Sunday, November 9, 2008

People Take Warning! pt.3: Man V Man (And Woman, Too)

It´s time to scream some bloody murder... In this third and final post about the amazing People Take Warning! box set (see below for the others) we´re going to take a closer look at disc 3, which is called ´Man V Man (And Woman, Too)´. The best of them all in my not so humble opinion, featuring lots of amazing murder ballads from that golden age 1913-1938. Take warning, y´all!

From the liner notes: "...performers of these songs early on learned that to stimulate sales of broadsides (one page song sheets hawked at the conclusion of a performance), natural calamities did well, murder ballads did better, and murder ballads written in the first person (with their voyeuristic ´you-are-there´ feel) did best of all. And if the murders could be related to the elimination of an unwanted pregnant lover - as so many seemed to be - so much the better". 

"Railroad Bill, ought to be killed, never worked and he never will, now I´m gonna ride, my Railroad Bill..."
Morris ´Railroad Bill´ Slater (that´s him pictured above, on the ´cooling board´) actually used to work in the terpentine plantations of Southern Alabama, but later took to robbing trains. He was gunned down in March 1897 by a railroad detective while eating crackers and cheese on the porch of a general store in Atmore, Alabama. The whites demonized him as a ´notorious negro desperado´, while the blacks saw him as a kind of black Robin Hood.
"Got a thirty-eight special on a forty-four frame, how in the world can I miss him when I´ve got dead aim, now I´m gonna ride, my Railroad Bill..."
That thirty-eight special type of gun Will Bennett´s powerful song (from 1929) mentions was actually introduced years after Railroad Bill got killed, but what the hell.

"Frankie went out a-walkin´, she did not go for fun...
For under her apron she had concealed a forty-four gatling gun...
Gonna murder the man... that done me wrong."
A great version of this oft-performed song by the splendidly named Dykes Magic City Trio. Here the tune´s called Frankie, but over the years it also became known as Frankie And Johnny or Frankie And Albert. It´s not known if this classic story of a jealous shooting was based on a true event, but with a song this good, who cares.

Frank Dupree had a girlfriend named Betty, and she wanted him to show her how much he loved her by giving her a diamond. Since he had no funds, he proceeded to steal one from an Atlanta jewelry store in 1921. Dupree fled to Memphis and later to Chicago, but the windy city brought him no luck whatshowever. Cornered there, he killed a detective named Walker (no relation to the singer of this song I presume) and wounded several other policemen. Caught sometime later while getting his mail, Dupree was sent to Atlanta for trial and executed for murder on September 1, 1922. "See here, mama, what you caused me to do?" Great song, great vocals, great guitar playing, and that second vocal - by an unknown accompanist - really is the cream on the cake.

Will Bennett - Railroad Bill MP3
Dykes Magic City Trio - Frankie MP3
Willie Walker - Dupree Blues MP3


jonder said...

What an interesting coincidence: the blog Locust St recently featured songs about "The Bully of the Town" (e.g., Railroad Bill), and Moistworks just posted the song "How Can I Miss You When I've Got Dead Aim".

Ramone666 said...

Cool. Looks like we´ve got a Railroad Bill revival on our hands.

Maxim said...

Thanks for this - the box set might make an excellent Xmas present for myself!

Ramone666 said...

Ho Ho Ho Maxim! I guarantee you: money well spent.