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Author Topic: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics  (Read 11074 times)

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Online Johnm

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #15 on: January 01, 2010, 11:36:32 AM »
Hi all,
Memphis Willie B.'s "P 38 Blues" appeared on his "Hard Working Man Blues" album.  He played "P 38 Blues" out of D position in standard tuning, the position that on August 12, 1961, at least, the day when he recorded his two Prestige albums, must be ranked as one of his favorite playing keys.  Once again, his right hand approach invites conjecture:  he may be flat-picking or he may be using a thumbpick like a flat pick and interjecting occasional runs or strums with a pick on his index finger.  Without talking to someone who saw him play, it's hard to say with any degree of certainty what technique he employed, and apart from satisfying curiosity, I'm not sure it's all that important, since the same sounds could be achieved any number of ways.
Memphis Willie B.'s playing out of D position is really interesting, and perhaps because the position was relatively under-utilized among Country Blues players, he gets a lot of sounds and runs you might not have heard before.  A particularly striking one is a descending run that he begins on the G note at the the third fret of the first string; it's unusual enough to begin a run on the IV note that the sound really catches and sticks in your ear.  Willie B.'s playing in D position, standard tuning is reminiscent of that of Gabriel Brown in dropped-D, in that both players work through some exciting and novel ideas in their favored tuning/position.
"P 38 Blues" is a gun blues, a pretty crowded category in years gone by.  I don't know enough about guns to know if the P 38 is an actual gun or a poetic stand-in for the real thing.  [NOTE:  banjochris has identified the gun in question as a Walther P38, a favored weapon of the Wehrmacht in WWII.  If Willie B. saw as hard a wartime service as his song "Overseas Blues" would make it appear, he may very likely have encountered Germans packing P38s. ]  Memphis Willie B. pronounces "Idaho" "Iohdyho".  If the guy he was singing about was in Boston and Idaho, he was really covering some ground. It's a great lyric touch to start the first verse of a blues with the word "and".  It makes it sound like you're beginning to hear a story already in progress.  Here is "P 38 Blues":



   And I walked all night long, I had my P38 by my side
   And I walked all night long, and I had my P38 by my side
   And I was lookin' for the man that run away with my angel child

   I know it fooled my baby, that's the reason little girl went away
   I know he fooled my baby, that's the reason that little girl went away
   You know, he's jived my little girl, but he can't jive my P38

   I heard he was in Boston and I heard he was in Idaho
   I heard he was in Boston and I heard he was in Idaho
   But if I find him, he ain't gon' break my heart no more

   SOLO

   I done carried my P38 so long, it's got a dent right in my side
   I done carried my P38 so long, it's got a dent right in my side
   But I'm gonna keep on carryin' it, 'til I find my little angel child

   Mmmmmm, I've got to get my business straight
   Mm, I got to be gettin' along, I got to get my business straight
   And if I don't find my babies, I'll always carry my P38

All best,
Johnm
   

   
 
« Last Edit: June 30, 2020, 09:49:49 AM by Johnm »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #16 on: January 01, 2010, 01:52:54 PM »

Online Johnm

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #17 on: January 01, 2010, 02:18:00 PM »
Thanks for that information, Chris.  I need to remember to do searches more often.  Happy New Year!
all best,
Johnm

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #18 on: January 01, 2010, 03:24:52 PM »
Hi all,
"Funny Caper Blues", which immediately follows "P 38 Blues" in the program on "Hard Working Man Blues", is similarly played out of D in standard tuning, though it sounds to be conventionally finger-picked.  It's a "threat song", somewhat along the lines of Sam Collins' "It Won't Be Long".  [NOTE:  dj has suggested that the "night track" mentioned in verse 4 is a phonetic approximation of "nitric", short for nitric acid.]  Lots of great singing and playing here, as was usually the case with Memphis Willie B.  Here is "Funny Caper Blues":



   All your funny caper, little girl, is gonna get you a trick someday
   All your funny caper, little girl, is gonna get you a trick someday
   Your funny caper sure to get you a trick someday

   Ev'y time I come to see you, I catch you in your gown, your hair all tangled up, your window shade pulled down,
   Your funny caper, baby, sure gonna get you a trick someday
   Baby, your funny caper sure gonna get you a trick someday

   Ev'y time I come to your house, minute I enter your door, you got a wet towel on your bed and a pan of water settin' on your floor,
   Ahh, your funny caper sure gonna get a trick someday
   Your funny caper sure gonna get you a trick someday

   Keep on playin' me for crazy, keep on playin' me for a nut, keep on cuttin' those capers you cut,
   You gonna get night track all over your head
   Babe, when I get through with you, baby, you gonna wish you were dead

