Happy Monday, folks. It’s still Monday morning out here on the Left Coast (just barely) as this posts—so welcome to a much belated edition of the Monday Morning Blues.
We’re here with the next installment in the Poor Boy Blues series—there will be two installments this month, since there are five Mondays in January. & today’s version is one I really love: some wonderful slide playing by a musician known as John Dudley.
We know very little about him. The recording was made in 1959 by Alan Lomax during a visit to the notorious Parchman Farm prison in Mississippi. Dudley was working in the dairy section of the complex—the photo leading off the post shows Dudley in a prison uniform—he’s the man to the right of center. Lomax took two photos of him, & no other photographs exist. All in all, Dudley made the following recordings during the session: “Clarksdale Mill (2 takes)", "You Got a Mean Disposition","Big Road Blues", "Cool Drink of Water Blues (2 takes)", "Poor Boy Blues", "I'm Gonna Move To Kansas City," & an interview about "playing guitar at dances." You can hear an mp3 of his “Clarksdale Mill Blues” on the page I’ve linked for a biography. This song, a loose adaptation of Charlie Patton’s great “Moon Going Down,” is considered by some to be Dudley’s masterpiece.
Dudley came from Tunica County, Mississippi—also the birthplace of Robert Johnson, & one county to the north of Coahoma, where Clarksdale is located. Clarksdale is of course one of the centers of Delta blues music, & it’s notable that four of Dudley’s songs are adaptations—I think the term fits better than “cover,” which implies an attempt to make the song sound as much like the original as possible—& three of those are versions of Delta standards—in addition to “Clarksdale Mill Blues/Moon Goin’ Down,” there are also the two takes on Tommy Johnson songs, “Cool Drink of Water Blues” & “Big Road Blues.” Of course, the latter song has had such a history of adaptation in the Delta that folklorist David Evans wrote a book about it!
This music & two photographs are all we know about John Dudley—but it’s a legacy a man could be proud of, recorded under extremely adverse conditions. Hope you enjoy it.