Fishing Blues

DESCRIPTION: Singer describes pleasures of fishing, boasting, "I'm going fishing, you're going fishing. You can bet your life, your (lovely/ugly/loving) wife I'll catch more fish than you...."
AUTHOR: Probably Henry Thomas, but based on a 1911 song by Chris Smith.
EARLIEST DATE: 1928 (recording, Henry "Ragtime Texas" Thomas)
KEYWORDS: fishing
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Dunson/Raim/Asch-AnthologyOfAmericanFolkMusic, p. 106, "Fishing Blues" (1 text, 1 tune)
Henry Thomas, "Fishing Blues" (Vocalion 1249, 1928; on AAFM3)
NOTES [174 words]: The song is not in blues form; Henry Thomas was more of an African-American "songster" than a blues singer, tracing his musical style back to pre-blues traditions, including playing a rack of quills.
Elijah Wald traces this to "Fishing," which he describes as a "feminist ragtime cheating song from 1911" composed by Chris Smith and popular on the African-American vaudeville circuit. The theme of "Fishing" is that the singer is playing around, but his wife is too, with more success. When Henry "Ragtime Texas" Thomas recorded the song in 1928, he (or someone else) stripped away the layers of metaphor, taking the literal words about fishing as the essence of the song. Wald makes a convincing case for "Fishing" as the progenitor of "Fishing Blues", but Thomas's bowdlerized version is so different in theme that I think it's become a separate song, so our EARLIEST DATE of 1928 stands - it's Thomas's version that became hugely popular among revival singers, due to its presence on the Harry Smith "Anthology of American Folk Music". -PJS
Last updated in version 4.2
File: ADR106

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