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The Red Man and The Blues
by Max Haymes
(converted to web format from the original typescript by Alan White)

Chapter IV  - The Red Man And The Blues

As already stated, the eastern territory in Oklahoma, the 'Indian Nation', was admitted to the United States in 1907, along with Oklahoma Territory. But because of lack of law and order and relative freedom from white oppression, which attracted working-class blacks, Blues singers up to thirty-five years later still referred to the "Territo" or "Nation"; as noted at the end of the last chapter. Some early Blues recordings which include one or both references are detailed below:

Table 2
Title Singer Date Recorded Artist's Original Location
Bamalong Blues" A. & J. Baxter 9/8/27. Northern Georgia.
"Mooch Richardson's Lowdown Barrel House Blues-Part 1." 'Hooch' Richardson 13/2/28. Arkansas?
"Touch Me Light Mama." Unknown c.-/5/28. Alabama?
"Down The Dirt Road Blues." Charlie Patton 14/6/29. Northern Miss.
"I'm Still Sittin' On Top Of The World." Sam Collins 8/10/31. Southwest Miss.?
"Lonesome Day Blues." Jesse James 3/6/36. Texas?
"The County Farm Blues." Bo Carter 12/2/40. Central Miss.
"I'm A Guitar King." Tommy McClennan 15/9/41. Northern Miss.

This list of Blues recordings, by no means an exhaustive one, eludes Andrew Baxter who was "...an an old time fiddler along with his other accomplishments."(1). He accompanies his son, guitarist Jim Baxter, who includes these lines:

"Bin to the Nation, an' I jus' got back,
Bin to the Nation, an' I jus' got back.

Didn't git no money but I brought the sack."

The guitar player employing some sarcasm in the third line, which would not be lost on his black listeners. The 'sack' referred to was a Nation sack used to store any money which the Blues singer, or his lover, could hustle, cheat or otherwise cajole, 'from those in employment around him, in order to survive. Erstwhile leader of the great Memphis Jug Band (1927-34), Will Shade, recalled to Paul Oliver how the women (c.1900) used to follow the famous steamboat, the 'Katy Adams' as she plied her trade between Memphis and the Delta town of Rosedale in Mississippi. They made so much money from the roustabouts on the boat, who made "...a hundred and fifty dollars a trip totin' all that cotton..."(3), that the women "...they used to wear 'Nation' sacks in them days - and they used to wear their money twixt their legs, hung on (sic) a sack tied round their waists."(4). This custom seemed to continue into the mid-1930's when youthful, Delta Blues man, Robert Johnson sang:

"Aaah! she's gone, I know she won't come back,
I taken her last nickel out of her Nation sack."

probably advertising one of the reasons why his woman left him, having got tired of Johnson draining her financial resources.

Blues singers regarded the Nation as some sort of haven, safe from white interference. So Sam Collins, an older singer with a similar pitch and timbre to the young Jim Baxter, would have no doubt where he was headed in 1931:

"Went to the Nation, new Territo',
Gonna catch me the first train, I got to go."

Intriguingly, Collins reference to the "new Territo'" would have been more topical at the end of the Civil War, when the Five Civilized Tribes had to relinquish the western part of their Nation. (see Ch. III). Other singers saw Oklahoma as their home and base. Bo Carter announces that on the termination of his jail sentence of ninety days:

"But I'm gonna roll up my ninety, pay my finean' get gone, sweet baby;
I'm gonna roll up my ninety, oooh! I'll pay my fine
an' get gone.
I'm gon' wander back in the Nation, oooh! gon' make
the Territo' my home." (7).

Some eighteen months later, another Delta Bluesman, the harsh-voiced Tommy McClennan, would brag:

"I'm a guitar king, sing the blues everywhere I go, Spoken: Lord, have mercy now!
I'm a guitar king, sing the blues everywhere I go. I'm gon' sing these blues 'til I get back to Indian
Territo'." (8).

This attitude of the Blues singers, that the Nation was at worst a source of possible monetary gain and at best a home and a place to stay, was reflected back in slavery times. As Blassingame says "Many of the themes and motifs later incorporated into the blues appeared in the tunes slaves sang at cakewalks, dances, and parties."(9). Epstein noted a secular song called "Roaring River A Refrain Of The Red River Plantation":

"Harper's creek and roarin' ribber,
Thar, my dear, we'll live forebber;

Den we'll go to de Ingin nation,
All I want in dis creation,
Is a pretty little wife and big plantation."

