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Seems like you bald-headed women could show me a little hair sometime - Lightnin' Hopkins, Bald Headed Woman

Author Topic: Lightnin' Hopkins Lyrics  (Read 6736 times)

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Offline jphauser

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Re: Penitentiary Blues Lightnin' Hopkins
« Reply #15 on: November 02, 2013, 09:40:29 PM »
The two sets of lyrics below help to clear things up regarding the question I asked about the verse in which the mother and father ask the singer/protagonist of the song if he's tired of working and why he's staying there.  I was assuming that they were asking him if he was tired of working on the prison farm and why he didn't leave and come back home (as if he had a choice in the matter.)



This first set of lyrics were found in an entry in WC for Blind Lemon Jefferson's Penitentiary Blues:

Blind Lemon's Penitentiary Blues (20363-2) ? Blind Lemon Jefferson
Chicago c. February 1928, Pm 12666
C position pitched at B

Take Fort Worth for your dressing and take Dallas all for your style.
Take Fort Worth for your dressing, Dallas all for your style.
If you wanna go to the state penitentiary, go to Groesbeck for your trial.

I hung around Groesbeck, and I worked in showers of rain.
I say, I hung around Groesbeck, I worked in hard showers of rain.
I never felt the least bit uneasy, till I caught that penitentiary bound train.

I used to be a drunkard, I was rowdy everywhere I go.
I used to be a drunkard and rowdy everywhere I go.
If I ever get out of this trouble I'm in, I won't be rowdy no more.

Boys, don't be bad, please don't crowd your mind.
I said, boys, don't be bad and please don't crowd your mind.
If you happen to get in trouble in Groesbeck, they're gonna send you penitentiary flyin'.

I want you to stop and study, and don't take nobody's life.
I want you to stop and study, don't take nobody's life.
They've got walls at the state penitentiary you can't jump, man they high as the sky.



The next set of lyrics are from Lightnin' Hopkins and were sent to me by Bunker Hill.  He points out that "Hopkins did four takes of Grosebeck Blues and none released at the time. Takes 2&3 came out on Arhoolie 2010 (1971) and take 4 appeared on a late 1964 Dart LP mis-titled Penitentiary Blues. All contain minor variations."

Boy, you may go to Grosebeck to have your trial, but you know the next penitentiary's after while
You may go to Grosebeck to have your trial, ooh, and the next penitentiary's after awhile
Yes, if you want to go to penitentiary in a hurry, man, you just go to Grosebeck and have your trial
 
Yeah, you know, my mama called me, boys, and I answered, "Ma'am?"
She said, "Son are you tired of working?" I said, "Mama, oh mama, yes I am"
Then, you know, my papa called me, peoples, and I answered, "Sir?"
He said, "Son, if you're tired of working down there, what the hell you're gonna stay there for?"
 
Grandma said, "Son, if you had been a good boy, yes, and stayed at home, you'd have been working for your mama, I'm talking about, and picking up chips on your grandma's farm"
I can't do nothing but hang my lonesome head and moan
 
Yes you know they got a dog named Rattler
You know she's a water dog
You know she can swim big Brazos, I done swear, man, that dog can walk a foot log



Taking all three sets of lyrics (the two sets in this post and the set of lyrics posted earlier by Eric Hubbard) into account leads me to a different interpretation.  The parents weren't asking the singer why he didn't leave the prison and come back home; they were asking him why he didn't leave Groesbeck.  Apparently, he left home to go work in Groesbeck (see verse 2 of Blind Lemon Jefferson's version which describes him working there in "showers of rain").  In Groesbeck, he got into some kind of trouble and this resulted in him being sent to the penitentiary.  In Blind Lemon's version, he puts the blame for his troubles on himself.  But I interpret the version by Hopkins as an indictment of the city--"Yes, if you want to go to penitentiary in a hurry, man, you just go to Grosebeck and have your trial."   I see it as Hopkins issuing a warning to stay out of Groesbeck or suffer the consequences.

