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Origin: Bow Wow Blues (Allen Brothers)

GUEST,Richie 02 Sep 07 - 05:15 PM
12-stringer 02 Sep 07 - 07:49 PM
Stewie 02 Sep 07 - 08:53 PM
Stewie 02 Sep 07 - 08:59 PM
GUEST,Richie 02 Sep 07 - 10:27 PM
GUEST 02 Sep 07 - 10:45 PM
GUEST,Richie 04 Sep 07 - 10:02 AM
12-stringer 04 Sep 07 - 12:41 PM
Stewie 04 Sep 07 - 06:37 PM
12-stringer 05 Sep 07 - 04:22 AM
GUEST 11 Jun 12 - 04:49 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 11 Jun 12 - 06:51 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 11 Jun 12 - 06:58 PM
12-stringer 11 Jun 12 - 10:39 PM
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Subject: 'Bow Wow Blues' Allen Brothers
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 02 Sep 07 - 05:15 PM


On the internet it's reported that Bow Wow Blues by the Allen Brothers is a version of Salty Dog Blues. What do you think?

I looked at the 1921 "Bow Wow Blues (My Mamma Treats Me Like a Dog)" (18850), composed by Cliff Friend and Nat Osborne on-line an it has a similar rag-time chord structure (to Salty Dog) but is clearly a different song. Did the Allen Brothers base their "Bow Wow Blues" on the 1921 song or just the title?

Does anyone know the story of how Donald Nelson discovered Allen Brothers (I guess in the sixties)? Charles Wolfe refers to it and there is an article by Nelson in the John Edwards Memorial Foundation
(JEMF) about the Allens. How do I access that article?

I'd be curious to know if Bow Wow Blues was a hit for the Allens. is there a biography somewhere by a reputible writer?

When did the Allen's first record Salty Dog (or was it "New Salty Dog")? I know the Morris Bother claim to have written the song. What's with that?

Any info would be appreciated. Thanks,


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Subject: Lyr Add: BOW WOW BLUES (Allen Brothers)
From: 12-stringer
Date: 02 Sep 07 - 07:49 PM

The Allens first recorded "Salty Dog Blues" on 7 April 1927, in Atlanta. "New Salty Dog" was recorded for Victor, 22 November 1930, and "Salty Dog Hey Hey Hey" for ARC, 5 October 1934.

Papa Charlie Jackson did "Salty Dog" for Paramount in 1924, Clara Smith for Columbia in 1926. Cryin' Sam Collins (unlike any other I've ever heard) and Kokomo Arnold also had issued 78s of the song, as did Sam and Kirk McGee on the hillbilly side. Byrd Moore's 1928 "Bedbugs Makin' Their Last Go-Round" is a medley containing the title song (a recomposition of "Gulf Coast Blues") and "Salty Dog." The Morris Bros may be responsible for the specific version that Flatt & Scruggs popularized in the 50s, but it's an arrangement at best.

These are the lyrics, roughly transcribed, of the Allens' "Bow Wow Blues." I don't find a text of the 1921 pop song so I can't say what relation, if any, it has to the Allen song, aside from the title. The lyrics here don't sound like Tin Pan Alley at all. The melody is unlike "Salty Dog" and relies on a V7-I-I7-IV-bVI7-I-IV-I-VI7-II7-V7-I progression, if my air-guitar comping is to be trusted.

I got a gal, six feet tall,
Sleeps in the kitchen with her feet in the hall,
She's got a sister, she's tall and keen,
Runs her tongue like an English queen,
Bow wow, wow wow wow
I got the bow wow blues.

I got a gal, she rides a riverboat
She can make a good mule leave his oats
She's got a sister, she's tall and rough,
She's a home town girl, really knows her stuff.

I got a gal, she's the vamp of the town,
She's strictly tailor-made, no hand-me-down,
She's got a sister, she loves (??)
She's got more ways of lovin' than Wrigley's got gum.

I got a gal, she's six feet tall,
Sleeps in the kitchen with her back to the wall
She's got a sister, she's tall and keen
Struts her stuff in a Ford limousine.

I got a gal, she's an awful (??) killer
Comes to town in a broken-down flivver
She's got a sister and her name is Kate
Struts her stuff in a Cadillac Eight.

According to Tony Russell (OTM 44, 1987/88), the "Bow Wow"/"Salty Dog" combo (Co 15175-D) sold 18,426 copies. He also has sales figures on other Allen recordings, including some titles on the MW label. "New Salty" is reported to have sold 6552 copies (not clear whether this refers only to the original Victor 23500 series release or includes later sales of the Bluebird and Victor reissues), plus 7603 (c/w "Browns Ferry Blues" by the Delmore Bros) on Montgomery Ward. The Allens' biggest hit was "Jake Walk Blues," with sales of over 20000 copies.

