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Some folks say the Big Bill Blues ain't bad. Musn't have been the Big Bill Blues I had - Big Bill Broonzy, Big Bill Blues

Author Topic: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics  (Read 55372 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #90 on: November 16, 2005, 10:49:45 AM »
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.?

Off ther top of my head this song is essentially the one John Lee Williamson recorded for Bluebird a couple of months earlier as She Was A Dreamer, with minor variations. Williamson also did it as Southern Dream but unable to recall if earlier or later than 1941. Can't believe that Don Kent failed to note this!
« Last Edit: November 16, 2005, 10:52:45 AM by Bunker Hill »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #91 on: November 17, 2005, 11:14:28 PM »
Hi all,
"Need More Blues" was recorded by the now-familiar combo of Sleepy John with Hammie Nixon on harmonica and either Charlie Pickett or Son Bonds on second guitar.  Both guitarists are playing in C position, standard tuning on this one. 
The lyrics in "Need More Blues" work in an unusual way.  The first verse, which follows a conventional AAB format gives birth to a chorus, and from the second verse onward the song switches into a chorus blues.  I think in verse three, when Sleepy John refers to a "box", he means a guitar.  In the soon-to-be-aired Bob West interview with Bukka White, he always refers to a guitar as a "box".  Of course, there's a sexual usage for "box", and Sleepy John may have meant that too.  The whole idea of the lyric is really interesting and unusual, that needing more all the time gets you in trouble.  Sleepy John may have a point.

   Need more--it have harmed a many men
   Need more--it have harmed a many men
   And that's the reason, I believe I'll make a change

   Now, somethin' to tell you, keep it to yourself
   Don't tell your sister, don't tell nobody else, 'cause
   CHORUS:  Need more--it have harmed a many men
   And that's the reason, I believe I'll make a change

   Now, bought some gloves, bought me some socks
   I believe Poor John, he needs a box, 'cause
   CHORUS

   Now, looka here, baby, see what you done done
   Done made me love you now your man done come, 'cause
   CHORUS

   Now, take me back, won't do y' mean no more
   Get all my lovin' you let Mr. So-And-So go, 'cause
   CHORUS

All best,
Johnm

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #92 on: November 17, 2005, 11:54:18 PM »
? ?Now, bought some gloves, bought me some socks
? ?I believe Poor John, he needs a box, 'cause
I once saw this transcribed as:
I believe Poor John, he sleep in a box! :)

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #93 on: November 20, 2005, 11:15:57 AM »
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded the oddly titled "Who's Been Tellin' You Buddy Brown Blues" with Hammie Nixon on harmonica and possibly another backing guitarist (Charlie Pickett?).  I think the record company may have selected the title because the song appears to be starting out as "Who's Been Tellin' You?" and takes a left turn almost instantly, never to return to the opening theme again.  The verse Sleepy John sings about Buddy Brown appeared several years earlier in Texas Alexander and Willie Reed's collaboration, "98 Degree Blues".
The song starts with two unusual eight-bar, one-chord stanzas, of the same type that Sleepy John used to open his "Down South Blues".  Were both songs recorded at the same session?  If so, perhaps the shortened opening stanza was an enthusiasm of Sleepy John's at that time.  After those two short verses, the song switches to a more conventional AAB 12-bar lyric structure. 
Sleepy John appears to pronounce the word "tellin'", "tellzin'" in the first line of the first verse.  In the second line of the first verse, I believe he uses a personalization of the word "whosoever", (found in the Gospel tune "Whosoever Will, Let Him Come") changing it to "whosonever", maybe to emphasize the falsity of the person who has been telling tales on him.  I do not know of another verse like the second in the country blues.  He may be saying "out" instead of "at" there.

   Baby, who, honey, who's been jivin' you?
   Then, whosonever told you, they did not tell you true

   Now, have you ever tried lovin' when you can't get it in your mind?
   Still, if you could find you some woman to treat you lovin' and kind

   Now, you used to be sweet, but I can't name you sweet no more (2)
   'Cause every time I come to your house, some man hangin' around your door

   Now, I'm gon' get up in the mornin', and I'm gonna do like Buddy Brown
   Now, I'm gon' get up in the mornin', I'm gonna do like Buddy Brown
   Now, I'm gonna eat my breakfast, baby, I b'lieve I'll lay back down

   Now, I know my dog anywhere I hear him bark (2)
   Now, I can tell my little woman, if I feels her in the dark

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

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: February 01, 2007, 02:44:37 PM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #94 on: November 20, 2005, 11:46:25 AM »
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Poor Man's Friend (T-Model)" with Hammie Nixon and a second guitarist, I believe to be Son Bonds.? Both guitarists are playing out of G position in standard tuning, and the second guitarist is working some of the same territory instrumentally that Tommy McClennan would a few years later.
Sleepy John's singing sounds influenced by Peetie Wheatstraw on this song.? He sort of breaks up Peetie's signature vocal lick, "ooo, well, well,", by starting each line with a "well, well", and then half-way through the tag line singing a downwards-moving falsetto "eee-eee".? Is this song a cover of a Peetie Wheatstraw song?? I couldn't find a Wheatstraw song with a similar title.?
One word that I had a heck of a time hearing on this is "winder", the term that Sleepy John uses for what we used to call the crank when we used it to start our tractor.? You can see that he places emphasis on not wanting to lose the crank, but also on the capacity of one Model T's crank to start all other Model Ts--Henry Ford's notion of interchangeable parts being appreciated by Sleepy John, at least.
One kind of nutty feature of this song is that you can hear someone, probably Son Bonds, doing an imitation of the sound of a flivver running after the first line of the third and final verses.? At one point, I think he also imitates the sound of steam escaping.? I guess you've got take your fun where you can find it.

