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When I'd go see him he says 'Whenever I get up, if I live to get up, me and you gonna put out nothin' but gospel music... I done joined the church and don't wanna play no more blues.' I told him 'Okay' but I wasn't lookin' for him to get up - Sam Chatmon, on Lonnie's conversion

Author Topic: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics  (Read 10936 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« on: December 16, 2009, 03:35:22 PM »
Hi all,
Memphis Willie B. (Borum), born in 1911, was a musician who first recorded in the mid to late 1930s, I believe, and who earned a much-deserved reputation as a strong seconding guitarist. He was discovered in Memphis in 1961 by Samuel Charters, who soon got him into a recording studio and recorded two albums for the Prestige Bluesville label, "Introducing Memphis Willie B." and "Hard Working Man Blues--Memphis Willie B." on August 12, 1961.  The session was engineered by Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley's first lead guitarist, who also engineered the Charters-produced Furry Lewis sessions on Prestige Bluesville.
I've been listening to these albums recently, and they are really great.  Willie B. was an original lyricist, a strong emotive singer, and an excellent and original guitarist.  He sounds to be either flat-picking, or more probably using a thumb-pick like a flat-pick with occasional fingerpicking to round things out.  A song from the "Introducing Memphis Willie B." album that is a real stand-out is "Overseas Blues", that Mr. O'Muck alluded to over in the "Anti-War Blues" thread he started in the Main Forum, located at http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?amp;Itemid=60&topic=4792.0;all
"Overseas Blues" merits the over-used and usually inappropriate phrase commonly used to describe blues:  "intensely personal".  What's usually personal about the music is how it's made, not what it says, but in this instance, Memphis Willie B. is clearly telling his own story, and the song is all the more compelling for that.  His guitar part is a perfect match of accompaniment to text.  He plays worrying insistent single-string lines behind the opening of each verse, only resolving to a chordal accompaniment with the entrance of the refrain, along with the IV chord, coinciding with the word "No!".  Willie B. shows a great deal of comfort working out of D in standard tuning, a position altogether avoided by a reasonably high percentage of country Blues players.  As usual, a bent bracketed phrase indicates that I could use some help.  This is a strong one!  Here is "Overseas Blues":



   I was way overseas, I was way over in New Jerusalem, General Eisenhower say, "You         
   soldiers got to go over in Tokyo," say, "and do the best you can."  But I told him,
   REFRAIN:  "No, little Willie don't wanta go.  Say, I had so much trouble with them
   Germans, don't send me over in Tokyo."

   He said, "Germany done fell now.", say, "You soldier boys know what it's all about.", say,
   "You got to go way over near the island, get General MacArthur out.", but I told him,
   REFRAIN:  "No, little Willie don't wanta go.  Say, I had so much trouble with them
   Germans, don't send me over in Tokyo."

   You know, General Eisenhower and General MacArthur had a conference. They were talkin'
   about that atomic bomb.   He said, "Then do what I think now, you boys, so your
   mens won't have to come.", I said,
   REFRAIN:  "No, little Willie don't wanta go.  So I had so much trouble with them
   Germans, don't take me over in Tokyo."

   We was sittin' in the stagin' area, waitin' on the results of that atomic bomb.  Finally,
   MacArthur sent Eisenhowers a letter, sayin', "Your boys don't have to come."  I said,
   REFRAIN:  "I'm so glad, little Willie don't have to go.  Say, I had so much trouble with them
   Germans, don't take me over in Tokyo."

   SOLO

   I told him I had a sweet thing in the U.S.A., she is sweet as she can be.  She got a lot of   
   work she want did, it's to save the job for me, that's the reason I'm cryin',
   REFRAIN:  "No, little Willie don't wanta go.  I had so much trouble with them Germans,
   Don't send me over in Tokyo."

Edited 12/16, to pick up correction from dj.

All best,
Johnm 
     
« Last Edit: June 30, 2020, 08:16:47 AM by Johnm »

Offline dj

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2009, 04:43:41 PM »
Hi, John,

I just got the Memphis Willie B. CDs from the fantasy closeout sale, and I have to agree that they're well worth hearing.   The sound is little disconcerting on first listen - drenched in reverb, in "stereo" with the guitar on the left track and the vocal on the right.  But the performances are top-notch.

I think the line in question is: He said, "THEN do what I think NOW you boys, so YOUR MEN won't have to come."

