Owens and other musicians who may have been contemporaries of James were not recorded until the revival of interest in blues music in the 1960s. Haunted by a verse, Spottswood played the record again and again. Friends? Meeks was no younger than Mable (like James, in her 60s), but James thought Meeks was uptown and high-class, a notch above his former wife. [citation needed] His style of playing had more in common with the Piedmont blues of the East Coast than with the Delta blues of his native Mississippi. James’ music was as raw and as evil as it comes, and his songs exerted a kind of gravitational pull—first on Johnson, and later on Spottswood’s young suburbanites. Lyrics to 'Hard Time Killing Floor' by Skip James: Hard time's is here An ev'rywhere you go Times are harder Than th'ever been befo' Mumble Sauce, About Us Robert Johnson was dead, but John Hurt was still alive to beat up on. In summer ’65, biographer Calt visited the couple’s apartment. Returning on Sunday, Hoskins was amazed that Hurt had retained much of his finger picking ability. Even as James’ depression lifted, the ritual continued. Washington—the site of James’ supposed comeback—turned out to be just like any other town: a place for Skippy James to leave behind. But residents, if they remembered James at all, said he’d left years ago. Here John Hurt had launched his second career. Accordingly, Duck is called the "last of the Bentonia Bluesmen."[17]. He has been hailed as "one of the seminal figures of the blues. [14] The musicologist Dick Spottswood commented, "Skip James, you never knew. Page Three But James’ attempts at reform—being ordained in his father’s church, even singing in a traveling gospel quartet—didn’t last. HARD TIME KILLING FLOOR BLUES FROM "O' BROTHER WHERE ART THOU? In 1931, he got to test his powers. “I don’t think he had a lot more use for git-along Southern blacks than he did for the white oppressors,” says Spottswood. District Line Daily: Our news, politics, arts, food, and sports coverage in one email every weekday. Guitarist Eric Clapton made sure that the dying blues singer got his payments, which mostly went to pay his hospital bills. “He was suffering from pain, but he was very vague about the location and the nature of it. Listen to your favorite songs from Hard Time Killing Floor Blues by Skip James Now. When he was 5, his father—a musician and bootlegger—fled town after agents raided his whiskey still. A small but brawny man, he didn’t back down from confrontations; guns (like the Colt revolver he often carried) figured as prominently in his life as guitars. Like Hurt, James stayed for a few weeks at the Spottswood home until he could find an apartment of his own. Theirs was our finest and oldest native-born music, the blues, country-style, pure and personal, always one Negro and a guitar lamenting misery, injustice, but still saying yes to life.”. In a chilling couplet from his new song, “Sick Bed Blues,” he showed that he was only too aware that modern medicine had already made its final diagnosis: The doctor walked away, mumbling very low, Saying, “He may get better, but he’ll never be well no mo’.”. A few days after arriving in Washington, James went further north, this time to the Newport Folk Festival, for his first major performance since his rediscovery. [citation needed], James is sometimes associated with the Bentonia School, which is either a subgenre of blues music or a style of playing it. Postal Service, which airbrushed the stamp portrait of Johnson to eradicate the cigarette that hung defiantly from his mouth. Thus began Skip James’ second shot at stardom. To James, music meant ruthless, if not bloody, competition. He reportedly learned this tuning from his musical mentor, the unrecorded bluesman Henry Stuckey,[15] who in turn was said to have acquired it from Bahamian soldiers during the First World War,[16] despite the fact that his service card shows he did not serve overseas. James began playing the organ in his teens. I gathered that it was related to the illness that he had when he was found in [Mississippi]. Spottswood began to see the many sides of his houseguest. And then there was James’ eerie voice, sliding back and forth between a keening falsetto and heart-slain soprano. For a while, he rarely left the apartment. The panel identified it as "one of Wolf’s most recognizable songs. Listen to Hard Time Killing Floor Blues on the English music album Thousand Mile Night by Jonah Tolchin, only on JioSaavn. James began playing the organ in his teens. A few days later, the hospital discharged him, after the pilgrims had paid not only James’ medical bills, but also the money he owed his landlord. Original recordings and reissues are listed below. In 1991, the song was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in the "Classics of Blues Recordings" category. His guitar playing is noted for its dark, minor-key sound, played in an open D-minor tuning with an intricate fingerpicking technique. “Skip’s got mean things on his mind.’ ” Then she asked Calt to buy her a bottle of Scotch, which he did. Learn & play tab for lead guitar with free online tab player, speed control and loop. Illinois Blues #7. Hard Time Killing Floor Blues was the first session Skip James recorded following his rediscovery by John Fahey and Henry Vestine in the mid-'60s. (2000). Basketball Louisa remembers that when she first visited James in the hospital, she found him lying on his bed, the white sheet pulled over his head like a funeral shroud. Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues #1. He mostly practiced the guitar, and often spent time in the kitchen, hunched over a small antique piano handed down by Spottswood’s grandmother. Calt asserts these writers failed to see that in the case of Bentonia bluesman Jack Owens, "the 'tradition' he bore primarily consisted of musical scraps from James' table". The Original Delta Blues ... 5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful slice of Blues history, w/ excellent sound quality! Olympic Sports, Savage Love His guitar playing couldn’t match his youthful mastery, but his autumnal voice more than retained its power, now with an added edge of age and sadness. Washington D.C. Hospital Center Blues #4. Born in 1902, James was raised on a plantation on the edge of the Mississippi Delta, near a town called Bentonia. He currently resides in a gospel mission shelter in Oregon, and spends his time—what else?—record-hunting. During the two-day session, James would record two dozen other songs, including the salacious “Special Rider Blues,” the morbid “Little Cow and Calf Is Gonna Die Blues,” and the apocalyptic “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues,” which were eventually issued as Paramount 78s. “Very likable at times, very difficult at times—full of surprises.” Louisa, the daughter of a prominent Delaware family, especially liked to watch the bluesman play with her pet whippet. After auditioning in a Jackson record store, James earned a recording session with Paramount Records in Grafton, Wis. He believed that a jealous woman’s hex had caused his horrifying illness, a tumor on his penis. Tom Hoskins was the first of Spottswood’s followers to find one of the group’s disappeared idols—but that idol was not Skip James. If a mere party picker like John Hurt could find fortune in the big city, how could a genius like Skip James be denied his proper deserts? When most blues singers wailed about a scheming woman, they either cursed her or begged her to come back. In 1964, blues enthusiasts John Fahey, Bill Barth, and Henry Vestine found him in a hospital in Tunica, Mississippi. One October afternoon in 1969, Spottswood had just returned from visiting James in Philadelphia. He received each answer with a nod of recognition. Despite poor health, James recorded several LPs from 1964 to 1969, mostly revisiting his 1931 sides, traditional music, and spirituals, but also including a handful of newly written blues meditating on his illness and convalescence. Freelancers Guide Skip told me the witch doctor diagnosed the case and said [Skip] had been hexed by a jealous woman in the area of the navel, and the poison had sort of drained downward.”, James once asked Louisa to pick up the witch doctor’s medicine. Never a full-time musician, he found other ways to survive: as a laborer, dynamite blaster, gambler, pimp, and bootlegger. "[1] James's classically informed fingerpicking style was fast and clean, using the entire register of the guitar, with heavy, hypnotic bass lines. Only primal country blues satisfied their craving. Skip James was able to write this song and make you feel his pain and the pain of others. So she got him alone with her and put an ice pick in him….She said, “You know, Mr. Lee, when you stick somebody with an ice pick, the hole close up and it bleed on the inside.’