JohnLeePimp's Youtube post of Smokey Hogg's version makes mention of a man named Cunningham (at about 3 minutes and 30 seconds into the song), with the mother asking "you tired of rollin' for Cunningham?"  I believe that Cunningham was a notorious levee camp contractor whose name appears in several other recordings by bluesmen.   I'm sure I read about this in an article by John Cowley titled "Shack Bullies and Levee Contractors: Bluesmen as Ethnographers."  I'll confirm that when I can get my hands on a copy of it, but it may be a while. 

The above is a good lesson for me on the importance of being aware of alternate takes/versions of a song by an individual bluesman and of versions by other bluesmen.  (Thanks to Bunker Hill and JohnLeePimp.)

Jim Hauser

https://sites.google.com/site/JohnHenryTheRebelVersions/home
 





 

« Last Edit: November 03, 2013, 05:59:03 AM by jphauser2000 »

Offline jphauser

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Re: Penitentiary Blues Lightnin' Hopkins
« Reply #16 on: November 10, 2013, 12:26:01 PM »

JohnLeePimp's Youtube post of Smokey Hogg's version makes mention of a man named Cunningham (at about 3 minutes and 30 seconds into the song), with the mother asking "you tired of rollin' for Cunningham?"  I believe that Cunningham was a notorious levee camp contractor whose name appears in several other recordings by bluesmen.   I'm sure I read about this in an article by John Cowley titled "Shack Bullies and Levee Contractors: Bluesmen as Ethnographers."  I'll confirm that when I can get my hands on a copy of it, but it may be a while. 

Jim Hauser



I was wrong about Cunningham being a levee contractor and being mentioned in Cowley's "Shack Bullies and Levee Contarctor's" article.  Instead, Cunningham had a lease with the state of Texas to run its prisons and he sublet the inmates to private farms, railroads and other industries. (Thanks to Bunker Hill for pointing this out to me.)

Below are the relevant lyrics from Smokey Hogg's version,  (A recording of  it was posted above.)


You oughta been in prison
The year 19 and 12
When the county farm
Was a burnin'
My mother called me,
I answered, "Ma'am"
"You tired of rollin'?"
"Mother, yes I am."
I could hear my father,
Talkin' to her.
"What you let your baby, baby
Suffer for?"
My mother called me.
 I said "Ma'am"
"You tired of rollin' for Cunningham?"

You oughta been in prison, big Brazos
The year 19 and 4
See a dead man layin'
On every turn row
I can hear them howl every morning
at the break of day
Well, I'm tellin' ya baby
Crime don't pay
In the morning
When the judge come down
Say "I found you guilty
You prison bound."


So now I'm back to where I started, wondering why a mother is asking her incarcerated son if he is tired of working on the prison farm.  Her question could be interpreted as asking her son if he has learned his lesson.  But I can also see the line as possibly holding an unspoken message of resistance.  I found these liner notes

http://lfs.alexanderstreet.com/liner/301a5e46e179bc0c56e26b66483759b1/FW05328.pdf  (See the notes for "Ain't No More Cane On the Brazos" which are on page 5.)

in which a former Texas prison inmate said the convicts used to ask each other that question in song.  Possibly asking the question was a survival technique, a way for the inmates to build solidarity with each other.  The quote below is from those liner notes.

"Oh I can't talk about it.  Them bad times was too bad.  It'd make me ache to have to think about them times with the whips and guns and the cane-cutting in that terrble bottom.  I remember when we'd raise up and sing to one another 'Is you tired of rolling for Cunningahm?'  But I can't talk about it."

