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Lyr Req: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me(John Hurt)

DigiTrad:
BIG LEGGED WOMAN
MAKE ME A PALLET ON YOUR FLOOR
MY CREOLE BELLE
WORRIED BLUES


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murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 06 Apr 98 - 09:04 PM
Brad Sondahl 06 Apr 98 - 09:53 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 07 Apr 98 - 02:46 AM
wysiwyg 18 Jun 01 - 06:07 PM
Charley Noble 18 Jun 01 - 06:22 PM
ddw 18 Jun 01 - 06:25 PM
ddw 18 Jun 01 - 06:32 PM
Charley Noble 19 Jun 01 - 10:06 AM
wysiwyg 19 Jun 01 - 10:49 AM
Tedham Porterhouse 19 Jun 01 - 11:00 AM
Jon W. 19 Jun 01 - 04:36 PM
ddw 19 Jun 01 - 06:30 PM
PoppaGator 13 Jan 04 - 04:07 PM
ddw 13 Jan 04 - 06:26 PM
jaze 13 Jan 04 - 07:41 PM
ddw 14 Jan 04 - 09:40 AM
PoppaGator 14 Jan 04 - 03:18 PM
ddw 15 Jan 04 - 12:07 AM
Amos 15 Jan 04 - 12:15 AM
ddw 15 Jan 04 - 12:23 AM
voyager 15 Jan 04 - 06:35 PM
ddw 15 Jan 04 - 11:12 PM
GUEST,Rob 20 Jul 06 - 12:23 PM
voyager 20 Jul 06 - 01:35 PM
GUEST,mmmmmmm 11 Jan 07 - 01:32 AM
alanabit 05 Jul 07 - 06:32 AM
PoppaGator 05 Jul 07 - 09:55 AM
GUEST 07 Apr 08 - 08:47 PM
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Subject: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 06 Apr 98 - 09:04 PM

I am trying to make out the words to Mississippi John Hurt's "Let the Mermaids Flirt with me". Below is what I hear. I have put a string of "x"'s at the places I can't make out. There are two places. One in the refrain and one in the last verse. Any corrections would also be appreciated. The song is credited to Hurt.

Blues are on the ocean, Blues are in the air
Can't stay here no longer, I have no steamship fare
Refrain
When my earthly trials are over cast my body out in the sea
xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Let the Mermaids flirt with me

I do not work for pleasure, earthly peace I'll see no more
The only reason I work at all is to drive the wolfe from my door
Refrain
My wife controlls our happy home, my sweetheart I cannot find
The only thing I can call my own is a troubled and a worried mind
Refrain
Blues are in my body, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
If I ever see her face again, have to travel 'cross the sea
Refrain
Repeat first verse

Thanks, Murray


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Subject: RE: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: Brad Sondahl
Date: 06 Apr 98 - 09:53 PM

Save on the undertaker's bill and my darlin has forsaken me

Great song--I love to play it... http://www.camasnet.com/~asondahl


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Subject: RE: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 07 Apr 98 - 02:46 AM

Thanks Brad. I hope to play it some day too. I have ordered the Grossman book that has it. That's a start. The only other thing I have to do is get good enough. :)

Murray


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Subject: Lyr Add: LET THE MERMAIDS FLIRT WITH ME (J Hurt)^^
From: wysiwyg
Date: 18 Jun 01 - 06:07 PM

I'm hearing it just a little differently, and I decided to make up a complete songsheet anyhow.

~S~


LET THE MERMAIDS FLIRT WITH ME
Mississippi John Hurt

Blues all on the ocean, blues all in the air;
Can't stay here no longer, I have no steamship fare.
When my earthly trials are over, cast my body out in the sea;
Save on the undertaker bill-- let the mermaids flirt with me!

I do not work for pleasure; earthly peace I'll see no more;
The only reason I work at all is to drive the wolf from my door.
When my earthly trials are over, cast my body out in the sea;
Save on the undertaker bill-- let the mermaids flirt with me!

My wife controls our happy home; my sweetheart I cannot find.
The only thing I can call my own is a troubled and a worried mind.
When my earthly trials are over, cast my body out in the sea;
Save on the undertaker bill-- let the mermaids flirt with me!

Blues all in my body; my darlin' has forsaken me.
If I ever see her face again, have to travel 'cross the sea.
When my earthly trials are over, cast my body out in the sea;
Save on the undertaker bill-- let the mermaids flirt with me!

Blues all on the ocean, blues all in the air;
Can't stay here no longer, I have no steamship fare.
When my earthly trials are over, cast my body out in the sea;
Save on the undertaker bill-- let the mermaids flirt with me!