She says in a footnote, that this is a "Fiddle tune (?) described as being sung accompanied by patting."(11). The author's source is an ex-slave and a fiddler, Solomon Northup who wrote his "Twelve Years A Slave" in 1853. 'Patting' refers to the common slave practice of "patting juba". This entailed setting up a rhythm, in the absence of drums, by slapping parts of the body (knee, thigh, hip, etc.) with the flat of the hand with unerring accuracy. Blassingame seemed to be a little dismissive of the lines of "Roaring River" when he says tunes like 'River' were "...often noted more for their rhythmic qualities than for their lyrics."(12). It is fairly obvious that Harper's Creek is in Oklahoma, the Red River runs through the southern part of that state, and the singer is merely reinforcing his desire to escape slavery and settle down to what he regards as a 'normal' life, when he says he wants to go "to de Ingin Nation."

Meanwhile, back in the twentieth century, a singer who was "Thought to be from Arkansas" (13(, with a fine, archaic guitar style and 'trailing' vocal, sought refuge in the Nation after a broken relationship:

"When I went to the Nation, Lord, I thought I'd fall down an' die,
When I went to the Nation, I thought I'd fall down an' die.

Thinkin' about the girl I love ... "

Arkansas origins might well be correct, as the singer makes references, in Part 2 of the above Blues, to Cherry Street which is in Helena, Ark., and to Helena itself.

But some singers described a scenario that was so bad that not even the refuge of the Nation could put things right. In a rough, growling voice, Charlie Patton expresses his anger and frustration:

"I feel like choppin', chips flyin' everywhere,
I feel like choppin', chips flyin' everywhere.
I've bin to the Nation, Lord, but I couldn't stay there."

A tough-voiced, two-fisted pianist and a long-term convict to boot, presumably from Texas, known only as "Jesse James" was a bit more explicit:

"I've bin to the Nation 'round the Territo',
Spoken:       You hear me talkin' to yuh, you gotta reap what you sow.
I bin all through the Nation, around the Territo'.
But I found no heaven on earth, Lord, nowhere I go."

Another factor which would draw working-class blacks to the Nation, was that up until the middle of the 1920's, cotton "...ranked above wheat as Oklahoma's cash crop. It was grown throughout the southern half of the state, but the southwest was the real cotton section."(17). In the autumn, during the picking season, "...the towns were filled with happy Negroes rich with picking wages."(18). On "Sat'day nights" the Blues singers would entertain in the barrelhouses, on the street corners and at "Saturday Nite Functions"; relieving the workers of some of those 'picking wages'! The placement of Oklahoma's cotton crop would seem to lend support to Calt and co. when they stated that "The "Nation" was the Choctaw Nation or Chickasaw Nation, divisions of Indian Territory in the southern part of what became Oklahoma in 1907,"(19). But a reference by an unidentified singer, from Birmingham, Ala.?, in 1928 would seem to broaden the geographical area in question:

"Uuuuuh! went to the Nation, an' back to the East Territo',
Couldn't find my good girl, honey, nowhere I go."

Debo concurs when she points out that "...from 1890 .... The name "Indian Territory" was now confined to the eastern half of the present state."(21). So the unknown singer is making the quite common 'double-reference' (i.e. repeating the meaning of a phrase but using different words) favoured by the Blues singer, when he sings about the "Eastern Territo'".