Some years ago I read an article which included fairly detailed and specific information, gleaned from newspapers and/or court filings, on the Allen Bros vs Columbia lawsuit. I neglected to photocopy it and have been unable to relocate it more recently. Does anyone have the slightest idea where this might have been? I paged through a nearly complete library set of OTM without finding it.

As is well known, the Allens left Columbia after one of their records was issued in the 14000-D "Race" series and are supposed to have sued the label for $250K damages. The story is told often but is omitted almost completely in this OTM article, "Lee Allen's Radio Days and other salty dog chronicles," from Charles Wolfe interview. Russell mentions it in the sidebar but it's not brought up at all in the interview proper. I don't have JEMFQ 24 with the Allen article and have never seen it, so that's not the reference I'm thinking of.

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Subject: RE: 'Bow Wow Blues' Allen Brothers
From: Stewie
Date: 02 Sep 07 - 08:53 PM

Hi Richie, 'Salty Dog Blues' and 'Bow Wow Blues were recorded on 7 April 1927 in Atlanta. They were issued back-to-back as the Allen Brothers first record - Columbia 15175-D. The record sold 18,426 copies which Russell indicates was 'about average in the Columbia old-time catalogue' [Tony Russell - 'The Allen Brothers Record Sales - Old Time Music No 44 Winter 1987/88 p10).

In his notes to 'Allen Brothers Vol I' Document DOCD-8023, Russell comments: 'But Peer and the Allens interpreted "blues" liberally. Some of the numbers so titled were like "Salty Dog Blues", rag songs. Conventional 12-bar pieces with AAB rhyme scheme don't account for a larger proportion of their repertoire. Here, as so often in the hillbilly music of the 20s and 30s, "blues" seems to be inserted into a song title not to denote a structure but to imply informality, spontaneity and sometimes topicality'.

'A New Salty Dog' was recorded in Memphis on 22 November 1930 and issued back-to-back with 'Preacher Blues' as Victor 23514. You may be interested in Russell's notes to 'Allen Brothers Vol II' Document DOCD-8034:

Towards the end of their November 1930 session in Memphis, the Allen Brothers reached back for the song they had first recorded three and a half years before, revised it a little and offered it as 'A New Salty Dog'. It became the number for which they are best remembered.

'What does the term "salty dog" mean?' Charles Wolfe asked Lee Allen almost 50 years later. 'Somebody that was just a little low-down, not too much', Lee responded. 'They just wanted to have a good time, maybe at the expense of someone else, but all the same they didn't do any harm that I know of. They were drinking people and that's about all they had on their mind'.

One suspects there may have been more to it than that, but Papa Charlie Jackson's 1924 'Salty Dog Blues' (DOCD-5087), which is where this song-line appears to begin, is more revealing. Jackson applies the term both to himself and to the woman he intermittently addresses. Perhaps it was a phrase in vogue that he simply threw into his refrain for non-specific colour.

At any rate, the Allens' Victor issue of 'A New Salty Dog' sold some 6500, a later Mongomery Ward did even better, and the Bluebird release must have gone into 5 figures for it stayed in catalogue until the 40s (assisted, it's true, by being coupled with the Delmore Brothers' much-loved 'Brown's Ferry Blues').

Zeke and Home didn't record their version - 'Let Me Be Your Salty Dog' - until 1938.

The present home of JEMF is the University of North Carolina. You could try contacting the folklife library there re the Nelson article. The full reference is Donald Lee Nelson 'The Allen Brothers' JEMF Quarterly VII: 4, no 24 (Winter 1971).

I hope the above is of some use to you.


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Subject: RE: 'Bow Wow Blues' Allen Brothers
From: Stewie
Date: 02 Sep 07 - 08:59 PM

Hi, 12-stringer. I was typing whilst you submitted your post. Sorry for the duplications.


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Subject: RE: 'Bow Wow Blues' Allen Brothers
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 02 Sep 07 - 10:27 PM

Thanks Stewie and 12-stringer fro your detailed and accurate replies.

Here's the link to Bow Wow Blues composed by Cliff Friend and Nat Osborne which is a different song:
The chorus has a nice ragtime progression.

I'm sure there were some newspaper articles in 1927 about the Allen Brothers lawsuit. Maybe some has a newspaper search membership.

I'll try to find the Wolfe and Nelson interviews. If anyone has any other info please add it.

I'm curious about the Allen Brothers playing with fiddling legend Bob Douglas playing on the Allen's Victor recordings in 1928. Maybe there's more info on thai event somewhere. Anyone?

Thanks again,


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Subject: RE: 'Bow Wow Blues' Allen Brothers
Date: 02 Sep 07 - 10:45 PM

Richie, according to Russell's discography, Douglas played on 2 sides only, recorded on 15 October 1928 in Atlanta and issued as Victor V-40266 - 'Free A Little Bird'/'Skipping and Flying'. Jimmie Medley was also present on guitar on those 2 sides. This appears to be the only occasion where the Allens recorded with other musicians.


