Similar Posts

3 Comments

  1. Hello Paul,

    The usual rough dates given for when Pete Turney transported prisoners are old speculation based (for little good reason, when you think about it) on when his brother happened to be governor. I've found a newspaper article showing that he was already doing it in 1888. (Carroll County _Democrat_, Dec. 7, 1888.)

    Handy also recalled "Got No More Home Than A Dog" as a "blues" he had heard in about 1895, and he made a guitar and vocal recording of it himself in 1938. (Handy pointed out more than once, because he was old enough to know, that no one was actually calling these kinds of songs "blues" songs back in about 1895 — consistent with the recollection of Haffer and others. Mentioning the word "blues" became popular in black folk songs in about 1907, about a whole 12 years after 12-bar tunes had become popular with black folk musicians. As a result, people began talking about "blues" music in about 1909.) Judging from various evidence, Mary Wheeler's book _Steamboatin' Days_ seems to center on songs of the 1890s (she deliberately sought out black singers much older than herself, and she was born in 1892), and although songs with two-line stanzas dominate the book, some are AAA or AAB, and some are notably similar to "Got No More Home Than A Dog."

    It's been well established that Broonzy was born in 1903. We don't know whether Handy was the first person to use the expression "folk blues."

    You wrote: "No other folk song currently known compares to Joe Turner Blues as a model for all the rural blues songs that followed." We don't know. We don't know how old the "Chilly Winds" and "Poor Boy Long Ways From Home" families of songs were, for instance. "Joe Turner" fits into the bad man ballad mold, it being about a bad man, whereas "Chilly" and "Poor" and "Got No" were very first-person-oriented, just as 1910s blues music was. In any case, there's no evidence anyone stuck the word "blues" into a variant of any of these songs until about 1906. For 1903 and earlier, we've got Charles Peabody, Anne Hobson, and the Thomas brothers combined (among others) giving us lots of black folk songs, some of which are 12-bar, e.g., and none of which have the word "blues" in them.

    This folk song was collected by Howard Odum by 1908 and published by him as "Knife-Song":

    "… 'Fo' long, honey, 'fo' long, honey,
    'Fo' long, honey, 'fo' long, honey,
    L-a-w-d, la-w-d, la-w-d!

    … I hate to hear my honey call my name,
    Call me so lonesome an' so sad.
    L-a-w-d, l-a-w-d, l-a-w-d!

    I got de blues an' can't be satisfied,
    Brown-skin woman cause of it all.
    L-a-w-d, l-a-w-d, l-a-w-d!

    That woman will be the death o' me,
    Some girl will be the death o' me.
    L-a-w-d, l-a-w-d, l-a-w-d! …"

    Odum also collected a song with related, AAAB lyrics by 1908:

    "So she laid in jail back to de wall
    So she laid in jail back to de wall
    So she laid in jail back to de wall
    Dis brown-skin man cause of it all."

    On available evidence, mentioning having the "blues" in a black folk song in about 1907 may have had no particular association at the time with AAA, AAB, AAAB, or couplet and refrain.

    Abbe Niles first heard a blues in 1913, and much of what he wrote about before 1913 would have been restating what his close friend Handy told him he recalled.

    Supposing we say that anything that's apparently related to the 1910s blues songs and is 12-bar is a "blues," then we've got "The Bully" which is apparently from about 1892.

    1. Hi Joseph. I’ve only just discovered your fascinating comment of March last year. I can only apologise for missing it. Unforgivable. Many thanks for your insight. It is much appreciated. I’m currently in the middle of a crossover between blog spot and word press so I’m in a bit of a blogging mess at the moment.

  2. Thanks for your invaluable input, Joseph. Your knowledgeable comments are very much appreciated. (I've just deleted a previous version of this message because of a typo, by the way.) My apologies for such a late reply but I've only just stumbled upon your message. Unfortunately my 'Notify Me' box wasn't ticked so I wasn't, of course, notified about your comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.