Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


Tune Req: St. James Infirmary Blues

DigiTrad:
LOCKE HOSPITAL
ST. JAMES HOSPITAL
ST. JAMES INFIRMARY
THE UNFORTUNATE RAKE


Related threads:
Help: The Unfortunate Rake (116)
(origins) Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues (269)
(origins) Origins: Der Treue Husar and the Unfortunate Rake (25)
Lyr/Chords Req: St. James Infirmary (26)
Lyr Add: The Unfortunate Lad (#350 / Rake's Lamen (8)
Help: St. James Infirmary - by Rolling Stones? (41)
Lyr Req: St. James Infirmary (24)
Tune Req: St. James Infirmary (12)
Lyr Req: Bright Shiny Morning (9)
St. James Infirmary (from Josh White) (2)
Chords Req: St. James Infirmary (6)
Lyr Add: St. Jude's Infirmary (Parody for Spaw) (15)
Lyr Req: St James Infirmary (request only) (4) (closed)
Chords/Tab Req: St. James Infirmary (5)
Tune Req: St. James Infirmary (7)


GUEST,MCarten@aol.com 10 Apr 00 - 08:19 PM
JedMarum 11 Apr 00 - 01:02 PM
GUEST,MCarten - Micky for short. 11 Apr 00 - 09:22 PM
Billy the Bus 12 Apr 00 - 06:52 AM
JedMarum 12 Apr 00 - 08:52 AM
Hotspur 12 Apr 00 - 08:47 PM
GUEST,Mike C. 13 Apr 00 - 09:16 AM
JedMarum 13 Apr 00 - 12:25 PM
Malcolm Douglas 13 Apr 00 - 12:28 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 12 Apr 02 - 11:55 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 13 Apr 02 - 12:06 AM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 13 Apr 02 - 12:52 AM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 13 Apr 02 - 01:19 AM
Joe Offer 07 Oct 02 - 02:16 AM
GUEST,Patrick 24 May 05 - 03:06 AM
GUEST,Dylan 04 Feb 06 - 03:30 PM
GUEST,Scotus (minus cookie) 04 Feb 06 - 05:34 PM
GUEST,olddude 15 Mar 12 - 04:15 PM
KarenH 09 Jul 18 - 04:34 AM
leeneia 10 Jul 18 - 11:20 AM
GUEST,Kevin W. 10 Jul 18 - 12:30 PM
GUEST,Kevin W. 10 Jul 18 - 12:36 PM
Lighter 10 Jul 18 - 02:15 PM
GUEST 10 Jul 18 - 02:38 PM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:









Subject: St. James Infirmy Blues
From: GUEST,MCarten@aol.com
Date: 10 Apr 00 - 08:19 PM

I know the New Orleans traditional version. Recently heard a totally different set of lyrics to the melody but in a Celtic style. Does this song go back that far? If anyone has a history of its oriin, it would be appreciated.

Search for "infirmary" threads


-
Check related groups:


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Tune Req: St. James Infirmy Blues
From: JedMarum
Date: 11 Apr 00 - 01:02 PM

I love this song, and have heard a few versions, in fact I have played a few versions over the years.

There has been little discussion on the song here at Mudcat, and I am also interetsed in hearing more about the tune's background. You can take a look at what's been recently said about it here


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Tune Req: St. James Infirmy Blues
From: GUEST,MCarten - Micky for short.
Date: 11 Apr 00 - 09:22 PM

I appreciate the response and I'll see if I can get all of the lyrics I heard from the celtic version. The only thing that tipped me off was that the melody lines: "Let her go, let her go, God bless her" were identical. We lived in New Orleans for 6-7 years back in the early 80s and were privileged to still hear some of the real old timers play this often. It wasn't requested much by the tourists but when the musicians played for themselves, it usually came up during a set once a night. So the tune sort of stays with you in a haunting kind of way. Most of the musicians who are all gone now, God rest them, each had slight variations of the basic lyric depending upon who was doing the vocals but followed the general lines about the bar room and old Joe with the blood shot eyes. We do play with the guitarist, Julie on occasion in a celtic pub. When I asked about the number, she said I was only the second person who she knew ever heard of the song and recognized it. She had not heard the New Orleans or blues version, i.e., Josh White. I'm running a CD now taping the Preservation Hall version for her. If I get the lyrics, I'll post them because even these did not seem the same as the Christy Moore lyrics listed in the Mudcat Forum. I'll be in touch.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Tune Req: St. James Infirmy Blues
From: Billy the Bus
Date: 12 Apr 00 - 06:52 AM

Micky for Short,

I'll throw in tuppence worth, from the "bottom of the world".