? ?Well, well, when you see it in the winter, please throw your winde' ove' in the bin
? ?Well, well, when you see it in the winter, I want you t' throw your winde' ove' in the
? ? ? ? ?bin
? ?Well, well, prob'ly next spring, eee-eee, I wanta rig up my T-Model again

? ?Well, well, the T-Model Ford, I say is a poor man's friend (2)
? ?Well, well, it will help you out, eee even when your money's thin

? ?Well, well, one thing 'bout a T-Model, you don't have to shift no gear (2)
? ?Well, well, just let down on your brake and feed the gas, eee-eee and the stuff is here

? ?SPOKEN:? Sing it a long time for me, Buddy!

? ?Well, well, a V-8 Ford, and it done took to style (2)
? ?Well, well, it reach all the way from ninety, eee-eee down to a hundred miles

? ?Well, well, somebody, they done stole my winde' out on the road
? ?Well, well, somebody, done stole my winde' out on the road,
? ?Well, well, let's find somebody, eeeee, got a T-Model Ford.

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: November 21, 2005, 12:17:32 PM by Johnm »

Offline MTJ3

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #95 on: November 20, 2005, 12:40:22 PM »
  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?? ?

The following is the entire entry by Stephen Calt in explicating the idiom as used in "Come On In My Kitchen."

dry long so:

An' winter time comin', it's gonna be so
You can't make the winter babe, just dry long so
.

For no reason; for nothing; "without a cause." (Skip James)  An obsolete black colloquialism of unknown derivation.  Willie Moore explained it thus: "The way I always seen it, just like I come up and do somethin' to you an' you hasn't done nothin' to me--Now he done it 'dry long so.'  I'd often hear folks say that too."  Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Watching God (1937): Y'all know we can't invite people to our town just dry long so?We got to feed 'em somethin'."  Johnson's couplet apparently implies that a homeless girlfriend will find it necessary to trade sexual favors for shelter.

Stephen Calt, "The Idioms of Robert Johnson," 78 Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 4, p. 56 (1989)

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #96 on: November 20, 2005, 01:13:07 PM »
Thanks very much for that information, MTJ3.  After reading it, I realized my contextual understanding of the phrase was wrong.  I thought it simply meant a hell of a long time.  The actual meaning is much more nuanced and mysterious.  In any case, it's really interesting to have a meaning that is so unobtainable through simple application of the dictionary definitions of the words.  It's sort of like, "You can't get there from here".  I guess that is the nature of idioms.
All best,
Johnm

Offline waxwing

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #97 on: November 20, 2005, 06:43:58 PM »
You guys just reminded me of a conversation I had a few years ago, shortly after I started playing guitar again and had gotten heavily into this music. I was working in a cabinet shop with three young men, two brothers and an uncle, who lived in West Oakland but still had strong ties to Mississippi and Louisiana, where one of them, Uncle Fred, had just been for a while and had married and moved back to Oakland. One day I heard one of them, Bobby, use the expression, "That's a dry long so." I asked him what he meant by that and he said, "You know, 'it's a dead cert', 'it's gonna happen for sure'". He told me the expression was still in use, both in Louisiana and Oakland.

So my interpretation of the line was, 'You can't make the winter, that's for sure.' This seems to make more sense than 'You can't make the winter, for no reason at all', which I have also seen stated by Scott Ainsley as an obsolete colloquial expression.

[Edit] After posting I realized I had't looked at the context of Jack and Jill Blues. I guess 'Reason I'm hangin' 'round here, stickin' here for sure' makes about as much sense as 'Reason I'm hangin' 'round here, stickin' here for no reason', unless you see the opening couplet to be his reason for staying?

All for now.
John C.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2005, 08:05:27 AM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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Offline dj

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #98 on: November 21, 2005, 07:33:21 AM »
John M. Said about "Who's Been Tellin' You Buddy Brown Blues":

Quote
The song starts with two unusual eight-bar, one-chord stanzas, of the same type that Sleepy John used to open his "Down South Blues".  Were both songs recorded at the same session?  If so, perhaps the shortened opening stanza was an enthusiasm of Sleepy John's at that time.