…They never did figure out that there was foul play.” James himself rarely broached the subject of his murky past in the Deep South; his admirers soon stopped asking. Newsweek and Time paid their respects. On a winter night in 1931, he’d boarded a segregated train to Grafton, Wis. James first recorded for Paramount Records in 1931, but these recordings sold poorly, having been released during the Great Depression, and he drifted into obscurity. Sleepy John Estes turned up in Brownsville, Tenn. Bukka White was alive and well in Memphis. At first, as the car barreled north toward Washington, D.C., the old blues singer pestered the driver with questions, demanding to know the name of every river, creek, and lake they crossed. Hoskins fetched his guitar from the car and presented it to his hero. “Skippy expected hero worship, which he pretty much got from most everybody, but Fahey was a pretty arrogant person.”, Fahey laughs sarcastically, remembering that James couldn’t pay his hospital or rent bills. “He didn’t suffer fools or take no kind of shit.”, James stood in stark contrast to Hurt, Washington’s—and the nation’s—most famous rediscovered bluesman. A piano song, “22-20 Blues,” combined murderous lyrics with masterful musicianship. James's biographer Stephen Calt, echoing the opinion of several music critics, considered the finished product totally original, "one of the most extraordinary examples of fingerpicking found in guitar music". General CommentSkip James one of the Legends of Delta Blues this is a different song but has the same title as a later electric blues "Killing Floor", the structure is 8 bars, the verses just tell it like it is : a life of hardship and despair, true to the hard times of the 1930's Depression when it was recorded.His singing is haunting and bleak, a dark classic of the blues. He now seeks used classical albums, which he trades for cash. And what if they could still play? She remembers “a mauve flower with scalloped edges.”, “Then he said to me rather proudly, “I say to these young doctors, This would be really sad for someone your age.’ Basically he was saying he’d done it all. Even journalist Edward R. Murrow took time off from the Cold War to nod his approval. Sales were poor as a result, and he gave up performing the blues to become the choir director in his father's church. Where Johnson supposedly cut a single, grand deal with the devil—trading his soul for mastery of his form—Skip James seems to have struck deal after deal and never come out ahead. “We stopped off to get some gas,” remembers Fahey, “and I saw this black teen-ager sitting around, and I asked him—I used to ask everybody, everywhere we went—if they’d heard of Skip James. James remained the last great prize to be found. Nehemiah Curtis "Skip" James (June 9, 1902 – October 3, 1969)[1] was an American Delta blues singer, guitarist, pianist and songwriter. Little, recorded in 1928 by Gene Austin and by Lonnie Johnson (Johnson's version was entitled "I'm So Tired of Livin' All Alone"). [12], In 2020, James' song "Devil Got My Woman" was added to the Grammy Hall of Fame. I would rather be the devil than to be that woman’s man. His 1931 recordings and several of his recordings and concerts from the 1960s have been reissued on numerous compact discs, in and out of print. But “Devil” and “22-20” were his most popular. And if she gets unruly and gets so she won’t do. They provided directions down a gravel road that led to a shack. “[I] found Mable alone, sitting in a darkened room,” Calt writes. [3], For the next thirty years, James made no known recordings and performed sporadically. The tumor grew, and that winter, James checked into D.C. General Hospital, which treated indigent patients. Advertise with Us. Film/TV ), Where racial matters were concerned, James was too misanthropic to choose sides. “At the time, I didn’t have a very good car,” he remembers. a re-issue of Skip James - Hard Time Killing Floor Blues with different artwork, which was itself a re-issue of Skip James - Greatest Of The Delta Blues Singers, with bonus-tracks (08-11) and new artwork He married Lorenzo Meeks on his deathbed. [3] Several photographs by the blues promoter Dick Waterman captured this performance, James's first in over 30 years. One of the legendary blues songs that has been covered many times is Skip James - "Hard Time Killing Floor" (Blues)... Hard time here and everywhere you go Times is harder than ever been before And the people are driftin' from door to door Can't find no