"St James Infirmary" - it's origin?

I'll take a punt on New Orleans!

The damned Celts are trying to steal everything..;)

Jed - your link didn't lead far.....:)

NOW, if we are going to research the song, may I ask some questions of you who live in, or have visited the area (New Orleans - not Ireland or other Celtic places).

!. St James Infirmary - I'd always assumed there was a St James Hospital in New Orleans. Correct?

2. Joe's Bar Room - "on the corner, by the square"

I assume New Orleans has a corner (and a square)..;)

MCarten, I'm not knockin' ya when you said ..

"in the early 80s and were privileged to still hear some of the real old timers play this often."

KID, you were hearing the KIDs, that learned "St James" from the guy's whowrote it - wish I was with ya'

Now, we won't talk about the modern exponents of StJ - like Louis Armstrong....

Here's a message to the OLD MC'ers...;)

I've got a feeling that KID (Orey)?????? (sp) did a virgin of St James Infirmary, ca 1920?

I KID you knot...;)

Sam


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Tune Req: St. James Infirmy Blues
From: JedMarum
Date: 12 Apr 00 - 08:52 AM

... well I did say there had been a little discussion on the song here at Mudcat; the link didn;t lead too far!

I would appreciate hearing if/how the song links back to an older Irish song. I guess I wouldn't be surprised; in fact, I'm sure I've heard that comment before.

It's funny, you say it wasn't requested much. I have played that song for years, and although people always seem to respond, and enjoy the song; I've had very few requests for it over the years - and most of those from my musicican friends. It appears that maybe it is a musician's song!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Tune Req: St. James Infirmy Blues
From: Hotspur
Date: 12 Apr 00 - 08:47 PM

I have read that musicologists relate the tune to "Streets of Laredo", which is in turn an American WEstern version of the Irish song "the Rake of Mallow."

As for the New Orleans questions: I don't know about there ever having been a St. James Hospital, but it's certianly possible. The square is probably Jackson Square, home to the fabulous Cafe du Monde and the gateway to the French Quarter.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Tune Req: St. James Infirmy Blues
From: GUEST,Mike C.
Date: 13 Apr 00 - 09:16 AM

Hopefully, I'm on as a member, we'll see. In deference to Billy the Bus "from Down Under" I'll be using the handle Mike C. instead of Micky! Thanks for the response fo far from: Jed Marum, Billy, and Hotspur. I have heard the link between "Streets of Laredo" and "The Rake of Mallow". The Chieftains did a version of "Cotton Eyed Joe" which went back to a verifiable much older irish tune. The name escapes me at th moment but I'll see if I can get the jacket notes out. This may be another case of a tune evolving when it hit the shores here. As for the New Orleans tune we started with: I am checking the Historic New Orleans Collection for any reference to a St. James Infirmary in the city. The oldest hospital in the city was called "Hotel Dieu". Very French in origin, the present name for the system I believe is Charity Hospital. I don't know of any hospital there in the present with link to the St. James name. The word "Infirmary" strikes me as being more "British" in origin than American in usage. So perhaps there may be a strand to follow there. The reference to the Square, I had assumed at the time to be Jackson Squre situated in the hart of the Quarter in front of St. Louis Cathedral. There are presently no bars on the Square itself. Most of the buildings there were merchant and dry goods stores in the past due to the proximity of the wharf right off the Square. These were way to pricey or a neighborhood drinking establishment referred to in the song. Most of these are kept to the sides streets around the Square. Today, almost all are now on or just off the strip on Bourbon Street which only runs three to four city blocks.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Tune Req: St. James Infirmy Blues
From: JedMarum
Date: 13 Apr 00 - 12:25 PM

St James may be a very simple reference either a left over from an older song, or simply a doctor's office located on St. James Street, Ave, neighborhood ... if St James was a popular local reference it may have been used to describe the doctor's office in that area. I am not sure any written trace will be left behind.

