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Lyr Req: I'll be down on the last bread wagon

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ALABAMA BOUND
BILL MARTIN AND ELLA SPEED
BRING ME LITTLE WATER, SYLVIE
COTTON FIELDS BACK HOME
DUNCAN AND BRADY
DUNCAN AND BRADY (2)
GOOD NIGHT IRENE
JUMPIN' JUDY
KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF HER
KISSES SWEETER THAN WINE
LININ' TRACK
MIDNIGHT SPECIAL
ROCK ME ON THE WATER
SKEWBALL
SO LONG IT'S BEEN GOOD TO KNOW YUH
SONG TO WOODY
TAKE THIS HAMMER
THE GRAY GOOSE
THE ROCK ISLAND LINE (is a mighty fine line)
WE SHALL WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY
WHOA BACK BUCK
YOU DON'T KNOW ME


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cnd 03 Jan 21 - 09:27 PM
GUEST,RelativitySetters 31 Dec 20 - 12:11 PM
GUEST,guest 27 Jan 14 - 05:42 PM
GUEST 19 Dec 13 - 01:40 AM
Bonzo19 23 Jul 13 - 02:41 PM
Jim Dixon 22 Jul 13 - 08:21 AM
GUEST,Bonzo 21 Jul 13 - 10:07 PM
Thomas Stern 21 Jul 13 - 09:26 PM
GUEST,Bonzo 21 Jul 13 - 07:41 PM
GUEST,Bonzo 21 Jul 13 - 07:39 PM
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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I'll be down on the last bread wagon
From: cnd
Date: 03 Jan 21 - 09:27 PM

This certainly must be one of Leadbelly's most obscure songs; aside from here, I've only found 2 other attempts at transcribing the lyrics, one of which was partial.

The partial attempt comes from Michael Winter's Into the Blizzard. I'll include his attempt here for posterity even though I strongly disagree with its results. In place of "When the boys goes over the top / I'll, be in the kitchen doing the eatin' raw" he writes:
"when the boys go over the top
he won't be dodging shotgun shells but doing the eagle rock"

The other attempt at transcribing the lyrics comes from the inimitable Weenie Campbell website, which you can see here -- it's much closer in my opinion, but not quite right.

I also thought it was important to consider the story Leadbelly told before the song: about women fleecing soldiers of their little money by inviting them to parties before they left for war. So I had the thought that the lyrics might be slightly sarcastic, sang from the perspective of a woman who is using the soldiers to earn herself some money. From there, I made the assumption that some of the jokes of the song were sexual innuendos relating to the promiscuity of soldiers or the prostitution of a woman who would hang around the soldiers' barracks (you can read more about brothels before WWI here).

Combining the attempts from RelativitySetters, Willie Poor Boy, and others:

[Instrumental Prelude] (Then they got the invitation)

I'll be down at the last bread wagon
I'll be there with a "helpin' a-hand"*
When the boys go to no man's land
I'll be there

But I won't be fightin'
I'll be there pumpin' shotgun shells*
I won't be fightin'
But I'll be running like hell

When the boys goes over the top I'll
Be in the kitchen doin' the eagle rock*
I'm gonna beat 'em to the dugout
And dodge those shotgun shells

[Instrumental Interlude] (Then they got the invitation)

I got sad news, honey (boom boom boom)
I'm gonna take you to the dancin' hall (boom boom boom)
Everything is sad, but it's fair
And all the soldiers will be there

I'll be down at the last bread wagon
I'll be there with a "helpin' a-hand"
When the boys go to no man's land
I'll be there

But I won't be fightin'
I'll be there pumpin' shotgun shells
I won't be fightin'
But I'll be running like hell

When the boys goes over the top I'll
Be in the kitchen doin' the eagle rock
I'm gonna beat 'em to the dugout
And dodge those shotgun shells

[Instrumental Finale] (pick it up now)

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Explanations of asterisks:
- the "helping hand" line is the promiscuous woman saying she's there to help in a less-than-sincere way
- Given that I'm assuming this song is from the perspective of a woman, I assumed most of the lines about "pumping shotgun shells" were slang for giving a handjob
- the "eagle rock" was a type of dance originating in the early 1900s; to do the dance, you "extend your arms in the shape of an 'Eagles wing,' .... The head tilts back while the body sways back and forth." Such a dance has clear sexual innuendos to it, and other people have commented that the dance had a clearly sexual meaning in the blues idiom (click)

I am, of course, operating under some large assumptions so I'd be welcome to any feedback


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I'll be down on the last bread wagon
From: GUEST,RelativitySetters
Date: 31 Dec 20 - 12:11 PM

Great song, for some reasons there are struggles with the words. There are ways to reduce those struggles, and I've had a bit of practice with writing words from Leadbelly. A couple things - there are pump shotguns, and the "eatin' raw" words are followed by a laugh of observers during the recording, for obvious reasons - somebody at least understood the words as they were sang. This song closely follows the sentiments and gripes of the track I Don't Want No More Of Army Life. Here is my rendering, which I think is very close if not exact:

[Instrumental Prelude] (Then they got the invitation)

I'll be down on the last bread wagon
I'll be there with the hat in my hand
When the boys go to no man's land
I'll be there

But I won't be fightin'
I'll be there pumpin' shotgun shells
I won't be fightin'
But I'll be running like hell

When the boys goes over the top
I'll, be in the kitchen doin' the eatin' raw
I'm gonna beat 'em to the dugout
And dodge those shotgun shells

[Instrumental Interlude](Then they got the invitation)

I got sad news, honey (boom boom boom)
I'm gonna take you to the dancin' hall (boom boom boom)
Everything is sad, but it's fair
And all the soldiers will be there

I'll be down on the last bread wagon
I'll be there with the hat in my hand
When the boys go to no man's land
I'll be there

But I won't be fightin'
I'll be there pumpin' shotgun shells
I won't be fightin'
But I'll be running like hell

When the boys goes over the top
I'll, be in the kitchen doing the eatin' raw
I'm gonna beat 'em to the dugout,
And dodge those shotgun shells.

