Ticket Agent Blues (Willie McTell/Carl Martin)

During the months I lived in New York City, briefly attending college as an excuse to take guitar lessons from Dave Van Ronk and spending all my spare money on Yazoo blues reissues, I developed a special taste for Carl Martin’s recordings. They were not spectacularly virtuosic, or deep, or funny, or, indeed spectacular in any way. In retrospect, it was sort of like my earlier passion for Cisco Houston — they were both good musicians, but I can’t explain why they caught my ears in a way other good musicians didn’t; they were each just what I was looking for in particular periods of my life.

Martin didn’t make many recordings as a solo guitarist/singer, and at one point I think I’d worked out versions of all of them. I played “Badly Mistreated Man” and “Farewell to You  Baby” — the latter long enough that I taught it to Les Sampou, who recorded a nice version… though by the time I heard her play it, my reaction was “That’s a good song; where’d you find it?” And I’ve already posted my version of his version of “Crow Jane.” But mostly it was a passing passion–not that I stopped liking his songs when I heard them, but they drifted out of my repertoire.

All of that was before I met Howard Armstrong, who worked with Martin for decades and played a couple of his songs — when Howard had a guitar in his hands (rather than a fiddle or mandolin), he typically played either Martin’s “Good Morning, Judge” or a gorgeous arrangement of “Stardust” that somehow never seems to have been recorded…

All of which is by way of introducing this song, which I picked up from a record by Willie McTell, but sing over a half-assed version of Martin’s guitar part for a song issued in 1935 as “Old Time Blues,” though I’m guessing that title was just slapped on by the record company as a description. It was a generic eight-bar blues, and so was McTell’s “Ticket Agent Blues” — I’m not actually sure how many of the verses I sing are from “Ticket Agent,” aside from the obvious one; I may have combined two or three McTell songs. I do know I left off a verse he used to sing: “Take my advice and let married women be/ Cause her husband will grab you, beat you raggeder’n a cedar tree.”

That’s about it: A generic eight-bar blues, picked up from Carl Martin and Willie McTell; nothing special, but fun to play.

(I also picked up a few of McTell’s guitar arrangements, some reasonably accurately, others in even more half-assed versions [less half-assed? quarter-assed?] than this Martin arrangement, and have previously posted my takes on his “Georgia Rag,” “Statesboro Blues,” “Kill It, Kid,” and “Kind Mama Blues.”)