The story sounds like one based upon reflection of a real event. The singer heard his friend tell the tale in a bar room, the friend tells of his grief, of his love for her ("she'll never find a man sweeter then me"), and of his wish to go out of this life with no debt. All normal human responses, it seem to me, when coping with the loss of a loved one.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Tune Req: St. James Infirmy Blues
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 13 Apr 00 - 12:28 PM

The Unfortunate Rake seems to have originated in Dublin around the 1790s; it later became popular in England and Scotland, and subsequently spread to the New World. The song was frequently adapted to suit different places and circumstances, and sung to a number of tunes; versions include The Unfortunate Lad (or Lass), The Young Sailor/Girl Cut Down in His/Her Prime, and many others. A Lyric Search of the DT for #350 will get you 26 examples. Of particular interest would be:

THE BAD GIRL'S LAMENT -a version from Canada, which names St James Hospital.

ST. JAMES HOSPITAL (Texas)

THE UNFORTUNATE RAKE - a 19th century broadside text which again names St. James Hospital.

The Traditional Ballad Index has some useful references, too; try St James Infirmary and Bad Girl's Lament

None of this would suggest that St James Infirmary does not belong to New Orleans, but it would certainly be a waste of time looking there for a hospital of that name!

The "Celtic" feel of the version mentioned earlier would be a result of the arrangement, I should imagine; though available evidence does point to an Irish origin, the family of songs that sprang from it rapidly moved beyond so narrow a classification. Incidentally, I'm not at all convinced that there's any relation between the tune of Streets of Laredo and Rakes of Mallow; anybody care to comment further on that?

Malcolm


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: THOSE GAMBLER'S BLUES/ST. JAMES INFIRMARY
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 12 Apr 02 - 11:55 PM

THOSE GAMBLER'S BLUES
(ST. JAMES INFIRMARY)

It was down in old Joe's bar-room
On a corner by the square,
The drinks were served as usual,
And a goodly crowd was there.

On my left stood Joe McKenny,
His eyes bloodshot and red,
He gazed at the crowd around him
And these are the words he said:

"As I passed by the old infirmary,
I saw my sweetheart there,
All stretched out on a table,
So pale, so cold, so fair.

Sixteen coal-black horses,
All hitched to a rubber-tired hack,
Carried seven girls to the graveyard,
An' only six of 'em comin' back.

O, when I die, just bury me
In a box-back coat and hat,
Put a twenty dollar gold piece on my watch chain
To let the Lord know I'm standin' pat.

Six crap shooters as pall bearers,
Let a chorus girl sing me a song
With a jazz band on my hearse
To raise hell as we go along."

And now you've heard my story,
I'll take another shot of booze;
If anybody happens to ask you,
Then I've got those gambler's blues.

Coll. Henry McCarthy, Univ. Alabama, and included in Sandburg, Carl, 1927, The American Songbag, pp. 228-231, with music. This version is more satisfactory than the one in the DT Under St. James Infirmary, and tells a unified story.

A shortened version in in thread 46314, Coal-black
The song was very popular in 1928-1930, and was recorded by Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong and the Savoy Five, and the Ten Black Pennies among others. All of these are shortened versions of the song given above, with a few word changes. Cab Calloway: "...bury me in my straight-leg britches, Put on a box-back coat and a Stetson hat." Louis Armstrong: "Bury me in my straight-lace shoes."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Tune Req: St. James Infirmy Blues
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 12:06 AM

Thread 13778 has a couple of chord sets. St. James


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: THOSE GAMBLER'S BLUES/ST. JAMES INFIRMARY
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 12:52 AM

THOSE GAMBLER'S BLUES
(ST. JAMES INFIRMARY)

Went down to St. Joe's infirmary,
To see my woman there;
She was layin' on the table,
So white, so cold, so fair.

Went up to see the doctor,
"She's very low," he said;
Went back to see my woman,
Good God! she's layin there dead.
(Spoken:) She's dead!

Let her go, let her go, God bless her,
Wherever she may be!
There'll never be another like her,
There'll never be another for me.

I may be killed on the ocean,
I may be killed by a cannonball,
But let me tell you, buddy,
That a woman was the cause of it all.

Seventeen girls to the graveyard,
Seventeen girls to sing her a song,
Seventeen girls to the graveyard-
Only sixteen of 'em comin' back.

O sixteen coal-black horses,
To carry me when I'm gone.
O flowers on the coffin
While the burial's carried on.

This version also in Carl Sandburg, 1927, The American Songbag, pp. 228-231. Contributed to Sandburg by Jake Zeitlin, Ft. Worth, TX, and Jack Haggerty, Los Angeles, CA. Same music as the version above.