Staying with George 'Bullet' Williams, the 'manic' harmonica player, for a moment, it seems that corn bread is not the only thing passed on to blacks from the Indians. (see Ch. II). A minority of the native Americans, in Oklahoma, had "...strange consumption habits..."(22). "The most curious liquid consumed was prepared by pouring water on canned heat and straining it through a rag, a practice which some claimed reduced several "strong men" to "skin and bones", and rendered others "crazy as a bat". Likewise, a man feeling its effects was once judged insane, although he was later released. Other unusual and notorious Indian beverages included rubbing alcohol and vanilla extract."(23). Although Quinten might be a trifle confused as to what 'canned heat' actually was. Normally, the residue liquid found in the top of tins of furniture polish was strained into a bowl of hot water, sugar and other ingredients were added, and this constituted the lethal-sounding 'canned heat'. Celebrated Mississippi singer, Tommy Johnson, confessed his own addiction on his 1928 recording of "Canned Heat Blues", from whence a famous, latter-day, white American group took their name. Compare Wardlow's report on George 'Bullet' Williams with the Indians' "strange consumption habits". He "Drank rubbing alcohol and shoe polish an, is presumed to have gone to an early grave, or insane, or both."(24). Some three years later, Charters relates "...he (Williams) drank heavily, usually straining the cooking fuel "Stereo" through pieces of cloth for its alcoholic content"(25). To date (1990) nothing whatsoever has been turned up on Williams, so I presume Wardlow was right!

Another item bequeathed by the Indians to the world of the Blues, shows up when Catlin, on his extensive journey among the native Americans, during the summer of 1832, reports on the phenomena of 'medicine' and 'medicine bags'. He says "The Indians do not use the word medicine, however; but in each tribe they have a word of their own construction, synonymous with mystery or mystery-man. The "medicine-bag" then, is a mystery-bag; and its meaning and importance necessary to be understood, as it may be said to be the key to Indian life and Indian character."(26). Catlin continues "These bags are constructed of the skins of animals, of birds, or of reptiles, and ornamented and preserved in a thousand different ways, as suits the taste or freak of the person who constructs them." (27). The medicine-bag is priceless and to sell, give or lose it would bring permanent disgrace in the Indian's tribe, "for he considers it the gift of the Great Spirit."(28).

Delta Blues man, Jaydee (or J.D.) Short who hailed from Port Gibson, Miss. bragged about his powers as the 'Snake Doctor':

"I'm a Snake Doctor, man, got my medicine right there in my bag,
I'm a Snake Doctor, man, got my medicine right there in
my bag.
I mean to be a real Snake Doctor, man, you know I don't
mean to be no fag." (29).

The medicine men, we are told, "are regularly called and paid as physicians, to prescribe for the sick;"(30). They acquire great skills and reputations throughout their tribes. "Their first prescriptions are roots and herbs, of which they have a great variety of species; and when these have all failed, their last resort is to "medicine" or mystery"(31). Jaydee sings:

"Now Lord, I know many of you mens wonderin' what the Snake Doctor got in hand,
Now, I know many of you mens are wonderin' what the Snake
Doctor man got in his hands.
He got roots and herbs (to) treat a woman, man, every­
here he lands."(32).

This corroborates Sheila Ferguson's statement, already noted. (see Ch. I, p5).

All the foregoing would seem to indicate that only ex-jailbirds, alcoholics, and drifters, among the black population, used Oklahoma as a base. But in her 1924 recording of "Pinchbacks Take 'Em Away", Bessie Smith makes what could be the earliest reference, on a Blues record, to Oklahoma. In which she appears to support the 'hard-working, respectable' picture that Booker T. Washington painted in 1908. (see Ch. III). 'Pinchbacks' is another term for "sweet man", which Major defines as a "black male lover".(33). But as Ms. Smith reports that the sweet man doesn't do any work, she advises her 'sisters':

"Get a working man, when you marry,
An' let all these sweet men be.
For? it takes money to run a business,
And with-a me I know you girls will agree."

It might take you longer to find some sort of financial security by marrying one of the "craftsmen of all kinds" in Washington's words, but it was far more preferable than taking a chance with one of the "drifting population"! Or as Bessie acknowledges:

"That it's a long way to Oklahoma,
But these little pinchbacks, take 'em away."