Offline Johnm

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Re: Penitentiary Blues Lightnin' Hopkins
« Reply #17 on: November 10, 2013, 01:40:30 PM »
Hi jphauser2000,
It occurs to me that the asking such a question of a fellow inmate, or of an inmate by someone who is not incarcerated, might fall into the same sort of ironic category as asking someone on a day when the temperature is 105 degrees fahrenheit and the humidity is 95%, "Hot enough for you?".  The answer is so obvious that the asking of the question just serves to re-emphasize the fact that everyone concerned understands that the situation is very close to being unbearable.
All best,
Johnm
 

Offline jphauser

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Re: Penitentiary Blues Lightnin' Hopkins
« Reply #18 on: November 10, 2013, 03:19:29 PM »
Hi jphauser2000,
It occurs to me that the asking such a question of a fellow inmate, or of an inmate by someone who is not incarcerated, might fall into the same sort of ironic category as asking someone on a day when the temperature is 105 degrees fahrenheit and the humidity is 95%, "Hot enough for you?".  The answer is so obvious that the asking of the question just serves to re-emphasize the fact that everyone concerned understands that the situation is very close to being unbearable.
All best,
Johnm
 


That sounds like a very strong possibility.

Jim

Offline Johnm

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Re: Lightnin' Hopkins Lyrics
« Reply #19 on: January 30, 2014, 08:48:03 AM »
Hi all,
I merged all of the lyric threads dealing with individual Lightnin' Hopkins song lyrics into a single Lightnin' Hopkins Lyrics thread, without changing the titles of the earlier posts, so that the old discussions can be followed.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: Lightnin' Hopkins Lyrics
« Reply #20 on: January 30, 2014, 08:59:42 AM »
Hi all,
Lightnin' Hopkins played "Crawlin' Black Snake" in D, out of dropped-D tuning, tuned a bit low.  His sound in dropped-D on the song is very distinctive and he has an unforgettable signature lick.  The song is very freely phrased, even by Lightnin's standards, and it is altogether effective.  I don't know the recording that this song appeared on, as it was sent to me in .mp3 form to transcribe.  It sounds like it may have come from a live performance recording.  When I haven't listened to Lightnin' for a while, I'm always shocked by his vocal instrument--it really was amazing.

You know I'm a crawlin' blacksnake, lots of these women like to cross poor Lightnin's trail
I'm a crawlin' blacksnake, lots of women like to cross poor Lightnin's trail
Well, they knows that I don't make no jokes, and the trail they cross, they knows it don't fail

SPOKEN, DURING SOLO:  You know that crawlin' blacksnake crawled a long ways . . . just to see a woman.  All I heared, he was deef and dumb, when they walk up, he'd give his sign by r-r-r-rattlin' his tongue.  But that was a one that stay back, 'cause she may get bit.  He may not be true, partner, but you may not be fit.

SUNG: Crawlin' blacksnake, one snake got dodge is that, the one they call the king
One snake got dodge, and that is the one that they call the king
They say he just got plenty power but no poison, he can kill any snake on earth, don't care how mean

SPOKEN:  I figure if he kill a rattlesnake, I better dodge him, too.  And so that's the reason I'm gon' tell you Lightnin' goin'.

SUNG: I'm that crawlin' blacksnake, don't dodge but one and that is the king
I'm that crawlin' blacksnake, I don't dodge but one and that is the king
Well, you know he is the best snake in the world and that king snake can kill anything

SPOKEN:  Then I drug down there, and I said:

SOLO

Edited 1/30 to pick up corrections from ScottN

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: January 30, 2014, 04:51:09 PM by Johnm »

Offline ScottN

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Re: Lightnin' Hopkins Lyrics
« Reply #21 on: January 30, 2014, 04:18:24 PM »
Hi John,

For consideration on Crawling Black Snake

The title uses two words for black snake vs blacksnake - not that titles are remotely accurate sometimes ;-)

Verse 1
"lots" vs "lot"
Typo "thes" vs "these"

Spoken during solo
"crawled" vs "crawl" a long way
"may" get bit vs "might"

Sung
Line1 "I dodge and" vs "got dodgin"
L2A one snake "I dodge" vs "got dodge"
L2B one "that" they vs "one they"
L3 they say he "just" got plenty power vs no "just"

Spoken
I "figure" vs I "feel"

Sung
Line2 "I" don't dodge but one vs missing "I"

Thanks,
           Scott

Offline Johnm

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Re: Lightnin' Hopkins Lyrics
« Reply #22 on: January 30, 2014, 04:40:57 PM »
Thanks very much for the help, Scott.  I missed quite a lot of that song and your catches really helped.  I've made the changes.
All best,
Johnm

Offline ScottN

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Re: Lightnin' Hopkins Lyrics
« Reply #23 on: January 30, 2014, 04:52:02 PM »
Thanks John,

I think Lightning's vocals are surprisingly tough at times. He gets a lot of words in a short amount of time and his accent at times can really throw me for a loop. I had no clue it was "deef" (deaf) until I saw your transcription and I've probably listened to the song 40 or 50 times.

