Thursday, November 20, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Make a Dumb Man Speak, Make a Lame Man Run

Yesterday I started "Wacky Wednesday" on The Steve Terrell Music Web Log. Today I'm starting "Throwback Thursday." No, it's not like the Facebook deal where I post my junior high pictures or whatever. These will be musical throwbacks where I'll feature a song, artist or musical phenomenon to eras gone by. And some might be even wackier than Wacky Wednesday.

So let's start with one of my favorite songs that has been kicked around jazz, blues and jug band circles for more than 80 years: "Beedle Um Bum."

It's a little tune about a girl named Cindy -- or is it Simmy? Or Jenny? -- who works in a "meat shop" where she serves a meal called "southern eel" -- or is "tadpole heel" ? Either way, every time you pass by this business establishment, you can hear Cindy, or whoever, crying:

Oh, my beedle–um–bum,
Come an’ see me if you ain’t had none.
Make a dumb man speak make a lame man run,
Sure miss somethin’ if you don’t get some of my,
Beedle–um–bum, oh, my beedle–um–bum,
It’s the best beedle–um that’s made in Tennessee

To be blunt, this a whorehouse song, first recorded in late 1928 by a group called The Hokum Boys, actually Tampa Red (Hudson Woodbridge) on guitar and Georgia Tom (Thomas A. Dorsey) on piano. Georgia Tom in later years would become famous under his real name as one of this country's greatest composer of gospel songs. He wrote "Peace in the Valley" and "Precious Lord, Take My Hand."

But, getting back to the whorehouse, Dorsey also is credited with writing "Beedle Un Bum."

Here's The Hokum Boys doing the song.

It didn't take long for others to pick up on "Beedle Un Bum." Just a few months after The Hokum Boys, a Detroit-based jazz band called McKinney's Cotton Pickers recorded it.

Other bluesmen recorded it also. One of the earliest was Big Bill Broonzy. Blind Willie McTell also did a version in 1956.

In the 1960s "Beedle Un Bum" became a favorite of the hippie neo-jug bands after Jim Kweskin's Jug Band recorded it. In California, Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, which featured future Grateful Dead members  Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, and Ron "Pigpen" McKernan did a Kweskin-influenced cover. Later Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks picked it up.

Here's a version from a recent Hicks album, Live at Davies guest-starring Kweskin. I'm not sure where the weird verse about Johnson City, Texas came from, but it's goofy enough for the song.

If these don't make you hungry for tadpole heel I don't know what will.

For more deep dives into songs, check out The Stephen W. Terrell Web Log Songbook

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