Alcorub refers to "rubbing alcohol" i.e. isopropyl alcohol. It is
inexpensive, easily obtainable, and although it is a cumulative poison, some
desperate alcoholics have been known to drink it - with adverse effects.
Back door man / Friend
The lover of a married woman who sneaks out the back door before the man of the
house gets home
Ball(ing) the jack
1 - Origin: balling the jack is a phrase from the jargon of railroads men in the
beginning of this century in America and simply means going at top speed
(highballing). The "jack" is the locomotive and "ballin'"
means to work fast or get rollin'. Balling the jack (and variants like balling
or having a ball) later acquired other, non-railroad related meanings like
having a wild good time (drinking), to move quickly, going flat out, dancing,
having sex and in gambling circles of risking everything on a single throw of
the dice or turn of a card and in general use risking everything on one attempt
2 - metaphor for having sex.
3 -name of a once popular dance. "Ball the Jack---also likely a juke joint
dance, with a reference to the act of sexual intercourse. "Ball" in
verb form, is a slang word for sex, in white and black lingo. "The
"eagle rock" and "ball and the jack" are 1940's dance moves.
1 - a cheap drinking and usually dancing establishment. The term "barrel
house" originates, logically, from a place where barrels of alcoholic
beverages can be found. The meaning of the term later changed to refer to the
type, and rough style of music which emulated from these establishments;
2 - strident, uninhibited, and forcefully rhythmic style of jazz or blues.
Biscuit / Biscuit roller
1 - Among metaphors themes used in blues music, culinary themes are especially
common. A desirable young girl was called a biscuit and a good lover was called
a biscuit roller.
Black Cat Bone
1 - hoodoo magic, good luck charm, especially to bring back the wayward lover.
Costly and valued, its scarcity was largely due to the elaborate ceremony which
was required for its preparation. Every black cat has within its body one
bone that will either grant the owner invisibility or can be used to bring back
a lost lover. To secure this bone, a black cat must be thrown alive into a
kettle of boiling water at midnight. The animal dies in agony, and the
practitioner boils the carcass until the meat falls off the bones. Some say that
the special bone will be the top one left when the water boils away, others say
it can only be found by placing each bone in turn beneath the tongue while an
assistant stands by to notify the practitioner that he has become invisible, and
still others swear that if all the bones are thrown into a stream that runs
north (uncommon in most of North America), the desired bone will be one that
floats on the water and heads south. Once found, the black cat bone is carried
in a mojo bag and anointed with Van Van Oil to bring back a lost lover. The oil
or fat of the cat is bottled for use as a candle dressing and for anointing
1 - The Blues... It's 12-bar, bent-note melody is the anthem of a race bonding
itself together with cries of shared self victimization. Bad luck and trouble
are always present, and always the result of others, pressing upon unfortunate
and down trodden poor souls, yearning to be free from life's' responsibilities.
Never ending beats repeat the chants of sorrow, and the pity of a lost soul many
times over. These are the Blues;
2 - Found under the blazing sun of the Northern Mississippi cotton fields, it's
father, the old African tribal call and response, and it's mother, the Gospel
sounds which bellowed from the church choirs;
3 - A lead worker would chant the opening lines, and the chorus of workers would
answer, falling into a regular pattern to match the task at hand. This ancient
African call and response chant is the core of the Blues, found both in African
American church pulpits (an elevated platform or high reading desk used in
preaching or conducting a worship service), and antebellum (existing before the
Civil War) plantations;
4 - W.C. Handy was the first trained musician to capture the sounds of Blues on
paper. In 1909, Handy penned the first written Blues song "Mr. Crump
Blues" in the Pee Wee's Saloon on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennesse.
5 - "If you wants to know about the Blues, you got's to go back to the
church" -- Muddy Waters --;
6 - "We were always singing in the fields. Not real singing, you know, just
hollerin', but we made up our songs about things that was happenin' to us at the
time, and I think that's where the Blues started" -- Son House
1 – chillun is simply a southern pronunciation of the word
"children", The word boogie has several meanings: to move quickly, to
get going, to dance to (rock) music and to party.
1 - a percussive style of playing blues on the piano characterized by a steady
rhythmic ground bass of eighth notes in quadruple time and a series of
improvised melodic variations.
