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Lyr Add: Jake Walk Blues

Stewie 13 Jan 00 - 03:56 AM
longhair 13 Jan 00 - 08:51 PM
Mike Billo 13 Jan 00 - 09:54 PM
Art Thieme 14 Jan 00 - 10:08 AM
Dale Rose 15 Jan 00 - 07:21 PM
Stewie 15 Jan 00 - 09:05 PM
Stewie 15 Jan 00 - 10:06 PM
fox4zero 16 Jan 00 - 06:12 PM
Art Thieme 17 Jan 00 - 12:41 AM
bluerabbit10 06 Feb 12 - 12:10 PM
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Subject: Lyr Add: JAKE WALK BLUES^^
From: Stewie
Date: 13 Jan 00 - 03:56 AM

'Jake Walk Blues' was one the Allen Brothers' [Austin & Lee Allen] most popular records, but not as popular as their 'New Salty Dog'. It was released on Victor and later on Victor's budget Bluebird label which alone sold more than 20 000 copies.

Partial paralysis afflicted more than 50 000 Americans in 1930 - mostly poor working-class men, farmers and unemployed men - in Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, southern Ohio, southeastern Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and, later that year, in southern California. A Jamaica ginger extract medicinal tonic had been available since the Civil War. This beverage was nicknamed 'jake' and was consumed for its high alcoholic content. With Prohibition, only a government-approved extract was legally available – it had such a concentration of the ginger that it was unpalatable as a beverage. However, many illicit brands of the extract became available. These had small amounts of ginger, dissolved in 75% alcohol and mixed with various adulterants and, at 35 cents a 2-ounce bottle, provided more alcohol than 2 pre-Prohibition mixed drinks. John P. Morgan MD, the compiler of the collection of 1930s jake leg songs referred to below, writes:

In February of 1930, Harry Gross of the Hub Products Corporation in Boston adulterated a batch of jake with triorthocresyl phosphate – an ingredient of paint and lacquers. It seemed an ideal ingredient. It was cheap, tasteless and odourles, miscible with ginger and soluble in alcohol. He shipped most of the jake in bulk to rebottlers in larger cities. This single batch of TOCP-contaminated jake paralysed thousands of thirsty Americans. Gross served less than 2 years, charged only with breaking the pure food and drug law. Those poisoned were permanently paralysed and most never walked again without canes, crutches or walkers. They dragged their feet, rocking from one side to the other to swing their weakened legs forward, slapping their shoes to the pavement. This peculiar gait became known as the 'jake walk' and the illness as the 'jake leg'. [From liner notes to 'Jake Leg Blues' Jass J-CD-642]

In the early 1930s, about 13 songs, directly related to the jake walk and the jake leg, were recorded by both black and white musicians. This song by the Allen Brothers was one of the most popular. Thomas C. Tulloss wrote in 1978: 'Some jake leg victims in East Tennessee, who are still alive, clearly remembered the Allen Brothers' song, once owned the record, and could still quote lyrics freely and without prompting' [Old Time Music # 28, Spring 1978, p 20]. The song is far from sympathetic. Tony Russell has summed it up well as 'an uncompromising and blackly humorous piece which more or less says: if you live hard, you get hard breaks'.


(Austin Allen)

I can't eat, I can't talk
Been drinkin' mean jake, Lord, now I can't walk
Ain't got nothin' now to lose
'Cos I'm a jake walkin' papa, with the jake walk blues

Listen here, papa, can't you see
You can't drink jake and get along with me
You're a jake walkin' papa with the jake walk blues
I'm a red hot mama that you can't afford to lose

Listen here, daddy, while I tell you once more
If you're gonna drink jake don't you knock at my door
Listen here, mama, have to call your hand
I'm a jake walkin' papa from a jake walk land

I'm not good lookin' and I'm not low down
I'm a jake walkin' papa just a-hangin' around
Now I made this song and it may not rhyme
But I'm a jake walkin' papa just a-havin' a good time

My daddy was a gambler and a drunkard too
If he was living today, he'd have the jake walk too
When I die, you can have my hand
I'm gonna take a bottle of jake to the Promised Land

Now, I'm feelin' kind of drunk, brother
Be a'wearin' jake socks after a while
You know they call them iron socks ['iron socks' = braces]
You know, I bet you don't know one from the other, brother
Which is the other?

Source: Allen Brothers 'Jake Walk Blues' Victor. Recorded 5 May 1930. Reissued on Various Artists 'Jake Leg Blues' Jass J-CD-642. Also reissued on Allen Brothers 'Complete Recorded Works Vol 1' Document DOCD –8033.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Jake Walk Blues
From: longhair
Date: 13 Jan 00 - 08:51 PM

Thanks Stewie, that was very interesting. I love the history behind songs, and in this case, helped me understand what they were talking about. Always wondered where the term " jake leg" came from. Thanks again.. longhair

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Jake Walk Blues
From: Mike Billo
Date: 13 Jan 00 - 09:54 PM

Coincidentally, as a Christmas/Birthday present to myself, I recently bought all 3 volumes of the Document CD's "The Complete Recorded Works of the Allen Brothers".