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Subject: RE: 'Bow Wow Blues' Allen Brothers
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 04 Sep 07 - 10:02 AM

Just a few final thoughts/questions.

Why aren't "Hey Buddy Won't You Roll Down The Line" "Mary's Breakdown" "Frisco Blues" "Old Black Crow in The Hickory Nut Tree" and "New Chatanooga Blues" on the complete recordings in Chronological Order for Document?

I can't find any info on "Mary's Breakdown." It was backed by Tipple Blues in the last Vocalion (ARC) session. Anyone?

Apparently the Allens appeared in a play "The Bushwacker." I can't find any info on this.



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Subject: RE: 'Bow Wow Blues' Allen Brothers
From: 12-stringer
Date: 04 Sep 07 - 12:41 PM

"Frisco Blues" and "Old Black Crow" are on vol 1 of the Allen Bros; "Hey Buddy" is on vol 3.

I don't have the CDs but do have downloads of most of the tracks on vol 1 and vol 3 from eMusic. "New Chattanooga" seems to be missing from vol 1, while vol 3 omits three issued titles (while salvaging some unissued recordings from tests): "Tipple Blues," "Mary's Breakdown," and "Can I Get You Now." In the case of "Tipple" and "Mary's," it's not out of the question that no copies of the 78 have been located. "Now" is the flip of "New Deal Blues," which is included on the set, so its omission is a puzzle.

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Subject: RE: 'Bow Wow Blues' Allen Brothers
From: Stewie
Date: 04 Sep 07 - 06:37 PM

Hi Richie and 12-stringer,

I have the Document records. 'New Chatanooga Blues' is track 17 on volume I. There is also the 15 October 1928 recording of 'Tiple Blues' (sic).

In his notes to volume III, Russell gives no reason for the omission of 'Mary's Breakdown'/'Tipple Blues' and 'Can I Get You Now' from the October 1934 sessions. The 2 unissued recordings included in volume III are: 'Drunk and Nutty Blues' (a remake of 'Laughin' and Cryin' Blues' and a remake of 'Chattanooga Mama'.

In the Document sets, 'Moonshine Bill' Vi 23631 from 20 May 1931 session in Charlotte NC is also missing. 'Bill' was the flip side of 'It's Too Bad For You' which is included on volume II.


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Subject: RE: 'Bow Wow Blues' Allen Brothers
From: 12-stringer
Date: 05 Sep 07 - 04:22 AM


Thanks for the info! My niece downloaded the Allen tracks from eMusic for me, as she has a much faster connection, and she evidently overlooked "New Chat" on the first CD. (I should check and see if she missed any others.) For some reason eMusic only has vol 1 and vol 3 of the set, not vol 2.

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Subject: RE: Origin: Bow Wow Blues (Allen Brothers)
Date: 11 Jun 12 - 04:49 PM


Just discovered this song off of a 78rpm i just bought.
Love it so much that I'm going to use it in my show.

Tried to look up the lyrics because there is just one part i cant make out and there are none online. the lyrics posted in the forum aren't even close, this is what I find interesting.

The 78 I bought is Hoosier and the Hotshots "Bow Wow Blues"

I wonder what the connection there is, if any. and also I want to figure out that damn part of the song I cant make out!

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Subject: RE: Origin: Bow Wow Blues (Allen Brothers)
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 11 Jun 12 - 06:51 PM


Here's my transcription of the the Hoosier Hotshots' song from My Old Radio.

There's some discussion of the two versions here: Banjo Archive: Bow Wow Blues - Allen Bros and Hoosier Hotshots (with a ref back to this thread).

There's a set of the words posted there too, but I have one slight difference from the version posted there.



Bow Wow Blues I've surely been abused.
Each night she howls at me,
Lordy how she growls at me
You can't do this, you can't do that
She even made me sleep in the kitchen with the old tom cat.
Bow Wow Blues, I've surely been abused.
She led me a dog's life then she
Tied a can to me.
I've got those bow wow blues

Source: Hoosier Hotshots

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Subject: RE: Origin: Bow Wow Blues (Allen Brothers)
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 11 Jun 12 - 06:58 PM

I meant to add that the line Tied a can to me, might be Tied off/up a can to me. It's not clear whether it's just breath before the a or if there's a word there.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bow Wow Blues (Allen Brothers)
From: 12-stringer
Date: 11 Jun 12 - 10:39 PM

The HHS are doing a slightly tinkered version of the 1922 Cliff Friend -Nat Osborne pop song (the "howl" and "growl" lines are switched, e.g.), and the score gives the lyric just as you have it: "She led me a dog's life then she, Tied a can to me."

Richie linked the sheet music in an '07 post but the URL has changed in the interim, so here's the new one in case someone wants a look before it changes again:

Words and music but no chords, with verse in G, chorus in C; the cover is a keeper.

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