Good guess, John!  Both songs were recorded as part of a four song session on July 9th, 1935.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #99 on: November 21, 2005, 10:37:32 AM »
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded the oddly titled "Who's Been Tellin' You Buddy Brown Blues"
(cut)
? ?Now, I'm gon' get up in the mornin', and I'm gonna do like Buddy Brown
? ?Now, I'm gon' get up in the mornin', I'm gonna do like Buddy Brown
? ?Now, I'm gonna eat my breakfast, baby, I b'lieve I'll lay back down
(cut)
As a side issue of no particular importance Kokomo Arnold recorded a Buddy Brown Blues in 1937. From memory the song is of the "mean old captain" genre, the only mention or connection with Buddy Brown being the last verse which is identical to the above.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #100 on: November 21, 2005, 11:07:45 AM »
Well, well, when you see it in the winter, please throw your winde' over in the bin
Well, well, when you see it in the winter, I want you t' throw your winde' over in the ?bin
This couplet has been the subject of debate since time immemorial - well ceratinly since its first appearance on LP (Blues Rediscoveries, RBF11, 1966). I don't suppose this holds much credence but around 1972 Chris Smith (I think it was) went into print with this suggestion:

Well, well when you seize in the winter, please throw your valve in the bin
Well, well, when you seize the winter, I want you t' throw your valve in the bin

When I listen, I hear something sounding like "whilve".

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #101 on: November 21, 2005, 12:27:57 PM »
Hi Bunker Hill,
That line in "Poor Man's Friend" is certainly tough to hear/interpret, but I'm pretty satisfied I've got it right.? I think that the concluding "v" sound comes from "ove'", Sleepy John's shortened version of "over".? The fact that Sleepy John mentions the "winder" in the first and last verses ties it all together, I think.? In the first verse, it seems to me that he is saying that he will not be driving the car in the winter in any event, but if you see the crank, put it in the bin so that he will know where to find it when he wants to start up the car next spring and use it again.? Of course, this may just be wishful listening on my part, too!
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: November 21, 2005, 02:25:12 PM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #102 on: November 23, 2005, 07:32:11 PM »
Hi all,
Sleepy John recorded "Street Car Blues" with Yank Rachell on mandolin and Jab Jones on piano.  It is one of their roughest numbers.  Yank's tuning is very wet on this one and his unisons and octaves are more approximate than was normally the case for him, and Sleepy John is for the most part simply strumming big chords.  Sleepy John's vocal phrasing on this one would be very tough to follow if you were not accustomed to it.  He inserts a one beat pause into his phrasing of the second bar of most of the four-bar phrases.  But then, he doesn't do it on occasion, too, so as an accompanist you just have to listen like crazy and try to land strongly when he finishes a phrase.
Sleepy John starts the song out talking about the, I assume, recently installed street car system in his town.  The "A" line in the second verse is really hard to hear; he appears to be talking about a place to catch a trolley, and I finally heard "Century and Poplar", though that may not be right.  Sleepy John really crafted his lyrics, you know.  He begins every repetition of his "A" lines with "I say".  It's a little touch, but it gives the whole thing a nice unity.

   Now, I know the people is on a wonder ev'ywhere
   I say, I know the people is on a wonder ev'ywhere
   Because they heard of Poor John, was strollin' 'round a 'lectric car

   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
   Lord, I'm gon' ease it down in Roebust catch my baby out on a midnight creep

   Lord, the reasonin' why, babe, I been so long writin' to you
   I say, the reasonin' why, babe, I been so long writin' to you
   Because I've been studyin' so hard, Lord, how to sing these blues

   SPOKEN:  Sing 'em, boy, for Mr. James
   
   Lord, I lost my papa and my dear mama too
   I say, I lost my papa and my dear mama too.
   Lord, I'm gon' quit my bad way of livin' and visit the Sunday School

Edited 11/24 to pick up correction from Bunker Hill

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: February 01, 2007, 02:46:15 PM by Johnm »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #103 on: November 24, 2005, 10:14:06 AM »
? ?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
? ?Lord, I'm gon' ease it down in Rover's catch my baby out on a midnight creep
SJE told Sam Charters in 1962 that "electric cars went from the south end of town to Summer Street".? He also said that Roebust (probably a phonetic) was a small town outside Memphis. Armed with this information and a bit of interpolation from a post war recording could it be:

Now catch the Central and crawl [aboard?], ride it down to Summer Street
I say, catch the Central and crawl [aboard?], ride it down to Summer Street
Lord I'm goin'ase it down in Roebust catch my baby out on a midnight creep

Rather iffy but something to chew upon. Yes?

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sleepy John Estes Lyrics
« Reply #104 on: November 24, 2005, 07:10:28 PM »
Thanks for the tip, Bunker Hill.? I dug out my first Sleepy John re-issue on RBF yesterday after I posted the lyrics and saw the mention of "Roebust".? Boy, when it comes to transcribing lyrics, place names are my nemesis.? I will make that change, and as for the "crawl", I will check it out over this week-end while I'm away, and see how it sounds.? If he used it on a post-rediscovery recording, it seems like that was probably his intent on the original recording too.?

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: November 24, 2005, 07:14:08 PM by Johnm »

 


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