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One of the last words of advice we got from Jim Dickinson was "Get less accurate tuners" - Jimbo Mathus, South Memphis String Band, at Music in the Hall

Author Topic: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics  (Read 58094 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #165 on: October 24, 2006, 11:47:19 PM »
   Down in Lake County in that gumbo mud,
   [Bread and mosquito bill keep from bitin' through a tub]
I've given this repeated listening and what I think I hear is

Down in Lake County in that gumbo mud,
Where mosquito bills keep on bitin' through her tub

But it's extremely difficult due to his enunciation and the way he runs words together. Also in the second verse is it possible he sings "Once in time she like to got me killed"? A rather convoluted way of saying, once upon a time she almost got me killed.

Just observations for debate. :)
« Last Edit: October 24, 2006, 11:48:49 PM by Bunker Hill »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #166 on: October 25, 2006, 12:51:01 AM »
I agree with Bunker Hill that it's "Once in time she like to got me killed."

What about "'Fraid the mosquito bills keep on bitin' through her tub"?

Also, going back to "Tell Me How 'Bout It," I think he says "shove the mule" not "share". I'm still trying to decipher that last "Sam Mann" verse. What a killer.
Chris

Offline banjochris

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #167 on: October 25, 2006, 01:54:44 AM »
Another post on "Tell Me How 'Bout It" --

Having nothing better to do (except sleep) at this hour of the morning, I was browsing around the web and I typed in "Tom Mann Brownsville, TN" on Google and it popped out an address and phone number; there's also a Sam Mann and Pat Mann. Anyone feel like writing him a letter and asking him what Sleepy John was saying (I would assume about his dad or grandfather) in the song?

On Google Maps, I found Winfield Lane, mentioned in "Brownsville Blues" but couldn't find Bulleson Lane or whatever it is Sleepy John sings on "Down South Blues."

The search cleared up one thing on "Tell Me How 'Bout It," though -- the verse that's
You ever in Brownsville, go on to 19th, over to the left sits Mist' Tom Mann's gin
should be go on to 19 -- that's the number of a highway that goes through town and actually intersects with a Bobby Mann Road.

Also, near Brownsville and Ripley there were an Estes Lane and Newbern Lane, which I thought was interesting, though I would assume the streets are most likely named after whoever owned those two bluesmen's ancestors.

There were lots of Mann family-related hits on the web for the Brownsville area; I couldn't find any Clarks who were attorneys though...

Offline dj

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #168 on: October 25, 2006, 04:37:10 AM »
I'd vote for:

Down in Lake County in that gumbo mud,
Where the mosquito bills keep on bitin' through a tub

I suppose "through a tub" could be "through her tub", with "her", but with Estes pronunciation, it's more "huh" (a very open e and dropping the final r), and then he drops the initial h, so it turns into "uh".  I guess that's ultimately unknowable. 

Unless someone discovers that "tub" was local slang for a woman's night dress, in which case I'll switch my vote to "her tub".   ;)   

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #169 on: October 25, 2006, 09:58:50 AM »
Hi all,
Thanks so much for the help, Bunker Hill, banjo chris and dj.  It's a lot to digest, but additional listening after all my previous listening makes me opt for the following suggestions:
   * I agree with Bunker Hill and banjo chris that the line in verse two should be "Once in time she like to got me killed"
   * Of the suggestions for the mystery line in verse four, I think chris's "'Fraid the mosquito bills keep on bitin' through 'er tub" matches Sleepy John's phonetics perfectly, assuming there is  a usage for "tub" that makes sense in this context!  I am certain the line in question does not begin  with the word "where", it begins with an "f" sound, for sure. 
I will make these changes, which I think are great!  And I will make the change to "19" in "Tell Me How 'Bout It" too, chris.  Good work.  I agree, the last verse in that song is tough, tough, tough to hear. 
If anybody is feeling listening/deciphering energetic, there is still the last verse in "Jailhouse Blues" to clear up, too.  Bunker Hill and I have made stabs at it, but I don't think we think it is settled by any means.
All best,
Johnm

Offline banjochris

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #170 on: January 31, 2007, 11:34:27 PM »
Nothing like reactivating an old thread, but the new "Keys to the Highway" feature sent me back here, and I saw some bits still in brackets and some other things and I have some suggestions. Rather than paste quotes I've just copied the lines from each song:

Floating Bridge
"Lord, have mercy where's we gwine?"
I think should be
Lord have mercy whiles we gwine. (in other words, while we die)

Down South Blues
Now I got a girl in Brownsville, she lives down on [     ?      ] Lane (2)

Browsing around on Google Maps, I found a town of Burlison about 15 miles or so west of Brownsville, right on the main turnpike leading west out of Brownsville. I don't think it's much of a stretch to think that before big highways were around, there probably was a Burlison Lane somewhere out on the west side of Brownsville, although John pronounces it more like "Bullison."


