The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #130575   Message #2939399
Posted By: GUEST,Bob Coltman
03-Jul-10 - 08:27 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Add/Origin: Can't Lose Me, Charlie
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: You're Tryin' to Lose Me, Charlie
I don't think any of us believed that Miller's original 1893 "Can't Lose Me, Charlie" had survived anywhere, apart from Leadbelly's fairly distant echo.

What a surprise, therefore, to find, in a tape of a Paul Clayton performance at the Cafe Yana in Boston either in 1961 or 1962, Clayton singing a song he seems to have called "You're Trying to Lose Me, Charlie."

As sung by Paul Clayton

I was down at Mrs. Johnson's the other night,
Courtin' with a little girl, hid out of sight,
Down on my knees, I was a-tellin'
And my ol' girl's outside, she was a-yellin',

Cho: Says you're tryin' to lose me, Charlie,
You're tryin' to lose me, Charlie,
Howso and ever in all kinds of weather,
Well, you can't lose me, 'deed you can't.

I was down on the railroad, the train a-comin' fast,
An' I stepped on the other side, just let it pass,
I caught the train, train was a-flyin',
An' my ol' girl caught me, and she was a yellin',

Cho: Well, you tryin' to lose me, Charlie ...

I's all out on the boat, I's a-doin' little drinkin',
An' the bottom bust out, it commenced a-sinkin',
An' the ol' girl grabbed me, says, I been thinkin',

Cho2: Well, you tryin' to lose me, Charlie,
You tryin' to lose me, Charlie,
Howso and ever, we will all die together,
Well, you can't lose me, 'deed you can't.

How in the dickens did Clayton get hold of this almost unheard song? I suggest he may have heard the fragment during one of his many song collecting trips through Virginia, North Carolina or Kentucky—or else picked it up from someone else who remembered part of the song, with a different title line.

The song differs enough from the extremely rare original sheet music so that I doubt Clayton ever saw a copy of that. As noted above I haven't been able to find any evidence that it ever appeared on a phonograph record. And while Clayton was known to write songs, the divergences of this one don't sound like his work.

So we seem to have a second survival of an 1893 pop song that came within an inch of not surviving at all, is not found in tradition anywhere else apart from Leadbelly, but somehow Paul Clayton is singing it in the early 1960s in a very catchy rendition.

That's the sum total, so far as I know, of "Can't Lose Me, Charlie"'s appearances in pop and folk history. Anyone know of any others—that is, survivals of the song in anyone's hands other than Leadbelly's or Clayton's?