country blues | old-time

Just shameful… the site basically dormant since October! We have managed to do a couple of interesting things in the intervening months - visited our friends Nate and Liz in Virginia (Nate Layne is one of my favorite living singers & banjo pickers) and visited the curator of the Secret Museum of Mankind (also one of my favorite living singers, banjo pickers, fiddlers and guitar players). Even got to see my friend Ari play a fantastic gig in Brooklyn this weekend.

Things are just now starting to lighten up at work, which is kinda nice, so maybe Kim and I can get back into a regular playing schedule. In the meantime, I’ve taken advantage of my musical solitude to get back into banjo and to listen in particular to Dock Boggs and Roscoe Holcomb. Roscoe is a topic for another day - Dock is on my mind today.

I started off being fascinated with “False Hearted Lovers’ Blues,” and worked it out, more or less, playing it for anyone who would listen (or act like they were listening). After playing it a while, I couldn’t help but notice that even though it had the same basic melodic contour as Dock’s “Country Blues,” it didn’t have quite the same tight integration between the singing and the banjo playing. I started listening more closely to “Country Blues,” and started to get pretty discouraged… anybody with any sense probably should - it really is a signature piece. The vocal is delivered with pure matter-of-fact-ness… no posturing or over-emoting… and the banjo playing is crisp. Best of all, the way the two interact is a small miracle - Dock has a way of making his vocal phrases longer or shorter and perfectly accompanies his own whims. That was what challenged me the most - getting the whole song to genuinely breathe will take a lot longer than just the week or so I’ve spent on it so far.


Here are the words to the recording Dock made in 1927. One convenient thing about songs like this is that the relationships between verses are not particularly linear, so if you remember them in the wrong order (guilty as charged), it doesn’t matter too much. In the sixth verse, Dock sings a word which sounds to me like “hainted.” Googling it suggests that it’s an Appalachian colloquialism meaning “haunted.” ymmv

Country Blues (Hustling Gamblers) - Dock Boggs

Come all you good time people
While I’ve got money to spend
Tomorrow might be Monday
And I’ll neither have a dollar nor a friend

When I had plenty of money, good people
My friends were all standing around
Just as soon as my pocket book was empty
Not a friend on earth to be found.

Last time I seen my little woman, good people
She had a wine glass in her hand
She was drinking down her troubles
With a low-down sorry man

Oh, my daddy taught me a-plenty, good people
My mama, she taught me more
If I didn’t quit my rowdy ways
Have trouble at my door

I wrote my woman a letter, good people
I told her I’s in jail
She wrote me back an answer
Saying “Honey, I’m a-coming to go your bail”

All around this old jailhouse is [hainted], good people
Forty dollars won’t pay my fine
Corn whiskey has surrounded my body, poor boy
Pretty women is a-troubling my mind

Give me corn bread when I’m hungry, good people
Corn whiskey when I’m dry
Pretty women a-standing around me
Sweet heaven when I die

If I’d a-listened to my mama, good people
I wouldn’t have been here today
But a-drinking and a-shooting and a-gambling
At home I cannot stay

Go dig a hole in the meadow, good people
Go dig a hole in the ground
Come around all you good people
And see this poor rounder go down

When I am dead and buried
My pale face turned to the sun
You can come around and mourn, little woman
And think the way you have done


Lynne Komidar says:

02.04.07 @ 1:39 am

Are u receiving me?

lynettekomidar says:

02.04.07 @ 1:42 am

I see you are. wonderful I have been waiting waiting for you to return. I have this track on History of American Folk History and am awed..

lynettekomidar says:

02.04.07 @ 1:44 am

Sorry, I am so excited I am not making sense…..History of American Folk Music and would love to know more about Dock he is unheard of me anyway..

frankie says:

02.04.07 @ 3:16 am

Hi Lynnete - there’s some information on Dock Boggs on the Smithsonian/Folkways site (at least there used to be). You could also check out as there’s a fair bunch of stuff there - bio, lyrics, discography… There’s another bio and timeline here. I think there’s a link to it from LongTimeComing, but it’s outdated.

I’m glad you liked the song - it’s a challenge for me to get inside a song like this… I might always be scratching the surface!

lynettekomidar says:

02.04.07 @ 8:12 am

thanks for info, have been playing since ‘63 and cut my teeth on Van Ronk.
Wilkins, Lipscombe, Ashley, McTell, Johnson (Willie), Bukka, Son House, Patton amongst my favourites. I am endeavouring to start a folk/rag/blues column here. I have not been able to connect with like minded people here, so I am following your site….love the challenges you set yourself.
Have tabulature for Wilkins, That’s No Way To Get Along and surprised myself when it started to come together. Found McTell’s Just as Well to get Ready (good version-Library of Congress, I had waited 40 years to hear this version.

frankie says:

02.04.07 @ 7:35 pm

Hi Lynne - I just love those 1940 recordings of Blind Willie McTell. I think they were, for a long time, my absolute favorites, but now I’m a little more omnivorous - there’s a lot to like in his earlier commercial recordings, and especially in his duets with Curley Weaver.

There’s been a lot of talk of a Blind Willie McTell boxed set to be released by Larry Cohn. In a perfect world, it’d be as comprehensive as the Revenant Charlie Patton box, but I’m afraid it’s more likely to be limited in scope - a handful of “best” recordings and some written materials… it’d be a dream to see a box set of McTell’s complete recorded output, lovingly and authoritatively re-mastered.

Then, a set devoted to Blind Lemon Jefferson - the king!

If you’re looking for a community of country blues nerds, you might want to check out Weenie Campbell.

Thanks for following the site - I’m pretty much under the radar of most people… fine with me, really. I’ll make it a point to stop by your site.

lynettekomidar says:

02.06.07 @ 4:47 am

Thanks frankie
I do too love Jefferson and Blake and Fuller, Young Broonzy. Silly really, each one was unique and a pleasure to listen to. I’ll give you a break for a while. Gone over to Weenie Campbell. Lots to read..
Don’t visit my site yet I’ll give you a yo when it’s worthy..

dochan says:

11.15.07 @ 1:04 pm

Hi, ive recorded a version of Hustling Gambler(s) on our myspace. Trying to sing like Dock was a bit too much for me, but i thought you might fancy a wee listen.
ley me know what you think, im just learning the banjo at the mo so be kind :)

frankie says:

11.19.07 @ 8:07 pm

Hi Dochan - this is kinda embarrassing, but I’m still on dial-up and I’ve never been able to listen to songs posted on myspace. Myspace isn’t really my thing anyway… If you can point me to an mp3 of the song, I could download it & listen to it.

dochan says:

01.23.08 @ 11:39 am

Hi Frankie, sorry for the late reply. You can download an mp3 from here
Again apologies for the late reply, hope you’re well

dochan says:

01.23.08 @ 11:43 am

Whoops forgot to say, dont play it in the embedded player (bottom right of the page)
If you go to the “our songs” section you will be able to play it at its proper speed

bob heaton says:

07.17.08 @ 4:13 am

Thanks for the lyrics for country blues saved me a job.I,m on a 2 day strike from work so I decieded now is the time to have a bash at playing that banjo I bought last year and never touched.I only recently heard Dock Boggs for the first time on a compelation of hillbilly tunes and I was blown away by that song ,so thats my first song to try,the tuning he uses is a little strange but I’m used to using different tuning from the guitar and Ive found the melody notes and have a little roll thing going,wish me luck.bob

frankie says:

07.18.08 @ 7:45 am

Good luck with the tune, Bob. Banjo is good for the soul!

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