Brownsville Blues
Now, my generator is bad, and you know my lights done stopped (2)
   And I reckon I better take it over to Durham, and I'm gonna stop at Vassar Williams' shop
The "Durham" should be "Durhamville" -- you can hear him slur the "ville" as he goes to take a breath, and it's on the map too.

   Now, Brownsville is my home, and you know I ain't gonna th'owr it down (2)
   Because I'm 'quainted with [them laws], and they won't let me down
The "them laws" is right -- laws as slang for policemen, not laws literally.

Little Laura
Little Laura was a gal, sh' s sixteen
   And Jimmy didn't want to listen to her dreams
   Little Laura was a dreamer, dreamed 'ost ever't'ing
In both the verses where he sings this last line, I hear it as "dreamed of seventeen," i.e. dreamed of being 17.

   Now, she dreamed she was goin' with the man next door
   She dreamed she was kissin' him, oh, oh, oh
   She dreamed she was ridin' [to me] in a automobile
This is: "She dreamed she was ridin' [in a] tall man's automobile" (the "in a" are implied words, not words I can't make out here)

Who's Been Tellin' You Buddy Brown?
 Baby, who, honey, who's been [tellin'] you?
I think he's saying:
Baby, who, honey, who's been jivin' you? 

   Now, have you ever tried lovin' when you can't get it [at] your mind?
I think here he's saying "in your mind" -- i.e. when you can't get in the mood.

Street Car Blues
Now, catch at [Century 'n' Poplar], ride it down to Summer Street
   I say, I catch at [Century 'n' Poplar], ride it down to Summer Street
These street names are right and are still in Memphis today, although technically you would ride up to Summer Avenue.

Jailhouse Blues
"Now, I know most you [boys, and even know more white lies] (2)
   Now, y'all need not be uneasy, you won't have to take the workhouse [advice]."
Bunker Hill suggested "No more stew y'all boys, and no more white rice" or something like that --
I think the lines are:
Now, no more stew bowl, yes, and neither no more white rice,
Now y'all need not be uneasy, you won't have to take this workhouse advice.

The first line there, I think, is his wish from inside jail, followed by an assurance to his audience that they'll never get in his sort of trouble.
Let me know what you think
Chris

Offline banjochris

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #171 on: January 31, 2007, 11:51:17 PM »
And since I posted all that other stuff, I thought the least I could do is post a new song here. It's one of my favorites of John's post-war recordings: "Rats in My Kitchen" -- this is the version off "Brownsville Blues," plus one extra verse.



Brownsville Blues version

Oh them rats is mean in my kitchen, you know I done ordered me a mountain cat
Oh them rats is mean in my kitchen, I've ordered me a mountain cat
You know the way they 'stroyin' my groceries, man I declare it's tough like that.

You know them '61 and '62 rats, sure have treat' me mean
Oh them '61 and '62 rats, sure have treated me mean
You know they took me off of pork chops, they done put me on fatback and pinto beans.

Hey I came home last night, somewhere 'bout half past 10,
Oh I came home last night, somewhere 'bout half past 10,
You know them rats said "If you lookin' for groceries, poor John you better go and come again."

You know I was sittin' down with my baby, I was arguin' with my next-door [neigh]'bor [this might be "girl," I'm not sure]
Oh I was sittin' down with my baby, you know I was arguin' with my next-door 'bor
You know them rats done ate up all my groceries, they done started workin' on my brand-new tub.

You know I got five 'pendent children, on my disability check,
Oh I got five 'pendent children, on my disability check,
You know I got to go check on my workers, boy on account of them doggone rats.

From Miss. Delta Blues Jam in Memphis - Vol. 2
Every month, somewhere round bout the eighth
Every month, boy somewhere round bout the eighth
You know I go to my grocery store, I get me a right grocery bill straight.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2020, 05:02:40 PM by Johnm »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #172 on: February 01, 2007, 11:43:31 AM »
John you just gotta hear Estes recording he did of Rats for Sam Phillips (24 April 1952). It remained unissued until 1977 when Charly Records acquired UK rights to the Sun catalogue. It is out of this world, both lyrically and musically. If you can't find a copy on the internet let me know how I can get an MP3 to you.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #173 on: February 01, 2007, 01:00:50 PM »
Hi Chris and Bunker Hill,
Wow, Chris, that is a lot of hard listening.  I wish I knew how to work the quote thing, but I'll just go case by case:
   "Floating Bridge"--"whiles" or "whilst" is correct, I think, and "Whiles" sounds closer to what SJ sings
   "Down South Blues"--I would be willing to take "Bullison Lane" at face value--it sounds perfect, but having a "Burlison" in the area makes it even more plausible.
   "Brownsville Blues"--"Durhamville" pronounced like "Durhamvull" is clearly what SJ sings, now that you point it out--great work!  I take the sense of "them laws" as you do.
   "Little Laura Blues"--I hear "Seventeen" maybe, but nothing that sounds like "of" in front of it.  The word that precedes "seventeen" sounds to me to conclude with an "s" sound, but maybe SJ elides the soft "f" in "of" and doubles up on the consonant starting "seventeen".
  "Tall man's" is phonetically plausible, but an awkward locution.  I'm not sure about that one.
   "Who's Been Tellin' You Buddy Brown"--"Jivin'" definitely has the right beginning, vowel sounds and conclusion.  I hear a "z" consonant sound in the middle of it, though.  I think it is probably right, though.  "In" as opposed to "at" in the other verse is correct, though he gives it the oddest vowel sound ever.
   "Street Car Blues"--I'm glad Century and Poplar are correct.
   "Jailhouse Blues"--I think this is the most impressive transcription of the bunch.  I had despaired of ever making sense of this verse, and I believe you absolutely have it.  Kudos to Bunker Hill, who years ago heard the "white rice", which I was very skeptical of.
This is really excellent work, Chris.  I will make the changes to the lyrics in the threads, and perhaps Uncle Bud can transfer the changes to the Keys to the Highway section.
I will have to hear "Rats In The Kitchen".  I would particularly be interested in hearing the version you cite, Bunker Hill.
All best,
Johnm 

