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The famous Mother of the Blues doesn't want you to ever forget her-that's how much she loves her friends! So we put her picture on her latest record, 'Dream Blues.' On the other side is 'Lost Wandering Blues' by 'Ma.' Accompaniments by Pruitt Twins on those guitars that made Kansas City famous.... This is the first time, to our knowledge, that any artist's picture has ever appeared on a record. Paramount is always first with the features - Chicago Defender ad, 7 June 1924 for Ma Rainey's souvenir record

Author Topic: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?  (Read 49154 times)

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Offline Nyama74

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #60 on: October 01, 2018, 12:38:31 AM »
Does anyone know if Brenda Joyce Evans is still around? If so, seems like she'd be the right person to ask.

After a few google searches, I found a youtube video of the song where someone claiming to be Brenda Evans comments:

.

Also found several references such as this:  ?Shake Sugaree? was originally performed with Brenda Joyce Evans, (Cotten's) 12-year old great-granddaughter and future member of Motown?s The Undisputed Truth." If the "Shake Sugaree" and Undisputed Truth singers are, in fact, the same person, she also has a facebook page.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2018, 12:44:59 AM by Nyama74 »

Offline Peter H

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #61 on: January 06, 2019, 05:06:34 AM »
Maybe what I'm going to tell is totally irrelevant, and then again maybe not.
'Sugaree' might refer to chicory. Root chicory was used in Depression and War years as a substitute for coffee (all the coffee was done and pawned too?) I was born in the fifties and root chicory was still often mixed with coffee then, because it was cheaper. I am Dutch speaking (I live in Flanders, Belgium), and the Dutch word 'cichorei' (chicory) was corrupted then through folk etymology into 'suikerij', which really is a non-existent word, but which you could transpose into English as 'sugaree' ('suiker' = 'sugar'). I heard the word 'suikerij' very often then (early sixties). And although the word 'suikerij' sounds sweet, chicory is really bitter. So this knowledge adds to both the sweetness and the bitterness of the interpretations, and the seemingly meaningless 'sugaree' gets yet another intriguing connotation.
I got interested in the song through Rhiannon Giddens' interpretation.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #62 on: February 03, 2019, 03:45:17 PM »
Hi all,
This thread has been going a while, and I found use of the word "Sugaree" in another song, Carolina Slim's "Sugaree", in which it is apparent that the word is a person's name or nickname.  Here is his song, played in dropped-D tuning.  The mood and feel is completely different from Libba Cotten's song, and features some ripping guitar playing.



INTRO

Sugaree, Sugaree, darlin', won't you please come on back to me?
Sugaree, Sugaree, darlin', won't you please come on back to me?
I want back my sweet old sugar, and ease my achin' misery

You know, I woke up this mornin', I woke up 'bout the break of day, I reached over and grabbed the pillow where sugar mama used to lay, and I said,
"Sugar mama, darlin', just where could you be?
You carried away my sweet old sugar, and it means so much to me."

SOLO

If you see my Sugaree, tell her please don't go away too far
If you see my Sugaree, tell her please don't go away too far
'Cause she got that sweet kind of sugar, no one else don't have but her

I believe that "Sugaree" in the Libba Cotten song also refers to a person by that name, and that the title of the song should have been "Shake, Sugaree".  It would make sense of the lyric in the chorus--Oh, Lordy me, didn't we shake, Sugaree?", with the singer reminiscing about a shared experience with Sugaree.  It's like saying, "Oh man, didn't we party?" 
All best,
Johnm

Offline Stuart

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #63 on: February 03, 2019, 05:50:21 PM »
Hi John:

I agree that Sugaree should be understood as referring to a person and is used along the lines of Honey, Sugar, Sweetie, etc. Given that the Grateful Dead's song muscles out virtually everything else from a search, running down other occurrences isn't exactly easy. It's not CB, but Joel Paterson and his band mates recorded a song by the title Sugaree a while ago. However I can't recall if it is an original of theirs or a cover. But it definitely refers to a person, a girlfriend in this case. If I can find the CD in this dump I'll look for credits as they do a lot of older material.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #64 on: February 06, 2019, 12:00:04 AM »
I did a workup of how to remove the noise from a google search for sugaree: https://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=11869.msg105232#msg105232

Offline Mike Shipman

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #65 on: February 25, 2019, 02:02:51 AM »
Oh my word, I raised this query 7 years ago and it is still attracting comments!
Thankyou everybody for your views / ideas etc, looks like therell never be a definitive answer to this, but maybe thats right, Ill just continue to enjoy the song.
Thanks again.
Mike Shipman
New Forest - Hampshire, UK.