1 - a particularly lethal drink which was obtained by extracting the alcohol
from solidified methylated spirits which was sold as a fuel for outdoor cooking.
Canned heat could be bought from street dealers who had made a business out of
this process. A similar drink was obtained by drawing off contaminated alcohol
from proprietary brands of boot polish;
2 - This was a cooking fuel based on denatured alcohol, like Sterno. I think
"Canned Heat" was a brand name that has become a generic term. Tommy
Johnson was addicted to this stuff, and it probably didn't do him much good. I
believe there may be a US expression "sterno drinker" relating to
3 - Canned heat is basically sterno, alcohol-based, liquid, in a can
(obviously). When one is down on his luck, this stuff comes a lot cheaper than a
bottle of Jack, but it doesn't leave such a good taste in the mouth and can
probably drive you blind. Hence Tommy's lament…
1 - captain was one of the forms of address the Southern white man demanded from
2 - the captain of a prison.
A locomotive engineer that became a hero and a folk figure at the end of the
C. C. Rider
1 - The easy rider, also known as see see rider or c c rider, is a blues
metaphor for the sexual partner. Originally it referred to the guitar hung on
the back of the traveling bluesman. The word easy has different meanings for the
female and male lover: applied to a woman it is an expression of admiration but
applied to a male it usually carries the meaning of reckless and unfaithful;
2 - In one of Alan Lomax's folk song collections it says that the abbreviation
"C.C." means "Cavalry Corporal" and that they had no female
soldiers at that time (19th century). Now the conclusion from this fact was that
the singer or the original songwriter must have been gay... The songwriter even
could be a woman singing this song to her soldier lover. The author then said
that "C.C.Rider" became "See See Rider" and "Easy
Rider" because of prudery...
3 - An easy rider is the husband or significant other of a whore - thus the
name. He doesn't work or pay for sex. It's his easily.
Coffee grinder/ Grinding
1 - metaphor for lover or love making. Many metaphors used in the blues were
derived from the process of cooking and other closely related culinary terms.
The shade of color of a black person also played a role: "honey " was
used for a light-skinned person and "coffee" for a deeper shade thus
resulting in terms like "honey dripper" and "coffee grinder"
as metaphors for a lover. Grinding (coffee in a grinder or wheat in a mill)
therefore means having sex, see also balling the jack.
Cold in hand
1 - having no money.
1 - crepe or creper, a hackneyed (stresses being worn out by overuse so as to
become dull and meaningless) symbol of mourning. The woman in question would
post it (on the door) to declare the death of her feelings for a man.
Doney / Doe
1 - a "no good doney" is a woman of low character (it's a slang term
which is no longer in usage today).
Dry long so
1 - the phrase "dry long so" is a dialectic description of being poor.
In the context of the Robert Johnson song it relates to not having enough food
and clothing and other essential things to last through the winter;
2 - possibly: "dry long so", meaning pointlessly, without a cause.
Dust my broom
1 - probably: (getting ready to ) leave. There might also be a sexual
1 - a popular black dance from the 1920's, performed with the arms outstretched
with wings and the body rocking from side to side. Here's a description of the
Eagle Rock (Ballin' The Jack ?)dance:
"First you put your two knees close up tight, then you sway 'em to the left
Then you sway 'em to the right, step around the floor kind of nice and light
Then you twist around and twist around with all your might,
Stretch your lovin' arms straight out into space,
then you do the Eagle Rock with style and grace.
Swing your foot way 'round then bring it back.
Now that's what I call Ballin' the Jack."
1 - The easy rider, also known as see see rider or c c rider (see also rider),
is a blues metaphor for the sexual partner. Originally it referred to the guitar
hung on the back of the traveling bluesman. The word easy has different meanings
for the female and male lover: applied to a woman it is an expression of
admiration but applied to a male it usually carries the meaning of reckless and
2 - In one Alan Lomax's folk song collections it says that the abbreviation
"C.C." means "Cavalry Corporal" and that they had no female
soldiers at that time (19th century). Now the conclusion from this fact was that
the singer or the original songwriter must have been gay... The songwriter
even could be a woman singing this song to her soldier lover. The author then
said that "C.C.Rider" became "See See Rider" and "Easy
Rider" because of prudery..."