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #174 on: February 02, 2007, 10:32:43 AM »
   "Little Laura Blues"--I hear "Seventeen" maybe, but nothing that sounds like "of" in front of it. 
Perhaps since John Lee Williamson's She Was A Dreamer (recorded 6 months earlier) opening line was "Now, my baby was a girl she was sweet sixteen" SJE decided to make it slightly different by changing it to "seventeen". This is in jest, I hasten to add.I haven't yet listened to JLW's 1947 remake, Southern Dream, to see if it contains elements of the Estes.
Quote
"Jailhouse Blues"--I think this is the most impressive transcription of the bunch.  I had despaired of ever making sense of this verse, and I believe you absolutely have it.  Kudos to Bunker Hill, who years ago heard the "white rice", which I was very skeptical of.
I did? Then the little grey cells definitely ain't what they usta be...
Quote
I will have to hear "Rats In The Kitchen".  I would particularly be interested in hearing the version you cite, Bunker Hill.
An MP3 is on the way to you. I have to admit I experienced trouble locating where it was first issued. Thanks to Stefan's SJE discography page I discovered that its first release was on the 1986 Charly 9LP Sun box (from which I was going to MP3) but upon closer examination of Stefan's work found the title also included on the 1996 Charly 8CD set which was far easier source for me to create required digital file.
« Last Edit: February 02, 2007, 11:51:22 AM by Bunker Hill »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #175 on: February 02, 2007, 12:04:33 PM »
You know them rats done ate up all my groceries, they done started workin' on my brand-new tub.
In the 1950s version it sounds like he's enunciating "bran tub" yet in this it does indeed sound like "brand-new tub". Or is it a case of my hearing what I want to hear in the former? :)

Offline banjochris

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #176 on: February 02, 2007, 09:15:17 PM »
Bunker Hill -- thanks for the tune -- here are the words:

You know the rats is mean in my kitchen, I have ordered me a mouteese* cat
Now  the rats is mean in my kitchen, I have ordered me a mouteese* cat
You know the way they carryin' 'way my groceries, oooh-oh boy, and everything that I've got.

I done stopped buyin' groceries, I'm gonna eaten outta paper sack (2)
Now the rats carryin' 'way my groceries, ooh-oh boy and everything that I got.

I was lyin' down last night, I was talkin' with my next door [neigh]'bor (2)
You know the rats 'stroyin my groceries, oooh-oh, bore a hole in my brand new tub.

I'm gon' call a 42 squad car, for protect me in my home (2)
You know the rats 'stroyin my groc', oooh-oh, work on my D-Con.

*By the '60s, he's changed this to "mountain cat," but it's obvious he's misremembering his source for this, Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Maltese Cat Blues," which has the title verse:
Rats is mean in my kitchen, I done lost my Maltese cat
Rats is mean in my kitchen, and I lost my Maltese cat,
I'm gon' make things right with my good gal, man it's tight like that.

Sleepy John makes that verse into something real, rather than just a cute opening line, IMHO. That '50s performance is really good and raw, with a very intense vocal. The last line is pretty grimly funny.
Chris


Offline Richard

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #177 on: February 03, 2007, 06:02:21 AM »
BH could you post the said mp3 on this thread or is that a bit hi-tech and I'm not being rude :)
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #178 on: February 03, 2007, 07:48:34 AM »
BH could you post the said mp3 on this thread or is that a bit hi-tech and I'm not being rude :)
I tried but it's 3.5 meg and was taking an age and I had better things to do on the computer than watch a message telling me it was uploading. Perhaps Banjo Chris can post the mp3 I sent him.

Offline banjochris

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #179 on: February 03, 2007, 11:38:27 AM »
No problem -- it's a bit overcompressed now, but not too bad.

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