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Genuine negro blues in the style the negro likes. Be sure to demonstrate this record to every negro that comes to your counter. Tell them it is made by a real negro - ARC 1931 dealer sheet plugging a Collins release, quoted by Chris Smith, notes from Yazoo's Crying Sam Collins, Jail House Blues

Author Topic: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics  (Read 56234 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #75 on: November 13, 2005, 11:25:40 AM »
Sleepy John recorded "Airplane Blues" with Hammie Nixon on harmonica and Charlie Pickett on second guitar.? The song follows a phrasing archetype employed by "Me And My Chaffeur" and "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl".?
Blind Boy Fuller's Flyin' Airplane Blues of the following year is very similar and probably inspired by the Estes version. I only have this on an beat-up Phillips LP compiled by Paul Oliver, but fwiw here's my attempt at transcription:

Gonna get in my airplane (2x)
Gonna ride all over
Gonna ride all over your town
And if I spy the gal I'm lovin'.
Old fool gonna let this airplane
Old fool.gonna let this airplane down
Now here's my hand (x2)
You can lead me where you want me
You can lead me where you want me to go
And if you lead me wrong this time
And you won't lead me no
And you won't lead me no more
And I feel like walkin'
(Yes I do!)
I feel like walkin
(Yes!)
I feel like lyin'
I feel like Iyin 'down
And you know I feel just like lovin
My gat ain t nowhere
My gal ain't nowhere around
Now you're three times seven (x2)
Ought to know what you want to
Ought to know what you want to do
Mama and the day that you quit me
I won't be mad with
Said I won't be mad with you
Said I know my little woman (x2)
She's bound to jump
She's 'bound to jump and shout
And whenever she gets hold of this here letter
I done loved my long time
I done loved my long time out
« Last Edit: November 13, 2005, 11:27:37 AM by Bunker Hill »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #76 on: November 13, 2005, 02:17:44 PM »
Blind Boy Fuller's Flyin' Airplane Blues of the following year is very similar and probably inspired by the Estes version.

I'd say it was definitely inspired by Estes. Fuller even affects a more nasal delivery in the vocals, one of the few I can think of where he's being deliberately (to my mind) imitative in his singing. It's a great version too.

Offline dj

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #77 on: November 13, 2005, 04:54:04 PM »
Hi, John.  Of the songs you mentioned that share the tune of Airplane Blues, Sonny Boy Williamson's Good Morning Little Schoolgirl was the first to be recorded, on May 5th 1937.  Airplane Blues was next out of the gate, recorded on August 3rd, 1937.  Memphis Minnie didn't record Me And My Chauffer Blues until May 21st 1941.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #78 on: November 14, 2005, 09:21:23 AM »
Hi all,
Thanks, David, for the recording order on those three tunes.? I'm surprised the Minnie was that late, but I don't know her post-Kansas Joe material very well at all.? The dates on "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" and "Airplane Blues" are so close that it almost makes you think that the archetype was already out there and Sonny Boy was the first to get it on record.? There's no way to know at this point, of course.? I know, Bunker Hill and Uncle Bud,
that Don Kent, in the notes to the Yazoo Sleepy John CD also believes Fuller's "Flyin' Airplane Blues" to have come from Sleepy John's "Airplane Blues".
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: November 14, 2005, 05:02:52 PM by Johnm »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #79 on: November 14, 2005, 11:15:24 AM »
? ?Now, the woman I'm lovin', she got one teeth sold gold (2)
? ?Lord, that's the onliest woman got a mortgage on my soul

? ?Now, sure as the grass on the [Texas dirts] grow green (2)
? ?Lord, I ain't crazy about nobody I ever seen.
I shall have to revisit this, but I can hear in my head "Texan earth" (pronounced "erts").
 "teeth sold gold" I guess is missing the 'i' and should be "solid". ;D