3 - An easy rider is the husband or significant other of a whore - thus the
name. He doesn't work or pay for sex. It's his easily.
1 - A Mississippi blues synonym for girl friend. The spelling of faror is
problematic. It's pronounced like "pharaoh". The late Johnnie Temple
provided blues researcher Gayle Wardlow with this spelling of the word;
1 - is a flatterer, kind of a buffoonish loudmouth who tries to woo a woman with
(a train, a ride)
1 - to signal with or as if with a flag to stop "I flagged the train",
often used with "down";
2 - to hitch a (train) ride
This would be a Georgia dance, probably a sexy one like a lot of blues dances
were. Apart from the references by McTell like "she can really do the
Georgia Crawl", there is a song "Geogia Crawl" by Henry Williams
and Eddie Anthony (pals of Peg Leg Howell in Atlanta).
Goin' up the line /
Goin' down the line
1 - probably: a "line" is a railroad route, therefore "goin' up
the line" probably means traveling north on a train and "goin' down
the line" traveling south.
2 - It is my understanding, this expression was used by men (during the era of
the war between the states). When the opportunity arose for a chance to relax in
the cities, a trip to the prostitution houses or areas was favorably called
"Going up the line or down the line".
3 - "Goin' down the line" does indeed refer to railroad lines, but its
a derivative of being sold down the river. This expression came about from
slaves who were sold into the Deep South, or "sold down the river".
This is bad because it usually meant going to the Carolinas, or Florida or
Georgia and working in the rice fields or clearing swamps. Many slaves died of
malaria doing this."
Goofer / Goofy dust
1 - powdered earth gathered from a grave, preferably that of a child, which is
sprinkled on a victims pillow, around its home or in its clothes in order to
cast a spell on the victim or bring death (voodoo). See also hot foot powder.
High yeller (yellow)
1 - black person with a light(er) skin complexion. Brown skin is another skin
color related term often used in blues songs. See also skin color.
1 - fare dodger on a freight train.
2 - Hobo derived from hoe-boy. When there wasn't enough food on the farm to feed
everybody, the younger men hit the tracks hoping to find day work along the way
(1930's). Each took with him his own hoe (hoe: an implement with a thin flat
blade on a long handle used especially for cultivating, weeding, or loosening
the earth around plants), so as to be more employable, and also as a cheap
(therefore only available) protective weapon during those desperate times. Often
showing up in droves at planting time, they were called hoe-boys.
3 - a homeless and usually penniless vagabond, tramp;
4 - a migratory worker
origin: probably blend of hocus-pocus and bunkum (derived form Buncombe county,
N.C., from a remark made by its congressman, who defended an irrelevant speech
by claiming that he was speaking to Buncombe, meaning insincere or foolish
1 - a sub genre in urban blues which was popular in the late 20's/early 30's. It
is characterized by danceable rhythms and clever lyrics which heavily relied on
double entendres. Hokum's most important artist was Tampa Red (It's Tight Like
That, 1928). The term can be found in the name of his band: The Hokum Boys.
2 - a device used (as by showmen) to evoke a desired audience response;
3 - pretentious nonsense.
1 - metaphor for a lover, for more information see coffee grinder.
Hoochie coochie man
1 - the word hooch is slang for alcoholic liquor especially when inferior or
illicitly made or obtained. Haven't found a (slang) meaning for the word
cooch(ie) but it most likely refers to the female genitals. The term hoochie
coochie man would then refer to a man (who prides himself) getting his share of
booze and women;
2 - A "hoochie coochie" is a woman's sex, and a 'hoochie coochie
man" is her lover. The term "hoochie coochie" is sometimes
shortened to "coochie" in everyday conversation.
3 - The term coochie is slang for a woman's vagina. Doin' the hoochie coochie
means to do the deed!.
1 - hoodoo or voodoo, a body of practices of sympathetic magic traditional
especially among blacks in the southern U.S. Hoodoo is the preferred word by
black people for voodoo. For more information about hoodoo/voodoo see also
2 - something that brings bad luck;
3 - Hoodoo is an American term, originating in the 19th century or earlier, for
African-American folk magic. Hoodoo is not a religion nor a denomination of a
religion, although it incorporates elements from African and European religions
in terms of its core beliefs.
