Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Morning

I got this from Dave Van Ronk, who presumably got it from Clara Smith’s, Alberta Hunter’s, or Margaret Johnson’s recordings — he Clara Smithsings a somewhat different lyric, but that may just be a quirk of memory or he may have decided to do some rewriting, which he often did when he found an old song he liked. I have to say, though, now that I’m going back and listening to their versions, I’m a bit startled that he would have softened their final verse, which goes:

I even hate to hear your name this morning,
I even hate to hear your name this morning,
I even hate to hear your name,
I could kill you quicker than an express train.
Nobody knows the way I feel this morning.

Be that as it may, it’s a good song, and a great guitar arrangement. Dave recorded it on his Sunday Street LP, so it was fresh when he taught it to me, and he was particularly happy with the way it adapted techniques he had honed in his ragtime arrangements to frame and support the singing.

Of the many things I owe Dave, one that has endured was his fondness and appreciation for the work of the early blues queens. Most of the blues revivalists of his generation — or at least the white, male, guitar-playing blues revivalists — shied away from the blues queens as too formal, or too jazzy, or not rootsy enough, or maybe dave van ronk8just too female. But Dave loved their singing, and the piano or small combo arrangements that framed their singing, and he also had a keen appreciation of professional songwriters — he thought the folk scene’s tendency to praise products of the oral tradition over the products of people like Cole Porter and Duke Ellington was basically a middle class affectation — he liked to use the French term, nostalgie de la boue, a yearning for the mud. Dave thought of himself as a professional musician and liked the company of professional musicians, and he took particular took pride in having known Clarence Williams, who had organized the Hunter, Smith, and Johnson recording sessions.

Dave also tended to credit Williams with writing this song, but it was actually by a prolific blues songwriter and pianist from Charleston named Tom ClarenceWilliams-1Delaney, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the confusion dated back to Dave’s time hanging out with Williams, who was notorious for making a buck of other people’s material — he credited Delaney on the records he produced, but the fact that he used this song with multiple artists suggests he probably owned the publishing, and maybe a cut of the composer royalties as well. In any case, it’s a nice example of the sort of song Dave loved and that I probably wouldn’t know if he hadn’t done it… though it was way more popular than the country blues songs I favored, and when I started playing on the street with my friend Rob Forbes in the summer of 1977, this was one his mother always requested because she had performed it as a band vocalist in the 1940s.