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Origins: Uncle Sam (Norman Blake)

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GUEST,Jan Asle Sele 28 Nov 05 - 04:45 PM
GUEST 16 Dec 20 - 12:55 PM
Stilly River Sage 16 Dec 20 - 08:39 PM
cnd 16 Dec 20 - 09:03 PM
Joe Offer 18 Dec 20 - 01:23 AM
Hagman 18 Dec 20 - 02:11 AM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 18 Dec 20 - 02:13 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 18 Dec 20 - 02:18 PM
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Subject: Origins: 'Uncle Sam' by Norman Blake
From: GUEST,Jan Asle Sele
Date: 28 Nov 05 - 04:45 PM

Hi all,

I am looking for any info you might have on any possible origins or stories behind Norman Blake's song "Uncle Sam", which was on his 1978 album "Directions" on the Takoma label. I heard it the other day, and am now totally obsessed with it, and its story about a cornet blowing cocaine addict from somewhere 'round Kosciusko, Mississippi. I have used google to no avail, and I also didn't find anything on it in the mudcat database, so I thought I would go to the drastic step of asking a question.

There are many questions, actually. Who is this cocaine addict? Why is he somewhere 'round Kosciusko town? Who is Uncle Sam? Why all this talk about the "big brass band", and the cornet? What is it all about? Is there a story behind it, something tragic, perhaps? Did Blake write it just to drive me crazy?! Someone please enlighten a poor Norwegian!

These are the lyrics, the way I heard them, for those who have no idea what I am talking about:


"Uncle Sam" by Norman Blake

Mississippi morning, sunshine bound
Somewhere round Kosciusko town
Cocaine horse rode on the wind
He slept last night at the table again

Who's that yonder, waving his hand
Calling out the orders to the big brass band
Playing all the music glad and grand,
Let me tell you, good people, that's my Uncle Sam

He had no friends, he had no wife
Snow white cocaine ruled his life
A silver cornet it was his friend
Each saturday in the town square band

Who's that yonder, waving his hand
Calling out the orders to the big brass band
Playing all the music fine and grand,
Let me tell you, good people, that's my Uncle Sam

Mississippi morning, sunshine bound
Somewhere round Kosciusko town
The big brass band won't play again
But listen close to the evening wind

Who's that yonder, waving his hand
Calling out the orders to the big brass band
Playing all the music glad and grand,
Let me tell you, good people, thats my Uncle Sam


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Subject: RE: Origins: Uncle Sam (Norman Blake)
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Dec 20 - 12:55 PM

Mudcat, did you ever get any anwswers?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Uncle Sam (Norman Blake)
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 16 Dec 20 - 08:39 PM

It would appear here if there were. Have you conducted a search for other threads?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Uncle Sam (Norman Blake)
From: cnd
Date: 16 Dec 20 - 09:03 PM

I've been completely incapable of finding anything even suggesting an origin to this song


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Subject: ADD: Uncle Sam (Norman Blake)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 18 Dec 20 - 01:23 AM

Kosciusko, Mississippi is the birthplace of James Meredith and Oprah Winfrey. The population was 7,402 at the 2010 census. It's not far off U.S. Highway 51, about halfway between Jackson and Greenwood, and a little to the east of Yazoo City. It's right in the middle of the Mississippi Delta, "the land where the blues began." I worked as a federal election observer in that area one November in the 1980s. Interesting area, a strange mix of wealth and poverty.

There's an interesting post here (click), with lyrics that are just a bit different.

    Blake does seem to write from his life experiences. Ginseng Sullivan was a real guy. The many places he mentions in songs are from where he grew up. So, it would not surprise me if he had an Uncle Sam in Mississippi who was a coke head, lead a brass band, and died. I looked at the words in my Blake Anthology song book to see if perhaps it was veiled statement about the USA, but it doesn't appear to be.
    For those who would like to hear the song and read the words:

    UNCLE SAM
    (Norman Blake)

    Mississippi morning, sunshine bound
    Somewhere 'round Kosciusko town
    Cocaine horse rode on the wind
    Slept* last night at the table again

    CHORUS
    Who's that yonder waving his hand?
    Calling out the orders to the big brass band
    Playing all the music fine and grand
    Let me tell you, good people, that's my Uncle Sam

    He had no friends, he had no wife
    Snow white cocaine ruled his life
    A silver cornet it was his friend
    Every** Saturday in the town square band

    Mississippi morning, sunshine bound
    Somewhere 'round Kosciusko town
    The big brass band won't play again
    But listen close to the evenin' wind.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqk66kJHbh8
*I hear "He slept"
**I hear "each" Saturday.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Uncle Sam (Norman Blake)
From: Hagman
Date: 18 Dec 20 - 02:11 AM

Co-incidentally, the highest mountain in mainland Australia is called Mount Kosciuszko, after the same man....

"The mountain was named by the Polish explorer Pawel Edmund Strzelecki in 1840, in honour of Polish-Lithuanian freedom fighter General Tadeusz Kosciuszko, because of its perceived resemblance to the Kosciuszko Mound in Kraków, Poland." (Wikipedia)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Uncle Sam (Norman Blake)
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 18 Dec 20 - 02:13 PM

Surprised nobody has mentioned the Kosciusko Cornet Band.

Early lineup was supposed to be all sons of Civil War veterans but that changed over time. Notable for having several female members before it was cool. More than one Charlie Musselwhite kin, near or far, one suspects.

The elderly gentleman seated at the far right of the 2nd photo is bandleader Dr. George Washington Crowder (1840-1921.) A Civil War bugler and survivor of Picket's Charge if memory serves.

Two “Charles” band members mentioned in the photo but, if we have them correctly, both were married with children. That one fellow seated two over from Doc Crowder does look like he's marching to a different drummer tho.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Uncle Sam (Norman Blake)
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 18 Dec 20 - 02:18 PM

Correction: Two "Sams" (not "Charles.") Also an "S.G. Maxwell" who could be a Sam.


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