At least three of the singers listed in Table 2, are of Indian extract including "The half Cherokee Andrew Baxter..."(36). Two of the others, Jesse James and Tommy McClennan, recorded their blues in 1936 and 1941 respectively, some three decades after the Nation's transformation to statehood. Oliver put it down to the fact in the former's case, as a long-term prisoner, that he had been "...so long severed from the outside world that Oklahoma was to him still the "Territory" of the Indian nations;"(37). But that does not explain how the essentially 'free' McClennan came to refer to the "Indian Territo'" some five years after the James recording. I would suggest that the old Indian Territory held some personal importance to both these singers. Maybe both of them could claim Indian descent. It was certainly claimed for Sam Chatmon, by another Bluesman, David 'Honeyboy' Edwards. "Sam's grandmother "Creasie" Hammond was herself "half-Indian and half-white," he reported."(38).  Chatmon being a guitar-picking member of the popular black string band, the Mississippi Sheiks, who recorded extensively in the early 1930's. At least one of Sam's brothers, Bo Carter, who left the Sheiks early on to pursue a solo career, is recollected as "A racial hybrid of Indian, white and black descent,"(39). Although no tribe is singled out in these cases, it is highly likely that above links are traceable to the Choctaws who occupied central and southern Mississippi (see Table 1). Allowing for the fact that "Most of the existing reservations are west of the Mississippi. There are still a few in the East, such as the Cherokee in North Carolina, Seminole in Florida and Choctaw in Mississippi."(40). Singer, Sheila Ferguson (although not particularly a Blues singer), claims a Shawnee great-great grandmother (see Ch. II), and another, named Sally Ferguson, a Choctaw...".(41).

But some doubt as to how common the link between Indians and Blues singers, is cast by Calt and Wardlow. Whilst talking about the parents of the greatest of the Delta Blues singers, Charlie Patton, they postulate "If either parent was of Indian descent, theirs was a distinction shared by less than two recent of Mississippi's "colored population" (a census category that then included Indians) of 1880."(42).

The authors would seem to be minimising Indian strains in Blues singers in particular and American blacks in general. But is this a true representation of the facts? "From 1840 to 1940, blacks outnumbered whites,"(43), in Patton's home state. Since the population of Mississippi, in 1880, was "1,551,270"(44), this indicates a black community of over half-a-million people. So two percent would account for over 10,000 persons and "less than two percent" could refer to 9,900! But leaving the actual statistics to one side, for a moment, the efficiency of any census taken in such a large rural area as the state of Mississippi, which could only boast of one town of any size even in the 1920's, could only be a very hit and miss affair at best. It would not take into account for example, any people who did not want their presence known to the census takers! People on the run from the law, for whatever reason, those operating phenomena of the 'black economy' (no pun intended!) like the illicit distillers of moonshine (canned heat, etc.) or bootleg whiskey. People in areas too remote and difficult to reach within the allotted time of the census takers. Very common in those days when the 'dirt road' was king. In addition to these factors, we must take into consideration, the fact that often black working-class families had no clear idea of their own date of birth, and black children (at that time) would often have no knowledge of father and/or mother. This reflects back to the lowly status of the slave, especially the field-slave, and the many enforced break-ups of their immediate family by their white oppressors, for the purpose of sale or punishment.

Quite obviously, Calt and Wardlow's statement, whilst not a false one, does not reveal the whole truth. As Foster said in 1935 "From early times there has been a general mixture among slaves, white persons, and Indians."(45). He adds "The fact is, the disappearance of the identity of a very large number of Indian tribes is due to absorption by the Negro."(46). So Charlie Patton's parents' 'distinction' was more common than Calt and co. would have us believe.

Two younger Delta singers, David 'Honeyboy' Edwards and Son House (born in 1915 and 1902 respectively), both of whom played with or were influenced by Patton (1891-1934), thought he was part Indian. An intimation as to which tribe the 'immortal' Charlie Patton was mixed with, could be drawn from the following piece of 'detective' work. Sometime, not long after Patton was born, the Five Civilized Tribes finally accepted the Dawes Severalty Act or General Allotment Act of 1887. The allotments varied in size and those distributed to the Creeks, Seminoles and Cherokees averaged out at 130 acres which were shared equally with their black freedmen. But the portions of the other two tribes were 320 acres each, and the freedmen "...among the Chickasaws and Choctaws received 40-acre allotments."(47). On 14th. June, 1929, Charlie Patton cut his first recording for Paramount at their studios, in Richmond, Indiana. His first song was about extolling the apparent invincibility of the cotton crop's nemesis, the boll weevil, an insect about a quarter of an inch long:

"Bo Weavil left Texas, Lord he bid me "fare you well", Lordy.
Spoken:     Where you goin' now?

