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Lyr Req: Johnson City Blues (from Clarence Green)

GUEST,New Dealer 03 Aug 06 - 05:35 PM
Peace 03 Aug 06 - 05:47 PM
Peace 03 Aug 06 - 05:47 PM
12-stringer 03 Aug 06 - 06:05 PM
12-stringer 03 Aug 06 - 06:07 PM
12-stringer 04 Aug 06 - 02:24 AM
Stewie 04 Aug 06 - 03:54 AM
Jim Dixon 09 Aug 06 - 12:53 AM
GUEST,Lighter 09 Aug 06 - 10:09 AM
GUEST,Rob Seaver 27 Nov 13 - 06:04 PM
Jim Dixon 29 Nov 13 - 09:54 AM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 03 Oct 16 - 06:57 PM
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Subject: Lyr Req: Johnson City Blues
From: GUEST,New Dealer
Date: 03 Aug 06 - 05:35 PM

I have the Clarence Green recording, not Mike Seeger's. Most of the lyrics are easily understood but there are a few words I can't figure out, in the verse:

Down in Nicaragua, as far as I could go
Was the darendest bunch of soldiers that you ever saw
On the Tennessee River, down below the ------- --------
I was lookin for my good gal, thinkin she --------- --------

Thanks to anyone who can help.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Johnson City Blues
From: Peace
Date: 03 Aug 06 - 05:47 PM

Down in Nicaragua, as far as I could go
Was the darndest bunch of soldiers that you ever saw
On the Tennessee River, down below the lock and dam
I was lookin for my good gal, thinkin she might believe us drowned

mp3 available here


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Johnson City Blues
From: Peace
Date: 03 Aug 06 - 05:47 PM

I think. Get s'more ears on it.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Johnson City Blues
From: 12-stringer
Date: 03 Aug 06 - 06:05 PM

Last line sounds to me exactly like "She might pateem us brown," but that doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense either.

"Frisco Blues," by the Allen Bros, is a terrific white lowdown blues variant of "K C Moan" which includes a very similar stanza, with a not especially inspirational or revelatory tag line. They render it:

Down in Chattanooga, Fort Oglethorpe
Finest bunch of soldiers that you ever saw.
Down the Tennessee River, to the lock and dam
Looking for my good man, my good man Sam.


If memory doesn't fail me (the discogs are out of reach), the Allens did this a year or so prior to Greene. I wonder if there is a black 78rpm original for the stanza in which the last line is mumbled to an extent that the cover artists had to come up with a substitute on their own?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Johnson City Blues
From: 12-stringer
Date: 03 Aug 06 - 06:07 PM

PS: As nearly as I could understand the cover on Mike Seeger's "Old Time Country Music" LP from the 60s, he seems to be singing, I was looking for my good gal, thinking she might be seen around."


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Johnson City Blues
From: 12-stringer
Date: 04 Aug 06 - 02:24 AM

I never knew the origins of this song, which I have enjoyed for several decades in the Clarence Greene take. If it's old news to everybody else, I apologize for being redundant and unduly discursive, both of which are my natural failings.

Song was written, as "Chattanooga Blues," by the black artiste Lovie Austin, probably in 1923. She accompanied blues singer Ida Cox on piano for a very nice version of it that can be listened to at www.redhotjazz.com, if ya have a Real Audio player. This was recorded for Paramount. Mary H Bradford recorded a song of the same title for Okeh a little later in 1923 and it may be the same song.

Greene's version is essentially identical, in lyrics and melody, though there are some slight changes in the lyrics and the guitar accompaniment is freer than the piano arrangement on the Cox record.

Cicchetti and Bredenberg's "Old Time Country Guitar" (1976, Oak) gives a tab arrangement. In the head note they say that Greene's version is very similar to a "Chattanooga Blues" recorded by "Knoxville blues singer J TP McPartland" on Vocalion. I don't trace this musician in DGR so presume he was a white singer, but I also don't find this record listed in the Internet 78 RPM discography. There is a record by McFarland and Gardner of a song of this title, from 1926 on Vocalion, but one would hardly describe Mac and Bob as "blues singers." Needless to say, I haven't heard Mac and Bob's recording.

At any rate, the lyrics in the original as sung by Ida Cox are as per:

Went up on Lookout Mountain, looked as far as I could see
I was looking for the man who made a monkey out of me.
Reached the depot, in time to catch the Cannonball
Got the blues for Chattanooga, won't be back till late next fall.

Down in Chickamauga, Fort Oglethorpe,
Grandest bunch of soldiers that you ever saw
On the Tennessee River, down to the lock and dam,
Searching every mud hole, trying to find my good man Sam.

Out Market to McCorley [?], east Main Street,
Watching everybody that I chanced to meet.
At last I found my daddy, living in Tannery Flat,
Dressed in a tailor-made suit and a brand new Stetson hat.

Daddy, sweet daddy, I know you'll quit me now,
Cause I don't need no daddy no how.
Trouble, trouble, is all I ever find,
I'm goin' away, try to wear you off my mind.

Down in Chattanooga, the hospitality,
Finest bunch of people in the state of Tennessee.
I'm tired of roaming this way.
Got the blues for Chattanooga, I'm going back to stay some day.

