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Well I would holler murder, but I was born to die - William Do-Boy Diamond, The Shaggy Hound

Author Topic: Henry Townsend lyrics  (Read 6895 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #30 on: November 24, 2010, 09:26:29 PM »
Hi Chris,
"Be on your creepin' way" is dead on the money, I think.  I'm not sure about "fortune" as an adjective.  It sounds pretty close to right in the first verse tagline, but in the second verse, what Henry sings sounds more like 'bartend" or possibly "bartendin'".  I'm going to keep trying there.  Thanks for the help and I'll make that change in the second line of verse one.
All best,
Johnm

Offline banjochris

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #31 on: November 24, 2010, 10:43:22 PM »
Pretty sure I've got that tagline -- and it fits in with other recordings with the Drop Down Mama/Mama Don't Allow chorus:
"She knows I'm a boy child, women gonna do me wrong."

Offline Johnm

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #32 on: November 25, 2010, 08:47:27 AM »
Wow, that is it, Chris!  That is great listening.  It is so difficult for me to shift gears once I get some kind of phonetic approximation in my head, even if it doesn't make much sense.  You nailed it--well done!
All best,
Johnm

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #33 on: November 25, 2010, 02:33:10 PM »
Yes, good ears, Chris. Sounds exactly right to me.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #34 on: December 01, 2010, 04:49:28 PM »
Hi all,
Henry Townsend recorded "No Home Blues" in Louisville, Kentucky on June 9, 1931, working under the pseudonym Jesse Townsend.  "No Home Blues" was played out of Clifford Gibson's favored E-sounding tuning, EAEGBE, pitched at F, and the Document "St. Louis Country Blues" CD identifies Clifford Gibson as the probably guitarist on the track.  I believe it is Henry Townsend accompanying himself, though certainly working Clifford Gibson's musical territory.  A few of the reasons I believe the guitarist is Townsend rather than Gibson:
   * Clifford Gibson's tone on the guitar was utterly distinctive, always with a hint of vibrato in the treble strings, and this guitarist does not have Gibson's tone;
   * The touch of the guitarist here is more robust than what we're accustomed to hearing from Clifford Gibson;
   * There are enough licks here that never appeared on any of Gibson's other songs played in this tuning to make it seem plausible that it was simply a different guitarist.  The guitarist here has an odd way of ending the form in the eleventh and twelfth bars with the open fifth string in the bass, which is something Clifford Gibson never did on any of his recordings in this tuning;
   * The way the accompaniment tracks the vocal so closely, especially at the beginning of the second line of the next-to-last verse, where the vocal has a timing surprise, makes it seem unlikely that the song is not self-accompanied by the singer.
In any event, the singer is most definitely Henry Townsend, and he sings a great set of lyrics which are as timely today as they were when he recorded them in 1931.  It would be interesting to find out why St. Louis singers tended to show so much originality in their lyrics, but there's no musician of that generation to ask about it since Henry Townsend's passing.  He pronounces "desperado" despuhRAYdo in the final verse.  Here is "No Home Blues":



   I have had no place that I could call my home
   I've had no place that I could call my home
   But I'll jus' keep on traveling, I may get lucky before long

   When a man is homeless, he never doubts himself
   When a man is homeless, he never doubts himself
   Luck is nothin' but a fortune, he may be lucky as anyone else

   Luck is nothin' but a fortune, may fall my way someday
   Luck is nothin' but a fortune, may fall my way someday
   Then I won't be homeless, I'll have someplace to stay

   I've begged and asked for favors, people have treated me mean
   I have begged and asked for favors, people have treated me mean
   Lord, I've had many a hard trials as any young man you ever seen

   So I feel lucky, I believe I'll try my hand
   Yes, I feel lucky, I believe I'll try my hand
   I'm going to be a desperado, way down in no-man's-land

Edited 12/2 to pick up corrections from LD50 and Johnm

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: June 29, 2020, 06:47:08 AM by Johnm »

