Morning Blues


Sam McGee, from his Arhoolie album cover.

Like most of us jug band geeks from the 60's I learned this song from a Jim Kweskin album. I should not have been too surprised to learn that it comes from the boundless repertoire of Uncle Dave Macon. I can never resist an Uncle Dave song so I looked up the original version. I was sad to discover that the original had a couple fairly racist lyrics. It's not too surprising. Uncle Dave was born only fifteen years after the civil war (1870) and learned many of his songs from minstrel and medicine shows.

Jim did a good job of picking out the harmless verses and cleaning them up using some of the time honored folk singer techniques like substituting 'rich folks' for 'white folks.'. I picked out a couple more and made one more substitution. I have included a slightly expurgated version of Uncle Dave's full lyrics. It is difficult for me to believe that such a famously kind and genial man harbored any deep racial hatred. But he was, after all, an old southern country gentleman and a man of his time. I'll just continue to clean up his lyrics and believe that Uncle Dave would approve if he were alive today.

Morning Blues (aka Mourning Blues) was one of the few Uncle Dave recordings where he did not play banjo. It features a lovely finger-style guitar arrangement, and though it is not credited, it bears the distinctive stamp of Sam McGee, Uncle Dave's frequent collaborator. Sam's guitar work was profoundly influential in country music and he too often goes uncelebrated.

Lyrics: 

Been in bidness and I been in love.
I used fly high like a turtle dove
Had the blues a many a time
it’s just a woman on a poor man’s mind.

I got the morning blues, oh so bad.
Honey come and kiss me, they're the worst I ever had.

Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.
Won’t you show me a woman that a man can trust
Nickels worth of grease and a dimes worth of lard.
I would buy more but the times is too hard.

I got the morning blues . . .

Ain’t no use in my workin so hard
‘cause I got a woman in the rich folk yard
She brings me chicken and she brings me cake
A big honey biscuit to wipe my plate

I got the morning blues . . .

Woke up this morning with a pain in my head
So I crawled right back in bed
Alone in the morning make you feel so bad
Lonesome blues make you feel so sad

I got the morning blues . . .

There stands a feller right over there
He got blue eyes and he got black hair
Talkin’ to his sweetheart and she looks so neat,
He calls her honey and she calls him sweet.

I got the morning blues . . .

----------- Uncle Dave’s full version (slightly altered) --------------------

Been in bidness and I been in love.
I used fly high like a turtle dove
Had the blues a many a time
it’s just a woman on a poor man’s mind.

Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.
Won’t you show me a woman that a man can trust
Nickels worth of grease and a dimes worth of lard.
I would buy more but the times is too hard.

Ain’t no use in my workin so hard
‘cause I got a woman in the rich folks yard
She brings me meat and she brings me pie.
She brings me some of everthing the rich folk buy.

She brings me chicken and she brings me cake
You just ought to see me lick that plate
A big honey biscuit and a mutton chop
Enough to make my lips go flippity flop

Woke up this morning with a pain in my head
So I crawled right back in bed
Alone in the morning make you feel so bad
Lonesome blues make you feel so sad

There stands a feller right over there
He got blue eyes and he got black hair
Talkin’ to his sweetheart and she looks so neat,
He calls her honey and she calls him sweet.

There stands a feller right over yonder,
He looks just like he wants to ponder.
Look at the hair all around his mouth
Like he swallowed a mule and left the tail a-hangin’ out

Instruments: