Backwater (Back-Water) Blues (Bessie Smith)

for this titel are also Huddie Ledbetter, Sam Hopkins, Brownie McGhee, Leonard Johnson and James Joseph Kalamasz registered for the copyright [GEMA]

Sources:

David Evans: Bessie Smith's ‘Back-Water Blues’: the story behind the song [Popular Music (2006), 26 : 97-116 Cambridge University Press]

Sheet Music: -

Recordings (year of release):

20's - Kitty Waters

20's - Viola McCoy / Julia Moody

1927 - Lonnie Johnson - May 3, 1927 - St. Louis MO - 80831-B OKeh 8466 - Lonnie Johnson (v,g), John Erby (p)

1927 - Bessie Smith - New York City - Feb. 17, 1927 - 143491-1 Columbia 14195-D - Bessie Smith (v), James P. Johnson (p)

1936 - Albert Ammons (instr.?)

1939 - Ruby Smith - New York City - March 9, 1939 - 24207-1 Vocalion 4903 - Ruby Smith (v), Jimmy Johnson And His Orchestra (Henry Allen (t), J.C. Higginbotham (tb), Gene Sedric (ts), James P. Johnson (p), Al Casey (g), Johnny Williams (sb), Sidney Catlett (d))

40's - Josh White

40's - Jimmy Witherspoon

1944 - Lead Belly - Hollywood CA - Oct. 11, 1944 - 416-3A Capitol 40130 - Lead Belly (v,g), Paul Mason Howard (zither)

1945 - Dinah Washington - on: Ultimate Jazz

1948 - Lead Belly - Nov. 5 or 6, 1948 - New York City - Folkways 242, on: Lead Belly's Last Sessions 2 (released 1962) - Lead Belly (v,g)

1948 - Lonnie Johnson - Aug. 13, 1948 - Cincinnati, OH - King 4251 - Lonnie Johnson (v,g)

1949 - Lead Belly - June 15, 1949 - Austin TX - Playboy 119, on: First Live Leadbelly (released 1973) - Lead Belly (v,g)

50s - Al Fairweather

1951 - Big Bill Broonzy - Dec. 10, 1951 - Chicago IL - 4654 Mercury 20905, on: Remembering Big Bill - Big Bill Broonzy (v,g), prob. Big Crawford (b)

1952 - Big Bill Broonzy - Feb. 23, 1952 - Edinburgh UK - Jasmine 3011, on: On Tour in Britain, 1952: Live' in England & Scotland (released 2002) - Big Bill Broonzy (v,g)

1952 - Big Bill Broonzy - Dec. 3, 1952 - Hove UK - Jasmine 3011, on: On Tour in Britain, 1952: Live' in England & Scotland (released 2002) - Big Bill Broonzy (v,g)

1953 - Big Bill Broonzy - Feb. 28, 1953 - Amsterdam, Netherlands - Munich 275, on: Amsterdam Live Concerts 1953 (released 2006) - Big Bill Broonzy (v,g)

1953 - Lead Belly - New York City (home of Frederic Ramsey) - Nov. 6, 1948 - Folkways - on: Lead Belly's Last Session - Lead Belly (v,g)

1954 - Dinah Washington - Jazz Sides

1956 - Big Bill Broonzy - Smithsonian Folkways, on: Big Bill Broonzy Sings Folk Songs (released 1989)

1956 - Big Bill Broonzy - Chicago IL - Verve 9008, on: Pete Seeger And Big Bill Broonzy In Concert - Big Bill Broonzy (v,g)

1956 - Big Bill Broonzy - Chicago IL - Folkways 2328, on: Big Bill Broonzy Sings Folk Songs (released 1962) - Big Bill Broonzy (v,g)

1957 - Dinah Washington - on: Bessie Smith Songbook

1958 - LaVern Baker - Jan. 27, 1958 - New York City - Atlantic, on: on: LaVern Sings Bessie Smith - LaVern Baker, Buck Clayton, Vic Dickenson, Paul Quinichette, Sahib Shihab, Nat Pierce, Danny Barker, Wendell Marshall, Joe Marshall

1959 - Dave Van Ronk

1958 - Dinah Washington - Chicago IL - Jan. 20, 1958

1959 - Ottilie Patterson with Chris Barber's Jazz Band - in: That Patterson Girl

1960 - Big Bill Broonzy - July 12/13, 1957 - Chicago IL - Verve 3000-5, on: The Big Bill Broonzy Story (Last Session) - Big Bill Broonzy (v,g), Bill Randle (sp)

early 60's - Lightnin' Hopkins

1960 - Lonnie Johnson with Elmer Snowden, Wendel Marshall - on: Blues & Ballads

1961 - Chris Barber - on: Blues Book Vol.1

1963 - Brownie McGhee - on: Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry at the 2nd Fret

1964 - John Henry Barbee - on: Blues Masters Vol.3

1967 - Skip James - March 22-24, 1967 - New York City - Vanguard CD 79715-2, on: Rare and Unreleased (released 1998) - Skip James (v,p)

1968 - Skip James - on: Skip James Live: At Bloomington

1969 - Colosseum - on: Those Who Are About to Die Salute You

1970 - Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry - on: American Folk Blues Festival '70