Offline LD50

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #35 on: December 02, 2010, 10:26:24 AM »
Hi all,
Henry Townsend recorded "No Home Blues" in Louisville, Kentucky on June 9, 1931, working under the pseudonym Jesse Townsend.  "No Home Blues" was played out of Clifford Gibson's favored E-sounding tuning, EAEGBE, pitched at F, and the Document "St. Louis Country Blues" CD identifies Clifford Gibson as the probably guitarist on the track.  I believe it is Henry Townsend accompanying himself, though certainly working Clifford Gibson's musical territory.  A few of the reasons I believe the guitarist is Townsend rather than Gibson:
   * Clifford Gibson's tone on the guitar was utterly distinctive, always with a hint of vibrato in the treble strings, and this guitarist does not have Gibson's tone;
   * The touch of the guitarist here is more robust than what we're accustomed to hearing from Clifford Gibson;
   * There are enough licks here that never appeared on any of Gibson's other songs played in this tuning to make it seem plausible that it was simply a different guitarist.  The guitarist here has an odd way of ending the form in the eleventh and twelfth bars with the open fifth string in the bass, which is something Clifford Gibson never did on any of his recordings in this tuning;
   * The way the accompaniment tracks the vocal so closely, especially at the beginning of the second line of the next-to-last verse, where the vocal has a timing surprise, makes it seem unlikely that the song is not self-accompanied by the singer.
In any event, the singer is most definitely Henry Townsend, and he sings a great set of lyrics which are as timely today as they were when he recorded them in 1931.  It would be interesting to find out why St. Louis singers tended to show so much originality in their lyrics, but there's no musician of that generation to ask about it since Henry Townsend's passing.  He pronounces "desperado" despuhRAYdo in the final verse.

   I have had no place that I could call my home
   I've had no place that I could call my home
   But I's keep on traveling, I get-a lucky before long

   When a man is homeless, he never doubts himself
   When a man is homeless, he never doubts himself
   Luck is nothin' but a fortune, he may be lucky as anyone else

   Luck is nothin' but a fortune, may fall my way someday
   Luck is nothin' but a fortune, may fall my way someday
   Then I won't be homeless, I have someplace to stay

   I've begged and asked for favors, people have treated me mean
   I have begged and asked for favors, people have treated me mean
   Lord, I've had many a hard trials as any young man you ever seen

   So I feel lucky, I believe I'll try my hand
   Yes, I feel lucky, I believe I'll try my hand
   I'm going to be a desperado, way down in no-man's-land

All best,
Johnm

Looks good -- tho 'I have someplace to stay' is really 'I'll have someplace to stay'. Minor point.

The 2nd half of the 3rd line is odd, it's not 'I get-a lucky before long', it sounds like 'I think get lucky before long', tho that doesn't make sense syntactically. But there's no other syllable between 'get' and 'lucky'.

It was interesting reading your analysis of this song -- it is musically the most abnormal of HT's prewar solo numbers. The main thing that really struck me when I first heard it last year was that little Scrapper Blackwell riff he plays the first time he sings the line 'When a man is homeless, he never doubts himself'.

I really wish Nevins or Tefteller would remaster this track -- it's not in very good sound on the Document, and E copies do exist.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #36 on: December 02, 2010, 11:45:52 AM »
Thanks for your suggestions, LD50.  I agree it is "I'll have someplace to stay" and I made that change.  The tagline of the first verse has a swallowed "jus" in it, and what I have now is right, I think:
   But I'll jus' keep on traveling, I may get lucky before long.
All best,
Johnm

Offline LD50

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #37 on: December 02, 2010, 12:38:53 PM »
Ah, yes. The 'may' has to be right. So the line seems to be "But I'll (just) keep on traveling, I may get lucky before long."

I agree that there is some kind of barely-pronounced something between 'I'll' and 'keep'. I think I can hear the hint of an 's', but that's about it.

I bet Townsend would have thought it was very funny, quibbling about the exact wording of these songs 70 years later.  ;)

Thanks for your suggestions, LD50.  I agree it is "I'll have someplace to stay" and I made that change.  The tagline of the first verse has a swallowed "jus" in it, and what I have now is right, I think:
   But I'll jus' keep on traveling, I may get lucky before long.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #38 on: June 29, 2020, 06:48:07 AM »
Hi all,
I was able to find links for performances of all of the songs in this thread.
All best,
Johnm

Offline eric

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #39 on: June 30, 2020, 10:15:18 AM »
Another excellent St. Louis thread revived, what a great singer and player. Thanks, John.

Didn't Henry Townsend show up at PT at some point?  Maybe I'm thinking of someone else.  Would have been really cool to meet him.
--
Eric

Offline Johnm

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Re: Henry Townsend lyrics
« Reply #40 on: June 30, 2020, 10:24:13 AM »
Yup, I agree, Eric, he really was terrific.  He was at the first Port Townsend Country Blues Festival (along with R L Burnside, John Jackson and John Cephas!), accompanied by his wife, Vernell, and son Alonzo.  He was very gracious, had a bit of a health crisis early in the week, and Vernell had one towards the end of the week.  At that time, the Festival was held in late June, and I think the weather in Port Townsend those first couple of years probably seemed kind of arctic to life-long residents of the South and Midwest, especially for that time of year.  He played a lot of piano as well as guitar.  If you can get hold of his autobiography, it is a great read.
All best,
Johnm

 


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