Hoodoo consists of a large body of African folkloric magic with a considerable
admixture of American Indian botanical knowledge and European folklore. Other
names for hoodoo include "conjuration," "witchcraft," and
"rootwork." The first two are simply English words for the practice of
magic; the last is a recognition of the preeminence that dried roots play in the
making of charms and the casting of spells.
Hoodoo is used as a noun to name both the system of magic ("He used hoodoo
on her") and its practitioners ("Doctor Buzzard was a great hoodoo in
his day"). It is also an adjective ("he needed help from a hoodoo
woman") and a verb ("she hoodooed that man until he couldn't love no
one but her").
Hot foot powder
1 - Hot Foot Powder and Hot Foot Oil are old Southern hoodoo formulas that are
used to rid oneself or one's home of unwanted people, to send enemies packing
and to keep peace in the home by eliminating troublemakers. Similar formulas,
known as Drive Away Oil or Get Away Oil contain virtually the same ingredients,
namely a proprietary blend of Guinea Red Pepper, sulfur, and essential oils that
include Black Pepper and other herbal extracts. The scent is hot and spicy, but
it is not at all unpleasant.
Jelly / Jelly roll
1 - jelly roll, literally, a jam (jelly) rolled and lightly baked confection, in
blues songs a metaphor for the female genitals. Jelly is used as a term for
female. Among metaphors used in blues music, culinary themes are especially
common. The term jelly roll simply arose from the motions of sexual intercourse.
A male lover admired his "jelly bean" and prided himself on being a
"good jelly-roll baker" and the female lover the way she could "jello";
2 – Also euphemisms for the vagina.
1- one that brings bad luck; 2 - the state or spell of bad luck brought on by a
1 - the jitterbug was a popular dance in the 1940's (music: boogie woogie).
2 - a sense of panic or extreme nervousness, to be nervous or act in a nervous
way "had a bad case of the jitters before his performance";
3 - irregular random movement;
4 - vibratory motion;
5 - to make continuous fast repetitive movements
1 - "Jive" is actually southern slang for speaking a lie or untruth...
in B.B. Kings "Nobody Loves Me But My Mother" the line "She could
be jivin' too" means, effectively "she could be lying too". The
term found its way into swing somehow, and was later bastardized into meaning
"smooth talking" in the Beegees' "Jive Talkin'".
2 - jive, a style of jazz played by big bands popular in the 1930's with flowing
rhythms but less complex than later styles of jazz [synonyms: swing, swing
music], jivin', dance to jive music, dance the jive.
3 - talking, smooth talking;
4 - the slang talk of jazz musicians and enthusiasts;
5 - a marijuana cigarette; 6 - sexual intercourse.
John the Conqueror
1 - When Willie Dixon/Muddy Waters sings in "Hoochie Coochie Man" that
he has "a John the conqueror," he means a (High) John the Conqueror
root - the hard, woody tuber of Ipomoea jalap a, a relative of the common sweet
potato. In magical practice, the root is not ingested, probably because it is an
extremely powerful laxative. Instead it is used whole, carried on the person as
a pocket piece or as an ingredient in a mojo bag, especially one designed to
draw money, bring luck at games of chance, or enhance personal sexual power.
1 - a fetish, charm, or amulet of West African people. Juju as well as gris-gris
are the African terms for the more commonly used mojo or mojo hand, see also
2 - the magic attributed to or associated with jujus
Juke joint / Jukebox
1 - a small inexpensive establishment for eating, drinking, or dancing to the
music of a jukebox.
1 - the slaughtering room of an abattoir, a slaughter house, where animals were
brought to be killed and cut up. Particularly in the Chicago Stockyards area,
many black newcomers from the South found jobs during the 20's, 30's and 40's
working on the killing floors. Metaphorically being on the "killing
floor" means being in trouble with little way out or being so depressed
(primarily by the loss of a lover) that he (generally) feels like he is going to
die, having hit rock bottom and with nothing left to lose;
1 - a magic spell, hex, or charm used against someone else, either as a love
spell, hex or charm or a bad luck spell, hex or charm. It's blues function as a
sexual euphemism seems to have arisen with Blind Lemon Jefferson's 1928 song
"Low-down Mojo". For the record, "Mr. Mojo Risin'" in the
song L.A. Woman from The Doors album "L.A. Woman" is nothing more than
an anagram for "Jim Morrison"!
