Talking Blues

DESCRIPTION: "If you want to get to Heaven let me tell you what to do, Gotta grease your feet in mutton stew...." The singer boasts of the ways he avoids work and easily acquires food, sex, etc. Many of the verses float
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1925 (Scarborough)
KEYWORDS: work nonsense animal bird nonballad courting humorous floatingverses
REFERENCES (8 citations):
BrownIII 444, "If You Want to Go to Heaven" (1 fragment, apparently this piece)
Joyner, p. 106, "Original Talking Blues" (1 text)
Lomax-FSNA 224, "Talking Blues" (1 text with metrical markings)
Spaeth-WeepMore, pp. 116-117, "Jest Talkin'" (1 text)
Lomax-ABFS, pp. 254-258, "When de Good Lord Sets You Free" (1 text, 1 tune -- an immense composite containing elements of "Moanish Lady," "Talking Blues," and probably other materials, to the tune of "Mourner, You Shall Be Free")
Scarborough-NegroFS, p. 225, (no title) (1 fragment, perhaps one of the items that inspired the Lomax mess)
Silber-FSWB, p. 80, "Talking Blues" (1 text)

Roud #13912, etc.
Chris Bouchillon, "Talking Blues" (Columbia 15120-D, 1927; Vocalion 02977, 1935; rec. 1926)
Harmon Canada, "The Talkin' Blues" (Gennett 6972/Champion 15808 [as Joe Smith]/Supertone 9554, 1929; Champion 45173 [as Joe Smith], c. 1935)
Pete Seeger, "Talking Blues" (on PeteSeeger32)
Roy Shaffer, "Talking Blues" (Bluebird B-8234, 1939/Montgomery Ward M-8493, c. 1940)

cf. every other song with the words "talking" and "blues" in the titles
cf. "Mourner, You Shall Be Free (Moanish Lady)" (this piece is sometimes sung to a tune similar to that)
cf. "Henhouse Door (Who Broke the Lock?)" (floating verses)
cf. "Ain't Gonna Grieve My God No More" (lyrics)
Talking Dustbowl Blues (File: LoF225)
Talking Hard Luck (File: CSW214)
Talking Atom (DT, TALKATOM; Sam Hinton, ABC-Eagle ABC-230, 1950; on PeteSeeger19, PeteSeeger48)
Chris Bouchillon, "New Talking Blues" (Columbia 15262-D, 1928)
Herschel Brown & his Band, "New Talking Blues" (OKeh 45247, 1928)
Herschel Brown & his Band, "Talking Nigger Blues" (OKeh 45247, 1928)
Herschel Brown, "New Talking Blues No. 2" (OKeh 45337, 1929)
Herschel Brown & his Boys, "Nigger Talking Blues No. 2" (OKeh 45337, 1929)
Curly Fox, "Curly's New Talking Blues" (Decca 5185, 1936; rec. 1935)
Jesse Rodgers, "Jesse's Talking Blues" (Bluebird B-6143, 1935)
NOTES: Robert Lunn and Chris Bouchillon both claim to have written and recorded the canonical "Talking Blues," with the above-quoted lyrics; however, it's likely they acquired the form and some of the verses from anonymous African-American musicians. [Given that Scarborough's text precedes them, I'd say it's nearly certain. - RBW]
[For the items in the "same tune" list, the] discographical information lists Mr. Brown's name as "Hersal" for one record and "Hershel" for another. I don't know which is right. And I've since found one spelled "Hershal." Are we confused yet? - PJS
Last updated in version 4.2
File: LoF224

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2017 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.