I am at a loss as to why these giants of old time/hillbilly/blues, remain unknown to many listeners.

These guys were GREAT!!

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Jake Walk Blues
From: Art Thieme
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 10:08 AM

Check out the gait/limp/jakewalk of Walter Brennan in the Bogart & Bacall film To Have And Have Not. I don't know if it's an accurate depiction of the walk but it's there for sure.

Back a few decades, STASH RECORDS put out an LP called JAKE WALK BLUES. It was all songs concerning Jamaican Ginger.

Side one:
Jake Walk Blues (the Allen Bros.)
Jake Leg Wobble (Ray Bros.)
Jake Legs Blues (Byrd Moore & the Hotshots)
Jake Leg Blues (Willis Lofton)
Limber Neck Rag (Narmour & Smith)
Jake Walk Papa (Asa Martin)Bear Cat Papa Blues (Gene Autry)

Side 2:
Jake Liquor Blues (Ishman Bracey)
Jake Bottle Blues (Lemuel Turner)
Got the Jake Leg Too (Ray Brothers)
Jake Leg Blues (Mississippi Shieks)
Jake Leg Blues (Maynard Britton)
Jake Leg Rag (Narmour & Smith)
Jake Walk Blues (Maynard Britton)

All of the songs were from 78s issued 30 years earlier.

Art Thieme

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Jake Walk Blues
From: Dale Rose
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 07:21 PM

Here is an interesting site about Jamaican Ginger extract, and its effects. Toward the bottom of the page is a link to realaudio of some of the songs listed by Art. Though the site says that there are 13 titles, they list only 12. Jake Walk Blues is listed, but is missing from the RealAudio as are some of the others, replaced with various moonshine songs. Still, it is a VERY interesting collection, and worth exploring. As they say, just click on the player piano to hear them all consecutively. The playlist is done in clip form, so you can go from one to the next by clicking on next clip.

In addition to the recordings listed by Stewie, there was an LP by the Allen Brothers on Old Timey, and Jake Walk Blues is also anthologized on Are You From Dixie? Great Country Brother Teams of the 1930's on CD by RCA Victor, but the Document CDs is definitely the way to go! I think I will treat myself to an "after Christmas" present of the set.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Jake Walk Blues
From: Stewie
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 09:05 PM


The Jass CD is a reissue of the Stash LP with 3 extra tracks:

Bay Rum Blues - (Dave McCarn)
Alcohol and Jake Blues - (Tommy Johnson)
Beer Drinkin' Woman - (Black Ace) Dale, many thanks for the site.

Regards, Stewie.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Jake Walk Blues
From: Stewie
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 10:06 PM


The moonshine site is a very interesting indeed - thanks again. It refers to Daddy Stovepipe and Mississippi Sarah's 'Jake Leg Blues'. It is most curious that that song did not appear in the Slash/Jass compilation. The McCarn, Autry and Black Ace pieces are omitted probably because they refer to the jake only in passing. The 2 Maynard Britton pieces were not commercial recordings, but recordings made by Alan and Elizabeth Lomax for the Library of Congress [no date given]. They are based on the Allen Brothers and Byrd Moore recordings. Morgan notes: 'The Lomaxes were not aware that these originated from commercial recordings and thought that Britton had composed them. Britton was a jake leg sufferer'. The Lemuel Turner instrumental piece actually predated the epidemic - he was merely identifying the jake with the blues.

Looking back at the Old Time Music article, it lists the Daddy Stovepipe, with a note that it was 'unavailable'. The other missing one, to make up the original 13, is Bernard 'Slim' Smith 'Jakeitus Blues' ARC 1930 which was unissued.

Cheers, Stewie.

Cheers, Stewie.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Jake Walk Blues
From: fox4zero
Date: 16 Jan 00 - 06:12 PM

I have been interested in Jake songs since I learned about Jake Paralysis in medical school (1957). The reason that BAY RUM BLUES by Autry was not included in the original album was because Dr. John Morgan was unaware of the mention of Jake in that song. I sent him a letter at CUNY Medical School, where he is/was a pharmacologist, and pointed out that song. I believe that it was on a Bear Family record that he already posessed.

Regards from Larry PARISH

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Jake Walk Blues
From: Art Thieme
Date: 17 Jan 00 - 12:41 AM

Now I know why I walk like this.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Jake Walk Blues
From: bluerabbit10
Date: 06 Feb 12 - 12:10 PM

I remember my dad saying, "he's got a jake leg," or something similar back in the early thirties. My dad's folks ran a dance hall on the old home place during the twenties, depression, called the "The Lone Oak." It was in central Illinois Lake Fork Township. Bands came from Chicago and other far places to play there...Dime a dance with a rope used to rake the floor clean after each dance "set." One of my songs about this is, "Big Dance at Lone Oak Tonite,"

Click here

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