2 - charm; amulet; conjuring object; a good-luck charm used by gamblers and
3 - magical power;
4 - the staple amulet of African-American hoodoo practice, a flannel bag
containing one or more magical items. They were made with great care and
contained personal fragments and natural objects: hair from the armpits or pubic
region, fingernail pairings, pieces of skin were considered especially effective
in love charms, as were fragments of underclothing, of a menstrual cloth and
other closely personal effects. Combined with parts of night creatures, bats or
toads, and with ashes and feathers from sources selected for a symbolic
significance relative to the purpose for which they had been prepared. They were
all tied up into small conjure bags or put into an innocuous-looking receptacle
and either carried to exert their power upon the victim when contact was made
with him or buried beneath his doorstep, hidden in his bed or hearth. The word
is thought to be a corruption of the English word "magic". Other names
for it include conjure bag, hand, lucky hand, mojo bag, mojo hand, root bag,
toby, juju and gris-gris bag. In the Memphis region, a special kind of mojo,
worn only by women, is called a nation sack. The word "conjure", as in
"conjure work" (casting spells) and "conjure woman" (a
female herbalist-magician), is an old alternative to "hoodoo". The
word "hand" in this context may derive from the use of a rare orchid
root called Lucky Hand root as an ingredient in mojo bags for gamblers, or from
the use of finger and hand bones of the dead in mojo bags made for various
1 - a desperate desire for or addiction to drugs, often used in the phrase
"monkey on one's back". Also, a monkey on one's back: a persistent or
annoying encumbrance or problem;
2 - Tampa Red, in a song that predates Robert Johnson's recordings, I think, had
a tune called "She Wants to Sell My Monkey" as in female genitalia.
"It used to be hers but she gave it to me, Why she wants to sell it, I just
can't see, She wants to sell..."
3 - monkey paw: good luck charm.
1 - Afro-American slang for a West Indian (a man who is easy to deceive) or used
for very black Afro Americans or an "outside" lover.
2 - A derogatory term for an Afro-American male with very dark complexion. There
were times when these people were looked down upon even by Afro-Americans. Light
skin color was considered more beautiful and a sign for higher intelligence. You
will come across the term every once in a while when you listen to prewar blues
recordings. Here is an example:
by Alfoncy Harris / Bethenea Harris
Recorded November 26 1929, Atlanta, Ga, originally released as Vi V38594
Now, a teasing brown is the best brown after all
They will stick by you in the winter, spring, summer and fall
Now lots of folks claim a MONKEY MAN of dark color,
is really goin' crazy 'bout a real high yellow
Now, high yellow will throw you, boys, that ain't all
At night when you come home, another mule is in your stall"
1 - illegally distilled (corn) whiskey. Basic process of making moonshine: a
mixture - called the mash - of sugar fruit, potatoes, grains etc. is allowed to
ferment. When ready it is strained and the liquid is pumped into a broiler which
is then heated. When the mash liquid is boiling the vapor rises and is forced
through condensing cell turning it into a liquid or moonshine. This is collected
into jugs or bottled and (sometimes) allowed to age.
A little history:
Moonshine began to be a prominent part of American life with the onset of the
Civil War: the Federal Government imposed excise taxes on whiskey and tobacco in
an effort to finance the Union army. After the war ended, the taxes were simply
kept in place.
After the Civil War the Revenue Bureau of the Treasury Department was formed.
Under Commissioner Green B. Raum (1876-1883) the bureau became a police force,
hunting down moonshiners in their home environments and exercising national
authority with no regard of state lines.
The whiskey tax was raised to $1.10 per gallon in 1894 - a tax considered
stiffer than most shine. The impact was a lively market in untaxed liquor as
more and more distillers decided the only way they could make a profit was to
sell their drink illegally. The government estimated at the time that between 5
and 10 million gallons of illegal liquor were produced and sold annually in the
years just before the twentieth century started.
Moonshining stayed popular in many parts in the southern US through the mid-20th
century. It was concentrated in Virgina's Blue Ridge mountains, eastern
Tennessee, western North Carolina, northern Georgia, and western South Carolina.
Today, Whiskey is generally cheap enough that moonshine doesn't pay. But the
history lives on in places like Busthead, Va. - named for the still that was
there, a still which was reputed to produce whiskey strong enough to bust any
1 - a white man or white people in general.
