Dust My Broom


Dust My Broom
"I Believe I'll Dust My Broom"
Song by Robert Johnson
Released April 1937 (1937-04)
Format 78 rpm
A-side I Believe I'll Dust My Broom
Recorded San Antonio, Texas, Monday, November 23, 1936
Genre Blues
Label Vocalion
Writer Robert Johnson
Producer Don Law

"Dust My Broom" is a blues standard originally recorded as "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom" by Robert Johnson, the Mississippi Delta blues singer and guitarist, on November 23, 1936 in San Antonio, Texas. The song was originally released on 78 rpm format as Vocalion 03475, ARC 7-04-81 and Conqueror 8871. There is an ongoing dispute as to whether the song was originally written by Johnson or by his contemporary, Elmore James.[1]

Contents

Sources

This was the second song that Johnson recorded, immediately after "Kind Hearted Woman Blues". He adopted this song from traditional sources.[2] Unlike the many versions by other musicians, Johnson's original accompaniment was finger picked, and not played as a bottleneck or slide guitar.[3][4] Leroy Carr’s original hit was "I Believe I’ll Make A Change" recorded in August 1934.[5] The popular bottleneck guitar player and singer Kokomo Arnold used the tune for two records: "Sagefield Woman Blues" recorded in September 1934[6] and "Sissy Man Blues" recorded in January 1935[7] It seems likely that Johnson owned and studied both of Arnold’s records. Another possibility is that Johnson heard Arnold in person performing a number of verses to this melody.[8] However, Edward Komara suggests[9] that Johnson may have begun developing his version of the song as early as 1933, since it had already been recorded by the Sparks Brothers as "I Believe I'll Make A Change" in 1932[10] and by Jack Kelly as "Believe I'll Go Back Home" in 1933[11]

Arnold began "Sissy Man Blues" with essentially the same verse as Kelly:

I believe, I believe I’ll go back home x 2
Lord acknowledge to my good gal, mama, Lord, that I have done you wrong

This couplet echoes traditional religious songs about The Prodigal Son. Indeed, in his 1938 re-working of the song, Big Bill Broonzy[12] includes the line:

The Prodigal Son went home, I believe I'll do the same

Arnold also borrows a verse from "Mr Carl’s Blues" recorded by Carl Rafferty in December 1933.[4][13] The melody is somewhat different, but Paul Oliver considers it to be the same song.[14]

Mr Carl’s Blues Sissy Man Blue
I’m goin’ to call up in China,
– just to see if my baby’s over there .. x 2
I’ll always believe
— my babe’s in the world somewhere
Now, I’m gonna ring up China, yeah man,
– see can I find my good gal over there …… x 2
Says the Good Book tells me,
— that I got a good gal in the world somewhere

Another of Rafferty's verses is used in Arnold’s earlier record, "Sagefield Woman Blues".

Mr Carl’s Blues Sagefield Woman Blues
I do believe,
– I believe I’ll dust my broom …… x 2
And after I dust my broom
— Anyone may have my room
And I believe,
– I believe I’ll dust my broom …… x 2
So some of your lowdown rounders,
— Lord, you can have my room

Text

Johnson takes Arnold's melody and these three verses, adding two new verses of his own. As well as telephoning to find his lost girl, he will write a letter. And he changes his attitude to the woman he is leaving. Arnold acknowledges that he has done wrong, but Johnson tells his woman "The black man you been loving, girl friend, can get my room". He then adds a characteristic verse on unfaithful women and this woman in particular. The resulting text has a unity that was missing in Arnold's two records.[8] The singer is leaving for home, disillusioned with one woman and yearning for another, who may be anywhere in the world.