   SOLO

   Keep on playin' me for crazy, and I say it, keep on doin' the things that you do, I'm gonna cut you so much, baby, Lord, you gonna wish you were through,
   Oh, 'cause your funny caper sure gonna get a trick someday
   Baby, your funny caper sure gonna get you a trick someday

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: June 30, 2020, 09:43:16 AM by Johnm »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #19 on: January 01, 2010, 11:59:52 PM »
"Funny Caper Blues", which immediately follows "P 38 Blues" in the program on "Hard Working Man Blues", is similarly played out of D in standard tuning, though it sounds to be conventionally finger-picked.  It's a "threat song", somewhat along the lines of Sam Collins' "It Won't Be Long".
From memory this is largely based upon Little Buddy Doyle's "Slick Capers Blues" recorded in 1939 but not issued until the 1990s. He may well have learnt it from Doyle himself. Who knows?
« Last Edit: January 02, 2010, 12:04:06 AM by Bunker Hill »

Offline dj

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #20 on: January 02, 2010, 06:07:51 AM »
Quote
You gonna get night track all over your head

Hi, John.  Willie clearly sings what we would phonetically transcribe as "night track", but I think the sense of the lyrics is "nitric", and Willie is threatening to pour nitric acid over the woman's head.

Online Johnm

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #21 on: January 02, 2010, 07:53:58 AM »
Thanks for the information re Little Buddy Doyle, Bunker Hill.  I'm ignorant enough of his repertoire that I would not know if someone was playing a cover of one of his songs, and if you remember a similarity between his number and Memphis Willie B.'s, I'm sure it's there.
Thanks also for the "night track/nitric" connection, dj.  I think this may be an instance of what Walker Percy coined "metaphor as mistake" in one of his essays. I'll add a note in the text of the message accompanying the song.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: January 02, 2010, 08:30:19 PM by Johnm »

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #22 on: January 02, 2010, 08:44:25 PM »
Hi all,
Memphis Willie B. opened the program of "Hard Working Man Blues" with "Lonesome Home Blues".  The song, played out of G position in standard tuning, bears no resemblance to the Tommy Johnson song of the same title.  After puzzling for a while over what it did remind me of instrumentally, I realized it was Yank Rachell and Dan Smith's duet, "Squeaky Work Bench Blues", a sound in G that is not encountered all that often.  Willie B.'s fill after the IV chord in the first verse particularly calls to mind Yank's unusual phrasing and time. 
The singing on this number is especially beautiful.  And as with the music of Robert Wilkins and Henry Townsend, the bluest blues are the ones in which the singer has no power in the primary male/female relationship.  Here is "Lonesome Home Blues":



   It's lonesome in my home, just me and myself alone
   It's lonesome in my home, just me and myself alone
   I ain't got nobody to love me, Lord, and my baby gone

   All in my sleep I could hear her call my name
   All in my sleep I could hear her call my name
   Lord, when I feel over 'side me, I couldn't see a doggone thing

   A room without a woman is like a car without a steering wheel
   A room without a woman is like a car without a steering wheel
   And if you ever been mistreated, Lord, you know just how I feel

   SOLO

   I wake up early ev'y mornin' and my pillow be soakin' wet
   I wake up early ev'y mornin' and my pillow be soakin' wet
   And I be lookin' for my baby, Lord, and she ain't even come home yet

   Lonesome, Lord, I'm lonesome as I could be
   Lonesome, Lord, I'm lonesomer than/as I can be
   Lord, I wonder why don't my baby, why don't she come on back to me?

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: June 30, 2020, 09:44:12 AM by Johnm »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #23 on: January 02, 2010, 11:53:06 PM »
Memphis Willie B. opened the program of "Hard Working Man Blues" with "Lonesome Home Blues".
In the main the lyric is a rework of Curtis Jones's 1937 'race hit', Lonesome Bedroom Blues, which commences:

It's lonesome in my bedroom, just me an' myself alone
It's lonesome in my bedroom, just me an' myself alone
I have no one to love me, each night when I come home

Mercy Dee Walton's revamp as Lonesome Cabin Blues in the 50s gave it a another lease of life.

Let normal service resume.

Online Johnm

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #24 on: January 03, 2010, 07:54:02 AM »
Thanks for that information, Bunker Hill.  Was not "Lonesome Bedroom Blues" truly a big hit for Curtis Jones, really the biggest hit of his career?  It seems like that is the signature song that is always spoken of when his name is mentioned.