I'm goin' down in Mississippi, gonna give Louisiana hell,
Bo Weavil said to farmer:" Ain't got ticket fare", Lordy.

Spoken: How is that, boy?

Suck all the blossom an' leave your hedges square, Lordy.
The next time I seed you, you had your family there, Lordy.
Bo Weavil met his wife:" We sit down on the hill," Lordy.
Bo Weavil told his wife: "Let's take this 'forty' here," Lordy."

If Patton had any Indian blood, it would be more logical to assume that of Chickasaw or Choctaw. Both tribes, initially occupying the state of Mississippi, from whence he came.

In a different era, after World War II, one of the pioneer Rhythm and Blues (R’n B) singers, Roy Brown, was interviewed in 1975. By his own words he was born in Louisiana in 1925 and his mother "...was of Algonquin Indian and Negro extract."(49). Of the many tribes that make up this linguistic group, geographically, the Shawnee of Ohio seem to be the most likely tribe connected with Roy Brown.

Another post-war figure with Indian blood is Lowell Fulson. Oliver tells us that he was "Born on an Indian reservation" and that he "...is proud of his part Indian ancestry."(50). Oliver continues: "His inclination to fat and his other physical attributes puts one in mind of the Plains Indians whose bulky frames looked graceless when they were on foot but who came into their own when astride a mustang."(51). But as Fulson was "born in Oklahoma in 1921 in the vicinity of Tulsa"(52), it is unlikely he was of Plains Indians extract, but rather of one of the southeastern tribes. Creek being the obvious one, as Tulsa is a Creek town situated in northern Oklahoma. Oliver was also mistaken about relating his listed 'attributes' to Plains Indians. He is probably confused with the Apache who were one of the southwestern tribes. As one observer has noted of Plains Indians, when they walked single file across the desert, their grace and precision of gait in unison, would put any military unit to shame.

But the most numerous links with Blues singers, are those claimed with the Cherokees.

Table 3

Blues Singer State of Origin Tribe
Champion Jack Dupree Louisiana Cherokee
Scrapper Blackwell North Carolina Cherokee
Andrew Baxter Georgia Cherokee
Jim Baxter Georgia Cherokee
Sam Chatmon Mississippi Choctaw?
Robert Wilkins Mississippi Cherokee
Lowell Fulson Oklahoma Creek
Roy Brown Louisiana Shawnee?
Charlie Patton Mississippi Chickasaw or Choctaw?
Bo Carter Mississippi Choctaw?
Poor/Big Joe Williams Mississippi Cherokee
Leadbelly Louisiana Cherokee
Louisiana Red Mississippi Cherokee/Apache
Earlene Lewis Oklahoma Cherokee

Nearly two-thirds of the singers listed (again, the list is not exhaustive), have in fact blood-ties with this once large and powerful tribe. For example, it is reported of pianist Champion Jack Dupree, that "As Jack's mother had been a full­blooded Cherokee, he was permitted to bead himself, and belong to a Cherokee gang."(53). Then there is Memphis-based guitarist, Robert Wilkins, who was born in Hernando, Miss. of whom Spottswood says: "His ancestry was Negro on his father's side, white and Cherokee Indian on his mother's."(54). Cherokee ancestry is also attributed to Scrapper Blackwell, erstwhile partner of Leroy Carr, who was "...of Cherokee descent."(55). Slaven reporting on the origins of Mississippi's Big Joe Williams (who often referred to himself as "Poor Joe") says: "He was part-Cherokee, and his father John Williams was known locally as "Red Bone" (56). The famous folk and Blues singer, Leadbelly (Huddie Ledbetter) was "born on January 29, 1885 on Jeter Plantation near Mooringsport, Louisiana, the only child of farmer Wesley and part-Cherokee Indian Sally Ledbetter."(57). One of the multi-racial group, "Saffire", which became a professional Blues trio in 1988, "...has has Cherokee blood on both sides of the family,"(58). This is one Earlene Lewis, who in an unusual combination, plays bass and sings with the group. During an introduction to one of his songs, a Blues about going to the reservation, Mississippi-born Louisiana Red stated "I'm part Indian you know." In response to my question "which tribe?" he replied that he was "part-Cherokee, part-Apache and part-Irish!" (59). Furthermore, he said this was no idle boast, as he had actually done some research on the subject.