I'm goin' get up in the morning, I believe I'll dust my broom x 2
Girl friend, the black man you been lovin', girl friend, can get my room

I'm gonna write a letter, telephone every town I know x 2
If I can't find her in West Helena, she must be in East Munroe I know

I don't want no woman, wants every down town man she meets x 2
She's a no good dony, they shouldn't 'low her on the streets

I believe, I believe I'll go back home x 2
You can mistreat me here, babe, but you can't when I go home

And I'm gettin' up in the morning, I believe I'll dust my broom x 2
Girl friend, the black man you been lovin', girl friend, can get my room

I'm gonna call up China, see is my good gal over there x 2
I can't find her in the Philippine Islands, she must be in Ethiopia somewhere

Attempts have been made to read a hoodoo significance into the phrase 'dust my broom'. However the blues artist Big Joe Williams, who knew Robert Johnson, and who also believed in traditional magic, explained it as "leaving for good ... I'm putting you down. I won't be back no more".[15]

Accompaniment

Johnson did not attempt to copy the distinctive guitar styles of Arnold or Blackwell. But, according to Elijah Wald,[8] the accompaniment was a major innovation. Fingerpicking in the key of E, he plays high pitch triplets against a driving bass boogie figure, creating an effect similar to the then popular combination of piano and guitar accompaniment. Johnson's blend is so seamless it appears to be two guitarists playing at the same time. In fact, when Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards first heard Johnson he remarked; "He's great! But who's the other guitar player?" (In another version, Mick Jagger made this remark to Richards when Richards first played him the song). Johnson drives the beat with the shuffle rhythm and plays fills simultaneously. Johnson's innovation later became very common among blues guitarists, especially after the electric guitar became standard. That particular boogie guitar figure was apparently invented by Johnnie Temple, who used it in his 1935 recording "Lead Pencil Blues (It Just Won't Write)". (Still, no one has quite matched Johnson's technique on Dust My Broom. As crude as it is, it's also immensely sophisticated).[16] However, Temple spoke of performing with a musician he knew as "RJ". Edward Komara suggests[9] that "RJ" was Robert Johnson, and that he and Temple jointly invented the piano boogie guitar style.

Komara believes that Johnson played this and other songs in a 'secret tuning', which Komara calls "Aadd9". This is an 'open A' tuning with the fifth string retuned from A to B, giving a tuning of E-B-E-A-C♯-E.[9]

Reissue

The first reissue of Johnson's music King of the Delta Blues Singers in 1961 omitted "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom" and other forward looking performances, described by Pearson and McCulloch[15] as "traditional pieces that would have connected Johnson to the rightful inheritors of his musical ideas – big-city African American artists whose high-powered, electrically amplified blues remained solidly in touch with Johnson's musical legacy."

The second compilation issued by Columbia Records, King of the Delta Blues Singers, Vol. II was issued nine years later, although a bootleg album of recording to supplement the first volume had been issued on the Kokomo label and was owned and circulated among blues enthusiasts.[17] The Columbia album was marketed to a younger, wider audience than the jazz fans for whom the first album was compiled. In the liner notes, Marketing Manager Jon Waxman[15] wrote, "Unquestionably, a major influence on much of today's rock music is the blues – more especially rural blues ... So, if you dig contemporary music, especially the blues, give a listen to Robert Johnson, the original master."

Thus, Johnson's record was known to many rock musicians before the rhythm and blues standard by Elmore James.

Cover versions

Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup

"Dust My Broom"
Single by Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup
A-side Dust My broom
B-side You Know That I Love You
Format 78 rpm
Recorded Chicago, March 10, 1949
Genre Rhythm and Blues
Label Victor

"I Believe I'll Dust My Broom" was not covered until Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup's 1949 recording entitled "Dust My Broom".[18] Crudup's guitar accompaniment did not copy Johnson's, and his melody was somewhat altered. His lyrics were partly based on Johnson's, partly new. He begins in biblical language:

It's a sin and a shame, Lord, the way you treat po' me x 2
You know well, that I love you, and I really wouldn't mistreat, thee

His next verses are based on Johnson's, but show a very different attitude to the woman he is leaving:

So, I'm gonna get up in the mornin', an' I swear I'm gonna dust my broom x 2
I'm quittin' the best gal I'm lovin', so my friends can get my room I believe, I believe, believe my time ain't long x 2
I got to leave my baby, break up my happy home

Crudup's record is a solo performance. He sing and accompanies himself on electric guitar.