^^


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Subject: RE: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: Charley Noble
Date: 18 Jun 01 - 06:22 PM

Looks good to me!;-)


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Subject: RE: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: ddw
Date: 18 Jun 01 - 06:25 PM

WYSIWYG has it right, except the second-last line of the chorus is "Save all the undertaker's bills"

Murray — The guitar work isn't really very hard. When you get your Stefan Grossman book you'll be amazed at how simple MJH's arrangements really are. They just SOUND so good.

If you've never worked with tablature before, the trick is to put a song on "repeat" and study the tab while you listen to it over and over, working out the tricky-sounding parts one at a time. It buffaloed me for years, but the MJH book and CD helped me a lot with it.

happy pickin'

david


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Subject: RE: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: ddw
Date: 18 Jun 01 - 06:32 PM

BTW, Murray —

In that same series — Masters of the Blues Guitar — Grossman also has Blind Boy Fuller, Rev. Gary Davis, Blind Blake and Lonnie Johnson. They're all worth getting, even if it's just for the CDs included and the words.

Of course you have to work your way up to Davis and Johnson — they are very complex. I've got 'em all and I'm slowly working my way through them. Started with MJH, then a few from BBF and now I'm working on Blake. Not doing everything in each book, but learning as I go along. Also working on some Big Bill Broonzy stuff and the other two helped with that — some of the same licks involved.

david


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Subject: RE: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: Charley Noble
Date: 19 Jun 01 - 10:06 AM

DDW, are you sure? "Save on the undertaker bill" makes more sense, if that's important.


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Subject: RE: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: wysiwyg
Date: 19 Jun 01 - 10:49 AM

Part of this is that MJH's accent leaves the thing an open question... I don't hear, definitively, ON or ALL... more of an AHW' sound... the S sound is truncated too, and you can hear this in his other pieces as well....

It's hard to know when to "change" something and when not... We try not to "white" it up too much when we do his pieces in church. But I don't think our people would quite appreciate it if we did-- faithful to the recording-- "Nero My God to Thee," even if they do like Rex Stout novels and agree with Wolfe's self-estimation! *G*

So we are left to make these our own, each of us, in the way that makes the most sense for how they hit our hearts.

For instance, Gary Davis. I can't seem to learn them from his recordings... but Andy Cohen could, and did, and made one I can learn from now. I don't do it anything like Davis OR Cohen... and neither shall our parishioners go home humming exactly what I sang, either. Yet if they hear anyone's version, later, they will recognize it.

Sometimes we are connected into the continuum of the Folk Process like a kid with a stick fishing pole is connected to the Mississippi on a lazy day, and other times like a toddler sticking a hair clip into the electric socket in the wall. Never know what come outen either one. Our job jes' hook in.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: Tedham Porterhouse
Date: 19 Jun 01 - 11:00 AM

All of my old Sing Out magazines are in storage, but I remember "Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me" being published in the magagzine years ago. It must have been in the '60's or '70s.


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Subject: RE: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: Jon W.
Date: 19 Jun 01 - 04:36 PM

Either "on" or "all" make sense and both sound the same. So just choose the one you want.

I've liked this song and wished I could play it for 10 or 15 years. Guess I'll have to get the book.


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Subject: RE: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: ddw
Date: 19 Jun 01 - 06:30 PM

Jon W. — The book is definitely worth having, but if that song is all you're looking for, check to see if you have hobo classic "All Around The Water Tank," which uses almost exactly the same tune, even if it doesn't use MJH's guitar work.

Charley — I was winging it from memory when I posted that, but I'm fairly sure that's what is in the Stefan Grossman book. I'll check it when I get home tonight.

As for making sense, I think either works but I find that in blues songs the writers'/singers' limited knowledge of standard idiomatic English sometimes makes some pretty odd phrases, which I consider part of the charm of the songs.

david


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Subject: RE: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: PoppaGator
Date: 13 Jan 04 - 04:07 PM

Just listening to the radio, I heard the instrumental part of this song and said to myself:

"What the hell is that? Mississippi John Hurt playing 'Waiting For A Train'?"

Then the vocal resumed, and I realized that MJH was singing about mermaids and undertakers, not hobos and railroads. I also realized that I'd heard the recording before (though not recently).

What's really strange is that I used to play BOTH of these songs, and never realized at the time that they both use the same tune!

Well, I never got "Mermaids" fully worked up to be part of my repertoire, but I had the Stephen Grossman book mentioned above, and spent at least a little time working on all the MJH numbers. (I *do* have another half-dozen or more John Hurt tunes at my fingertips, and consider myself a fairly knowledgeable afficianado -- hence my dismay at going so many years without noticing this.)