[Instrumental Finale] (pick it up now)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I'll be down on the last bread wagon
From: GUEST,guest
Date: 27 Jan 14 - 05:42 PM

I got a set of the vinyls from "Last Sessions" too, and also being old, and an old farm boy from Texas, and in our drawl, I think he might be saying, in the second line-- "I'll be there with a whip",(drivin' a team of mules pulling that wagon-remember this is wartime 1917), or "a fifth"(of whiskey-why not?), or "hip" ("hip-flask" of whiskey)"in my hand".   Also, could the "top" phrase be "cover" or "cup-board",   and I hear "in the kitchen doing the eagle rock". Why?- Who can tell about this stuff- its a song over ninty years old sung into a late '40s tape recorder, nearly 65 years ago!!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I'll be down on the last bread wagon
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Dec 13 - 01:40 AM

I've been listening to this since I was 19. I'm 65 now and I still wonder about this lyric. Jim's version is the one I've been following for a long time now. All I can add is this:

I'll be down there in the last bread wagon.
I'll be there with my head in my hand.
When the boys goes to no man's land,
I'll be there, but I won't be fighting.
I'll be there dodgin shotgun shells.
I won't be fighting, but I'll be runnin' like hell.
When the boys goes over the top out,
And they're kickin' down the eagle rock,
I'm gonna beat 'em to the dugout and dodge those shotgun shells.

Y'all probably already know this but "Eagle Rock" was a popular 1920's black dance performed with the arms outstretched and the body rocking from side to side. "Doing the eagle rock" is also a metaphor for sex. Leadbelly did a piano solo called Eagle Rock and mentions the term in a number of other songs. In his intro to this song Leadbelly says "this is a song they did in 1917, the boys all got their bonus" and goes on to tell how the boys "didn't have a nickel the next day," because the girls just "smacked the money." So I assume this is a tongue in cheek lyric having to do with men somehow associated with WWI and the ladies of the evening that followed them around.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I'll be down on the last bread wagon
From: Bonzo19
Date: 23 Jul 13 - 02:41 PM

That's very nice Jim, I think you got it. My only doubt would the top/top up line, but this is great. Shotgun line might be a number, two, could be three...

And thanks A LOT for the name of the tune...

I wonder if these lyrics by Leadbelly were ever put to paper.


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Subject: Lyr Add: I'LL BE DOWN ON THE LAST BREAD WAGON
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 22 Jul 13 - 08:21 AM

Here's my best attempt. I have put my new words in boldface, and the words I am most doubtful about in brackets.

The tune, by the way, is DARKTOWN STRUTTER'S BALL (approximately).


I'LL BE DOWN ON THE LAST BREAD WAGON
As sung by Lead Belly on "Lead Belly's Last Sessions"

I'll be down on the last bread wagon.
I'll be there [with the head] in my hand.
When the boys goes to no man's land,
I'll be there, but I won't be fighting.
I'll be there [with the] shotgun shells.
I won't be fighting, but I'll be runnin' like hell.
When the boys goes over the top[-up],
And they're kickin' down the eagle rock,
I'm gonna beat 'em to the dugout, to dodge those
shotgun shells.

I got sad news, honey. (boom boom boom)
Let me take you to the dancin' hall. (boomboomboom)
Everything is sad but it's fair,
And all the soldiers will be there.

REPEAT FIRST PART.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I'll be down on the last bread wagon
From: GUEST,Bonzo
Date: 21 Jul 13 - 10:07 PM

Oh, forgot to put it. YES, it's Leadbelly's version I'm looking for.
Sorry for that.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I'll be down on the last bread wagon
From: Thomas Stern
Date: 21 Jul 13 - 09:26 PM

There is a song of this title on LEAD BELLY's LAST SESSIONS
Is that the one you seek lyrics for??? If not, what is
your source of the song?
The booklet on the Smithsonian Folkways site does not have
lyrics unfortunately.

Thomas.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I'll be down on the last bread wagon
From: GUEST,Bonzo
Date: 21 Jul 13 - 07:41 PM

Sorry, second verse is "And our soldiers will be there".


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Subject: Lyr Req: I'll be down on the last bread wagon -
From: GUEST,Bonzo
Date: 21 Jul 13 - 07:39 PM

Hi,

First of all, thank you for this site. It's wonderful.
I'm having trouble with part of the lyrics for this song.
Can anybody help me? Or does anybody have it already? I can't find it anywhere!

This is from Last Sessions.

Thanks in advance

I'll be down on the last bread wagon
I'll be there with the head in my hand (?)
When the boys go to no man's land, I'll be there
But I won't be fighting
I'll be there with (a?) shotgun shell(s?)
I won't be fighting, but I'll be running like hell

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX blow the top off? top up?
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX catching the eagle around?
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX shotgun shell...

I got sad news, honey (boom boom boom)
Let me take you to the xxxx (dying?) hole (?) (boomboomboom)
Everything is sad XXXXXX
And I'll soldiers will be there

I'll be down on the last bread wagon
I'll be there with the head in my hand (?)
When the boys go to no man's land, I'll be there
But I won't be fighting
I'll be there with (a?) shotgun shell(s?)
I won't be fighting, but I'll be running like hell

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX blow the top off? top up?
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX catching the eagle around?
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX shotgun shell...


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