How Long Blues
DESCRIPTION: "How long, how long Has that evening train been gone, How long, Baby, how long, how long?... How long will it be Before you learn to quit mistreating me?" The singer complains about his lost woman and the travelling he has done.
AUTHOR: Leroy Carr?
EARLIEST DATE: 1928 (recordings, Tampa Red's Hokum Jazz Band, Gladys Bentley); perhaps 1921 (recorded by Daisy Martin)
KEYWORDS: loneliness separation travel
FOUND IN: US
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Cohen-LSRail, pp. 437-440, "How Long, How Long Blues" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSNA 314, "How Long Blues" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: _Sing Out_ magazine, Volume 25, #1 (1976), p, 39, "How Long" (1 text, 1 tune, from Mable Hillery, which is a somewhat dubious relative; it has this general tone and many similar lyrics but also has much floating material and a different final line); Volume 38, #4 (1994), pp. 40-41, "How Long Blues" (1 text, 1 tune, the original Carr/Blackwell version)
Shelley Armstrong [Bumble Bee Slim] , "How Long, How Long Blues" (Champion 50008, 1935)
Gladys Bentley, "How Long - How Long Blues" (OKeh 8612, 1928)
Leroy Carr [and Scrapper Blackwell], "How Long -- How Long Blues" (Vocalion 1191, 1928; Vocalion 1241, 1929; Banner 32557/Oriole 8166/Perfect 0215/Romeo 5166, 1932)
Jed Davenport, "How Long How Long Blues" (Vocalion 1440, 1930)
Folkmasters, "Rising Sun" (on Fmst01) [This is *not* "House of the Rising Sun," but a Brownie McGhee partial rewrite of "How Long Blues"]
Bertha "Chippie" Hill w. Baby Dodds' Stompers "How Long Blues" (Circle J-1003, n.d.)
Skip James, "How Long 'Buck'" (Paramount 13085, rec. 1931)
Wingy Manone & his orchestra, "How Long Blues" (Bluebird B-10749, 1940)
Daisy Martin, "How Long? How Long?" (OKeh 8009, 1921, possibly this song)
Tampa Red's Hokum Jug Band, "How Long How Long Blues" (Vocalion 1228, 1928)
Leroy Carr, "How Long, How Long Blues Part 2" (Vocalion 1279, 1929; Banner 32557/Oriole 8166/Perfect 0215/Romeo 5166, 1932; rec. 1928); Carr later released additional "How Long" sequels
Leroy Carr w. Earl, "Scrapper" Blackwell, "The New How Long How Long Blues" (Vocalion 1435, 1930)
NOTES: I have not heard the Daisy Martin recording; it may be a different song. If it's the same, however, that shoots Carr's authorship in the foot. - PJS
According to Cohen, Martin's recording is "not closely related"; neither is a song recorded in 1928 by Alberta Brown, "How Long." Cohen of course does note some earlier materials which may have inspired Carr.
Cohen adds that their June 1928 recordings "inaugurat[ed] a major change in the nature of recorded blues music. Smoother, more urbane than most of the country blues that preceded them, more polished, and considerably more danceable, their style was immediately emulated." The result was to make piano-and-guitar blues much more common. - RBW
Except that they *didn't* get much more common, unless Carr and Blackwell were doing them. It's a difficult combination. - PJS
Carr and Blackwell alone were responsible for quite a few; the 1994 article in Sing Out! quotes William Barlow's The Emergence of Blues Culture as saying the two had to re-record the song three times because the master kept wearing out! It was one of the best-selling "race" records of the period.
Carr unfortunately died in 1935 of alcohol abuse; he was only 30 years old. This probably means that a number of questions about this song will never be answered. - RBW
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