The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #4632   Message #1092118
Posted By: PoppaGator
13-Jan-04 - 04:07 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me(John Hurt)
Subject: RE: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
Just listening to the radio, I heard the instrumental part of this song and said to myself:

"What the hell is that? Mississippi John Hurt playing 'Waiting For A Train'?"

Then the vocal resumed, and I realized that MJH was singing about mermaids and undertakers, not hobos and railroads. I also realized that I'd heard the recording before (though not recently).

What's really strange is that I used to play BOTH of these songs, and never realized at the time that they both use the same tune!

Well, I never got "Mermaids" fully worked up to be part of my repertoire, but I had the Stephen Grossman book mentioned above, and spent at least a little time working on all the MJH numbers. (I *do* have another half-dozen or more John Hurt tunes at my fingertips, and consider myself a fairly knowledgeable afficianado -- hence my dismay at going so many years without noticing this.)

I sang and played the Jimmie Rodgers tune pretty regularly back in my streetsinging days, 1970-72. I did in the key of F (per the sheet music ina 2-volume Jimmie Rodgers Songbook), which is almost certainly *not* the key used by John Hurt for "Mermaids." That must be why I never noticed that the two songs used the same melody. (Also, of course, Hurt's version does not include a yodel at the end of each verse!)

It's interesting to ponder the fact that both John Hurt and the Singing Brakeman lived in northwestern Mississippi at about the same time, and to wonder just where that melody came from. I'd guess that neither created the music out of thin air, but that each one came up with his own original lyrics. But there's no way to know for sure, is there?