heaven, I don't care where they go Hear me tell you people, just before I go Doctors forbade any commotion for the ailing man, but James nevertheless began working out a brand-new song. Spottswood believes that James felt no qualms about returning to the blues, unlike the Rev. James figured that after he regained his health, he could focus on his new career and become a blues star. This item: Hard Time Killing Floor Blues by Skip James Audio CD $9.98. He hung out with the musicians who congregated there from all over Mississippi, and came to see himself as more than a mere entertainer. Skip James’ mythos is less compact than Johnson’s. That winter, Mable was evicted from the Dupont Circle apartment, and the furniture was piled outside the building. It made people uncomfortable, but the blues is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable.”, Dark, dense, and downright scary, James’ music would prove too difficult for fairy-tale success. And I’d Rather Be the Devil, a new full-length biography by blues researcher Stephen Calt, recounts the bluesman’s harrowing life and times. James, buoyed by the enthusiastic reception at Newport, now tried to accomplish the same. Skip James, like most of the bluesmen, had left behind few traces. ‘Cause nothing but the devil changed my baby’s mind. He says, in a mock brag, “I bought Skip James for $200.”. His songs have influenced generations of musicians and have been adapted by numerous artists. His signature songs, including “Candyman,” were light party numbers. “What is that body of water there?” he would ask as the car raced over a rickety bridge. The young men would knock on doors, ready with their pitch: “Buying up old gramophone records, paying a dime apiece for ’em, cash money!” An elderly voice might shout back, “We used to have ’em, but the children took ’em out in the cornfield and made flying saucers out of ’em.” But sometimes the searchers would strike gold. “He really stood out from the mass of humanity,” says Spottswood. It was a bad career move. A former grocery store in Adams Morgan, the Ontario attracted a nearly all-white crowd of college students, professionals, and beatniks. Hard Time Killing Floor Blues Band. But the wanna-be guitarist hungered for more than the record: He wanted to see Hurt play. “Pretty women in Avalon, want me there all the time.” Maps of the Mississippi Delta failed to show the town, but in February 1963, Hoskins found it on an antiquated road atlas. Spottswood’s coterie began to reach beyond his collection. Contact Us Calt’s exhaustive biography sheds light on James’ little-known early life, previously documented in only a few paragraphs of obscure anthologies’ liner notes. He’d heard about the “International Man,” a root doctor in Washington who could break the evil spell. As it turned out, Mable was right to worry. The blues revival was launched. He bought that record for $1 (its only blemishes were crayon marks on the label), and then nabbed another, more worn-out record by the same singer for only 60 cents. Soon after making them, he quit music for good, thinking himself a failure. His record collection attracted fellow students, aspiring musicians, and budding beatniks, all of whom hung out at Spottswood’s house in Takoma Park, analyzing the guitar playing on obscure 78s and arguing about who was the best bluesman. The slow, mournful dirge hooked Spottswood. Genes, a Silver Spring label, issued the first in a series of James’ previously unreleased sessions from the ’60s, the decade when the bluesman was rediscovered. The Sleigher: The Marías, “We’re The Lucky Ones”, City Lights: Watch Black-and-White Thriller, Wilson High School’s Student Newspaper Endorses Edna B. Jackson for School’s New Name, Phil Mendelson on Not Extending Utility Shutoff Protections, The Hospitality Industry Was There for Furloughed Feds During Government Shutdowns, Proudly powered by Newspack by Automattic. Devil Got My Woman #5. Play Advices. The bedridden James seemed to expect the sudden appearance of these fans; in fact, he seemed perturbed that they hadn’t come sooner to pay him homage. The students worshiped the “lost” bluesman—among their idols, the 62-year-old James ranked as the most mysterious and most revered. Learn to play guitar by chord / tabs using chord diagrams, transpose the key, watch video lessons and much more. Furthermore, James saw D.C. as a place where he could be healed. Back in the early ’60s, Spottswood concentrated on the blues, and he inspired an entire generation of Washington blues fanatics. “Unlike Hurt, he wasn’t a happy person, and when he drank he would become vicious.”