Sunday, November 3, 2013

SONGS THAT TELL A STORY #6: "Ya Gotta Quit Kickin' My Dog Around" by THE EMPTY BOTTLE STRING BAND featurung KRISTAL HARMON, 2012

Albie's Note: I first heard this old song back in the 1980s, when my college friend Bob Cavera, a roots music fan if there ever was one, owned it on a vinyl LP collection of old 1920s "78" recordings of songs by Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers. I always liked it and later grew to be downright fascinated by it-- particularly by how many people I would run into who had actually heard it sung before, usually from old family members or in the Army.  I figured it must be a pretty pervasive folk tune to have gone so far and wide.  

If you go on-line and research it you'll usually find people saying it was written in 1912 and used as a campaign song by an old Arkansas politician named Champ Clark.  Well, Clark did indeed use the song in his run for president against Woodrow Wilson, and he definitely seems to have made it an enormous hit in 1912 by doing so, but the song itself-- which has nothing to do with politics whatsoever-- apparently goes back much further.  An earlier hit was a copyrighted in the 1870s by James Bland, a popular Negro entertainer of the 1800s, but even his version-- which is the one most copied by later musicians-- was probably not original, as there are very similar songs going back to the 1700s, and someone even claims to have found a 17th century German poem whose lyrics,  when translated, tell almost the identical story. 

WHEW!  Confused yet?  Well...  all of this is certainly very interesting to myself and other like-minded geeks, but the main reason I have made THIS post is that I really like this young bluegrass group THE EMPTY BOTTLE STRING BAND and their various YouTube vids.  The vocal reading by this young female singer-- one Kristal Harman-- gives a phrasing that really makes the STORY of the song come alive.  The performance is live at some fun-sounding place called The Pickin' Porch in Bristol Virginia.

In any case... That ol' Jim musta been some kinda dawg!

Check it out.  I think you'll dig it too.

Me an' old Lem Briggs an' old Bill Brown
Took a load of corn to town;
My old Jim dawg, the onery cuss,
He just started to foller us.

As we went by old Johnson's store
A bunch of boys come out the door;
When Jim he stopped to smell a box
They started throwin' sticks and rocks.

Ev'ry time I come to town
The boys go to kickin' my dawg aroun';
Makes no diff'rence if he is a houn',
Ya gotta quit kickin' my dawg aroun'.  

They tied a tin can to Jim's tail
Ran him past the county jail;
That just naturally made me sore!
Ol' Lem, he cussed an' Bill he swore.

Me an' ol' Lem Briggs an' old Bill Brown
Wasted no time in throwin' down;
There came a man stompin' on the ground--
I said, "Hey Jim, go take him down!"


Well ol' Jim saw him standing there,
He jumped up on him like a bear;
He shore messed up that court-house square
With rags an' meat an' hide an' hair!

They say a dawg won't hold a grudge,
But when given too much he'll shove.
Them town boys tried to do us up,
But they did not count on old Jim pup!

Every time I come to town
The boys go to kickin' my dawg aroun';
Makes no difference if he is a houn',
Ya gotta quit kickin' my dawg aroun'.


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