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Precedents for early blues lyrics

GUEST,Joseph Scott 17 Jun 15 - 12:21 PM
GUEST,Stim 17 Jun 15 - 02:09 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 17 Jun 15 - 02:50 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 17 Jun 15 - 02:59 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 17 Jun 15 - 03:45 PM
Richie 17 Jun 15 - 09:19 PM
Richie 17 Jun 15 - 09:22 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 18 Jun 15 - 11:43 AM
GUEST 18 Jun 15 - 04:48 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 19 Jun 15 - 12:06 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 19 Jun 15 - 12:12 PM
Richie 19 Jun 15 - 01:07 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 20 Jun 15 - 03:26 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 22 Jun 15 - 11:41 AM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 22 Jun 15 - 03:07 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 23 Jul 16 - 12:53 PM
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Subject: Precedents for early blues lyrics
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 17 Jun 15 - 12:21 PM

Stim had a good idea:

These are 16 of the most common first-line-of-the-stanza lyrics in documented AAAB blues stanzas (in rough order of commonness, most common first).

I thought I heard... blowed/blow
(e.g. "Thought I heard that steamboat whistle a-blow" Roy Harvey "Steamboat Man")

Mama told me...
(e.g. "I said mama told me, papa told me too" Tom Bell "Cross E Shimmy Dance Tune")

Went to the... looked up on the...
(e.g. "I went to the depot, I looked up on the sign" Leadbelly "Shorty George")

I hate to see the evening sun go down
(e.g. Edward Thompson "West Virginia Blues")

... where'd you stay last night
(e.g. "Tell me fair brownie where did you stay last night" William Moore "Midnight Blues")

... listen... what my mother/mama said
(e.g. "If I had a-listen to what my mama said" collected by Mrs. Tom Bartlett/Mrs. Buie/Dorothy Scarborough "Look Where De Train Done Gone")

poor boy... long way/ways from home
(e.g. "Poor boy long ways from home" Crip James Diggs "Poor Boy Long Way From Home")

... going up the country...
(e.g. "Going up the country don't you want to go" Jesse Fuller "Cincinnati Blues" 1955)

... what you got on your mind
(e.g. "Tell me baby what you got on your mind" Mississippi String Band "See See Mama")

... look/see ... what you done done
(e.g. "Oh look baby what you done done" Thomas Shaw "All Out And Down")

I'm going away to worry you off my mind
(e.g. Furry Lewis "Judge Boushe Blues" Vestapol DVD)

... buy me a pistol as...
(e.g. "I'm gonna buy me a pistol as long as I am tall" Peg Leg Howell "Sadie Lee Blues")

... River... deep and wide
(e.g. "Sabine River, water so deep and wide" Texas Alexander "Sabine River Blues")

... low-down fireman... engineer
(e.g. "It's a lowdown fireman mistreat an engineer" Peg Leg Howell "Turtle Dove Blues")

... I'm all out and down
(e.g. "Now lovin' babe I'm all out and down" Henry Thomas "Lovin' Babe")

... give me... long distance phone
(e.g. "Hello Central, won't you give me long distance phone" collected by Emmet Kennedy "Honey Baby")


Who can find wordings from the 1800s that seem significantly similar to these cliche blues lines? I mentioned one in another thread:

"'Tis sad to see Life's evening sun/Go down...." -- _The Local Preacher's Magazine..._, 1871.


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Subject: RE: Precedents for early blues lyrics
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 17 Jun 15 - 02:09 PM

The line "I rolled and I tumbled, cried the whole night long", which appears in "Rollin' and Tumblin"' by Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, etc, seems to reflect the line "Rolled and tumbled the whole night through" in the traditional American ballad "The Knoxville Girl", but in "The Wexford Murder", the original British ballad, the line in the corresponding place is"I twisted and I turned about, no comfort could I find".


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Subject: RE: Precedents for early blues lyrics
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 17 Jun 15 - 02:50 PM

"But he's done done it" -- under "REDUNDANT WORDS..." in _An Analytical, Illustrative, and Contructive Grammar..._ by Brantley York of North Carolina, 1862.

"'...we done done de day's wuk in de fiel'...'" -- _Atlantic Monthly_ quoting a black Southerner, 2/1882.

"'... [W]e 'cided to call in a pyshyshun, which we done done.'" -- _Current Opinion_, 3/1889.

"... an' w'en he done done dat..." -- _The Southern Magazine_ 3/1895, quoting a resident of Chattanooga.


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Subject: RE: Precedents for early blues lyrics
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 17 Jun 15 - 02:59 PM

"'[I]f I had listened to my dear mother, I would not have been in this miserable place....'" -- _The Adviser: A Book For Young People_ by Houliston and Wright, 1862.

"Listen to [your mother] always.... If I had listened to her, I shouldn't be lying where I am now, with my side stove in." -- _Squire Trevlyn's Heir_ by Mrs. Henry Wood, 1863.


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Subject: RE: Precedents for early blues lyrics
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 17 Jun 15 - 03:45 PM

"Busted, An' A Long Ways From Home," song by Will S. Hays, published 1876.


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Subject: RE: Precedents for early blues lyrics
From: Richie
Date: 17 Jun 15 - 09:19 PM

Careless Love- Collected Randolph from Mr. J.E. Webster Groves, Missouri on April 8, 1948. He learned it about 1880:

What will Mammy say to me
What will Mammy say to me
What will Mammy say to me
When I go home with a big bell-ee?

