Thursday, May 5, 2011

Original version? Maybe not!

BLUES YOU CAN USE: Original version? Maybe not! (Submitted by Jack Downey)

Whenever we come up to jam at Lowcountry Blues Club, there is a short meeting of the musicians on stage to determine which song to play next. During these gatherings, I am sometimes amused at what some players call the 'original' version of a song. Here's an idea of how the meetings go (expletives and colorful metaphors deleted):

J.D.: "Ok what next?"

T.S.: " Do you know Statesboro Blues?"

J.H.: "Which version?"

T.S.: "The original"

T.S.: "Where's my beer?"

J.K.: "What key?"

J.D.: "You're a drummer."

J.K.: "Right."

J.D.: "Oh ok…Allman Brothers, got it"

T.S.: "Key of B-Minus"

…yadda yadda

What some people may or may not realize, is that although the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band member Allman Brothers' version of Statesboro Blues is certainly the modern definitive version, it is NOT the original. Statesboro Blues was recorded by Blues Foundation Hall of Fame member Blind Willie McTell in 1928.

Many artists in the 1960s and beyond recorded their own renditions of older songs that grew to become what most of us think of as the definitive, or even orginal version. Some say that it was to honor the original, others say it was a rip off. The Rolling Stones named their band in tribute to a Muddy Waters song. Led Zeppelin was sued for plagiarism for the song "Whole Lotta Love", which contained some direct lyrical and melodic parts of the Willie Dixon-penned "You Need Love".

When my band adds a song to the set list, I like to dig into what's behind the music. Find out who wrote it, who originally recorded it, what time frame, which versions exist, which is the definitive version, and then interpret the song to play it in our own way. It helps me to gain an appreciation of the music and I think that it comes out in the performance.

Cream's version of "Crossroads" sounds very little like the original Robert Johnson version from 1928. In fact, Cream even added a verse from a completely different song. The verse that begins "Going down to Rosedale, with my rider by my side…" is from another Robert Johnson song, "Traveling Riverside Blues."

It's pretty common knowledge that "Crossroads" was originally performed by Robert Johnson, and that "I Just Want To Make Love To You" by Foghat is a remake of a Muddy Waters' performed song, and that "Heard It Through The Grapevine" by Creedence Clearwater Revival was done before by Marvin Gaye.

What follows is a short list of songs that you may NOT know are cover songs:

One Way Out - Allman Brothers 1972 (Sonny Boy Williamson 1961)

The Sky Is Crying - Stevie Ray Vaughan 1991 (Elmore James 1960)

Big Boss Man - Elvis Presley 1967 (Jimmy Reeed 1960)

Hard To Handle - Black Crowes 1990 (Otis Redding 1968)

Baby Please Don't Go - Muddy Waters 1953 (Big Joe Williams 1935)

Train Kept A Rollin - Aerosmith 1974 (Tiny Bradshaw 1951)

Susie Q - CCR 1968 (Dale Hawkins 1957, Chet Atkins 1963, Rolling Stones 1964, Johnny Rivers 1965)

Texas Flood - Stevie Ray Vaughan 1983 (Larry Davis 1958)

Black Magic Woman - Santana 1970 (Fleetwood Mac 1968)

Crawlin' King Snake - Howlin Wolf 1966 (Big Joe Williams 1941)

So, when you get up to the stage on jam night, be careful when you call out an 'original' version of a song. If you are expecting the band to play the 'original' version of Texas Flood by Stevie Ray Vaughan (1983), you might be surprised to learn that Larry Davis recorded it in 1958.


Coming soon:

The First Annual Lowcountry Blues Club Show
at Awendaw Sound - 5105 Hwy 17 North, Awendaw, SC
(The Old Kick’n Horse)
Saturday, May 21, 2011
1pm until...

Rev Dr Johnny Mac and the Booty Ranch

Port City Prophets

Wyatt Garey Band

The Big Guy’s Blues Revue

Jonathan Robinson Trio

The Lowcountry Blues Club Allstars
With more surprises and special guests

Tickets $10 ETIX or day of show

Bring a can of food for the Lowcountry Food Bank

Benefit for the Lowcountry Food Bank and the Lowcountry Blues Club

Timothy D. Shaw



Check your favorite local paper for live music happening this weekend, and join the facebook site "Charleston Live Music" for all the latest music news.

Don't miss our next jam: Wednesday night at Home Team BBQ/ West Ashley -- sooo much fun!!

May's featured artists are Blind Willie McTell (1901), Robert Johnson (1911), Little Walter (1930), and Taj Mahal (1942) - all born in May.

Join us on facebook (Lowcountry Blues Club) and twitter, and check out some of our recordings from the Wednesday jams at

It's time to pay your dues for 2011 if you haven't already done so. Just come out to a jam, and give us $10 for an individual, $25 for a band or family, or $100 for a corporate membership. Or you can mail dues to The Lowcountry Blues Club, P.O. Box 814, Isle of Palms, SC 29451.

LMW, May 5, 2011

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