The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #8432   Message #869242
Posted By: Bee-dubya-ell
17-Jan-03 - 10:47 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Deep Elem Blues / Deep Ellum / Deep Elm
Subject: Lyr Add: DEEP ELM BLUES / ...ELEM... / ...ELLUM...
From the Grateful Dead Lyric and Song Finder:

The first recording of this song is normally credited to the Shelton Brothers in the early 1930s. They started as the Attlesey Brothers, and recorded "Deep Elm Blues" under the name "Lone Star Cowboys" in 1933. They then changed their name to the Shelton Brothers (after their mother's maiden name) and recorded several further versions under the title "Deep Elem Blues." It was subsequently covered by a variety of other artists, including the Prairie Ramblers in 1935, Jerry Lee Lewis in the 1950s, and Frank Wakefield in the early 1960s. I'm not sure whose version Jerry Garcia learnt the song from.

The title "Deep Elem" originates from Elm Street, which was the red-light district in Dallas. The song is known variously as "Deep Elm Blues", "Deep Elem Blues" and "Deep Ellum" blues.

Several early blues luminaries spent time in and around Deep Ellum. Blind Lemon Jefferson moved there as a street musician around 1917, and met and played with Leadbelly there. Lightning Hopkins also played with Blind Lemon there. But it doesn't seem that any of them had a hand in writing this song (even though Blind Lemon Jefferson is sometimes cited as the author).

The recording by the Shelton Brothers shows how this was the origin of most of the verses Jerry sang:


DEEP ELEM BLUES

When you go in Deep Elem, to have a little fun
You better have your fifteen dollars when that policeman comes
Oh sweet mama, daddy's got them Deep Elem blues

Once I had a sweetheart, who meant the world to me
But she hung around Deep Elem, now she ain't what she used to be
Oh sweet mama, daddy's got them Deep Elem blues
Oh sweet mama, daddy's got them Deep Elem blues

When you go down in Deep Elem, keep your money in your shoes
'Cause the women in Deep Elem's got the Deep Elem blues
Oh sweet mama, daddy's got them Deep Elem blues

When you go down in Deep Elem, keep your money in your pants
'Cause the redheads in Deep Elem never give a man a chance
Oh sweet mama, daddy's got them Deep Elem blues
Oh sweet mama, daddy's got them Deep Elem blues

Once I knew a preacher, preached the bible through and through
But he went down in Deep Elem, now his preaching days are through
Oh sweet mama, daddy's got them Deep Elem blues

When you go down in Deep Elem, keep your money in your socks
'Cause the women in Deep Elem will throw you on the rocks
Oh sweet mama, daddy's got them Deep Elem blues
Oh sweet mama, daddy's got them Deep Elem blues


The closest antecedent appears to be "Georgia Black Bottom" recorded by the Georgia Crackers (including the Cofer Brothers) in 1927. The tune is the same, and several of the verses are the same (apart from the change from "Black Bottom" to "Deep Elem"):

GEORGIA BLACK BOTTOM

If you go down in Black Bottom, put your money in your shoe
The women in Black Bottom got them Black Bottom blues
Oh good mama, daddy's got them Black Bottom blues

If you go down in Black Bottom, let my [hog] ride along
Don't begin to [?] take you to that [driver's home]
Oh good mama, daddy's got them Black Bottom blues

If you go down in Black Bottom, just to have a little fun
Have sixteen dollars ready when that police wagon come
Oh good mama, daddy's got them Black Bottom blues

Once I had a good little woman, and I taken her to the fair
She would have won that premium but she had bad hair
Oh good mama, daddy's got them Black Bottom blues

The billy goat drown in Black Bottom just to get a drink of booze
But now he's in the [jang-jang] wearing broken shoes
Oh good mama, daddy's got them Black Bottom blues

The [cooper] goes down in Black Bottom, just to get a drink of booze
But now he's in the [jang-jang] wearing them broken shoes
Oh good mama, daddy's got them Black Bottom blues

If you got a good little woman, better keep her by your side
'Cause that old cooper's gonna take your baby for a ride
Oh good mama, daddy's got them Black Bottom blues


There are several songs with similar or related titles. These include "Elm Street (Woman) Blues" by Ida Mae Mack, and "Deep Elm (You Tell 'em I'm Blue)", recorded in 1925 by Willard Robison. These seem to be unrelated to the song Jerry sang. Similarly, there are a number of "Black Bottom Blues" that are unrelated to this song.

"Deep Elem Blues" is sometimes linked to "Deep River Blues". But although the chorus "Lord, Lord, I got them Deep River blues" is somewhat similar, the rest is very different in both music and lyrics. It is possible (not yet checked) that the music for "Deep Elem Blues" is related to the fiddle tune "Coal Tipple Blues."


Bruce