Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Blues According to: Lightnin' Hopkins

Sam Houston 'Lightnin'' Hopkins

I been making up songs all my life. I could get out among people ‘cause this here’s a gift...to me.  An old lady told me, “Son, your mother had music in her heart when she was carrying you.” You know what that mean, don’t you? When I come into this world I was doin’ this.

I come along, long about the time that the people first put the blues on this earth for the people to go by. Well, I’m one in the number and the rest of them is dead and gone. I got in that number at a young age...and I just keeps it up ‘cause the blues is something that the people can’t get rid of.  And if you ever have the blues, remember what I tell you. You’ll always hear this in your heart: That’s the blues.

My grandfather was a slave who hung himself ‘cause he was tired of being punished. My father was a rough man who peoples didn’t like. He’d fight right smart. He killed a man. So, he went to the penitentiary, and he come back and married my mother, and from then on he started this family.  They put someone up to kill him because he was rough.  He raised good crops and he gambled, and...he’d win people’s cotton and all such as that. And they didn’t like him for it. He didn’t love nothing but gambling and he’d drink whiskey and fight and shoot, so that’s the way his life was taken, see. So that left nobody but my mother to raise us children.

I come up in Sunday school too. I played organ in Sunday school, and I played piano in Sunday school. It was fine...I opened up the church with the piano.  They didn’t teach me them songs. They made ‘em up. Fact of the business, they sing ‘em. I played ‘em...all they do is give me the tune. But you see I wouldn’t be singing, I just be playing it.  When my chorus come in, I just play it.

I was too little to chop cotton. They come out the field and I was pickin’ the guitar one day...Joel give me that guitar. THey come in for dinner and I’m sittin’ down with that guiar across my lap pickin’ it, and he wanted to know what I was doin’ with his guitar. I told him I was picking’ it.  He told me, “Let me see what you do.” And I went on and played songs better than him.  He said, “You can  have that guitar. I’ll get me another one.”

I run up around Blind Lemon Jefferson. He had a crowd of peoples around him. And I was standing there looking at him play, and I went to playing my guitar, just what he was playing. So he say, “Who is that playing that guitar?” So, they say, “Oh, that’s jus a little boy here knockin’ on that guitar.” He say, “No, he playing that guitar.” Say, “Where he at? Come here, boy.”  And I went on over there where he was, and he was feeling for me. And I was so low, he reached out, say, “This here was picking that guitar?” Say, “Yeah.” So, he say, “Do that again.” So, I did a little note again, same he done. He say, “Well, that’s my note.” He say, “Boy, you keep that up, you gonna be a good guitar player.” So, he went on and on and then commenced to playing, so I went to playing right on with him. So, I was so little and low, the peoples couldn’t see me. And we were standing by a truck. They put me on top of the truck, and Blind Lemon was standing down by the truck, and me and him, man, we carried it on. And the excitement was me, because I was so little. And I was just picking what he was. I wasn’t singing but I was playing what he was playing. That’s right.

I didn’t make too much picking’ cotton. I’m telling you the truth because they wasn’t payin’ but fifty cents a hundred pounds picked. Man, I’d make me two dollars and something. I was picking four and five hundred pounds. But you know man, I’m telling you the truth, if you just know what it takes to get two dollars out of that cotton patch...but I wasn’t on that farm much longer. I left.

I commenced to playing for dances. See, when I got good, and when I went to finding them there places were they barrelhouse [drinking and dancin’], I didn’t know.  I just had to run up on them places, see around Jewett, Buffalo and Crockett.  And they had little old joints for Saturday nights, you know. But what you gonna do through the week? I was getting three and a half dollars in Coolidge, Texas. Got pretty good, and so they raised it to around six dollars to go to Mart, making six dollars a night.

I had a friend play with me by the name of Luther Stoneham. We was playing on the corner of Pierce and Dowling. We walked to Harrisburg and every joint we play they want us and we get in that joint and play. When we got back from Harrisburg, we counted up on the corner Pierce and Dowling a hundred and eighty-one dollars.  And that was just from that corner. But when we put out all that money on the concrete, here come a load of cops. They want to know where we got this money. I had to call a man to tell them that I played in his cafe for them to know that we made that money like that. They thought we had done robbed something. I told them it would be silly for me, if I had robbed something to count my money down on the street. I was talking to the cop and they called two more carloads of cops. I wasn’t intending for them to take it. So they told us, “Y’all get that money off the street and go to your house and count it.” They knowed I was a musician.

Blind Lemon said when I played and sang I electrified people he was the one that started callin’ me Lightnin’.

I been married to ten common-law wives. The first woman that you marry, that was your wife until she die...but you know, that’s just an old saying. You can grab a license and marry twenty times. But the first wife is the only one.  Every time I get ready to go, I just throw the divorce money up on the table and paper’s already signed.  I’m gone. I done bought about seven divorces. I love these women. You know what I mean?  But if they make me made, I'm gone. Good-by honey, because there’s another somewhere else just like the saying goes, “For the flower that blooms, there’s another of a different color.” White flowers, blue flowers, I can pick any kind I want. And If I got a blue one that makes me mad, I go get a red one. I kind of like to pick my flowers, and if I get hot, I pick a good one.

You take a person that want to relax his mind and get things off his mind, well, maybe, say, worried about something that happened. Get him a little old tree, go to the tree and get him a hook and bait and go to fishin’ he’ll forget about that...That’s why the doctor tell lots of these old people it would be a lots of help to them to go to the creek and just fish.  It don’t matter if it’s just a little minnow bitin’. You done forgot all about what’s goin’ on. I think the doctor is right there ‘cause it gives you so much relax.  You get on the creek fishin’ you forget about what’s worrying you.

I was tryin’ to make a living, I even taken a quart of wine, sold it to a chile
They picked me up right then and put me on that rock pile
Breakin’ rocks all day long, that’s the reason if you ever go to Arizona
You better leave them Indians alone

Thousands years my people was a slave
When I was born they teach me this way
One thousand years my people was a slave
When I was born they teach me this a way
Tip your hat to the peoples, be careful what you say
You know, I looks over on the pillow where Little Antoinette used to lay
Felt on my pillow, yes pillow felt warm
You know, you could tell by that dear friend
Poor Antoinette hadn’t been very long gone
She used to cook my breakfast, fix my table like it should
Sounds like I can hear this morning
Death bells ringing all in my ear
Yes, I know that I’m gonna leave on a chariot
Wonder what kind’s gonna carry me from here.

Sam Houston ‘Lightnin’ Hopkins

      Track Listing:
01 Lightnin's Boogie
02 I Feel Like Balling the Jack
03 The World's a Tangle
04 Selling Wine In Arizona
05 Slavery Time
06 Lightnin' Piano Boogie
07 Short Haired Woman
08 I Got a Leak in This Old Building
09 Mojo Hand
10 Needed Time
11 Fast Mail Rambler
12 I Walked from Dallas (feat. Joel Hopkins)
13 The Devil Jumped the Black Man
14 Big Car Blues
15 Gin Bottle Blues (Previously Unreleased)
16 Katie Mae Blues
17 Speedin' Boogie
18 I Wonder Where She Can Be Tonight
19 I Asked the Bossman
20 Antoinette's Blues
21 Conversation Blues (feat. Sonny Terry)
22 Hopkins' Sky Hop

(all quotes from Lightnin' Hopkins: His Life and Blues by Alan Govenar)

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