Monday, February 14, 2011

Mama Tain’t Long ‘Fore Day (Revisited)

Happy Monday, folks!  Of course it’s time for some blues again to get your day started right.  I had to think about a blues song that wouldn’t be too “dissonant” with Valentine’s Day, & I settled on “Mama Tain’t Long ‘Fore Day” because Eberle likes my take on it.  What better reason can there be than that?

“Mama Tain’t Long ‘Fore Day” as played by yours truly has appeared on Robert Frost’s Banjo before.  About a year ago, I did a performance video of this song using a cigar box resonator guitar.  I enjoyed the cigar box guitar, & it’s a really well-made & good sounding instrument (made by Big Daddy of Back Porch Mojo), but in the long run I found it limiting—I just couldn’t get used to only having four strings & really couldn’t get the sound I wanted.  My guitar style relies heavily on using the two bass strings for a foundation & I guess I was a bit lost without them.  But have no fear: the cigar box resonator guitar is still with us.  I passed it along to Eberle who is thinking up all sorts of fun & unusual uses for it!

Anyway, my earlier version of the song was in the key of D, but I think E really is a better match for my voice, so I’m playing the Gold Tone resonator guitar tuned to open D but capoed up to E.  At one time, open E was a fairly common tuning, but since it involves taking a few strings above standard pitch I’m leery of it both in terms of potential for string breakage & also strain on the guitar neck.  But then, caution has often been my undoing!

“Mama Tain’t Long ‘Fore Day” is by Blind Willie McTell, a great guitarist from Georgia who made close to 150 recordings between 1927 & 1956—the majority of these were made in the late 20s thru mid 30s.  McTell played a 12-string guitar & was one of the major exponents of what is called “Piedmont picking,” a form of fingerstyle playing that was prevalent along the East Coast.  He played some songs with a slide too, & “Mama Tain’t Long ‘Fore Day” was one of those.  In fact, this song comes from his very first recording session in October 1927.  I believe that McTell played this song in G.

Hope you enjoy my humble version!


  1. Hi John. Happy valentine's Day to you and Eberle. The link to the music isn't showing, and your profile is also unavailable - I often click on your messages to get to your blog. I'll check back later. These things tend to right themselves. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I'm in Montreal for a bit, and will finally get to see the Terracotta Soldiers from China. Very exciting.

  2. Wow. It may have appeared here before, but I never saw it. What a sound you have going there!

  3. Hi Mairi & Caroline

    Mairi: A happy Valentine's Day to you as well! Hope it will be a good day--enjoy the terra cotta soldiers! Hope that the blog loads properly for you next time. It's always my pleasure to comment on your wonderful poems.

    Caroline: Thanks! It posted quite a while back. Today's version is definitely better. Glad you liked it!

  4. Hi John

    I can't find the link either - what am I missing?


  5. Hi Tom: You may need to reload the page--it's a little blue embedded mp3 player at the bottom of the post, but depending on the connection speed, the phase of the moon & other variables, the player doesn't always load. It always does eventually.


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