The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #4581   Message #3163663
Posted By: Azizi
01-Jun-11 - 08:32 AM
Thread Name: blues lyrics meanings
Subject: RE: blues lyrics meanings
Guest w, your query prompted me to search online for definitions of the phrase "shake em on down". And that search resulted in my finding wonderful sound files and videos of Bluesmen Fred McDowell's, Bukka White's, and Furry Lewis' performances of "Shake Em On Down".

Also as a result of that search I added those videos to a new page on my website:

The purpose of that page is to share my opinion about the meaning of the phrase "shake em on down" and other [I believe] related phrases. But much more importantly, the purpose of that Cocojams page is to heighten awareness about those Blues vocalists/musicians and their performances of "Shake Em On Down".

Here's an excerpt from that page:

"Although there doesn't appear to be any definition of this phrase online, there seems to be no doubt in my mind that in traditional Blues songs, the phrase "shake em on down" means having sexual intercourse with another person. That meaning of "shake em on down" is used in several Blues songs that have different lyrics overall...

I believe the phrase "shake em on down" is closely related to the phrase "shake that thing". That phrase "shake that thing" is often given as "shake that thang". Here's a defintiion of "shakin that thing" from Harry's Blues Lyrics Online, Blues Language Page

a blues euphemism for engaging in sex, popularized by Papa Charlie Jackson's 1925 hit "Shake That Thing"


While "Shake that thing" may have started out as a euphemism of engagin in sex, it now has a more socially acceptable meaning of "getting down" on the dance floor. And "getting down on the dance floor" just means "to dance very well".

I also believe thaT "Shake em on down" is related to "shake your money maker" and "shake your tailfeather" and "shake your tambourine" all mean to "shake your butt" [usually referring to women's dance movements]. Two contemporary forms of "shake your moneymaker" are "shake what your mama gave you" and "shake what you have in your skirt".

"Shake em on down" is probably also closely related to the exhortations "Get [on] down to the [real] nitty gritty. "Get down to the nitty gritty" means getting to the essence of something-which is after all the core meaning of the phrase "nitty gritty".


Also, here's an excerpt from :

"The phrase [nitty gritty] is usually used with the prefix 'getting down to' and there is a sense that, whatever the nitty-gritty is, it is at the bottom of something...

The first reference that I can find of the phrase in print is from the New York Catalog of Copyright Entries, Part 3 - Musical Compositions, 1937. That lists a song entitled 'That Nitty Gritty Dance' which was copyrighted by Arthur Harrington Gibbs.".


I recall reading somewhere that the phrase "get down to the nitty gritty" originated or was popularized by African Americans in juke joints and other dance halls in the early 20th century. The phrase derived referred to reaching nits at the bottom of a barrell but referred to the custom of women -and men- shaking their bodies down close to the floor. That form of "funky" sweat inducing dancing can certainly be said to be a public imitation of the sex act.

The more contemporary exhortations "Get on down!" and "Get down!" are derived from "get down to the nitty gritty". Those phrases can be loosely defined to mean "do something very well", particularly to excell in some creative performance such as dancing, singing, or playing a musical instrument. It may be impossible to really excell creatively if you don't put your heart into your performance and get down to the real nitty gritty.

All of this may seem far removed from sexual expression, but there's more than one connection between creativity and sex.


Btw, I just saw meself's 29 Sep 09 post yesterday and want to belatedly say I sincerely thank you for your support.