Minglewood Blues

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  • New Minglewood Blues [Streaming mp3]
    May 15, 1970 - Fillmore East, NYC - Scream it a little, would 'ya Bob?

The history of Minglewood Blues is long and complex. The original Minglewood Blues, written by Noah Lewis, was recorded on January 30, 1928 in Memphis, Tennesse by Cannons Jug Stompers. Members of the band were:

  • Gus Cannon - Banjo/Jug
  • Ashley Thomson - Guitar/Vocal
  • Noah Lewis - Harmonica

This version is available on the CD "Cannon's Jug Stompers - The Complete Works 1927-1930", Yazoo 1082/3. This recording also contains Viola Lee Blues and Big Railroad Blues, also written by Noah Lewis. (It should be noted that, despite it's title, the CD version does not contain both takes of Viola Lee Blues, the LP version does.)

The only resemblance between Noah's Minglewood Blues, and the Dead's New New Minglewood Blues, and All New Minglewood Blues, is the title; the songs have no lyrics in common.

Minglewood Blues by Noah Lewis
 

Don't you never let one woman rule your mind
Don't you never let one woman rule your mind
Said she keep you worried, troubled all the time

Don't you think your fairer was li'l and cute like mine
Don't you wish your fairer was li'l and cute like mine
She's a mar- She's a married woman,
But she comes to see me all the time

Don't you never let one woman rule your mind
Don't you never let one woman rule your mind
Said she keep you worried, troubled all the time

Well I got a letter mama and you ought to hear it read
Well I got a letter Lord and you ought to hear it read
If you comin' back baby now be on your way

Cannon's Jug Stompers; The Complete Works 1927 - 1930New Minglewood Blues was recorded by the Noah Lewis Jug Band on November 26, 1930 in Memphis. This recording includes Noah on harmonica, John Estes on guitar, Yank Rachel on mandolin and an unknown jug player. This version is very similar to New New Minglewood Blues as played/recorded by the Dead.

New Minglewood Blues by Noah Lewis

I was born in the desert, raised in a lion's den
I was born in the desert, raised in a lion's den
My number one occupation, stealin' women from their monkey men

If you're ever in Memphis, better stop by Minglewood
If you're ever in Memphis, better stop by Minglewood
The women down there, they don't mean a man no good

I was born in the desert, raised in a lion's den
I was born in the desert, raised in a lion's den
My number one occupation, stealin' women from their monkey men

The first version of the song that the Dead recorded was New New Minglewood Blues. The title suggests that the Dead were aware of both Minglewood Blues and New Minglewood Blues and that New New Minglewood Blues was intended to be the next song in the sequence. New New Minglewood Blues appears to be a collection of lyrics from other traditional blues tunes.

New New Minglewood Blues (As recorded on the Dead's first album)

I was born in the desert, raised in a lion's den
I was born in the desert, raised in a lion's den
My number one occupation, stealin' women from their men

If you're ever in Memphis, better stop by Minglewood
If you're ever in Memphis, better stop by Minglewood
Oh now, take a walk downtown there, all the women sure look good

Well, if you can't believe me, gona make it hard to believe in you
I said, if you can't believe me, gona make it hard to believe in you
Cause we all need each other, well oh you know it's true

I was born in the desert, raised in a lion's den
I was born in the desert, raised in a lion's den
My number one occupation, stealin' women from their men

Now, note the similar verses from the following songs.

Water Bound Blues by Texas Alexander (recorded 6-15-29)

I was raised in the desert, born in a lion's den
I was raised in the desert, born in a lion's den
Says, my chief occupation takin' monkey men's women

It Won't Be Long by Charley Patton (recorded 6-14-29)

If you ever go down Memphis, stop by Menglewood
If you ever go down Memphis, stop by Menglewood
You Memphis women don't mean no man no good

Live versions of New New Minglewood Blues often omitted the last verse ("If you don't believe me...")

The Dead stopped playing New New Minglewood Blues in 1971. Then in 1976, after they returned from their self imposed touring break, they began playing All New Minglewood Blues, which they recorded in 1978 for Shakedown Street. Only the first verse remained from New New Minglewood Blues, the rest of the song being completely overhauled.

All New Minglewood Blues (As recorded by the Dead on Shakedown Street)

I was born in the desert, raised in a lion's den
I was born in the desert, raised in a lion's den
My number one occupation, stealin' women from their men

Well, I'm a wanted man in Texas, busted jail and I gone for good
Well, I'm a wanted man in Texas, busted jail and I gone for good
Well the sheriff couldn't catch me,
but his little girl sure wished she could

Now the doctor called me crazy, some says I am some says I ain't
Now the doctor called me crazy, some says I am some says I ain't
Yes and the preacher man call me sinner,
but his little girl call me a saint

Well, a couple shots of whiskey,
women round here start looking good
Well, a couple shots of whiskey,
women round here start looking good
A couple more shots of whiskey, I'm going down to Minglewood

I was born in the desert, raised in a lion's den
I was born in the desert, raised in a lion's den
My number one occupation, stealin' women from their men

And I'll do it, do it again
my number one occupation, stealin' women from their men

In live versions the "Couple shots of whiskey" verse is sung with the following changes.

Well, a couple shots of whiskey,
women round here start looking good
Well, a couple shots of whiskey,
these {insert location {girls|fillies}} start looking good
A couple more shots of whiskey, I'm going down to Minglewood

and this verse is added.....

Well it's T for Texas, Yes and It's T for Timbuckto
Well it's T for Texas, Yes and It's T for Timbuckto
Yea, and it's T right here in {insert place},
where the little girls know what to do

This verse too appears in a different form in traditional blues songs including this early country version.

Blue Yodel #1 (T for Texas) by Jimmy Rodgers

It's T for Texas, and It's T for Tennessee
It's T for Texas, and It's T for Tennessee
It's T for Thelma, the girl that made a wreck of me

The other verses maintain the traditional AAB blues lyric structure and could very well be lifted from traditional blues songs, though I have not found any hard evidence to support this. It is also entirely possible that these verses are of recient vintage and were crafted to fit with the general style of the song.