1972 - Uncle Dave Macon - on: Go Long Mule

1975 - Sunnyland Slim - on: Live in Europe

1975 - Sammy Price - on: The Definitive Black & Blues Sessions

1976 - Vic Dickenson - Plays Bessie Smith: "Trombone Cholly"

1980 - Archie Shepp, Horace Parlan - Feb. 6, 1980 - Steeplechase, on: Trouble in Mind - Archie Shepp (p), Horace Parlan (sax)

1982 - Archie Shepp, Horace Parlan - Westwind, on: Mama Rose in Concert - Archie Shepp (p), Horace Parlan (sax)

1990 - John Jackson - on: Step It Up & Go

1994 - Edgar Hayes - on: Swingtime Record Storys

1994 - Long John Baldry - on: On Stage Tonight: Baldry's Out

1995 - Carol Leigh & the Dumoistier Stompers - on: Carol Leigh & the Dumoistier Stompers

1996 - Cephas & Wiggins - on: Cool Down

1996 - Butch Thompson - on: Lincoln Avenue Blues

1996 - Philip Sayce Group - on: Philip Sayce Group

1997 - Sheila Wilcoxson - on: Backwater Blues

1998 - Schuld & Stamer With Long John Baldry and Chris Nordquist - on: You Got the Bread... We Got the Jam

1999 - Laverne Butler - on: Blues in the City

1999 - Jay McShann - on: Still Jumpin' the Blues

2000 - Memphis Slim - rec. between 1959-73 - on: The Folkway Years

2001 - Sue Keller - on: Wild Woman

2003 - Jo Ann Kelly - on: Black Rat Swing

2003 - Toni Lynn Washington - on: Been So Long

2006 - Esquizito - on: Esquizito Vol.3

2006 - George Melly - on: Ultimate Melly

2006 - Irma Thomas - on: Our New Orleans

2006 - Dr. Bekken - on: Flood Street

2006 - Teri Derr - on: Don't Lose Heart

2007 - Bad Blood Ulmer - on: Bad Blood in the City

2007 - Eddie Pennington - on: Box Pickers

2007 - Inga Rumpf - on: At Rockpalast

2007 - H.P. Lange, Troels Jensen, Hugo Rasmussen & Jarno Varsted - on: Change Sometime

2007 - Rainer - on: The Westwood Sessions Vol. 1

2008 - Bob Hall - on: What Goes Around Comes Around

2008 - Michelle A. Richard - on: Michelle A. Richard

2008 - Ernst Molden - on: Foan - "Wossaproblem"

2009 - Curbside Jimmy - on: Curbside Jimmy 2009

2009 - John Joyce - on: Statesboro Blues

2009 - Mary Flower - on: Bridges

? - Adrian Bentzon - on: Portrait

? - Crazy Chris Cramer & Friends - on: Crazy Chris Cramer & Friends

? - Ed Badeaux - on: American Guitar

? - Herman Smith - on: Money Tree Man

? - Johnny Silvo & Diz Disley - on: Blues in the Backyard

? - Judi Silvano - on: Women's Work

? - Kb's Jungle Band - on: Jungle Jamboree

? - Robert Silverman - on: Blue Silver

TOP

Pearl River backwater in Mississippi

Pearl River backwater in Mississippi 2009 (photo by Charlie Brenner)

Version 1:
When it rains five days and the skies turn dark as night
When it rains five days and the skies turn dark as night
Then trouble's takin' place in the lowlands at night

I woke up this mornin', can't even get out of my door
I woke up this mornin', can't even get out of my door
There's been enough trouble to make a poor girl wonder where she want to go

Then they rowed a little boat about five miles 'cross the pond
Then they rowed a little boat about five miles 'cross the pond
I packed all my clothes, throwed them in and they rowed me along

When it thunders and lightnin' and when the wind begins to blow
When it thunders and lightnin' and the wind begins to blow
There's thousands of people ain't got no place to go

Then I went and stood upon some high old lonesome hill
Then I went and stood upon some high old lonesome hill
Then looked down on the house were I used to live

Backwater blues done call me to pack my things and go
Backwater blues done call me to pack my things and go
'Cause my house fell down and I can't live there no more

Mmm, I can't move no more
Mmm, I can't move no more
There ain't no place for a poor old girl to go.

Version 2:
When it rained five days and the skies turned dark as night
When it rained five days and the skies turned dark as night
There was trouble taking place in the lowlands at night

I woke up this morning, wouldn't even get out of my door
I woke up this morning, wouldn't even get out of my door
Enough trouble to make poor girl wonder where she gonna go

They rowed a little boat, about five miles 'cross the farm
They rowed a little boat, about five miles 'cross the farm
I packed up all my clothing, throwed it in and they rowed me along

It thundered and it lightened and the winds began to blow
It thundered and it lightened and the winds began to blow
There was a thousand women, didn't have no place to go

I went out to the lonesome, high old lonesome hill
I went out to the lonesome, high old lonesome hill
I looked won on the old house, where I used to live

Backwater blues have caused me to pack up my things and go
Backwater blues have caused me to pack up my things and go
'Cause my house fell down and I can't live there no more

Hmm, I can't live there no more
Hmm, I can't live there no more
And there ain't no place for a poor old girl to go