The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #97813 Message #4063731
Posted By: GUEST,Joseph Scott
11-Jul-20 - 12:46 AM
Thread Name: Origin: Alabama Bound & Don't You Leave Me Here
Subject: RE: Origin: Alabama Bound & Don't You Leave Me Here
John Talmadge of Athens, Georgia, born in 1899, remembered that while Cook and Perry were squabbling over who had set foot on the North Pole first, children in Athens sang "Captain Cook's in town, turn the damper down." "In town" possibly relates to Frederick Cook's lucrative lecture tours.
"Alabama Bound" often has a chord progression of close to I-I-IV-IV-V-V-I-I. That or similar with 9 or 10 bars is common in related songs that were popular roughly 1905-1908 such as "Take A One On Me." Those songs may have arisen largely from the "Hop Joint"-like songs of roughly 1902, which were very similar in turn from "Frankie" and the like but switched to first person, and (perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, chronologically) had closer to what we think of as a blues progression, more often with closer to 12 bars. The only moderately distant relationship between "Alabama Bound" and blues, in the scope of all folk music of the era, may account for Robert Hoffman using the alternative title "Alabama Blues" in 1909 for a version of "Alabama Bound." (I don't think Hoffman "extracted his melody" from a blues song.) Similarly with Henry Thomas's use of "... all night long...," typically found in the third-line refrain in 12-bar blues, in a version of "Alabama Bound"; there was a lot of blurring of fairly similar categories in about 1907 before "blues music" was seen as a distinct "thing" yet.
Progressions in blues also could run straight from IV to V (e.g. a strain in "Royal Garden Blues" has that) but that was far less common in blues than in the extended "Take A One On Me" family.
Favorite stanzas were swapped between "Alabama Bound" and 12-bar blues. E.g. the "and she won't come down"-type stuff, which is at least as old as 1904, turns up in both.
Jelly Roll Morton knew he was lying about his age by 5 years to exaggerate his primacy (time and again you can hear him pausing and mentally adjusting years to account for that while talking to A. Lomax), so we should often add several years to whatever his claim was about anything before about 1920. His tales were taller some days than others and I don't think his claim that it was he who wrote "Alabama Bound" was true.
In general, Gates Thomas's recollected years weren't as consistent or plausible as we'd like.
I don't think the connection between Hutchison's "Train That Carried My Girl From Town" -- a song that is typical of a _very_ popular theme in 1910s folk blues, she left on that train, cf. e.g. "219 Blues" -- and "Alabama Bound" is significant. Hutchison learned that song from an older black musician, Bill Hunt, who had moved to West Virginia.
For all practical purposes if it has AAB lyrics (as opposed to e.g. AABC or AABA lyrics) it's not "Alabama Bound," no matter what lyrics floated into it. I've never heard a song with "... Elder Green..." lyrics that wasn't a version of "Alabama Bound."
The such-and-such gal will "make a preacher lay his Bible down..."-type songs were common and were very often not "Alabama Bound," as opposed to the "got drunk" wording, which was very often in "Alabama Bound."
Easing someone into the dozens meant gradually implying an insult towards someone in particular while people were playfully insulting each other. So "Don't you ease me in" implied that you were not someone to be messed with. It floated into lots of stuff; boasting was part of sitting on a curb playing a guitar.
Alf Valentine claimed "Alabama Bound" dated to the 1890s, but if so it seems to have lain low until exploding to popularity more like 1908.
Songs with "Stack don't drown..." and the like are about the steamboat the Stack Lee and are similar to other songs that identified steamboats by name, and that stuff would have arisen independently of and wasn't very similar to the song about "Stag" Lee Shelton.
Mary Wheeler is underrated on perspective on stuff of this era; she tended to concentrate on people born in about the 1870s. Talley (who was Uncle Dave Macon's age) was very interested in songs of the 1880s, which is why stuff from 1898 or 1908 can turn up blank in his book.