Robert Lockwood

"Dust My Broom"
Single by Robert Lockwood Junior
A-side Dust My Broom
B-side I'm Gonna Dig Myself a Hole
Format 78 rpm
Recorded Chicago, November 15, 1951
Genre Rhythm and Blues
Label Mercury
Writer(s) Robert Johnson

In 1951, Robert Lockwood recorded "Dust My Broom" for J.O.B. on March 22[19] and for Mercury on November 15.[20][9] The unissued J.O.B. record was a band performance with Lockwood on electric guitar, Sunnyland Slim on piano and Alfred Wallace on drums. The Mercury record also featured Sunnyland Slim, with Ernest "Big Boy" Crawford on drums. Lockwood had learned the song in person from Robert Johnson, who he regarded as his musical mentor and a sort of "step father", because Lockwood's mother was one of Johnson's regular girlfriends, the one with whom he stayed in Helena, Arkansas.[8] He therefore used Johnson's text with minor changes.

I'm gonna get up early in the mornin', I believe I'll dust my broom X 2
And if you got another man little baby, you sure can have my room I don't want no woman, want every down town man she meets X 2
You know that she's a dirty mistreater, they shouldn't 'low the little girl out on the streets I believe, I believe I'll go back home X 2
I want to tell the little girl I've been lovin', that she have done done me wrong I'm gonna call West Helena, telephone every town I know x 2
If the little girl ain't in Chicago, she's in East Munroe I know I'm gonna call up China, see is my little girl over there x 2
If the little girl ain't on the Philippine Islands, she's in Ethiopia somewhere

On both recordings, Lockwood copies Johnson's "piano boogie" guitar style, but with strong support from Sunnyland Slim's piano for the both boogie base and some of the melody. On the J.O.B. recording. Slim also plays the triplet figures in a strong right hand which dominated the ensemble.

Elmore James

"Dust My Broom (I Believe My Time Ain't Long)"
Single by Elmore James
A-side Dust My Broom (I Believe My Time Ain't Long)
B-side Catfish Blues (performed by Bobo Thomas)
Released 1951 (1951)
Format 78 rpm
Recorded Jackson, Mississippi, August 5, 1951
Genre Rhythm and blues
Label Trumpet
Writer(s) Elmore James
Producer Lillian McMurry

Also in 1951, Elmore James made his first recording of "Dust My Broom", for the Trumpet Records label.[21]

James followed Johnson's melody quite closely. His lyrics are based on Johnson's first four verses, but with Crudup's changes to the verses about his 'good gal'. He begins:

I'm gonna get up in the morning, I believe I'll dust my broom x 2
I'll quit the best gal I'm loving, and my friends can get my room I'm gonna write a letter, telephone every town I know x 2
If I don't find her in Mississippi, she's over in West Memphis, I know And I don't want no woman, wants every down town man she meets x 2
She's a no good dony, they shouldn't 'low her on the streets I believe, I believe my time ain't long x 2
I've got to leave my baby, and break up my happy home

James is on electric slide guitar, Sonny Boy Williamson II on harmonica, Leonard Ware on bass and Frock O'Dell on drums. Ware supplied the boogie beat, allowing James, with superior amplification, to dominate with a riff based on Johnson's triplet figures. The repeated riff and one other phrase form a melody which the band plays as an instrumental in places.

History

A legend was spread by Sonny Boy Williamson II and Homesick James that Lillian McMurry secretly taped the performance in the Trumpet Records studio, and that James was so upset that he was unable to record a B-side. This was printed in various works, including the widely-read Deep Blues by Robert Palmer.[22] Edward Komara has shown this story to be entirely untrue. McMurry had previously signed a recording contract with James, and the studio did not use tape recorders.[23]

McMurry filed the song for copyright in good faith, citing Elmore James as composer. She was then unaware of Robert Johnson's earlier composition.[23]

The record became a surprise rhythm and blues hit in 1952, prompting James to exploit the melody and accompaniment with similar texts. Most of his subsequent records were released as by "Elmore James and His Broomdusters". His releases included: "She just won't do right (Going for good or Dust My Broom)" (1952)[24] and "Dust My Blues" (1955).[25] In 1959 he recorded the song again as "Dust My Broom"[26] with his cousin Homesick James on second guitar. Homesick later recorded the song on an LP for Vanguard Records in 1965.[27] Distinctive to all these records is the melody created from the riff on "Dust My Broom"

James' version of "Dust My Broom" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.[28]

Other cover versions

Dust My Broom has been covered by many major rock and blues artists.

