The Talking Blues

 

According to Alan Lomax, the talking blues is partly derived from African-American blues and spirituals, though its final form and popularity is mostly due to Guthrie. It is a spoken song rhythmically ‘talked’ over a simple musical accompaniment. Or as Guthrie said: "You talk this piece off. They say it’s in four-four time. If that is out of your calibre, try 38 time or 16 gauge, anything – just play chords and talk." Here are two examples.

 

TALKING DUST BOWL BLUES

Back in nineteen twenty seven
I had a little farm and I called it heaven
Prices up and the rain come down
I hauled my crops all into town
Got the money...bought clothes and groceries...
Fed the kids...and raised a big family

But the rain quit and the wind got high
Black old dust storm filled the sky
I traded my farm for a Ford machine
poured it full of this gas-i-line
And started. Rocking and a-rolling.
Over the mountains. To California

Way up yonder on a mountain road
Hot motor and a heavy load
Going purty fast, wasn't even stopping
Bouncing up and down like popcorn a-popping
Had a breakdown..kind of a nervous bustdown
Mechanic feller there charged me five bucks
And said it was En-gine trouble

Way up yonder on a mountain curve
Way up yonder in a piney wood
I gave that rolling Ford a shove
Gonna coast just fars as I could
Commence a rolling..picking up speed
Come a hairpin turn..and I didn't make it

Man alive, I'm a telling you
The fiddles and guitars really flew
That Ford took off like a flying squirrel
Flew halfway around the world
Scattered wives and children
All over the side of that mountain

Got to California so dad-gum broke
So dad-gum hungry I thought I'd choke
I bummed up a spud or two
Wife fixed up some tater stew
We poured the kids full of it
Looked like a tribe of thy-mometers arunning around

Lord, man, I swear to you
That was surely mighty thin stew
So damn thin I really mean
You could read a magizine
Right through it..look at the pictures too
Purty whiskey bottles..naked women

(added) Always have thought, always figured
If that damn stew had been a little thinner
Some of these here politicians
Could of seen through it.

 

TALKING BLUES
If you want to get to heaven, let me tell you what to do,
You gotta grease your feet in a little mutton stew.
Slide right out of the devil's hand,
And ease over to the Promised Land.
Take it easy! Go greasy!

I was down in the holler just a'settin' on a log,
My finger on the trigger and my eye on a hog;
I pulled that trigger and the gun went "zip"
And I grabbed that hog with all of my grip
'Course l can't eat hog eyes, but I love chitlins

Down in the hen house on my knees,
I thought I heard a chicken sneeze,
But it was only the rooster sayin' his prayers
Thankin' the Lord for the hens upstairs.
Rooster prayin', hens a-layin',
Pore little pullets just pluggin' away best they know how.

Mama's in the kitchen fixin' the yeast,
Poppa's in the bedroom greasin' his feets
Sister's in the cellar squeezin' up the hops,
Brother's at the window just a-watchin' for the cops.
Drinkin' home brew-makes you happy.

Now, I'm just a city dude a-livin' out of town.
Everybody knows me as Moonshine Brown;
I make the beer, and I drink the slop,
Got nine little orphans that call me Pop.
I'm patriotic...raisin' soldiers. Red cross nurses.

Ain't no use me workin' so hard,
I got a gal in the rich folks' yard.
They kill a chicken, she sends me the head.
She thinks I'm workin', I'm a-layin' up in bed.
Just dreamin' about her. Havin' a good time. . .
Two other women.

 

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