Thanks again,
                   Scott

Offline Johnm

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Re: Lightnin' Hopkins Lyrics
« Reply #24 on: January 30, 2014, 04:57:00 PM »
Hi Scott,
I missed a ton on my first go-round, and in the course of picking up your edits found a bunch more.  The reason I wrote the title animal as blacksnake as opposed to "black snake" as per the title, is that it is a blacksnake, not a snake that is black, if you see what I mean.
All best,
Johnm

Offline ScottN

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Re: Lightnin' Hopkins Lyrics
« Reply #25 on: January 30, 2014, 05:39:03 PM »
Hi John,

I see what you mean and have come to the conclusion that it is both logical and has historical precedent from blues scholar David Coverdale and his 80s ensemble Whitesnake.  QED.

Thanks,
              Scott

Offline wild irish rose

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Lightnin' Hopkins - Take Me Back
« Reply #26 on: June 11, 2014, 08:17:36 PM »
Wanted to transcribe Lightnin's version of Beggin' Back. Particularly looking for any clues on the non-sequitur last verse.



Oh my babe, take me back
won't do nothing you don't like

take me back, I'll be good
get your water, yes babe, and I'll cut your wood

Take me back in the winter time
Don't do the soup (?) you break my neck for trying

Begging now baby, take me back
won't do nothing, darling, you don't like

I'll be good, cut your wood
Treat you better than, baby, your mother would
Take me back, take me back
won't do nothing, darling, you don't like

Some roast turkey, some roast goose
Don't roast chicken, man, 'till it ain't no use

Offline Johnm

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Re: Lightnin' Hopkins - Take Me Back
« Reply #27 on: June 11, 2014, 08:36:27 PM »
Hi wild irish rose,
Welcome to Weenie Campbell!  I think you just about have all the lyrics.  In the third verse, I think the tagline is:
   Don't do TO SUIT YOU, break my neck for trying
I think the tagline for the last verse is:
   GONNA roast chicken 'til it ain't no use.
All best,
Johnm

Offline wild irish rose

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Re: Lightnin' Hopkins - Take Me Back
« Reply #28 on: June 11, 2014, 09:06:52 PM »
That makes a lot more sense. Just re-listened and it sounds to me like you're spot on with those revisions. Thanks!

Offline Johnm

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Re: Lightnin' Hopkins Lyrics
« Reply #29 on: July 10, 2019, 11:52:26 AM »
Hi all,
Lightnin' Hopkins recorded "Thunder And Lightning Blues" for Gold Star, accompanying himself out of A position in standard tuning (not A position in dropped-D tuning).  His performance is very metrically free, and sounds very natural and in the moment being so--I think people who get hung up on Lightnin's choice not to conform to conventional blues structures are missing the boat in a big way.  His approach always resulted in a "nowness" that a strict adherence to blues conventions would have lost.  Both his singing and his playing are so nuanced.  Here is "Thunder And Lightning Blues":



INTRO

The night it was thunderin', thunder and lightning, bell that shine like gold, don't you hear me talkin', pretty mama?
It was thunder and lightning, bell that shine like gold
Yeah, you know that was the night I found my baby lyin', on the coolin' board

Well, I couldn't do nothin', walk the floor and moan, don't you hear me talkin', pretty mama?
I couldn't do nothing, walk the floor and moan
All I could say, "She was a nice little sparrow, but, now she's dead and gone."

SOLO

Don't the hearse look lonesome, backed up to your door, don't you hear me talkin', pretty mama?
Don't the, hearse look lonesome, backed up to your door?
Yes, with the motor runnin' and it's, almost ready to go

CODA

All best,
Johnm