Old Black Men and Their Woes

Recently your host has found himself listening to a lot of Blues records, and he has come to the conclusion that the Blues is the old man’s version of Heavy Metal.

When one is young, one is angry about the woeful state of the world, so one listens to the high pitched screechings of angry young men like Axl Rose and Marilyn Manson. But as one makes his way towards forty, one is more inclined to think “Stuff it all, I’ll listen to some dying old men instead.” Meanwhile, Manson has become a divorcee and Axl has turned into the Howard Hughes of heavy metal, wandering around Malibu with tissue boxes on his feet, babbling insanely about how David Geffen screwed him over. Oh, well…

So anyway, as I’ve come up on forty I’ve started to listen more and more to elderly black men complaining about the problems that have beset them throughout what apparently have been long and miserable lives.

Here now is a list of my favorite Blues songs. As the world of the Blues can be bewildering to the newcomer I have included some explanatory notes.

“TB Blues” by Champion Jack Dupree.

“Yes, I got the T.B.
And the T.B.’s all in my bones
All in my bones
Well, the doctor told me
That I ain’t gon’ be ‘ere long.”

This song was written at a time when Dupree believed he was indeed dying from tuberculosis, but luckily he had been misdiagnosed- he was in fact suffering only from lung cancer. Ironically Dupree lived into his 80s, whereas his doctor died at 43 from a self inflicted lawnmower wound. As an even greater coincidence, 17 years later, Fielding Melish, a man whom Dupree had never met, died from inhaling next to an insurance salesman.

“Evil Woman” by Champion Jack Dupree

“She got a face, face like a monkey
Hair like a teddy bear
Lord, Lord, Lord
Face like a monkey
Hair like a teddy bear.”

“The woman that I’m lovin’
She’s evil as would be
Lord, Lord, Lord
Woman I’m lovin’
She’s evil as could be
Well, that woman is so evil
She’s too evil for me.”

This appears to be about Dupree’s second wife, Muddy Mae Suggins, whom he rescued from a profitable career as a sideshow geek. Muddy Mae was not what one would call an attractive woman, but had a disposition at least as gentle as that of a pit-bull that’s spent the weekend with Michael Vick. The marriage came to an unexpected end when Muddy Mae was mistakenly taken in by the dog catcher and put down after Dupree failed to pick her up. According to friends Dupree later had her buried in the backyard under her favorite tree.

“Commit A Crime” by Howlin Wolf.

“You put poison in my coffee, instead of milk or cream.

You put poison in my coffee, instead of milk or cream.

You bout the evilest woman, that I ever seen.”

This is about Howlin Wolf’s mother, Gertrude Burnett, a notorious serial killer who escaped the chair only because her lawyer succeeded in arguing that it would cost the state of Mississippi too much money to build a chair big enough to accommodate her 400 pound frame. (Mrs Burnett was later acknowledged by Tobe Hooper as the original inspiration for Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre.)

“Don’t Get Mad” by Elmore James jr

“Don’t get mad at me babe,

Cos I aint mad at you

I’d be a wrong doin’ man,

Ooo child to be mad at you”

A song written about a dispute James jr had with Blind Boy PigHead as to the true origin of the name LaSalle. The other man had insisted it was from the Old French for “cantankerous coot”, but James was convinced it had something to do with the War of Independence. The dispute came to a head in Christmas of 1978 when the two men exchanged remarks about one another’s wives on the street in front of The Jazz Hut (this incidentally was the club in which Soggy Shoe Davis first performed his now-classic “Dead Cat Hung in a Closet Blues”). This exchange led the men to the conclusion that they had both married badly and that they therefore had enough problems without ruining their friendship, hence the lyric “We both done married badly and therefore have enough problems without ruining our friendship.” on their ensuing collaboration album “No-Good Women Done Us Wrong.”




1 ping

Comments have been disabled.