Champion Jack Dupree, Lowell Fulson, and Louisiana Red, 'obviously wished to identify with their Indian connections, Cherokee or otherwise. Yet history would more than suggest that the opposite should have been the case! Yet nevertheless, by references to Indian Territory, etc, (see Table 1), the Blues singer was obviously feeling a need to identify with the native Americans. There are other references in the Blues pointing to a Red Indian link, which seem to support this.

Table 4

Blues Singer Date Recorded Singer's Origins
"Memphis Boy Blues." Memphis Jug Band 9/6/27 Memphis,Tenn
"Big Chief Blues" Furry Lewis 9/10/27 Greenwood,Miss
"I'm Going Home On The Chicasaw Train"(sic). I.C.Glee Club 18/3/29 Georgia?
"Long Distance Moan." Blind Lemon Jefferson 24/9/29 Couchman,Texas
"Indian Squaw Blues." Freezone 6/6/29 Unknown
"Chickasaw Special." Noah Lewis 2/10/29 Ripley/Henning,Tenn
"Riding On The Seminol".(sic). I.C.Glee Club. 23/10/30 Georgia?
"Chickasaw Train Blues." Memphis Minnie 24/8/34 Walls,Miss.
"The Seminole Blues." George Noble 11/2/35

Southeastern states

"Seminole Blues." Tampa Red 11/10/37 Smithville,Ga.
"Big Chief Rain In The Face." Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson -/-/54 Houston,Tex

One of these examples is instrumental, unusual in the Blues which is primarily a vocal music. I refer to Tampa Red's guitar solo, "Seminole Blues" which refers to a train "...which ran on the Illinois Central Line which serves Chicago." (60). The I.C. ran down through Memphis, the state of Mississippi and also served New Orleans at the other end of the line. This train was also celebrated by pianist George Noble, who may have been from one of the south-eastern states; likewise a group who called themselves the I.C. Glee Club on their 1930 Blues "Riding On The Seminol". There was also an unrecorded singer, who made a lasting impression on famous Blues pianist Speckled Red, known as "Seminole" and Oliver thinks it is probable he was "...from Florida and used the Indian name."(61).

Trains and railroads figure prominently in Blues lore. Not only as a very real symbol of escape from an oppressive southern environment, but also as inspiration for some striking imagery in the lyrics and for some of the driving rhythms, first on the guitar and later the piano and harmonica. It was from the pounding sounds of the trains that boogie-woogie sprang. Initially surfacing on record in 1929, via celebrated piano man Pine Top Smith. The cry of the fireman's 'quills' and the sonorous sounds of the locomotive whistle inspired harmonica players all over the southern states. Another train was immortalized by one of the Blues finest 'harp' (as they are often called) players, Noah Lewis from the Henning/Ripley area of Tennessee. His "Chickasaw Special" was " a train-imitation named after a local freight. Memphis Minnie's "Chickasaw Train Blues" ran along the same lines."(62). Olsson adds that another Bluesman, Allen Shaw, featured "Chickasaw Special" "which originated in Henning or Ripley."(63). Shaw was himself from Henning, having been born there somewhere around 1890.

Apart from the Choctaw reference by Whistling Alex Moore (see Ch. II) in 1929, there is an interesting post-war side by alto-sax player/vocalist Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson. Listed as "Big Chief (Ruin In The Face)", it mentions well-known Indian figures such as Sitting Bull but Vinson opens the number with what could be construed as 'scat' or nonsense lyrics:

"You gotta oochie-oochie, oochie-oochie, wa-wa."(64).

However, given the subject matter of this song, it is possible that the above is in fact a corruption of Yuchi (yooche) or Euchee; a southern tribe of Indians already mentioned (see Ch.II). Their language apparently "...is a completely distinct stock called Uchean, although it may be distantly related to Muskhogean." (65).

There are other references in the Blues which, by implication, suggest that the American black, or at least the working-class, looked up to the Indian; in a socio-economic context at any rate. This was partly due to the fact that members of the Five Civilized Tribes would have received money from the U.S. Government for their Eastern lands, partly due to the oil strikes in Indian Territory such as the Cushing oil pool (see Ch. III), and partly due to propaganda put out by the Bureau for Indian Affairs. The latter, by painting a rosier picture of how the Indians were faring, than was actually the case, hoped to avoid Federal intervention. The picture of Indians spending their time happily weaving exotic rugs and cavorting about in endless tribal dances, adorned in masses of eagle feathers, was one that the Bureau concentrated on, to this end.

