Yet another I got from the Holy Modal Rounders, though somewhat amended after listening to their source, Prince Albert Hunt, a Texas fiddler, guitarist, and legendary hell-raiser who recorded it in 1928. I still go back and forth between his first verse and theirs:
Blues in the bottle, blues in the bottle,
Where do you think you’re at…
You went and kicked my dog, and now you drown my cat
Blues in the bottle, blues in the bottle
Stopper’s in my hand…
I’m goin’ back to Fort Worth, find me another man.
(except I alter that line to fit my cis-gender norm)
This was one of the first two songs I heard by the Rounders, along with “Euphoria,” on a Fantasy Records blues sampler. In retrospect, I’m kind of startled that they were included, since the rest of the company ranged from Dave Van Ronk and Tom Rush to Lightnin’ Hopkins and Jimmy Witherspoon, with nary a fiddle or banjo in sight — it made more sense (or at least was differently weird) to find them marketed in similar company on a Prestige collection of “psychedelic hits”– but I’m glad in any case, because I’m not sure I would have heard them otherwise. They were always kind of a cult thing, and it wasn’t really my cult, except that I loved them, and still do.
Incidentally, I’m told that the first time anyone used the word “psychedelic” in a song was the Rounders’ in their version of “Hesitation Blues.” Which, if you haven’t heard it, is just a click away.
I had long been content to worship the Rounders from afar, and then, a few years ago, Peter Stampfel (voice, fiddle, banjo, and songwriter — the other guy, on guitar and voice, is Steve Weber) emailed me out of the blue to come in as a ringer and play guitar for his Ether Frolic Mob at the Jalopy in Brooklyn. I’ve never been so honored and pleased before or since, and insisted on going to New York a day early so we could rehearse –which, for me, was mostly just the opportunity to spend some time and play some music with one of my heroes. And we became friends, and he was one of the key sources for my recent Dylan book, and he’s one of the most brilliant and charming folks I’ve ever met, and he keeps making album after album… and long may he wave.
P.S. The guitar and setting for my accompanying video are thanks to the wonderful Del Rey, my host on a recent trip to Seattle, and a friend of hers who left that lovely Gibson with her for safe keeping. If you don’t know Del’s work, check her out — the master of boogie woogie guitar, and lots of other styles, the queen of the ukulele, and the star and soundtrack artist of a new silent comedy video of “Moving Day.”