Offline Mike Shipman

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #66 on: February 25, 2019, 02:06:09 AM »
Hmmm, maybe I was a bit quick off the mark to comment on the longevity of this thread, just looked at two others, they were started in 2004 and 2005, mine from 2012 is thefefor a "newbie"!
Mike Shipman
New Forest - Hampshire, UK.

Offline jtbrown

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #67 on: March 30, 2019, 01:41:25 PM »


I believe that "Sugaree" in the Libba Cotten song also refers to a person by that name, and that the title of the song should have been "Shake, Sugaree".  It would make sense of the lyric in the chorus--Oh, Lordy me, didn't we shake, Sugaree?", with the singer reminiscing about a shared experience with Sugaree.  It's like saying, "Oh man, didn't we party?" 


John,

On the recording I'm familiar with, I hear Brenda Evans singing "Didn't I shake, Sugaree?" rather than "Didn't we shake, Sugaree?" Are you referring to some other version where she (or Elizabeth Cotten) sings "Didn't we shake," or is this just another case of our hearing things differently?

Todd Brown

Offline Johnm

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #68 on: March 30, 2019, 01:45:12 PM »
Yes, Todd.
All best,
Johnm

Offline jtbrown

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #69 on: March 30, 2019, 01:49:42 PM »
Yes, Todd.
All best,
Johnm

Um, thanks for the quick reply, but is that "yes, Todd, I'm referring to a different version," or "Yes, Todd, this is another case of our hearing things differently"? (If there's one where Cotten herself sings it, I really want to hear it!)

Todd
« Last Edit: March 30, 2019, 01:51:35 PM by jtbrown »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #70 on: March 30, 2019, 03:58:51 PM »
I remembered the lyrics incorrectly, with "we" rather than "I" in the refrain, Todd.  I listened to two versions on youtube, the first recording with Brenda Evans singing the song and a live version on Arhoolie where Libba sang it, and in both instances the lyric was "Didn't I shake, Sugaree?"  The difference in pronouns makes no difference to my sense of Sugaree being a pet name for the person being sung to, as opposed to a body part or an object being shaken.  As for the original question of what the song means, it seems pretty clearly to be a nonsense children's song.  There is no through theme or story to it.  It's just spritzing.
All best,
Johnm 

Offline Stuart

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #71 on: March 30, 2019, 04:27:28 PM »
As for the original question of what the song means, it seems pretty clearly to be a nonsense children's song.

Unless, of course, you are a child, and then it makes perfect sense.  ;)

But in all seriousness, John, could Sugaree have been the pet name for the child (or children) that it was originally sung to, with the original context or circumstances having been lost over the years as the audience changed?

Offline Johnm

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #72 on: March 30, 2019, 04:31:18 PM »
Sure, Stuart, my point is Sugaree is a person or people, not something else.  I think we're getting into the territory that Mark Twain used to describe Henry James' writing:  "He chewed more than he bit off."
All best,
Johnm

Offline Stuart

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #73 on: March 30, 2019, 04:41:19 PM »
You're right, John--We certainly don't want to chew more than we bit off. But I think although we'll never know for sure, it suggests why there have been ongoing questions as to why the meaning of the song and "Sugaree" have been unclear when understood as a grownup themed song. As a song made up and sung to a child, it's perfectly clear--to me, anyway.

We both agreed on the meaning of "Sugaree" a while back, so there's no argument there.

« Last Edit: March 30, 2019, 04:43:39 PM by Stuart »

Offline jtbrown

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Re: Shake sugaree - meaning of...?
« Reply #74 on: March 30, 2019, 04:53:37 PM »
John, thanks very much for the tip about the live recording where Cotten sings the song herself. Here's a link in case others are interested:



Todd

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