This points up an interesting situation with regards to many blues releases of the '50s, '60s and later.  In the present day, musicians are expected to be thorough in citing their musical sources, but in that post-War era (and earlier), it seems as though record companies and sometimes the producers of recording sessions did their very best to hide the connection to any earlier sources of their artists' material, both to avoid paying publishing on earlier copyrights and to establish new publishing.  In a music where it is often so difficult to establish who played a particular phrase or sang a particular lyric first, this practice is not as reprehensible as it may seem, especially since so many of the copyrights are opportunistic ones filed by publishing companies with no actual tie to the composer of the original musical material.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #25 on: January 03, 2010, 08:47:28 AM »
Thanks for that information, Bunker Hill.  Was not "Lonesome Bedroom Blues" truly a big hit for Curtis Jones, really the biggest hit of his career?  It seems like that is the signature song that is always spoken of when his name is mentioned.
He also managed to come up with "Lonesome Bedroom Blues No.2" and "I Feel So Good In My Bedroom". It was one of the few blues releases to remain in Columbia?s catalogue until the demise of the 78 rpm record in the late fifties.
Quote
This points up an interesting situation with regards to many blues releases of the '50s, '60s and later.  In the present day, musicians are expected to be thorough in citing their musical sources, but in that post-War era (and earlier), it seems as though record companies and sometimes the producers of recording sessions did their very best to hide the connection to any earlier sources of their artists' material, both to avoid paying publishing on earlier copyrights and to establish new publishing.  In a music where it is often so difficult to establish who played a particular phrase or sang a particular lyric first, this practice is not as reprehensible as it may seem, especially since so many of the copyrights are opportunistic ones filed by publishing companies with no actual tie to the composer of the original musical material.
I think in the case of Willie B's generation such songs were widely known at time of original release and when they came to record for companies like Bluesville the repertoire was rescued from their memories. Ironically when Harry Oster wrote liner notes for Bluesville where known he always gave chapter and verse as to the origins of the songs and originators. I've examined all the Bluesville LPs in my collection and not one has composer credits on either label or sleeve. Hey, Jones recorded "Decoration Day Blues" a year before John Lee Williamson but as Jones's wasn't released at the time it's forever associated with JLW. The common link between the two artists? Manager Lester Melrose.

Apologies for the ramble.

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #26 on: January 03, 2010, 07:12:03 PM »
Hi all,
"Uncle Sam Blues" is another song from "Hard Working Man Blues" that Willie B. played out of G position in standard tuning while accompanying himself on harmonica played off a rack.  All of the songs that Willie B. did this way share substantially the same accompaniment, and he doesn't appear to have had a very large bag of tricks on the harmonica.  He gets a really nice effect on the solo by holding a single note on the harmonica over the first four bars of the form while playing a boogie bass line on the guitar. 
As the title would suggest, this is another number referring to military service, and the language employed--the doctor okaying him and the local Board--give it an air of immediacy and believability.  Here is "Uncle Sam Blues":



   You know, I've got bad news for you, little girl, I'm gonna tell you what it's all about
   You know, I've got bad news for you, little girl, Lord, and I'm gonna tell you what it's all about
   You know, Uncle Sam's havin' trouble overseas, and Lord, and they want me to help him out

   The doctor done okayed me, Lord, and I'm glad there was nothin' wrong
   The doctor done okayed me, little girl, I'm glad there wasn't nothin' wrong
   But only thing I hate, I got to leave you here alone

   SOLO

   I'm gonna get up early in the mornin', Lord, I got to check with my local Board
   I got to get up early in the mornin', I got to check with my local Board
   Lord, I'm so sorry, but, little girl, I got to go

   Hold out, baby, maybe I'll be back someday
   Hold out, baby, maybe I'll be back someday
   Lord, don't let nobody drive my little girl astray

   I know you hear that train whistle blowin', callin' Little Willie, I know
   Hear that train whistle blowin', callin' Little Willie, I know
   Baby, you know how it is, you know, I'm booked out and I'm bound to go

   So now, bye-bye, little girl, don't forget to write
   So bye-bye, little girl, don't forget to write
   Lord, I be thinkin' of you, each, both dayr and night

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: June 30, 2020, 09:45:10 AM by Johnm »

Online Johnm

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #27 on: January 04, 2010, 03:22:36 PM »
Hi all,
Memphis Willie B. accompanied his version of "Dying Mother Blues", on his album "Hard Working Man Blues", out of E position in standard tuning.  The song is very dark, and his accompaniment employs extreme dynamics.  The way he repeats the tagline on verse two makes it seem as though he is re-living the experience.  I don't know if the tagline to the final verse is original to Willie B., but it is a striking image.  Here is "Dying Mother Blues":



   Sayin', old dyin' mother blues, now they's somethin' most peoples ain't never had
   Sayin', old dyin' mother blues, somethin' most peoples ain' never had
   Lord, but I can tell the world that they are somethin' sad

   When my mother was dyin', I was a long, long way from home
   When my mother was dyin', I was a long, long way from home
   And I got that message over that long old telephone
   And I got the message over that long, long telephone

   I hate to see her leave me, I hate to  see my good Lord's take away
   I hate to see my mother leave me, hate to see my good Lord's take away
   Last words she left me, she said, "Son, don't forget to pray."

