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The piano may do for lovesick girls who lace themselves to skeletons, and lunch on chalk, pickles, and slate pencils. But give me the banjo... When you want genuine music - music that will come right home to you like a bad quarter, suffuse your system like strychnine whiskey . . . ramify your whole constitution like the measles, and break out on your hide like the pin-feather pimples on a picked goose - when you want all this, just smash your piano, and invoke the glory-beaming banjo! - Mark Twain, Early Tales and Sketches, Vol 2 (1864-65)

Author Topic: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?  (Read 40497 times)

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Offline uncle bud

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #15 on: May 12, 2012, 08:23:42 AM »
Perhaps I need to go back and reread the document, but I did not see any real evidence that Sugaree could be tied to the Shoccoree, just that someone found a 250-year-old name that sounds something like what is sung in the song. Am is missing something? It seemed like a bit of a reach.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #16 on: May 12, 2012, 08:25:54 AM »
Yes, I agree, uncle bud.  The connection seems a real stretch. 

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #17 on: May 12, 2012, 10:58:02 AM »
Yes, it is a stretch -- I would have loved to find a reference to shooting a losing roll of the dice, an Ebonics equivalent to rolling snake-eyes. That may still turn up. Still, the Native American explanation is a more likely one than the others I've read, given that there is a creek in North Carolina that could be pronounced Sugaree by the locals (even though it's listed as Sugar Creek). It's likely that Cotten didn't know anything about the Shoccoree Indians, but might have heard the name of the creek and liked its sound (not to mention the nice alliteration and rhyming potential).

Obviously, that's not proof that would stand up in court (even, as Thoreau once wrote about something he'd observed, not worth reporting to the Royal Society), but it's a possibility. One can always, as in Iris DeMent's song, decide to let the mystery be, but that's hard for some of us. Therefore, I look forward to a better explanation, if one exists.

Lyle

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #18 on: May 12, 2012, 02:10:25 PM »
I always heard it as being a term of endearment. Didn't we Shake, Sugaree (honey, baby, darlin', sugar, sugarbabe, etc) people often roll their own with terms of endearment. I'll bet this falls into that category and not into any creek.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #19 on: May 12, 2012, 05:55:32 PM »
I always heard it as being a term of endearment. Didn't we Shake, Sugaree (honey, baby, darlin', sugar, sugarbabe, etc) people often roll their own with terms of endearment. I'll bet this falls into that category and not into any creek.

It may not refer to the creek -- I wouldn't argue that point too strongly on the basis of the evidence presented so far. And trying to find the meaning is hampered because the term doesn't seem to appear anywhere else in the tradition (again, ignoring the Grateful Dead song, which is irrelevant to the question as to what it might have meant to E. Cotten). All we have for evidence is the song itself, and it is not a song about relationships or terms of endearment. It's about bad luck and having all your possessions in pawn.

We spent a golden afternoon with her at our house in 1965, talking about lots of different things (including her admiration for Ruth Seeger, who helped her out when her house was facing foreclosure). When some other people arrived, bringing Gary Davis with them, the interaction shifted to take place between the two of them (Davis had a way of taking over -- he was not bashful). Some of that interchange was taped. You can hear it at http://www.lizlyle.lofgrens.org/BrnSnift/SonicAlbum.html .

Unfortunately, since she hadn't yet recorded it, I couldn't ask her what Shake Sugaree meant to her.  The last time we talked to Dock Boggs, he said, "If I don't see you again on earth, I'll meet you on another shore." If I ever meet Libba on another shore, you can bet it'll be the first thing I ask her.

Lyle

Offline Pan

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #20 on: May 12, 2012, 06:17:47 PM »
If we are REALLY determined to know, couldn't we ask from the children of Elizabeth Cotten, as they apparently wrote the song together? 

Cheers

Pan

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #21 on: May 12, 2012, 06:39:30 PM »
If I remember correctly, it was her grandchildren rather than her children who co-wrote the song. That's an excellent suggestion -- is anyone in contact with them?

Lyle

Offline jpeters609

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #22 on: May 12, 2012, 09:08:56 PM »
I always heard it as being a term of endearment.

Then there is the rockabilly tune written by Marty Robbins and recorded by Rusty York (in 1959) which supports this assertion. Maybe.

SUGAREE
(Marty Robbins)
RUSTY YORK (CHESS 1730, 1959)

I got a letter from my baby
She said she's comin' home today
I got a letter from my baby
She said she's comin' home today
Oh well, my baby wasn't lyin'
She was comin' home to stay

[Chorus]
Sugaree, sugaree
Sugaree, sugaree
Sugaree, sugaree
Don't you know I love you so

I got a pencil and a paper
And I sat right down to write
I got a pencil and a paper
And I sat right down to write
I said I miss you in the daytime
But I miss you more at night

[Chorus]

Oh well, I met her at the station
She had her baggage in her hand
Oh well, I met her at the station
She had her baggage in her hand
I said I love you pretty baby
I'll make you happy if I can

