Monday, May 01, 2006

Drawing from the past

The "folk tradition" of passing along a song and changing it to suit the artists needs or updating it to suit the times, is found in the blues as much as it is in other types of folk music. Typically, in the "blues tradition" an artist will borrow lyrics or tune from another song, and make it his own.

A prime example of this tradtion is Robert Petway's "Catfish Blues". Pettway was born about 1908 near Yazoo City, Mississippi. Like most of his contemporaries, he worked the fields during the week and played the juke joints on weekends. Considering his influence on the blues, little is known about Petway. He wasn't a great guitar player, his vocals were strong and gravely in the delta style, but he will always be remembered for his contribution to the blues and eventually to rock music.

Muddy Waters borrowed portions of the lyrics to "Catfish Blues", formulated and electrified it to become his classic "Rolling Stone". In fact, Waters later reworked that song a bit and released "Still a Fool".

In the late 1960s, Jimi Hendrix combined these two Muddy Waters songs to craft his appropriately titled "Muddy Water Blues", later changing the title to "Catfish Blues".

Catfish Blues - Robert Petway.mp3


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