   Mmmmm, boys, I sure do feel bad
   Mmmmm, boys, I sure do feel bad
   Said my body is so heavy, I can't hardly [wear]

   Just before I leave, I'm goin' where my mother lay
   Just before I leave, goin' where my mother lay
   I'm gonna put in my pocket, Lord, a piece of that lonesome clay

All best,
Johnm

   
« Last Edit: June 30, 2020, 09:46:05 AM by Johnm »

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #28 on: January 05, 2010, 05:14:57 PM »
Hi all,
Memphis Willie B. played "L & N Blues", from the "Hard Working Man Blues" album out of G in standard tuning, while accompanying himself on harmonica, as well.  The solo he takes on the song integrates the harmonica and guitar parts exceptionally well, and towards the end of the solo he gets some exciting extreme bends on his A string, whew!  I'm always impressed when someone can really reef on an A string because they are so tight.  Willie B.'s performances continue to be very strong, even when working with pretty standard sorts of material, as in this instance.  It's a reminder, in a way, that often what makes music special is the way it's delivered.  Here is "L & N Blues":



   I went down to the L & N train station, just to see my baby get on board
   I went down to the L & N train station, just to see me baby get on board
   Lord, it hurt me so bad, Lord, I wonder, where in the world did my baby go?

   When my baby left me, she did not say one word
   When my baby left me, my baby did not say one word
   You know, it's nothin' I did, but it was somethin' my baby heard

   Lord, it was a mean old fireman, it was a low-down engineer
   Lord, it was a mean old fireman, it was a low-down engineer
   Lord, they sure did treat me dirty, Lord, when they taken my baby away from here

   SOLO

   I thought my baby love me, I thought she didn't love nobody else
   I thought my baby love me, I thought she didn't love nobody else
   You know, I love that woman better than I do myself

   Mmmmmm, Lord, it's a mean old L & N train
   Mmmmmm, Lord, it's a mean old L & N train
   Lord, it take my baby away, but I love her just the same

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: June 30, 2020, 09:47:00 AM by Johnm »

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Re: Memphis Willie B. Lyrics
« Reply #29 on: January 06, 2010, 11:22:22 PM »
Hi all,
Memphis Willie B. played "Good Potatoes" out of D in standard tuning, not a common key choice for a raggy tune in the "Tight Like That" family.  This tune really jumps, and must have been a great dance number.  Willie B.'s solos are excellent, and the middle one in particular has a Latin tinge somewhat reminiscent of Mance Lipscomb's "Boogie in A".  Here is "Good Potatoes":

 

   Now, you talk about your taters, you oughta see mine
   The frost on the corn goin' kill all the vines
   REFRAIN:  'Cause she got good potatoes, she got good potatoes
   Lord, she got good potatoes, I raised them all myself

   You don't like her taters, why you dig so deep?
   You in her patch four or five times a week
   REFRAIN:  'Cause she got good potatoes, Lord, she got good potatoes
   Lord, she got good potatoes, raised them all myself

   SOLO

   I got taters in the stove, taters in the pot
   Potatoes in the bed, they're really good and hot
   REFRAIN:  You know, she got good potatoes, Lord, she got good potatoes
   Lord, she got good potatoes, raised them all myself

   SOLO

   You can work'em on the rough, work 'em on the level
   You get things started, you can work it together
   REFRAIN:  'Cause she got good potatoes, Lord, she got good potatoes
   Lord, she got good potatoes, raised them all myself

   Left home this mornin' come back at ten
   Put the key in and I couldn't get it in
   REFRAIN:  'Cause she got good potatoes, Lord, she got good potatoes
   Lord, she got good potatoes, I raised them all myself

   SOLO

   I left home this mornin', come back at noon
   Saw somebody sittin' in my room
   REFRAIN:  She was sellin' my potatoes, Lord, she was sellin' my potatoes
   Lord, was sellin' my potatoes, I raised them all my-----(guitar finishes line)

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: June 30, 2020, 09:47:50 AM by Johnm »

 


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