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Author Topic: William Harris Lyrics  (Read 3218 times)

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Offline Johnm

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William Harris Lyrics
« on: June 07, 2012, 04:45:11 PM »
Hi all,
William Harris recorded "Bull Frog Blues" on October 10, 1928 in Richmond, Indiana.  Harris is one of the early Mississippi-born musicians like Freddie Spruell, who doesn't seem to fit in with the other music that came out of Mississippi from that period, at least based on the recorded evidence.  He backed himself out of D position in standard tuning for "Bull Frog Blues", and with the exception of John Hurt's playing, that position was relatively under-utilized by Mississippi musicians.  Harris's accompaniment is terrifically rhythmic and driving, one of the most intense accompaniments ever played in that position, and in some ways, is a precursor of John Lee Hooker's most famous boogie riff (though Hooker played it with an under-lying triple feel and Harris's rhythmic feel utilized straight eighth notes rather than swung eighth notes).
Lyrically, "Bull Frog Blues" is extremely catchy, and employs a stammering archetype in its first four bars, much as did Teddy Darby's "Built Right On The Ground".  William Harris goes to a 16-bar form for his third verse, returning to the IV chord.  Other versions of William Harris's seventh verse can be found in Virgil Childers' "Dago Blues", and the St. Louis musician Arthur Weston's "Gonna Tell You", which includes the thoroughly confused verse:
   I'm gonna tell you, baby, like the Dago told the Jew (2)
   You can't be my woman, Lord, and someone else's too

Have you ever woke up with them bull frogs on your, bull frogs on your, I mean, mind?
Have you ever woke up, mama, bull frog on your mind?
Have you ever woke up with them bull frogs on your mind?

Said, it rainin' here, mama, sun shinin' in you, sun shinin' in your, I mean, door
It's gonna rain today, mama, sun shine in your door
Gonna rain today, the sun is shinin' your back door

I'm gon' tell you this time, mama, ain't gon' tell you no, ain't gon' tell you no, I mean, more
I'm gon' tell you this time, mama, ain't gon' tell you no more
I'm gon' tell you this time, mama, ain't gon' tell you no more
I'm gonna leave you here, partner, and I won't be back here no more

I left you standin' here, buddy, in your back door, in your back door, bull frog blues
I left you here standin', mama, your back door
I left you standin' here in your back door cryin'

I got the bull frog blues, mama, can't be satis-, can't be satis-, mamlish -fied
I got the bull frog blues and I can't be satisfied
Got the bull frog blues and I can't be satisfied

Have you ever dreamed lucky and woke up cold in, woke up cold in, I mean, hand?
Have you ever dreamed lucky and woke up cold in hand?
Have you ever dreamed lucky and woke up cold in hand?

I'm gonna tell you, buddy, what a Chinaman told a, a Chinaman told a, I mean, a Jew
I'm gonna tell you what a Chinaman told a Jew
"You don't like-ee me, well I, sure God, don't like you."

Now, looky here, partner, see what you done to, see what you done to, I mean, me
Looky here, partner, see what you done to me
Now, looky here, partner, see what you done to me

Hey, the sun gonna shine in my back door some, my back door some, I'll say, today
The sun gonna shine in my back door some day
Hey, the sun gonna shine in my back door some day

All best,
Johnm 
« Last Edit: October 11, 2012, 05:26:54 PM by Johnm »

Offline banjochris

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2012, 08:41:55 AM »
I left you standin' here, buddy, in your back door, in your back door, bull frog blues
I left you here standin', mama, your back door
I left you standin' here in your back door cryin'

I love this verse for the first line; Harris sounds like he's enjoying himself so much he just has to say the title again!

Offline Johnm

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2012, 08:46:47 AM »
I agree, Chris, he really sounds wound up, and I don't think it's until he gets to the third line of that verse that he finally gets to what he meant to say!  I'm also a big fan of satis-mamlish-fied.

Offline jpeters609

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2012, 08:50:49 AM »
I agree, Chris, he really sounds wound up, and I don't think it's until he gets to the third line of that verse that he finally gets to what he meant to say!  I'm also a big fan of satis-mamlish-fied.

The best use of "mamlish" in any blues lyric, in my opinion. And it somehow gets at what mamlish "means" better than any attempted definition I've yet to see.
Jeff

Offline Johnm

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2012, 10:21:06 AM »
Good point, Jeff.  William Harris put it across, didn't he?

Offline Johnm

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2012, 10:38:36 AM »
Hi all,
William Harris recorded "Leavin' Town" at a session in Birmingham, Alabama on July 22, 1927, with Joe Robinson seconding him on guitar.  The duo used the same division of labor as was most often used by the Beale Street Sheiks, with William Harris capoed up, playing out  of the G position and sounding in C and Joe Robinson working out of C position with no capo.  It's a shame the duo didn't record more together, because this is a spectacular cut.
The song is a 16-bar blues which, like "Bull Frog Blues", employs a stammering archetype in the first line.  When they go for their solos, they solo to a 12-bar form, and William Harris comes in singing the tagline to the second pass through the form.

Tell me, mama, where you stayed last, where you stayed last, I said, night
Tell me, mama, where you stayed last night
Tell me, mama, where you stayed last night
Oh, your hair all wrinkled and your clothes ain't fittin' you right

Got up this mornin', could not keep from, could not keep from, I said, cryin'
I got up this mornin' and I could not keep from cryin'
Got up this mornin' and I could not keep from cryin'
Thinkin' 'bout my rider, she done put me down

The sun's gon' shine in, my back door some, my back door some, I mean, day
The sun's gon' shine in my back door some day
Said, the sun's gon' shine in my back door some day
I know my woman gon' come my way some day

SOLO: (Spoken during solo:  Harris:  Hey, boy.  Robinson: Say, boy, how you percolatin' now?  Harris: Boy, I ain't percolatin'.  Robinson: 'Vaporate.  Harris: Play 'em 'til I get sloppy.