Offline Johnm

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2009, 04:50:32 PM »
Thanks so much, dj!  Talk about fast service.  I will make the correction.  The sense of the line is now perfectly clear.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2009, 08:25:53 PM »
Great to see these lyrics John. I am wild about Memphis Willie B. and also about Scotty Moore's reverb on his and Furry Lewis' records. My thoughts on this wander to the idea that it may be too personally his for someone else to do.
I know a lot of songs are, but with a guy like him whose voice in particular is so much of a piece with the mood and feeling of the song, its really hard for me to imagine anyone delivering a compelling performance of it, though I'd be happy to be proven wrong. What are your thoughts?
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
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Offline Johnm

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2009, 09:36:11 PM »
Hi O'Muck,
I know precisely what you mean about the song being too personal for it to be covered in a musically and artistically effective way.  Part of it is Willie B.'s sound, certainly, his singing and the way he makes his notes, but I think it's also his way with words and how he expresses himself.  A line like, "We was sittin' in the stagin' area, waitin' on the results of that atomic bomb", was too hard-earned, in my opinion, to be blithely appropriated by some present-day performer.  I'm reminded of how I felt when I first heard Texas Alexander sing "Section Gang Blues", when I was transcribing his lyrics, basically, that without meaning to slam present-day performers or those of the future, I hope fervently never to hear that song covered.
All best,
Johnm   

Offline Johnm

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2009, 10:02:29 AM »
Hi all,
Memphis Willie B.'s "I Have Found Somebody New" is a loosely structured 8-bar chorus blues in the mold of Big Maceo's "Worried Life Blues".  Willie B.  accompanies himself out of C position in standard tuning for the song, and I don't know that I have ever heard C in standard tuning sound so low-down; perhaps in some Tommy McClennan numbers.  Once again, Willie B.'s primarily single-string accompaniment only hints at the underlying chordal structure, but he has some nice surprises, with the form roughly coinciding with this model:

   |    C    |    C    |    F    |    F    |

   |    D    |    F    |    C    |    C    |

The song is so freely phrased that one never has a sense of a governing underlying meter.  The biggest surprise, the D chord, coincides with the word "glad" in the lyrics, and has something of the effect of the sun coming out from behind a cloud.  The words when read seem much more generic than they come across in Memphis Willie B.'s performance.  Here is "I Have Found Somebody New":



   So many days, so many days since you been gone
   Lord, the days I've cried, many days alone
   But I'm so glad I have found somebody new

   You know I love you, baby, you been breakin' my heart
   Lord, it hurt me so bad for us to part
   But I'm so glad I have found somebody new

   I did for you, I did all a poor man could do
   Then after all, you won't be true
   But I'm so glad I have found somebody new

   You leave me lonesome, you leave me all alone
   And go out havin' big time, mistreatin' your home
   But I'm so glad I have found me somebody new

   SOLO

   You told everybody in my neighborhood
   Lord, I was a mistreater, I wasn't no good
   But I'm so glad I have found somebody new

   So now goodbye, baby, I don't care what you do
   I found someone to love me like I love you
   I'm so glad I have found somebody new

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: June 30, 2020, 08:18:09 AM by Johnm »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2009, 12:10:14 PM »
A typical BH diversion about to happen. Click the Memphis Willie B. tag and then "Willie, Fury & Gus"
for an interesting review by Jim Delehant of Borum in concert with Furry Lewis and Gus Cannon - all three of 'em Sam Charters "rediscoveries".

Offline Johnm

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2009, 08:49:16 AM »
Hi all,
"Car Machine Blues" is the last track on Memphis Willie B.'s "Hard Working Man Blues" album.  Like "Overseas Blues" it is played out of D position in standard tuning.  In the intro, I detect a bit of Lonnie Johnson influence that I had previously missed in Memphis Willie B.'s playing, some of the note choices and the way he goes to the A7 chord at the end of the form.  Willie B.'s touch is so different than Lonnie's, that the influence is not so obvious as it is in the Johnson-influenced songs played by Ramblin' and Jesse Thomas, or Robert Johnson.  Behind his next-to-last verse, Willie B. damps his accompaniment in a way that really catches the ear.  It's a very cool effect.  Willie B. gives the vocal his all, as per usual.  Here is "Car Machine Blues":



   Oh, miss lady, let me drive your little car machine
   Oh, miss lady, let me drive your little car machine
   You got the softest rumble in any machine I ever seen

   I love your machine, I loved it right off the reel
   Lord, I love your machine, and I loved it right off the reel
   And I been beggin' you all the week, let me get under your little steerin' wheel

   SOLO

   I raise your hood, bettin' your little generator woudn't strike a spark
   Yes, I raise your hood, and your generator wouldn't strike a spark
   Now, if your carburetor ain't flooded, little girl, you need your battery charged

   I was drivin' the other mornin', I was really carryin' up through the tail
   I was drivin' it the other mornin', I was really carryin' up through the tail
   She said, "Little Willie, I'm gonna let you be my chauffeur, 'cause you drive it up there."

