Monday, January 25, 2010
Lots of folks who were listening to the new (at the time) genre of blues rock in the 1970s know the song “Statesboro Blues” as an Allman Brothers’ song—their original band recording of it on their Live at Fillmore East album is an outstanding piece of music &—whatever such things mean—was named the #9 guitar song of “all-time” by Rolling Stone. My understanding is that their version was based on Taj Mahal’s cover of the song on his 1968 debut album—one thing can’t be argued: Duane Allman was a heckuva slide guitar player & his pairing with Dicky Betts led to some great guitar music.
But the song itself is much older, & in its original form, quite a bit different from the Allman Brothers’ version, even in terms of song structure & lyrics. “Statesboro Blues” is credited to the great Blind Willie McTell, who recorded it in 1928; some of the lyrics may have been borrowed from a 1923 Sippie Wallace tune, "Up the Country Blues," tho of course there’s always a chance with blues that both songs were borrowing lyrics a common pool.
Statesboro is a town in southeast Georgia, almost on a diagonal line from Atlanta (Blind Willie’s main turf) in the northwest, & mostly due south from Thomson, where Willie McTell was born. What was it about the “Statesboro Blues” that’s caused “everybody” to have them? We’ll never know, just as we’ll never know how “Big 80” pulling out of Atlanta relates to this.
But that’s ok—“Statesboro Blues” is a rollicking song, even taken at a tempo slower than the Allmans’ romp (& McTell’s version is slower than mine), & it paints a coherent lyrical picture, however the lyrics may connect.
Hope you enjoy it!