SOLO:  (Spoken during solo: Harris: Play 'em 'til I get sloppy drunk.)
When I get drunk, well I sure won't drink no more

Listen here, woman, what my, dear old mother, dear old mother, I mean, say
Listen here what my dear old mother said
Listen to what my dear old mother said,
"These women and whiskey done carried my child astray."

Easy, mama, 'cause, trouble's bearin', troubles bearin', I mean, down
Take easy, mama, 'cause trouble's bearin' down
Easy, mama, my trouble's bearin' down
(Guitars finish verse)

Edited 6/8 to pick up corrections from banjochris, Alexei McDonald and Johnm

All best,
Johnm

« Last Edit: June 21, 2012, 06:55:49 AM by Johnm »

Offline banjochris

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2012, 11:22:32 AM »
I love that "mamlish-fied" too!

John, just from memory, I think the last verse of "Leavin' Town" is "trouble's bearing down" -- listen and see what you think.
Chris
« Last Edit: June 08, 2012, 11:23:55 AM by banjochris »

Offline LeftyStrat

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2012, 01:26:01 PM »
I've always heard the first spoken line as:

"Say boy, how yo' trouble is now?" , but given what you've got that follows, It wouldn't make a whole lot of sense.

My interest is piqued though.  I'll give it a few listens when I can really concentrate.
Stop by and give a listen! :)

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Offline banjochris

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2012, 01:43:20 PM »
Couple of suggestions:

Pretty sure the spoken exchange in the middle begins:
H: Hey boy.
R: Hey boy how you percolatin' now?
H: Boy, I ain't percolatin'
R: ??? (but I don't think it's "there's a lead")
etc.

Also, last verse is "Easy, mama, 'cause, trouble's bearin', trouble's bearin', I say down,"
etc.

Chris

Offline Alexei McDonald

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2012, 01:45:13 PM »
For this bit:

SOLO: (Spoken during solo:  Harris:  Hey, boy.  Robinson: Say, boy, how you play the leads now?  Harris: Boy, I ain't played today.  Robinson: There's a lead.  Harris: Play 'em 'til I get sloppy.

I always hear it as :

SOLO: (Spoken during solo:  Harris:  Hey, boy.  Robinson: Say, boy, how you percolatin' now?  Harris: Boy, I ain't percolatin'.  Robinson: [E]vaporat[ing].  Harris: Play 'em 'til I get sloppy.

Offline Johnm

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2012, 08:53:08 PM »
Thanks very much, Chris and Alexei, for the catches.  You're right in every instance, and re-listening helped me catch a couple of other things I missed in my first try.  I will make the changes.  "'Vaporate" is brilliant!
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2012, 09:36:37 PM »
Hi all,
William Harris recorded "Early Mornin' Blues" at a session in Richmond, Indiana on October 11, 1928, the day after he recorded "Bull Frog Blues".  Harris accompanied himself out of C position in standard tuning for the song, and utilizes a signature lick throughout that I have previously misidentified as being a C version of Lonnie Johnson's most famous lick.  In fact, the lick that William Harris plays is closer to being a C version of the signature lick Blind Blake played on his dropped-D tune, "Bad Feeling Blues", though the two licks sit slightly differently relative to the pulse.  William Harris was really versatile.  It's hard to believe that this was the same player who recorded "Bull Frog Blues" the day before, because "Early Mornin' Blues" is a set piece with a vengeance, and has none of the excitement of "Bull Frog Blues", despite being flawlessly played and sung.  Each of the three William Harris songs that we've looked at thus far in this thread was played in a different playing position from the other two, which is unusual, even for such a small sample.

I woke up this mornin', heard someone callin' me
I woke up this mornin', heard someone callin' me
It must've been my woman, leavin' up by Tennessee

Hey, baby, that ain't no way to do
Hey, baby, that ain't no way to do
Just got me lovin' you, turn your old back on me

I'm going to see you, pretty mama, when your troubles be just like mine
I'm going to see you, pretty mama, troubles be just like mine
I'm goin' to see you when, baby, your troubles is just like mine

I woke up this mornin', 'tween midnight and day
I woke up this mornin', 'tween midnight and day
I saw my rider, makin' her get-away

Well, I don't see why my baby treats me so bad
I don't see why my baby treats me so bad
And it's all I done, mama, hug and call you hon'

Hey, hey, mama, that ain't no way to do
Hey-ey, mama, that ain't no way to do
Just treat me dirty, that's the way you do

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: June 09, 2012, 11:04:50 PM by Johnm »

Offline blueshome

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #12 on: June 21, 2012, 04:52:53 AM »
I've had a mess around with trying to play "I'm Leavin Town". John, is the "G" guitar part not in Spanish? It makes the solo bass runs simple and doesn't seem to limit anything else going on.

Offline 143TallBoy

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2012, 05:56:23 AM »
Thanks Johnm for starting this thread. William Harris has always been one of the very best in my mind. He really has it all, great voice, great lyrics, great song variety and especially great guitar playing. There really isn't a bad song in the bunch. Kansas City Blues and Hot Time Blues are two more favourites, actually they're all favourites but those two stand out to my ears.

Offline Johnm

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Re: William Harris Lyrics
« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2012, 07:00:45 AM »
Hi Phil,
In the duet version, I reckon William Harris is playing out of G, standard position himself, where the treble work sits easier, but if in a solo version of the song it makes both bass and treble more accessible to play out of Spanish, there's certainly no reason not to do so--it makes a lot of sense.
I agree about William Harris, 143TalBoy, he really was terrific.  I need to work on the rest of his songs.
All best,
Johnm

 


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