. He saw music as a hobby, whether performing on a street corner or in a barroom. James survived his misspent youth, and the story of his later years provides plenty more of the kind of misery that fueled his music. “The rawer, the better” became their motto, and the rawest of all was the Mississippi Delta blues by such masters as Charley Patton, Son House, Tommy and Robert Johnson, Bukka White, John Hurt, and of course, Skip James. In Washington, though, James acquired plenty of friends, and strangers called him a genius. An elfin old man answered, and his wide, good-natured grin turned sour when he saw the white stranger. The couple moved to Bentonia, near James’ birthplace, where he cut timber and eked out a living. Doctors told him bluntly that if he wanted to live, he had no choice: His penis would have to be amputated. Louisa Spottswood and her whippet often visited the ailing bluesman. "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues" Hard times are here and everywhere you go Times are harder than ever been before Ohh ohhh ahhh Ohh ohhh ahhh People are driftin' from door to door Can't find no heaven, I don't care where they go Ohh ohhh ahhh Ohh ohhh … He’d even rehash standards such as “Chicken,” and lead the audience in asingalong. Guitar Tabs Universe Music His father disapproved of James’ blues-singing past. A handful of these white suburban oddballs organized their lives around country blues. An idiosyncratic, ethereal approach permeates his music, as does a deep aura of despair on “Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues,” among others. But Skip James remained an enigma, the last of the great lost bluesmen. He sang of death and betrayal to a crowd weaned on Cub Scout campfire stories. There, Hoskins asked a pair of elderly men if they knew a blues singer named John Hurt. As the girl waited in the car, Hoskins knocked on the front door. At one point, he even joined his long-lost father, who’d become a Baptist minister. [4] In July 1964, James and other rediscovered musicians appeared at the Newport Folk Festival. One might argue that Wolf picked up the use of killing floor to mean slaughterhouse from "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues," which was recorded by influential Delta bluesman Skip James in 1931. That obstacle seemed to melt away: “I ran into this girl, and she had a brand-new little Dodge Slant 6, and she really wanted to go to Mardi Gras. Hard Time Killing Floor Blues by Skip James Chords Different Versions Chords, Tab, Tabs. Performance/Dance Yet James had never been up north until he was brought to Grafton, Wisconsin, in 1931 to … He had that brooding, inquisitive intellect that was never content to leave things unchallenged. Gone were the dark suit and preacher’s hat. Naturally, the Washington blues coterie wondered what Meeks saw in the emasculated blues singer. Events: A heads up about City Paper events, from panels to parties. In a way, James’ story is the truest story of the blues: He led an open wound of a life, and all he got for it was minor-league, post-mortem stardom. Brown played the part of the young James in the documentary. Key Variations. He didn’t tell feel-good stories between feel-good songs; instead, James performed without patter, distilling his life’s miseries into his music. What if they were still alive down in the Delta? Hard Time Killing Floor Blues I Ain't Running (Mat Callahan & Yvonne Moore) Labor Of Love Let Me Stay Natural Woman One More Time (Mat Callahan & Yvonne Moore) Rise Up (Mat Callahan & Yvonne Moore) Running Behind My Own Life Shake It Sneakin' Through The Country Stilli Wasser (Polo Hofer und die Schmetterband mit Yvonne Moore & Paula Wittwer) Director Martin Scorsese—who’s already depicted Jesus on celluloid—plans a biographical film about Johnson. “It made me think of some dark bayou with Spanish moss hanging off the trees, an eerie voodoo atmosphere….Skip’s music evoked thoughts in people that maybe they didn’t want to be thinking when they were out on the town trying to have a good time. Among the abandoned belongings stood the piano. During jam sessions, James spiked his playing with complicated riffs and chord changes in an attempt to sabotage Hurt, who dutifully tried to keep up. 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