ago Blues" at his first recording session, in Chicago on November 15, 1929, and it was the only song he recorded that day that was not played in cross-note tuning.  Instead, he played it in the very similar E position in standard tuning.  His mannerism of starting each verse humming gives a ruminative feeling to what he's saying, as though he's just thinking to himself.  The final verse might be a melding of two verses if he was given the "hi" sign that he was running out of time.  Here is "Long Ago Blues":



   Mmmmm, can't you remember, baby, long long time ago?
   Can't you remember, baby, long long time ago?
   When you mistreated the poor man and drove him 'way from 'round your door

   Mmmmm, and I'm going back home now, baby, and I ain't comin' back here no more
   I'm going back home now, baby, ain't comin' back here no more
   I ain't gonna let you drive me, babe, away from 'round your door

   Mmmmm, when I first seen you, baby, you was so nice and kind to me
   When I first seen you, baby, you was so nice and kind to me
   And why you wants to dog me, babe, I swear I just can't see

   Mmmmm, now I'm going down on the levee, and down on the levee where I'm going to stay
   Now I'm going down on the levee, and down on the levee where I'm going to stay
   I'm gon' stay down on the levee, babe, until you change your ways

   Mmmmm, 'cause you breaks my heart, babe, just to pass the time away
   And I ain't gonna let the woman I love drive me insane, I know
   'Cause she done already drove poor man 'way from 'round her door

   SOLO

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: June 29, 2020, 06:41:12 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2010, 11:43:28 AM »
Hi all,
Henry Townsend recorded "She's Got A Mean Disposition" at the same February 25, 1935 session in Chicago that yielded "Don't Love that Woman".  Like most of Henry's early solo numbers, "She's Got A Mean Disposition" was played out of cross-note tuning, and of all those performances in cross-note, it may be the fairest of the fair, in terms of the richness and variety of expression Henry brought to his performance.  His playing is absolutely masterful, as is his vocal integration with his accompaniment.  His playing on this cut is like an advertisement for the exciting possibilities implicit in a riff-based, "trust-your-reflexes-and-play-in-the-moment" approach to blues accompaniment. You have to be so sharp in what you do to make things happen the way he did on this cut.  Apart from the technical mastery involved, it requires a degree of focus that puts it out of the range of  all but a very select few.
All that having been said, Henry's vocal and lyrics here don't take a back seat to his accompaniment in any way.  It's just such a strong performance all the way around.  Here is "She's Got A Mean Disposition":



   SOLO

   She got a mean disposition and she got such a low-down dirty way
   She got a mean disposition, she got such a low-down dirty way
   I've been a-hopin' and trustin' that my babe would change someday

   SOLO

   Many years I have travelled, yes, I've travelled far enough to know
   Many years I done travelled, I've travelled far enough to know
   You can't find no Heaven, nowhere in the world that you go

   You're havin' a good time now, you're like the flowers that comes in May
   You're havin' a good time now, you're like the flowers that comes in May
   You're havin' your time now, but you've got to die someday

   But you're gonna need me, you're gonna need my help, I say
   Yes, you're gonna need me, you're gonna need my help, I say
   And you had better use me, lover, just before I goes away

   SOLO

   Why can't I be happy, people, like everybody else?
   Why can't I be happy like everybody else?
   I just sit around and worry, I'm a-worry my fool self to death

All best,
Johnm
     
« Last Edit: June 29, 2020, 06:42:31 AM by Johnm »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #12 on: November 17, 2010, 09:42:36 PM »
Couldn't agree more on "Mean Disposition," John. Muddy Waters recorded this a few years later in a much less intense version -- there's just no comparison to the original. I was looking at Stefan Wirz's Townsend discography yesterday and the original issue of this had Bo Carter's "I Get the Blues" on the flip side. What a record!
Chris

Offline Johnm

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #13 on: November 17, 2010, 09:52:37 PM »
What a record is right, Chris--a surprising and stellar pairing!  I never heard that before and it's kind of amazing.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #14 on: November 17, 2010, 10:06:40 PM »
Hi all,
"Henry's Worry Blues" was recorded at Henry Townsend's first session, on November 15, 1929, and was the first song he recorded.  He played it in cross-note tuning and it pretty much set forth his musical language at that very early stage of his career.  Lyrically too, he had already found his voice, and the lyrics for the remainder of his career would keep addressing the same topics from the same point of view.  Though his music had tremendous energy and rhythmic drive, there was nothing exuberant or celebratory about it, nor a lot of bragging and posturing.  Henry treated the the blues as a fundamentally serious proposition, and in this regard, he differed from many of his peers.  Here is "Henry's Worry Blues":



   Now the blues starts in the morning and they worries me the whole day long
   Lord, my blues starts in the morning and they worries me the whole day long
   They worries the poor man so bad, until I wish that I was dead and gone

   And my baby, she worries me, she worries me on every hand
   Lord, it's my sweet woman, she worries me, she worries me on every hand
   Lord, she worries the poor man just because she can

   But it's bye-bye, baby, I ain't gonna let you worry poor me no more
   But it's bye-bye, baby, I ain't gonna let you worry poor me no more
   I'm going to get me another woman, babe, I'm going to let you go

   Mmmmm, I've been asking for a favor, even I'd ask the Good Lord above
   I've been asking for a favor, even I'd ask the Good Lord above
   I'm cryin' out, "Oh Lord in Heaven, please send back the woman I love."

   And it's all because she mistreat me, she mistreat me both night and day
   All because she mistreat me, she mistreat me both night and day
   Lord, she mistreats the poor man to pass the time away

   Now babe, I've been in trouble forty-four nights and days
   Babe, I've been in trouble forty-four nights and days
   But I got another woman now, drive my troubles away

All best,
Johnm

   
« Last Edit: June 29, 2020, 06:43:37 AM by Johnm »

 


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