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #80 on: November 14, 2005, 11:39:36 AM »
Of the songs you mentioned that share the tune of Airplane Blues, Sonny Boy Williamson's Good Morning Little Schoolgirl was the first to be recorded, on May 5th 1937.? Airplane Blues was next out of the gate, recorded on August 3rd, 1937.? Memphis Minnie didn't record Me And My Chauffer Blues until May 21st 1941.
Since reading this I've been knocking my brains out because I was convinced there was an earlier recording of the tune under a different name. And I've found it! Recorded by an Estes associate on September 8th 1934 - Son Bonds' with Hammie Nixon "Back And Side Blues". Give it a spin folk to hear the tune along with one or two recognisable verses (here's my hand, Lord, here's my hand etc etc). I've only got it on a 1982 Wolf Son Bonds LP which uses a pretty scratchy copy but I guess it must be on a Document CD in better sound.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #81 on: November 14, 2005, 05:15:51 PM »
Hi Bunker Hill,
I agree with you re "Texan earths" in "Poor John's Blues"--I had that at one point and then was dubious about the turn of phrase, but it definitely sounds the most like what he said.  Good catch on the typo, too.  I have made the corrections.
It's very cool to hear about the earlier recording, "Back and Side Blues" employing the characteristic "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" phrasing, especially since I have never either heard it or heard of it before.  Perhaps it is on the Juke, though it seems a long shot.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #82 on: November 14, 2005, 05:41:47 PM »
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Brownsville Blues" with either Charlie Pickett or Son Bonds playing second guitar, with the guitars deployed in the same fashion as on "Fire Department Blues":   one playing out of G, standard tuning and the other capoed three frets up playing out of E position, standard tuning.  Instrumentally, the song is almost a dead ringer for "Fire Department Blues", with the same signature lick occurring from time to time, but with a bit more variety.
Once again, Sleepy John is singing about a friend/acquaintance, which from my point of view, always makes for a good blues lyric.  The "A" lines of the verses have a neat symmetry, too, with the first half starting with "Now", and the second half starting with "you know".  The first portion of the song practically amounts to an advertisement for the mechanical skills of his friend Vassar Williams, and for once, I think automobile repair is actually being discussed as opposed to sexual metaphors.  Verse four really comes out of left field, and when Sleepy John comes to the tag line, he sounds stricken, like he means it.  Once again, help with bracketed portions is appreciated.  I looked up Ripley on a Tennessee map, and it is in Lauderdale County, but that is not what Sleepy John is saying in verse four (though the word does begin with L).

   Now, I can straighten your wires, you know, poor Vassar can grind your valves (2)
   Then, when I turn your motor loose, and it sure will split the air

   Now, Vassar can 'lign your wheels, you know poor Vassar can tune your horn
   Now, he can 'lign your wheels, you know poor Vassar can tune your horn
   Then when he set it out on the highway, you can hear your motor hum

   Now, my generator is bad, and you know my lights done stopped (2)
   And I reckon I better take it over to Durhamville, and I'm gonna stop at Vassar Williams' shop

   Now I were raised in Lau'dale County, you know I was schooled on Winfield Lane
   Now, I were raised in Lau'er'ale County, and you know I was schooled in Winfield Lane
   Then, what I made of myself, I declare it was a cryin'-a shame

   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

Edited 11/15, as per correction and corroborration from dj and Bunker Hill
Edited 2/1/07 to pick up correction and clarification from banjochris

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: February 01, 2007, 02:40:36 PM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #83 on: November 14, 2005, 06:00:35 PM »
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Easin' Back To Tennessee" in a guitar duet with one guitar (Sleepy John?) playing out of C, standard tunng and the other (Charlie Pickett?) capoed up three frets and playing out of A position in standard tuning.  The piece is pretty reserved instrumentally; there never are any fireworks, really. 
The song is a "chorus" format 12-bar blues, and the lyrics seem to allude to a period when Sleepy John may have been living in Chicago.  He sings the chorus with great feeling and sounds like he was really ready to return home.  Help with the bracketed portions would be appreciated.

   Now, woke up this mornin', couldn't hardly see
   Snow on the ground 'bout eight foot deep
   CHORUS:  Lord, have mercy, baby, what gon' come of me?
   You know I feel just like easin' back down into Tennessee

   Now Carl Williams in the office wants to see you alone
   I can't do nothin' where this white stuff on
   CHORUS:  Lord, have mercy, baby, what's gon' come of me?
   You know I feel just like easin' back down into Tennessee

   Now, I'm on the South Side, my buddy on the East
   I don't know whether he's got any place to sleep
   CHORUS:  Lord, have mercy, honey, what's gon' come of me?
   You know I feel just like easin' back down into Tennessee

   Said, car can't go, [mountain] too slick
   Prob'ly might slip back off in a ditch
   CHORUS:  as after verse 3

   Now, twenty-two twenty-four West Hubbard Avenue
   That's where you get my 1938 blues
   CHORUS:  as after verse 2

Edited, 2/23 to pick up correction from Bunker Hill

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: February 23, 2006, 04:36:17 PM by Johnm »

Offline Slack

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #84 on: November 14, 2005, 06:54:02 PM »
Quote
It's very cool to hear about the earlier recording, "Back and Side Blues" employing the characteristic "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" phrasing, especially since I have never either heard it or heard of it before.  Perhaps it is on the Juke, though it seems a long shot.

