Monday, January 25, 2010

“Statesboro Blues”

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!


  1. My foot's tappin' over here at the manor! Thanks for a lovely start to my week, Jack.

  2. Hi Willow: Thanks! Glad you liked it, & hope you have a great day.

  3. That is my old college town!!! As Willow says it's a great foot-tapping tune!

    I've left an award for you at my blog.

  4. Hi Lizzy: Thanks! I never made it to Statesboro--most of my travels in Georgia were near the coast. Thanks, too, for the award--much appreciated!

  5. Talk about the soundtrack to my life, circa high school!

    "OK, the Allman Brothers Band!"
    "Woke up this mornin', had those Statesboro blues."

    I'm listening to it now, thanks to you.

    I took the Facebook quiz Which Classic Guitarist Are You? and discovered that I was Duane Allman.

  6. Hi K: That was a high school/early college years song for me, big time! You could do a whole lot worse guitar-playing wise than Duane Allman!

  7. Good to hear 'Statesboro Blues' closer to source again. I used to play bass to it in the low wattage trio we used to take around the folk clubs between full electric blues band gigs.

  8. Hi Dick: Thanks! It is a fun song to play, & yes, the Allman's version bears a very tangential relationship to Blind Willie's original.


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