   Mmmmmmm, she has got the sweetest car I ever seen
   Mmmmmmm, she got the sweetest car I ever seen
   You know, she got a Stanley carburetor, but my baby been burnin' bad gasoline

All best,
Johnm

 
« Last Edit: June 30, 2020, 08:19:08 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2009, 08:10:49 PM »
Hi all,
I've been re-thinking my answer to Mr. O'Muck's query as to whether "Overseas Blues" and the way Memphis Willie B. did it was too personal to allow for covers or recreations of the song.  My initial answer was "yes", but after thinking more about it, I believe the answer to the question can not be made for other people, only for oneself.  So I guess, I wouldn't choose to do the song, but if someone else felt a strong connection to it and felt they could do a good job on it, they should just go ahead on.
Also, it's occurred to me that the model for the refrain on "Overseas Blues" is "Red Cross Store", the refrain of which also begins with a demurral, "I told her, "No. . . . "
All best,
Johnm 

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2009, 06:13:44 AM »
Yeah I think thats probably right. There's nothing that says that these lyrics might not strike a deep responsive chord with someone for some reason who could make a creditable piece of work out of the song. As for me its getting harder and harder to sing "set" lyrics. These days I just like to start playing and see what comes out of my mouth from the large grab bag of standard verses floating around out there, maybe even make 'em up as I go. I'm not a doctrinaire believer in spontaneity for its own sake, but it does seem to be the way I'm going these days.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Johnm

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2009, 09:32:43 AM »
Hi all,
Memphis Willie B.'s version of "Worried Man Blues" is on the first of his two albums, "Introducing Memphis Willie B."  It's an especially ominous-sounding song, played out of Vestapol tuning, sort of a companion piece to his version of "Brownsville Blues" from the same album.  He does a masterful job of playing what he's singing and vice versa, with some amazing liquid bends.  This is so strong, and it's not a sound I've heard utilized a lot in Vestapol.  Willie B. was a player like Gabriel Brown or Lightnin' Hopkins, who favored a broad dynamic palette on his slow numbers, sometimes barely whispering in the accompaniment and then shouting.  It keeps you on the edge of your seat as a listener.  Here is "Worried Man Blues":

 

   Say, today have been a lonesome day to me
   Lord, today have been a long old day to me
   I can't see my regular nor either my used-to-be

   One of these days my worries will be done
   Lord, one of these days my worries will be done
   Lord, my baby gon' holler, "Here my baby done come."

   It's lonesome here, it's lonesome ev'ywhere
   It's lonesome here, it's lonesome ev'ywhere
   If I can get in my baby's arms it won't be lonesome there

   I'm-a set right down, send one more letter home
   I'm gonna set right down, send one more letter home
   Lord, I'm gonna ask my baby, Lord, don't do nothin' wrong

   SOLO

   I had her by myself, nothin' be do but be the kid
   I had her all by myself, wasn't nothin' for me do but be the kid
   Lord, it's no better for me, she couldn't treat me worser than she did

All best,
Johnm


     
« Last Edit: June 30, 2020, 08:20:11 AM by Johnm »

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2009, 11:26:44 AM »
Quote
Say, today have been a lonesome day to me
   Lord, today have been a long old day to me
   I can't see my regular nor either my used-to-be

Interesting that he chooses to resolve the first line with "me"
instead of the more standard "Today has been a long old lonesome day"
heard in many songs. It again insures a personal, even intimate quality that
is a bit unusual. In combination with his hauntingly spare but powerfully expressive guitar work
and his urgent, pleading, insistent vocals replete with a variety of kinds of sound, it makes for a very powerful opening statement. One feels party to an important event or confidence. Great in other words! ;)
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Johnm

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #12 on: December 21, 2009, 04:00:40 PM »
Hi all,
"Wine Drinking Woman" appears on Memphis Willie B.'s second Prestige album, "Hard Working Man Blues".  He played the song out of E position in standard tuning and it has an eerie sound.  The way he changes pronoun reference as he goes along is distinctive--he does it on many of his songs.  The hummed tag to the third verse and the humming and line that follow the fourth verse sound as though he's just thinking to himself.  Here is "Wine Drinking Woman":



   She's a wine drinkin' woman and they drink wine all the time
   She's a wine drinkin' woman and she drink wine all the time
   And if it don't kill her, it'll sure to lose her mind

   You see those woman standin' on the corner, you asked her how she feel
   You see one of you standin' on the corner, and you ask her how she feel
   She'll ask you for some wine 'fore she will a decent meal