[Chorus 2x]
Jeff

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #23 on: May 12, 2012, 09:40:31 PM »
Quote
We spent a golden afternoon with her at our house in 1965, talking about lots of different things


You are one lucky duck Lyle. I met her briefly at a concert at Washington Square Church. She looked, (and felt) like an Indian (east Indian) Saint! A Bodisatva beaming enlightenment on the crowd. Fantastic!
Yes those tapes of Rev. Davis and Libba Cotton show a side of him that was not so lovable, and truth be told her music is as close to perfection as anything, but RGD wasn't a millionth part as bad a person as someone like Richard Wagner or Franz Liszt to name a couple of highly revered artists who were total pricks, and he was a more profound musician than either IMHCAO (in my humble crazy assed opinion).
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #24 on: May 13, 2012, 05:04:43 AM »
Jeff -- I'd never heard of the Marty Robbins song before -- that certainly supports the other main interpretation. Google hadn't heard of it, either -- the Grateful Dead crowding-out effect I'd mentioned earlier.  It would still be  nice to know (but maybe unknowable at this late date) if it was a term that lots of southerners understood, a localism, or just a word with an interesting sound.

Mr. O: I didn't mean to imply that Rev. Davis was a prick. He DID have a presence, though, unlike anyone I've ever met. When he entered a room, it affected everyone there. He knew he was a great musician, and it wasn't really egotism -- anyone listening to him would agree it was great (and also, as he said, inimitable).

I hadn't thought of this before, but many of the musicians I've met, even briefly, seemed to have some aspect of a bodisatva to them: Cotten, Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, Bessie Jones, Roscoe Holcomb, Dock Boggs, Dewey Balfa, Mike Seeger, Eric & Suzy Thompson -- the list goes on -- all very different people, but all inspiring. The only exception that comes to mind is J.E. Mainer -- he just struck me as an uncouth rube. Wade, on the other hand, was a sensible gentleman who, like all of them, had something to teach. Maybe that's what I found inspiring about the above people.

Lyle

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #25 on: May 13, 2012, 05:11:43 AM »
Correction: in my previous post, I should have said, "...something spiritual to teach." I didn't mean to imply that I'd be capable of learning anything I could use, musically speaking, from people who were so highly evolved.

Lyle

Offline Shovel

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #26 on: May 13, 2012, 07:13:20 AM »
Term of endearment idea falls in line with my earlier post I'll spell out more now:
Sugaree is just a modified term for stingaree -> stinger-> phallic -> penis, sugaree would then be the male equivalent of a female's Sugarbush.  Tastes sweet like candy, etc.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #27 on: May 13, 2012, 07:32:57 AM »
Shovel,
Have you ever heard the song sung as it was originally performed?  You are absolutely on the wrong track.  The idea of Libba Cotten backing her granddaughter, still a child, singing a song based on sexual innuendo is dead wrong.  That's not the kind of thing Libba Cotten would have found cute or amusing.   Sugaree has nothing to do with stingeree in "Shake, Sugaree".
 

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #28 on: May 13, 2012, 10:07:23 AM »
Quote
Mr. O: I didn't mean to imply that Rev. Davis was a prick. He DID have a presence, though, unlike anyone I've ever met. When he entered a room, it affected everyone there. He knew he was a great musician, and it wasn't really egotism -- anyone listening to him would agree it was great (and also, as he said, inimitable).I hadn't thought of this before, but many of the musicians I've met, even briefly, seemed to have some aspect of a bodisatva to them: Cotten, Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, Bessie Jones, Roscoe Holcomb, Dock Boggs, Dewey Balfa, Mike Seeger, Eric & Suzy Thompson -- the list goes on -- all very different people, but all inspiring. The only exception that comes to mind is J.E. Mainer -- he just struck me as an uncouth rube. Wade, on the other hand, was a sensible gentleman who, like all of them, had something to teach. Maybe that's what I found inspiring about the above people.


I wish we had "Like " buttons on Weenie, though they might reduce actual discourse. I LOVE this set of observations Lyle....great!  With Davis you definitely felt as though you were in the presence of something like the Great Judge, awesome but not so comfortable for anybody I think. With Libba there did actually seem to be some kind of glow or light emanating from her which I don't remember ever experiencing from anyone else. The beneficence of her smile was a sort of blessing outside my normal experience. I don't know how else to describe the phenomenon except in these questionable religious, mythic terms.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline lindy

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #29 on: May 13, 2012, 10:11:15 AM »
I hadn't thought of this before, but many of the musicians I've met, even briefly, seemed to have some aspect of a bodisatva to them: Cotten, Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, Bessie Jones, Roscoe Holcomb, Dock Boggs, Dewey Balfa, Mike Seeger, Eric & Suzy Thompson -- the list goes on -- all very different people, but all inspiring.

John Jackson. If there was ever an individual who was not wearing Tibetan or Burmese monastic robes who struck me as a Bodhisattva, it was John Jackson.

Might there be another member of the Seeger clan who would also know the answer if Libba's grandchildren were hard to find?

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