Variations are: Charlie, Boss Charlie, white men regarded as oppressors of
blacks, used contemptuously. Also, Mr. Charlie is probably prison slang for a
1 - a nation sack or nation bag is a mojo hand, conjure bag, toby, root bag or
in plain English a lucky charm, one that is only carried by women. During the
1930s its use, by that name at least, seems to have been restricted to the
region immediately around Memphis, Tennessee;
2 – Robert Johnson says, "I've taken the last nickel out of her nations
sack." What's a nickel doing in a lucky charm (OK, it could happen, money
does have magical power). However, "nation" is short for
"donation". Originally, nation sacks were worn on the belts of
traveling preachers to hold the donations they collected. This fashion accessory
was picked up by prostitutes along the Mississippi R. who wore it under their
skirts and between the legs where the jingle of coins would attract the
attention of prospective customers."
1 - a daily lottery in which participants bet that certain combination numbers
will be drawn from a lottery wheel, also referred to as numbers game and playing
A southern euphemism for raising hell
1 - to move aimlessly from place to place, to wander or roam;
2 - to talk or write in a desultory or long-winded wandering fashion.
Rider / Riding
1 - a girl friend, the sexual partner (see also easy rider). Riding is probably
the most common metaphor for the sexual act in blues, see also balling the jack
Riding the blinds
1 - a walk way between two passenger cars covered with either canvas or leather
in an accordion shape. From the outside of the blinds to the outer edge of the
cars there was a space about 24 inches wide. There was a ladder running up to
the top of the car in this space and the bums would grab hold of the ladder and
hold on to it. That was riding the blinds.
2 - To ride the train in the spaces between the baggage or mail cars near the
coal tender which have no side doors - they can ride without being seen.
3 - illegally traveling by freight train.
a drinking establishment usually outside city limits providing liquor and
usually meals, dancing, and often gambling.
1 - originally it meant work, to work, as in "rolling cotton". Like
other expressions from the vocabulary of labor (like "hauling ashes"),
it took on a sexual connotation in blues songs: having sex;
2 - Roll means to have sex. An example of this would be - Sonny Williamson's
song, Skinny Woman. "Now we can roll all night long, an' this woman won't
have to stop an' eat". Thanks to blues gal Anita Cantor for this
1 - A rounder is a guy that gets around! It was a very popular word used also by
cowboys. An Example - a line from the song, heard it in a love song, by The
Marshall Tucker Band, "I was born a wrangler and a rounder
2 - probably: a scoundrel, especially one that might steal your woman.
3 - in the gambling underworld a rounder is slang for a big-money poker player,
who risks big, wins big - and often loses big.
1 - Bruce Sublett wrote: "The traditional bluegrass tune "Let me be
your salty dog, or I won't be your man at all" infers the meaning of sex
partner, which seems to go along with T-Bone Walker's tune "Papa Ain't
Salty No More" which equates "salty" with current use of
"horny" "Salty" in general Western slang means
"aggressive," or "tough." A "salty hombre" would
be a tough guy."
2 - when asked for the meaning of "salty dog", Mississippi John Hurt
sheepishly replied, "To tell you the truth, I never thought about it".
Shakin' that thing
1 - a blues euphemism for engaging in sex, popularized by Papa Charlie Jackson's
1925 hit "Shake That Thing".
1 - sharecropping is the system on Southern plantations that came into being
after the American Civil War when slavery formally ended in the U.S.A.
1 - African American dance of the late 1880's. It is a shaking of the shoulders
and whole body.
A fashionable flapper's hair style of the twenties, better known as "the
1 - a good-natured needling or teasing by means of indirect teasing with
taunting words and clever, often preposterous "put-downs" (humiliating
2 - In signifying, speakers spontaneously compose rhythmic and rhyming phrases
in improvised counterpoint to the signified phrases of other speakers. Within
this word play structure, signifying is an indirect speech act form that allows
the speaker to express bold ideas, opinions, beliefs, or feelings without
repercussions as the stated convictions become diffused through the playful
nature of the act. This improvisational verbal device arose as a component of
the call and response form and became incorporated into blues lyrics.