New Orleans jazz musician Buddy Bolden who played this song in the 1890s. One set of Bolden's lyrics were communicated by Susie Farr:

Ain't it hard to love another woman's man,
Ain't it hard to love another woman's man,
You can't get him when you want him,
You have to catch him when you can.

W.C. Handy said Careless Love was the first blues song, and his melody predtaes 1892:

Love, oh love, oh careless love, (3X)
Oh look what carelss love has done.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Precedents for early blues lyrics
From: Richie
Date: 17 Jun 15 - 09:22 PM

Another:

"I Hab Leff Alabama" by Marshall S. Pike published in 1849:

Alabama agen, Alabama agen
And if I ever lib 'till the sunrise tomorrow,
I's a-goin' back to Alabama agen.

Not many changes are needed to make it a version of Alabama Bound:

(Alabama bound, Alabama bound,
And if I ever live 'till the sunrise tomorrow
I's Alabama bound)

Richie


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Subject: RE: Precedents for early blues lyrics
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 18 Jun 15 - 11:43 AM

"W.C. Handy said Careless Love was the first blues song" When? He talked about "Joe Turner" as a granddaddy of the blues songs.

Handy's friend Abbe Niles pointed out, in a book put out under Handy's name, that the title "Careless Love Blues" was "an obvious misnomer."


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Subject: RE: Precedents for early blues lyrics
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Jun 15 - 04:48 PM

"'I Hab Leff Alabama' by Marshall S. Pike published in 1849:

Alabama agen, Alabama agen
And if I ever lib 'till the sunrise tomorrow,
I's a-goin' back to Alabama agen."

What was the chord progression of the Pike piece?


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Subject: RE: Precedents for early blues lyrics
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 19 Jun 15 - 12:06 PM

http://www.loc.gov/resource/sm1849.451310.0/?sp=3

The Pike song is one of those on-V-as-the-first-half-of-the-progression-ends songs that were so popular in the 19th century.

One of the people who claimed to have known "Alabama Bound" the earliest (before about 1900), Alf Valentine, sang it implying I-I-I-I-V-V-V-V-..., rather than the I-I-I-I-IV-IV-IV-IV... we usually hear for the song.


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Subject: RE: Precedents for early blues lyrics
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 19 Jun 15 - 12:12 PM

"I-I-I-I-V-V-V-V-..., rather than the I-I-I-I-IV-IV-IV-IV..."

Or you could say

"I-I-V-V-..., rather than the I-I-IV-IV-...," since choices about where bar lines were didn't inherently exist in folk singing.


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Subject: RE: Precedents for early blues lyrics
From: Richie
Date: 19 Jun 15 - 01:07 PM

Hi,

As I remember Alan Lomax also called Careless Love the first blues. I read somewhere (Handy's autobiography?) that Handy commented that it was a blues and the 16 bar form was shortened from three repeated lines to two repeated lines and an answering line (AAB) which would be 12 bar form. I can't find the quote now. So Handy was saying that the 16 bar form pre-dated the 12 bar form and the 12-bar form was derived from it.

Do you consider East St. Louis Blues, an early eight-bar form before 1900, to be a blues (related to How Long Blues, Crow Jane etc)?

Richie


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Subject: RE: Precedents for early blues lyrics
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 20 Jun 15 - 03:26 PM

Alan liked to ask musicians about the first blues they ever heard, and he didn't seem to put an emphasis on the idea that "Careless Love" was a blues when doing so. Alan L. contradicted himself over the years. Alan ever said the "Crawdad Song" family was blues, so apparently about anything could be blues, depending on his mood. Or he'd write instead that blues music didn't start until about 1900.

Handy gave "Careless Love" as an example of a folk song that had influenced one of his published songs on pp. 147-148 of his autobiography.

"East St. Louis" was an eight-bar folk song with couplets as its stanzas. (An "over-and-over.") Eight-bar folk songs with couplets as their stanzas were apparently extremely popular with blacks and whites in the 1890s. Which ones do we call "blues" and why? I don't think we think _all_ first-person 1890s folk songs with sad lyrics (or e.g. all first-person 1790s folk songs with sad lyrics) must have been "blues" music, do we?

An interesting thing to try to research is to what extent blues musicians of roughly 1910-1924 thought 8-bar blues songs existed.


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Subject: RE: Precedents for early blues lyrics
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 22 Jun 15 - 11:41 AM

Handy 1941 says "East St. Louis" predates the 20th century, whereas Handy 1926 says "perhaps" it does.

In any case, if you look at Mary Wheeler 1944, e.g., that's basically centered on 1890s songs, and about 15 of them are 8-bar over-and-overs, in contrast to only about 3 each of AAA, AAAB, and AAB.

I tend to think of the 8-bar over-and-overs as two kinds, the ones similar to "In The Pines" (such as "East St. Louis") and the ones similar to "Bucket's Got A Hole In It."


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Subject: RE: Precedents for early blues lyrics
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 22 Jun 15 - 03:07 PM

"Turtle Dove Blues" Peg Leg Howell

"moan like a dove": Isaiah 38:14
"wings... dove... fly" Psalm 55:6


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Subject: RE: Precedents for early blues lyrics
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 23 Jul 16 - 12:53 PM

"Do you ever get the blue-devils? Most everyone does.... Speaking of homesickness.... Note the distance the soldiers of the Czar are from home.... They are... like the poor boy who was a long way from home."

-- "The Man About Town," Salt Lake _Tribune_, 5/15/1904.

(This fits with when Gus Cannon and Emmet Kennedy both recalled that they had heard the song "Poor Boy Long Ways From Home," Kennedy near New Orleans.)


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