Debo remarks that "All Oklahoma Indians are rich and perform ridiculous antics" is another generalization than (sic) cannot be supported by facts."(66). Nevertheless, the first part was often believed by the Blues singer. But as Debo says elsewhere "The dramatic oil discoveries of eastern Oklahoma continued to add a lurid color to the lives of Five Tribes allottees."(67). Memphisonian, Furry Lewis sang in 1927:

"I said when I marry, gonna marry a Indian Squaw,
So the Big Chief can be my daddy-in-law."( 68).

Two years later, a singer going only by the psuedonym 'Freezone, (this in itself is, I feel, an intended pun), elaborated on this theme in his only recorded Blues:

"I'm goin' back to Oklahoma, I'm gon' marry an Indian Squaw,
I'm goin' back to Oklahoma, I'm gon' marry an Indian Squaw.

So I can ask a Big Chief Indian, honey, be my daddy-in-law.
" (69).

declarling to his 'brownskin' (woman) that "both your folks ain't no good." But the origin of this particular theme might stem from the Memphis area, the home of 'Freezone'? when Will Shade, the leader of the Memphis Jug Band, informed his female partner:

"Goin' out west, partner, gonna marry a Indian Squaw,
I'm goin' out west, partner, goin' to marry a Indian Squaw.
So a Big Chief Indian, Lord, can be my father-law."
(sic). (70).

Members of the band doing some mock-harmonizing on the end phrase of each line! Blind Lemon Jefferson sarcastically asks the telephone company for credit so he can speak with his Indian lover, located this time in South Carolina; possibly one of the Cherokees who stayed east of the Mississippi River:

"Long distance, long distance, will you please give me a credit call?
Long distance, long distance, will you give me a, please cred-credit call?
Wan' to talk to my gal in South Carolina, who looks like a Indian
Squaw." (71).

Jefferson's clearly-heard, mis-spoken second line, adding a curious poignancy to his plea. While at the same time spurning women of his own race; as he says "women in Dallas, Texas, don't mean you no good."

In colonial times "Indians and Negroes were considered in the same category." (72). But "Since the formation of the State of Oklahoma, the Indian has been given the status of a white man,"(73). So while "...the Indian has learned that his association with the Negro gives him the status of a Negro, which status is generally a damning one both in the estimation of the man who gives the status (the white man) and of the man to whom it applies."(74), the freedmen who lived in central Oklahoma, "...within the borders of the old "Seminole Nation" likes to think of himself as "Indian",(75). While as Foster says "Many Indian tribes deny their Negro blood"(76).

So a racial hierarchy is emerging where the white man rules supreme, the red man exists in a semi-free state where the white man allows it, and the black man is open to abuse and use from both sides, being on the bottom of this 'league' table. These are generalisations of course and there are alternative situations which existed. For the most part, those blacks who aspired to a bourgeois, white, middle-class way of life (and its values!), were often in a parallel state to that of the red man. It is a significant and also a consistent fact that someone of mixed racial blood is identified with the "lowest" category. So part-Indian, Bo Carter, naturally sings as a full-blooded Negro, when he refers to the general situation as described above:

"Oh! the white man wears his broad-cloth,
An' the Indian he wears jeans;

But here come the darky with his over-halls on,
Just a-scratchin' o'er the turnip greens."


1.  B. Bastin.P.38.

2. "Bamalong Blues." Jim Baxter(vo.gtr.), Andrew Baxter(vin.). 9/8/27.Charlotte,N.C.

3.  P.Oliver. "Conversation With The Blues.11p.86.

4.  Ibid.

5. "Come On In My Kitchen." Robert Johnson (vo. gtr., speech). 23/11/36. San Antonio,Tex.

6. "I'm Still Sittin' On Top Of The World." Sam Collins (vo.gtr.). 8/10/31.N.Y.C.

7. "The County Farm Blues." Bo Carter(vo.gtr.). 12/2/40.Atlanta,Ga.