As for the mystical line in the "Nicaragua" verse of Greene's version, Cicchetti and Bredenberg give it as "I was lookin' for my good gal, thinkin' she might be messin' around." I'm not at all sure that's what Greene is saying, but it rates fairly high as a transcription that sort of makes sense!

Greene or his source altered the "Chickamauga/Fort Oglethorpe" reference to "Nicaragua" (fairly topical in the 1920s) and also changed the last line of the verse. Oglethorpe was an army base in northern Georgia, a little south of Chattanooga, that was used in the Spanish-American War and WW I. You'd think the Allens, who were from Chattanooga, would have retained the "Chickamauga" reference when they lifted this verse for "Frisco Blues," as they surely knew where Oglethorpe was. But my memory, and the lyrics sheet from the old Folk Variety LP, both say that they changed it to "Down in Chattanooga."

I don't understand the second street name in verse 3; it sounds like "McCorley" or "McCauley."

Among other treats at www.redhotjazz.com are Rosa Henderson's take of "The Dying Crap Shooter Blues" (McTell really meant it when he said he used to "jump his songs from other writers"!) and Clarence Williams' "Farmhand Papa," which was covered by country artists Tom Ashley and the Carolina Tar Heels as "My Sweet Farm Girl" aka "Farm Girl Blues." Ashley once described it as something he had heard sung by a black work gang many years earlier, not as a tune he learned off a jazz record. Perhaps he was having some fun with the interviewer.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Johnson City Blues
From: Stewie
Date: 04 Aug 06 - 03:54 AM

MacFarlane was solo on 'Chattanooga Blues' Voc 5121. Allen Brothers also recorded 'Chattanooga Blues' a year before Green recorded 'Johnson City Blues'. It was their second issue, backed with 'Laughing and Cryin' Blues', that Columbia released in its 14000-D 'race' series which was restricted to black artists. I too cannot find any reference to a McPartland in any of the major discographies.

--Stewie.


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Subject: Lyr Add: JOHNSON CITY BLUES (from Clarence Green)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 09 Aug 06 - 12:53 AM

Here's my attempt at a transcription, from the mp3 file that Peace provided a link to above. OK, "bedeem us brown" doesn't make sense either, but it sure sounds phonetically like what he's saying. But regardless of how you transcribe it, it doesn't rhyme, and it's the only verse in the song that doesn't rhyme. This causes me to think that Green stumbled over this line when he sang it.

JOHNSON CITY BLUES
As sung by Clarence Green

1. Went up on Lookout Mountain, as far as I could see.
I was lookin' for the woman made a monkey out o' me.
I come down to the depot in time to catch a cannonball.
Got the blues [at] Chattanooga. I won't be back till late next fall.

2. Down in Memphis, on East Main Street,
I was watchin' ever'body that I chanced to meet.
I saw my sweet daddy comin' round the flat.
He was dressed in a tailor-made suit and a John B Stetson hat.

3. Daddy, sweet daddy, I know you gonna quit me now,
But I don't need no daddy nohow,
'Cause trouble, trouble, is all I ever find.
Goin' back to Johnson City, for to wear you off my mind.

4. Down in Nicarag'a, as far as I could go,
Was the darnedest bunch o' soldiers that you ever saw.
On the Tennessee River, down below the lock an' dam,
I was lookin' for my good gal, thinkin' she might bedeem us brown.

5. Down in Johnson City, all hospitality,
Are the finest bunch o' people in the state o' Tennessee.
I'm tired of roamin' this way.
Goin' back to Johnson City. I'll go back an' stay some day.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Johnson City Blues
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 09 Aug 06 - 10:09 AM

"Lock and dam" is right, though until I checked I wasn't very sure of it myself:

http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/history/wilson_lock_and_dam.htm


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Johnson City Blues (from Clarence Green)
From: GUEST,Rob Seaver
Date: 27 Nov 13 - 06:04 PM

Been meaning to contribute to this thread for a while. I looked at it years ago when I was trying to figure out the lyrics to this song, and still couldn't make sense of it. After a couple of years of listening to the song, and NOT trying to focus so hard on the "I was lookin' for my good gal..." lyric, it dawned on me one day. To my ears, it sounds like:

"I was lookin' for my good gal, thinkin' she might be deemin' us drowned."

Obviously, with a combination of record scratches/tempo/Green's accent, the last syllable of "deeming" yields what sounds like "deemn".


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Johnson City Blues (from Clarence Green)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 29 Nov 13 - 09:54 AM

I listened on Spotify to several other recordings of JOHNSON CITY BLUES, besides the one by Clarence Green.

On verse 4, line 4, Tom Paley's Old-Time Moonshine Review sings "I was lookin' for my woman; she was lookin' for her man." This makes sense, plus "man" rhymes with "dam" a lot better than "brown" does. This is the best of the variations I found.

You could also sing "I was lookin' for a woman [who] ain't got no man," a floater that is heard in many blues songs.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Johnson City Blues (from Clarence Green)
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 03 Oct 16 - 06:57 PM

McFarland singing the song written by Lovie Austin:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9SDtegxmi8

This one by McFarland was even better:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dh_kzFZKZSo


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