Notes

  1. ^ Franz, Steve. The Amazing Secret History of Elmore James. Bluesource Publications, 2003, ISBN 0971803811
  2. ^ "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time : Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/news/coverstory/5937559/page/5. Retrieved August 11, 2008. 
  3. ^ Samuel, Charters (1973). Robert Johnson. New York: Oak Publications. p. 29. ISBN 0-8256-0059-6. 
  4. ^ a b Slaven, Neil (2007). Liner notes to The Road to Robert Johnson And Beyond. JSP Records JSP77795.
  5. ^ Vocalion Vo 02820, American Record Company ARC 7-02-65.
    CD reissue on How Long has That Evening Train Been Gone, Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell, Volume 1 JSP Records JSP77104, and on Leroy Carr, Complete Recorded Works In Chronological Order, Volume 5, Document Records DOCD-5138.
  6. ^ Decca De 7044.
    CD reissue on Kokomo Arnold, Complete Recorded Works In Chronological Order, Volume 1, Document Records DOCD-5037
  7. ^ Decca De 7050.
    CD reissue on Back to the Cross Roads, The Roots of Robert Johnson, Yazoo Records Yazoo 2070 , and on Kokomo Arnold, The Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order, Volume 2, Document Records DOCD-5038.
  8. ^ a b c d p. 135.
  9. ^ a b c d Komara, Edward (2007). The Road to Robert Johnson, The genesis and evolution of blues in the Delta from the late 1800s through 1938. p. 47. Hal Leonard. ISBN 0-634-00907-9
  10. ^ Victor 2359
    CD reissue on The Sparks Brothers, Complete Recorded Works In Chronological Order, Document Records DOCD-5315,
  11. ^ Melotone M12812
    CD resissue on Memphis Shakedown, More Jug Band Classics JSP Records JSP77752, and on Jack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band, Complete recorded Works In Chronological Order (1933–1939), Document Records BDCD-6005
  12. ^ Columbia C-2332-2 unissued at the time, subsequently issued on LP, audio cassette and CD
    CD reissues include: Big Bill Blues, Part 2, Chicago 1937–1940, JSP Records JSP7750, and on Big Bill Broonzy, Complete Recorded Works In Chronological Order, Volume 8, Document Records Document DOCD-5130.
  13. ^ Bluebird BB B5429.
    CD reissue on The Road to Robert Johnson and Beyond. JSP Records JSP7795.
  14. ^ Oliver, Paul (1968). Screening the Blues. Cassell. p. 189
  15. ^ a b c Pearson, Barry Lee and Bill McCulloch (2003). Robert Johnson, Lost and Found. Uiversity of Illinois Press. p 68. ISBN 978-0-252-07528-5
  16. ^ Vocalion Vo 0368
    CD reissue on The Road to Robert Johnson and Beyond. also on Back to the Cross Roads, The Roots of Robert Johnson, also on Johnnie Temple, Complete Recorded Works In Chronological Order, Volume 1. Document Records Document DOCD 5238.
  17. ^ Robert Johnson, Kokomo Records K1000
  18. ^ Vic 50-0074
    CD reissue on Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, Complete Recorded Works In Chronological Order, Volume 2, Document Records DOCD-5202.
  19. ^ Matrix 35223 not released at the time
    CD reissue on : Sunnyland Slim and his Pals, Classic Sides 1951–1955. JSP Records JSP7783
  20. ^ Merc 8260
    CD reissue on : Sunnyland Slim and his Pals
  21. ^ Trumpet 146
    CD reissue on many compilations including The Road To Robert Johnson And Beyond JSP Records JSP7795.
  22. ^ Palmer, Robert (1981). Deep Blues. p. 214. ISBN 0 33334039 6
  23. ^ a b Wardlow, Gayle Dean (1998). Chasin' That Devil Music, Edited with an introduction by Edward Komara. Miller Freeman Books. p.p. 166-168. ISBN 0-87930-552-5
  24. ^ Checker 777
  25. ^ Flair 1074, Kent 331, 394
  26. ^ Sphere Sound 712
  27. ^ Vanguagrd VRS 8217
  28. ^ Grammy Hall of Fame
  29. ^ Second Hand Songs

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