This is indeed on the Juke... part of Weenieolgy CD II.  ;)

Offline dj

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #85 on: November 15, 2005, 06:29:33 AM »
John, I think Lauderdale is the right choice in the fourth verse of Brownsville Blues.  In the first line of the verse it sounds to me like Sleepy John sings "Lau'dale", and in the second line it sounds more like "Lau'r'ale".

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #86 on: November 15, 2005, 11:02:16 AM »
John, I think Lauderdale is the right choice in the fourth verse of Brownsville Blues.? In the first line of the verse it sounds to me like Sleepy John sings "Lau'dale", and in the second line it sounds more like "Lau'r'ale".
And, fwiw, either of those could be what is garbled on post war versions I've listened to. Perhaps SJE had a problem getting his tongue around it.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #87 on: November 15, 2005, 11:43:14 AM »
Thanks for the clarification and corroborration, David and Bunker Hill.? I should have considered the possibility that he was eliding some consonants.? I am glad to have the lyrics to "Brownsville Blues" more or less nailed down, because I particularly like that song.

Edited to add, I should have known that tune was on Weenie CD II, John D.? I've got it but I guess I haven't listened to it enough yet.? Thanks, Phil!?
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: November 17, 2005, 10:56:57 PM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #88 on: November 15, 2005, 05:13:32 PM »
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Jack And Jill Blues" in 1938 with Hammie Nixon on harmonica and either Son Bonds or Charlie Pickett on guitar.  I think it is Son Bonds, because both guitars are playing out of G position in standard tuning.  Sleepy John uses the same signature lick fill phrase in the last two bars of the form that he had used several years previously in "Black Mattie Blues", with Yank Rachell and Jab Jones.  The melody to "Jack and Jill Blues", at least in the first four bars, is reminiscent to that of Charley Lincoln's "Jealous Hearted Blues".
The phrase "dry long so" in the tag line of the third verse is an interesting one.  I feel like I know what it means in context, but I don't know it's derivation.  Son House used it as well, I believe.  Does anyone know what its origins are?

   Now, the sun gon' shine in my backdoor someday
   Now the sun gon' shine, my backdoor someday
   Now the wind gonna rise, blow my blues away

   Now, sure as the stars shine in the world above (2)
   You know, life is too short t' worry 'bout the one you love

   Now, I ain't got no woman, ain't got no child to scold
   Now, I ain't got no woman, got no child to scold
   Reason I'm hangin' 'round here, stickin' here dry long so

   Now you never have told me how you want your rollin' done
   Now you never have told me, you want your rollin' done
   Now, I b'lieve you musta want me, roll from sun to sun

   Now, it was late last night when ev'ything was still
   Now, it was late last night, ev'ything was still
   Now me and my baby were playin' old Jack and Jill

All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #89 on: November 15, 2005, 05:31:35 PM »
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Little Laura Blues" in 1941, with Son Bonds joining him on second guitar.  It is a great duet guitar performance with both guitars playing out of G position in standard tuning and clashing all over the place.  Sleepy John (I believe) adds to the tension in the first two bars of the form by rocking from the IV chord back to the I chord during a time when Son is just holding a I chord.  The rhythm really swings; it's not an overly quick tempo, but the backbeat is very strong.
Little Laura, according to Don Kent's notes to the Yazoo Sleepy John Estes CD, was a neighbor of Sleepy John's and the Jimmy referred to in the lyrics is Sleepy John's name for Yank Rachell.  Help with/corroboration of the bent bracketed phrase would be appreciated. 

   Little Laura was a gal, sh' s sixteen
   And Jimmy didn't want to listen to her dreams
   Little Laura was a dreamer, dreamed o' seventeen
   CHORUS:  She's the dreamiest gal, dreamiest gal I ever seen

   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', tall man's in a automobile
   CHORUS

   Now, she dreamed she was settin' in the grass by the mill
   She dreamed she had taken me from the gal on the hill
   Little Laura was a dreamer, most all her dreams fulfill
   CHORUS

   Now, she dreamed I was huggin' her close to my breast
   She told Jimmy that mucha the dream but she wouldn't tell the rest
   Li'l Laura was a dreamer, she dreamed o' seventeen
   CHORUS

   Now, she dream about lovin' from kisses on down
   She's the dreamiest gal for miles around
   Little Laura was a dreamer, 'most all her dreams come true
   She had a dream about lovin' and she know just what to do

Edited 2/1/07 to pick up correction from banjochris

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: February 01, 2007, 02:43:18 PM by Johnm »

 


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