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Wailin’ Wednesdays–Spoonful of Blues

Posted in music, wailin wednesdays by Reed Turchi on February 17, 2009

On any given mid-month Wednesday–when the thrill of the new month has worn off, and excitement for the next has not yet begun–“Wailin’ Wednesdays” will bring you a good ol’ blues song to keep you company as you drag your way through the middle of yet another week.

The Charley Patton collection--available (and highly recommended ) from the music library

The Charley Patton collection--available (and highly recommended ) from the music library

At some point during the Civil War, or soon thereafter, the foundations for the song “Spoonful of Blues” (also known as “Spoonful”, “Just a Spoonful”, etc) were laid in the cocaine addiction that ran rampant throughout the South in the dying days of the Confederacy. Charley Patton, the legendary blues singer who eventually died from some sort of liver complications (he often performed drunk off of the alcohol that “canned heat” would emit when boiled), first recorded “Spoonful of Blues” in 1924 in a chair and table manufacturing warehouse in Madison, Wisconsin for Paramount records. The song referenced the Spoonful as cocaine–and yet rather than say spoonful, Patton spelled the word out with the melody.

It’s all I want in this creation is a…./I go home, wanna fight ’bout a…./Would you kill my man, babe?/ Yes I will, just about a…./Aw babe I’m a fool ’bout my…”

Only a few years later, Charley Jordan recorded his version of the song, “Just a Spoonful”, which used “spoonful” in a broader sense, with narcotic, sexual, and downright “bluesy” connotations–

My baby says she couldn’t get that spoonful/I said look here girl, don’t go foolin’ with me ’bout my spoonful.”

A generation later, Howlin’ Wolf, who “Learnt them blues” directly from Patton, recorded “Spoonful”, and acknowledges the mystery of the term “spoonful” from the beginning of the song, before launching into the usual lyrics:

It could be a spoonful of diamonds, could be a spoonful of gold, just a little spoonful of your brush of love to satisfy my soul…”

Later still, the English blues/rock band “Livin’ Blues” recorded a much longer, much more electric version of “Spoonful” but based it purely off of Howlin Wolf’s version–branching further and further away from the Spoonful that Patton learned somewhere in the Mississippi delta at the end of the 19th century.

“Spoonful” is an example of a common theme in the evolution of blues songs–while they may start out as very specific to one experience or theme (such as Cocaine addiction), they eventually become diluted with the ambiguous lyrics that exist in the blues world, free to be taken and adapted as needed–and free to be applied to situations of lost money, lost land, and most importantly lost love.

What kind of spoonful is this?

What kind of spoonful is this?

“Some of them lies about it…some of them cries about it…but everybody’s crazy about it…that spoonful, spoonful, spoonful.”

So, for today, there’s your spoonful worth of blues.

-Reed Turchi

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2 Responses

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  1. Peter said, on February 18, 2009 at 9:49 am

    The Chair and Table company you where refering to was in Grafton Wisconsin (20 min. north of Milwaukee) at the Wisconsin Chair factory. This is were Paramount had a small recording studio. A place where they also manufactured Edison record players.

  2. musicobsession said, on February 24, 2009 at 11:42 am


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