8. "I'm A Guitar King." Tommy McClennan (vo. gtr., speech), unk.bs-15/9/41-Chicago,Ill.

9. J.W.Blassingame.p.123.

10. D.J.Epstein.p.151.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid. p.120.

13. M. Stewart & D. Kent.

14. "Mooch Richardson's Low Down Barrel House Blues-Part 1." Mooch' Richardson (vo. gtr.).


15. "Down The Dirt Road Blues." Charlie Patton (vo. gtr., speech) 14/6/29.Richmond, Ind. Chicago, Ill.

16. "Lonesome Day Blues." Jesse James (vo. pno., speech). 3/6/36.

17. A. Debo. "Oklahoma Foot-Loose And Fancy Free."p.90.

18. Ibid.

19. S. Calt. & G.Wardlow.p.25.

20. "Touch Me Light Mama." unk. vo., speech; George "Bullet" Williams(hca.). c.-/5/28. Chicago, Ill.

21. A. Debo.ibid.p.33.

22. R. Nicholls & G.R.Adams.p.251.

23. Ibid.

24. G.D. Wardlow.

25. S. Charters. p.157.

26. G.Catlin. p.34.

27. Ibid.

28. Ibid. p.35.

29. "Snake Doctor Blues." Jaydee Short (vo. gtr., speech). 14/3/32.N.Y.C.

30. G.  Catlin .ibid. p.37.

31. Ibid.

32. Jaydee Short.i bid.

33. C.Major. p.111.

34. "Pinchbacks Take 'Em Away." Bessie Smith (vo., speech), Irving Johns (pno.). 4/4/24. N.Y.C.

35. Ibid.

36. B. Bastin. ibid.

37. P. Oliver. "The Meaning of the Blues."p.257.

38. S. Calt & G.Wardlow.ibid.p.258.

39. J. Miller.

40. C. Wissler .p.284.

41. S. Ferguson .p.11.

42. Calt & Wardlow.ibid.p.44.

43. "Encyclopedia Americana Vol.1911.p•235-

44. Ibid.

45. L. Foster. p.16.

46. Ibid. p.18.

47. F.P. Prucha .p.754.

48. "Mississippi Bo Weavil Blues." Charlie Patton (vo. gtr., speech). 14/6/29. Richmond, Ind.

49. J.Broven.p.4.

50. P.Oliver. "Blues Off The Record." p.119.

51. Ibid.

52. Ibid.

53. D.Robinson. p.20.

54. R. Spottswood.

55. S.Calt, J.Epstein, N. Perls, M. Stewart.

56. N.Slaven.

57. B.Altman.

58. E.Zibart.

59. Louisiana Red in conversation with the author (M.Haymes).

60. B. Hall & R. Noblett.

61. P. Oliver. "Story of the Blues."p.80.

62. B.Olsson.p.62.

63. Ibid.

64. "Big Chief Rain In The Face." Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson (vo. alt.), Arnett Cobb (ten.), + unk. poss. from Cootie Williams Orchestra. -/-/54.1'Y.C.?

65. "Encyclopedia Americana Vol.29."p.710.

66. A.Debo.ibid.p.55.

67. A. Debo. "And Still The Waters Run."p.286.

68. "Big Chief Blues." Furry Lewis (vo. gtr.). 9/10/27.Chicago,Ill.

69. "Indian Squaw Blues." 'Freezonel (vo.gtr.). 6/6/29.Richmond,Ind.

70. "Memphis Boy Blues." Memphis Jug Band. Will Shade (vo. gtr.), Ben Ramey (vo.k azoo),. Will Weldon (vo. gtr.), Charlie Polk (jug). 9/6/27-Chicqgo, Ill.

71. "Long Distance Moan." Blind Lemon Jefferson (vo. gtr.). 24/9/29. Richmond, Ind.

72. L.Foster.ibid.p.15.

73. Ibid. p.7.

74. Ibid. p.75.

75 Ibid. p.68.

76. Ibid. p.18.

77. "Good Old Turnip Greens". Bo Carter (vo. prob. vin.),  prob. Charlie McCoy (mand.), prob. Walter Vincson (gtr.). c.-/12/28.New Orleans, La.




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