Within the segregated society of the United States dominated by a white majority
a sort of caste system based on racial features and skin color developed that
was also passed down to the black minority. Lighter skin color and less
pronounced Negro features often meant that a person had a little less to suffer
from the daily discrimination and this was often aspired by black people. A
couple of shades of color are more or less often used in blues songs: black,
brownskin, fair brown, teasin' brown, the lighter skinned high yellow or yeller.
Certain characteristics were often attributed to specific shades of color. Black
was often associated with bad and evil and a lighter skin was often associated
with more intelligence. Black people of a certain complexion often kept to their
own shade of skin color. See also high yeller.
1 - I'm fairly positive it usually refers to cocaine or heroine in the earliest
songs. The secondary meaning of spoonful - that is, the rough amount of male
ejaculate - gave The Lovin' Spoonful their name. They took their name from the
Mississippi John Hurt song "Coffee Blues" that contains a line that
strongly supports this secondary meaning "I wanna see my baby 'bout a lovin'
spoonful, my lovin' spoonful" By the time Willie Dixon who wrote the song
Spoonful in the late fifties, the word "Spoonful" probably began to
have that meaning. But when Charley Patton says he'll kill or go to jail for a
spoonful, I think it's cocaine or heroine he's talking about."
2 - a spoon was/is used by addicts to liquefy heroine so it can be injected into
3 - a vague blues euphemism for sex. Possibly derived from "to spoon"
meaning: to make love by caressing, kissing, and talking amorously.
Squeeze my lemon
1 - the lemon is a reference to the genitalia. Squeezing the lemon refers to
Stag O'Lee / Stagger Lee
/ Stack O' Lee
A real life murderer that became a folk figure. Julius Lester, in his Black
Folktales, said, "Stagolee as, undoubtedly and without question, the
baddest nigger that ever lived. Stagolee was so bad that the flies wouldn't even
fly around his head in the summertime, and snow wouldn't fall on his house in
the winter." Read more about him here!
1 - Lil Johnson's song with this title strongly suggests that stavin' chain is
the name of a man.
2 - A stavin' chain was a tool used to make barrels (I won't go in depth about
it's use) it was often used by supervisors in barrel factories to beat slaves.
Also a stavin' chain was the chain used to hold together chain gangs, and was
pulled around the prisoner's ankles much like the sexual version. It worked much
like a choke-dog collar in all it's forms, and could be used to describe any
chain noose that worked on this principal. however, the origin of the word was
staveing chain from the barrel factories used to hold together the barrel staves
until an iron band could be fitted around the end of the barrel.
1 - literally: alteration of the word stingray which is a fish with one or more
large sharp barbed dorsal spines near the base of the whip like tail capable of
inflicting severe wounds. In blues music it is a euphemism for the sexual
organs, usually applied to women.
Strut / Strut your stuff
1 - originally "dancing well" but it became synonymous with the
rhythmic movements of sexual intercourse. Also, showing off, to parade (as
clothes) with a show of pride, to walk with a proud gait, to walk with a pompous
and affected air;
1 - a body of practices of folk magic that is derived from African polytheism
and ancestor worship and is practiced chiefly in Haiti. The black population of
the South preferred to call voodoo hoodoo.
2 - a person who deals in spells and necromancy;
3 - a magic spell, hex, or charm used against someone else, either as a love
spell, hex or charm or a bad luck spell, hex or charm.
1 - whoopie or whoopee, "It usually means having a ball, in blues it often
carries the meaning of having sex".
Yas Yas (Yas)
1 - Both "yas yas" and "yas yas yas" are used as a rhyming
substitute for the word "ass" and appear quite frequently in songs
from the earlier part of the century, when "ass" was apparently still
Blind Boy Fuller "Get Yer Yas Yas Out" (the actual lyric in the song
is "get yer yas yas out the door"). Note that the Rolling Stones later
bastardized this one in their live album which was mistitled "Get Yer
Tampa Red (I don't know the names of the songs, but below are a couple of good
Mama killed a chicken, thought it was a duck, put it on the table with its legs
In come the children with a cup and a glass, to catch the liquid from its YAS
You shake your shoulders, you shake them fast
If you can't shake your shoulders, shake your YAS YAS YAS
Me and my baby walking down the street, she caught the rheumatism in her feet
She stooped over to pick some grass and the same thing caught her in the YAS YAS