Notice that the hospital is St. Joseph's. There is no evidence to connect the song with New Orleans. There is no evidence to connect the song with the Black musical genre. Although the song is from before 1927, its lack in other collections is noticeable. A copyright was taken out in 1928, but the song was already in print at the time by Sandburg, and his contributors obviously collected from different sources. The song apparently came from England or Ireland; older versions are known there (see post in this thread by Malcolm Douglas). How it was picked up and developed into an American "gutter song," as Sandburg called it, is unknown. Sandburg was unaware of its occurrence outside of the United States.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: THOSE GAMBLING BLUES/ST. JAMES INFIRMARY
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Apr 02 - 01:19 AM

THOSE GAMBLING BLUES
ST. JAMES INFIRMARY

I went down to the Royal Mail bar room
Not too far from the centre of town
Well, the drinks they were served as usual
And thr usual crowd was around.

On my left stood Joe McKennedy
His eyes were blood shot and red,
And he turned to the crowd around him
And these were the very words he said:

"I went down to Leicester Royal Infirmary,
Saw my baby lying there;
She was stretched out on a long white table,
So sweet, so cold, and so bare.
(Drums to emphasize this line)

Oh, let her go, let her go, God bless me
Yes, wherever she may be
'Cause you can search this wide world over
And you'll never find a loving man like me.

Oh, when I die, won't you bury me
In a high-topped Stetson hat;
Put a gold chain in my watch fob
So the gang know that I died standing pat.

I want six gamblers to be my pall barers (sic!)
I want six women to sing me a song
We'll put a jazz band on my hearse wagon
And we'll raise hell as we go along.

Now that you've heard my story
Won't you take another shot of booze
And if anybody thinks to ask me
I'll tell them I've got those gambling blues.

Found on Google, unattributed. Probably by some English musician. I doubt that a "High topped Stetson" (whatever that is) fits his English locale. Centre is spelled in the English way. Does this represent the return of the song to England in debased form?
Gambling blues


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Tune Req: St. James Infirmary Blues
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Oct 02 - 02:16 AM

Somebody sent me a list of songs and threads that are related to "St James Infirmary." The list is far too long to use with our grouping system, but I thought I'd post it here.
-Joe Offer-

It is arguable whether the following should all be cross-referenced as one big group, or broken up into 2 or 3 groups. I'll leave it up to you to decide. Two groups already exist: (1) Streets of Laredo/Pills of White Mercury; and (2) St. James Infirmary (see footnotes)

    Songid=
    0089 A SUN VALLEY SONG
    0928 BRIGHT SUMMER MORNING
    2859 I ONCE WAS A CARMAN IN THE BIG MOUNTAIN CON
    3672 LOCKE HOSPITAL
    4271 NOO I'M A YOUNG MAN CUT DOWN IN MY PRIME
    4501 ONE MORNING IN MAY
    4684 PILLS OF WHITE MERCURY
    5525 ST. JAMES' HOSPITAL
    5526** ST. JAMES INFIRMARY
    5573* STREETS OF LAREDO (COWBOY'S LAMENT)
    5691 TARPAULIN JACKET
    5782 BAD GIRL'S LAMENT
    5792 BALLAD OF BLOODY THURSDAY
    6210 DYING LUMBERMAN
    6367 GIRL IN THE DILGER CASE
    6426 HALLS OF THE HIGH SCHOOL
    6607 LINEMAN'S HYMN
    6851 PROGRAMMER'S LAMENT
    7013 STREETS OF LOREDO
    7071 TROOPER CUT DOWN IN HIS PRIME
    7101 UNFORTUNATE RAKE
    7156 WILD LUMBERJACK
    7208 YOUNG SAILOR CUT DOWN IN HIS PRIME
    7498 UNFORTUNATE LASS
    7768 WHEN I WAS ON HORSEBACK
    Threadid=
    00241 Lyr Req: The Pills of White Mercury
    00890 Pills of White Mercury
    03172** Tune request: St. James Infirmary
    03918* ...all wrapped in white linen.
    06346 unfortunate rake
    13778** Tab request 'St. James Infirmary'
    14919* Streets of Laredo
    14941* Lyr Add: Pills of White Mercury
    16016 Wrap me up in my tarpaulin jacket????
    20068 Tune Req: St. James Infirmary
    20256** Tune Req: St. James Infirmary Blues
    20413 Lyr Add: Tom Sherman's Barroom
    22885 Penguin: The Young Girl Cut Down In Her Prime
    24143** Lyr Req: st james infirmary (request only)
    26976** Lyr/Chords Req: St. James Infirmary
    30298** Chords Req: St. James Infirmary
    36109 BS: St. Jude's Infirmary (Parody for Spaw)
    42215 Lyr/Chords Req: Pills of White Mercury, Old B
    46310** History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
    46314 Lyr Req: 16 Coal Black Horses, a funeral dirge
    48964** St. James infirmary
    *Already cross-referenced: Streets of Laredo group
    **Already cross-referenced: St. James Infirmary group
-
Here are the groups:


