Monday, November 2, 2009
The M&O Blues
Hey, how’s about a little Monday morning blues? In the video below it’s yours truly singing Willie Brown’s “M&O Blues” (lyrics slightly emended by me).
As I mention in the video, Willie Brown was a highly-regarded Mississippi delta blues guitarist & singer, who performed at least from the 1920s until 1952. He was usually played “second guitar,” & as such he accompanied such notables as Son House, Charlie Patton & Robert Johnson, who mentioned him by name in his famous song “Cross Road Blues.” Brown did record at least a couple of songs in which he performed solo; these were “M&O Blues” & “Future Blues,” both recorded at the famous 1930 Grafton, WI session also involving Charlie Patton, Son House & Louise Johnson. It’s also pretty certain that a 1941 Alan Lomax field recording of a Willie Brown playing & singing “Make Me a Pallet for Your Floor” is the same man. There are also a couple of other recordings that may or may not be Brown singing under a pseudonym, which was a common practice: Willie McTell, for instance, recorded under at least eight separate names!
Tho not crucial to an understanding of the song, the M&O was the Mobile & Ohio line, which ran from Mobile, Alabama to St. Louis (with a later branch down into Florida). Interestingly, by the time Willie Brown recorded this song, the line was in serious economic hardship, with a $1,000,000,000 deficit on the books. After going into receivership in 1932, the line eventually merged with the Gulf, Mobile & Northern Railroad, & the new entity became the Gulf, Northern & Ohio Railroad.
Hope you enjoy this small snippet of blues (& railroad) history, & that you enjoy the song.