The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #15511   Message #139431
Posted By: Stewie
22-Nov-99 - 04:39 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Add: Cocaine Blues 4 (Luke Jordan)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Cocaine Blues 4
I wish to pursue this because it is most interesting. The versions of 'Cocaine Blues' in the DT 'Cocaine Blues' and 'Cocaine Blues 3'(forgetting about George Thoroughgood) are identical and are word-for-word what Dave Van Ronk sings on 'Inside Dave Van Ronk'. Like the Van Ronk record, the DT attributes this version to Luke Jordan. This is almost certainly incorrect - I'd bet my boots on that anyway. I reckon some record company staffer gave the wrong attribution and it has stuck. The Van Ronk Fantasy label record credits 'Luke Jordan Peer International BMI'. Peer was working for Victor in the 1920s and probably was the recording engineer at the Jordan session in 1927. As one can see from the above posting, the Jordan song bears no resemblance to the DT/Van Ronk version for which he is given credit.

The note at the bottom of the identical versions in DT reads:

'The following note on Luke Jordan is from a review of the Global Village CD - VIRGINIA TRADITIONS: Western Piedmont Blues. "Any fan of the pre-war blues will be familiar with Luke Jordan and his constant pursuit of cocaine. His two tracks were cut in 1929 and are followed by a hiatus that lasts until James Lowry cut his three offerings at a radio station in 1953.RB'

In this context, that note is absurd or next to useless. I misread the Global Village listing that I gave above - it was confusing because some of the song titles are in bold and others in italics. Anyhow, the 2 Jordan tracks on the CD are 'Won't You be Kind' and 'My Gal's Done Quit Me' and Godrich and Dixon lists them as being recorded in 1929. Neither of them has anything at all to do with 'Cocaine Blues' recorded 2 years earlier. The quote offered as shedding some sort of light on Jordan merely indicates that the time span on the CD jumps from Jordan's 2 1929 contributions to some dubs of James Lowry from a radio station in 1953 - to the rest of the CD which consisted of 1970s field recordings. Very illuminating! The quote also says that 'any pre-war blues fan will be familiar with Luke Jordan and his constant pursuit of cocaine'. As a pre-war blues fan, I have never heard any suggestion that Jordan was a coke head. Kip Lornell, an expert on Virginia blues, has written: 'Jordan is still remembered by black musicians in Lynchburg as a unique and forceful guitarist. Moreover, he had a reputation as a problem drinker and an expert angler who never held down a regular job. His "signature" songs were "Cocaine Blues" and "Church Bells Blues" which some local blues musicians still perform'.

Given that the version sung by Van Ronk and in the DT has nothing to do with Luke Jordan (except for a few lines that floated from his version), where does that version come from? It is much closer to the Rev Gary Davis words given in the 'Cocaine' thread, but not the same. I always assumed the Van Ronk song was the Gary Davis version, but had never bothered to check the attribution on the record. The reference to Beale suggests a Memphis connection, but the only Memphis cocaine blues that springs to mind is the Memphis Jug Band's 'Take a Whiff on Me'. All very intriguing and worthy of further investigation. I think I'll go and have some dinner.