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Tune Req: St. James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Patrick
Date: 24 May 05 - 03:06 AM

Check out this Betty Boop Cartoon.
It has a special part with a character, voice Cab Calloway, singing Saint James Infirmary Blues.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Tune Req: St. James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Dylan
Date: 04 Feb 06 - 03:30 PM

I read somewhere, in a reference to the Irish version, that the narrators stiff white baby was the victim of syphilis, making the narrator the next to die and possibly the murderer of her, though obviously unintentional and guilt stricken. And that St. James was just a type of cheap county hospital where the poor got bad news, "the St. James infirmary blues".
-Just a thought.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Tune Req: St. James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Scotus (minus cookie)
Date: 04 Feb 06 - 05:34 PM

and of course Dylan (Bob of that ilk) used the St James Infirmary tune for his excellent song 'Blind Willie McTell'.

Jack


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Tune Req: St. James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,olddude
Date: 15 Mar 12 - 04:15 PM

here is my version of it such as it is:
olddude


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Tune Req: St. James Infirmary Blues
From: KarenH
Date: 09 Jul 18 - 04:34 AM

Hello. This thread lists a 19th century broadside called 'The Unfortunate Rake' as a possible ancestor of St James Infirmary.

After a couple of years spent tracing references to this so-called 19th century broadside back to the early 20th century, I have come to the conclusion that it never existed.

Many sources refer you to a version sung by A L Lloyd. This appears to be a composite. The tune is one used for a fragment collected in Ireland; the words are somewhat like a version printed on several 19th century broadside called 'The Unfortunate Lad', but not identical. The title and other changes, including the omission of a whole verse, seem to be down to Lloyd. In other words, this is, I believe, one of Lloyd's tinkerings.

I don't want to discuss this again here, as it has been gone through on other threads, but there is one thread called 'Help. The Unfortunate Rake' and another called H M Belden, Ballads and Songs - Unfortunate Rake where this topic is discussed.

See esp post at 4.49 on 27/6/2018 on the H M Belden thread, where a history of how, I believe, the Unfortunate Rake belief started out as a tentative guess and them became ensconsed in people's minds as a fact.

Thanks.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Tune Req: St. James Infirmary Blues
From: leeneia
Date: 10 Jul 18 - 11:20 AM

Syphilis? Could be. Also cholera, typhoid, tuberculosis, diabetes, childbirth. Any number of things. We will never know what she died of, esp. since she was a fictional character.

The painter Mary Cassett had a sister who died young (in her twenties or thirties) of kidney disease. Her family had money and access to doctors, but no one could save her. Such was medicine in the 19th C.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Tune Req: St. James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Kevin W.
Date: 10 Jul 18 - 12:30 PM

It's just fiction, of course, but it's made obvious that he/she is dying from syphilis because of the mention of mercury, salivation, lock hospitals, flash girls etc. in early texts.
The whole point of the song seems to be a warning against catching diseases from whores.
I'm talking about older texts of the "Unfortunate Lad" type, though, in the "St. James' Infirmary Blues" (which has little in common with the Unfortunate Lad) the cause of death isn't specified at all.

It's not even clear why the guy is dying as well in "Infirmary".
We just hear that his girl dies in a hospital and then he starts making requests for his own funeral.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Tune Req: St. James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Kevin W.
Date: 10 Jul 18 - 12:36 PM

I apologize for writing "whores", I should have written "prostitutes".
It's because the word occurs so often in texts of this song family that it was still on my mind when I wrote that reply without thinking about it.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Tune Req: St. James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 10 Jul 18 - 02:15 PM

The preferred term in sociology circles is now "sex workers."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Tune Req: St. James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Jul 18 - 02:38 PM

Alright, I'm not being offensive on purpose, this political correctness thing can be confusing at times. What was acceptable a few years ago might be offensive now.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 20 November 12:40 PM EST

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.