   I take-a one out car ridin', tryin' to give her a good time
   I take-a one out car ridin', tryin' to give her a good time
   Ev'y time she passed a whiskey store, say, "Buy another bottle of wine."
   Mmmmmmmmm

   When I left I had forty dollars, when I got through I had only four
   When I left I had forty dollars, when I left I had only four
   And the last thing she said, said, "Ain't you gonna buy some more?"
   Mmmmmmm, I ain't gonna buy no more

   If you ever get lonesome and don't mind spendin' some dough
   If you ever get lonesome, don't mind spendin' some dough
   Just step down on the corner, find you one of those wine-y-os

All best,
Johnm
 
   
   
« Last Edit: June 30, 2020, 08:21:09 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2009, 10:14:01 AM »
Hi all,
"Hard Working Man Blues" is the title cut of Memphis Willie B.'s second Prestige Bluesville album.  He played the song out of D position in standard tuning.  This is one song that I'm reasonably certain he flat-picked.  When I first listened to his Prestige albums, I thought he might use a flat-pick for some tunes, then I thought he flat-picked everything, then I thought  he didn't flat-pick at all, and I've ended up coming full circle.  I think he did flat-pick some tunes and finger-pick others.  In the case of "Hard Working Man Blues", you can hear the pick clicking off of the fingerboard and the top of the guitar.  Willie B. was so comfortable working out of D and finds so many great runs right under his hands that he makes you wonder at the avoidance of D by such players as Lemon Jefferson and Charlie Patton.
He has great lyrics here, as usual, and I particularly like the phrase "settle-minded woman" from the next-to-last verse.  Willie B. had a mannerism of holding a word near the end of a line so that it ends up making him "long" in his phrasing, in the manner of Louis "Jellybelly" Hayes (though not as long as Hayes).  Here is "Hard Working Man Blues":



   I'm a hard-workin' man, and I work both day and night
   I'm a hard-workin' man, and I work both day and night
   And no matter what I do my baby just won't treat me right

   So many nights I'd come in and I've found you gone
   So many nights I'd come in and I've found you gone
   And I can't do nothin', but just sit and cryr alone

   Ev'y mornin' before payday, you treat me like a king treat a queen
   Ev'y mornin' before payday, you treat me like a king treat a queen
   But after you get my money in hand, you treat me like someone you ain't never seen

   SOLO

   I ain't gon' give you no more of my money, babe, I'm sick of bein' your clown
   I ain't gon' give you no more of my money, I'm sick of bein' your clown
   I'm gon' get me a settle-minded woman, I'm gonna let you wild womens run around

   Mmmmmmmm, Lord, I feel like raisin' sand
   Mmmmmmmm, I feel like raisin' sand
   Says, I'm just a hard-workin' man, tryin' to do the best I can

All best,
Johnm       
« Last Edit: June 30, 2020, 08:22:08 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #14 on: December 24, 2009, 12:03:34 PM »
Hi all,
Another song that Memphis Willie B. did on "Hard Working Man Blues" is "Honey Maker Blues", which he played out of G position in standard tuning, accompanying himself on harmonica played off of a rack.  At least on the two albums he recorded on Prestige, he really favored G for his songs with harmonica; maybe he only had a C harp at the session.  His tone on both guitar and harmonica (though especially on harmonica) is quite raw here.  His lyrics are clever.  He really liked to begin verses near the ends of his songs with humming.  Memphis Willie B. was right up there with Leroy Carr and Louis Hayes in being able to fit a lot of syllables into a line.  Here is "Honey Maker Blues":



   Do you know my honey bee buzzed by me this mornin', honeybabe, you know, I was just lyin' down on the bed
   Do you know my honey bee buzzed by me this mornin', you know, I was just lyin' down on the bed
   You know my honey bee's talkin' to me, and you know, I guess you can't guess what she said

   She said, "Willie, I want you to stop runnin' around. I want you to stop playin' the blues."
   She said, "Willie, I want you to stop runnin' around, Lord, I want you to stop playin' the blues."
   Say, "You my honey maker and somebody else gon' want some, too."

   SOLO

   Lord, I was makin' her some honey, Lord, it was just about half past two
   I was makin' her some honey, it was just about half past two
   She said, "Willie, you can make all you want for me, 'cause the honeycomb belongs to you."

   Mmmmm, she called me, Lord, again about half past four
   Mmmmm, she called me again about half past four
   She says, "Lord, Willie", said, "My honeycomb has done got low."

   Mmmmm, you squeezin' your honey maker too tight
   Mmmmm, you squeezin' your honey maker too tight
   Say, I'll keep your comb full of honey if you only treat me right

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: June 30, 2020, 08:23:06 AM by Johnm »

 


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