I sang and played the Jimmie Rodgers tune pretty regularly back in my streetsinging days, 1970-72. I did in the key of F (per the sheet music ina 2-volume Jimmie Rodgers Songbook), which is almost certainly *not* the key used by John Hurt for "Mermaids." That must be why I never noticed that the two songs used the same melody. (Also, of course, Hurt's version does not include a yodel at the end of each verse!)

It's interesting to ponder the fact that both John Hurt and the Singing Brakeman lived in northwestern Mississippi at about the same time, and to wonder just where that melody came from. I'd guess that neither created the music out of thin air, but that each one came up with his own original lyrics. But there's no way to know for sure, is there?


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Subject: RE: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: ddw
Date: 13 Jan 04 - 06:26 PM

PoppaGator,

It's amazing how many of these things are floating around, often crossing musical genres. One that springs to mind is the tune Robert Johnson used for Come On In My Kitchen. He recorded it in 1936, but it had been used for Sittin' On Top Of The World (Mississippi Sheiks, 1930), Six Feet In The Ground (Jimmy Oden, 1934), How Long Blues (Leroy Carr, 1928), How Long, Daddy, How Long (Ida Cox w/ Papa Charlie Jackson, 1925) and at least one gospel tune I have on a CD somewhere. I can't remember offhand who does it.

Leroy Carr's Midnight Hour Blues uses the same tune as Betty and Drupee.

I have a list of every tune Robert Johnson ever recorded with lists of other songs using the same tunes that were recorded earlier. RJ NEVER recorded an original tune. In quite a few instances he used the same tune for several of his songs.

Listen to John Hurt's Richlands Woman Blues and his Creole Belle; same tune, just playing the main guitar riff with different voicings.

And I won't even go into how many tunes are floating around that are basically the same as Wildwood Flower. Check Woody's Ruben James and lots of 1960s-penned efforts.

But it's interesting stuff -- and a great way to expand your repertoire in a hurry.

cheers,

david


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: jaze
Date: 13 Jan 04 - 07:41 PM

PappaGator, I love both of those songs but never noticed they were the same until you mentioned it. The only version of "Waiting For A Train" I'm familiar with is by Eric Andersen. Now I'll have to check out "Richland" and "Creole Bell".


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: ddw
Date: 14 Jan 04 - 09:40 AM

BTW, a singer on the circuit here in Windsor does a version of "Mermaids" using the tune and guitar work from "Railroad Bill." Don't know if it's his own doing or if he heard someone else do it that way. I suspect it might have been the latter and I'm wondering if it was Taj Mahal he heard it from. Does anybody know if TM did the song that way?

cheers,

david


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: PoppaGator
Date: 14 Jan 04 - 03:18 PM

Jaze, after I heard and noticed this yesterday, I did a search on the forum and found this old thread. I was a bit dismayed (well, not really) to see that ddw had mentioned this in the very last post back in June of '01; I hadn't "discovered" it mayself after all! (He used "All Around the Water Tank," the opening line, as the title, but we're both talking about Jimmie Rodgers' "Waiting for a Train.") However, I went ahead and made the post anyway, refreshing this old discussion. Glad you found it worthwhile.

David, I have been playing both Creole Belle and Richland Woman Blues since the late 60s. I always considered them similar but not really the same tune -- now that you've prompted me to think about it, there's really just one line in RLB, in the middle of each verse, that makes it any different at all from the much simpler Creole Belle. ("Hurry home sweet daddy...")

Upon even further reflection, I *think* that there's similar minor difference between "Mermaids" and "Train." Jimmie Rodgers ends the 2d-to-last line of each verse on a fairly unconventional chord (A-major with playing in key of F) -- that would be on the word "pain" in "...and my heart is filled with PAIN / I'm a thousand miles away from home, just witin' for a train. I've been trying to re-listen to John Hurt doing Mermaids in my mind's ear, and don't believe he used that little wrinkle. Otherwise, of course, the tune is pretty much the same.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: ddw
Date: 15 Jan 04 - 12:07 AM

Yeah, PapaGator -- there are minor differences, but when the difference is one or two notes within the same chord pattern it becomes almost academic to call them different, don't you think? It's like the old C-Am-F-G7 thing. Many years ago I used to do a thing in my performance that used that chord pattern and I did a medley of about six or seven songs without breaking the rotation. I don't even remember now what all the songs were, but it wouldn't be hard to work it up again.

There are always little squiggles in the tunes, but often they can be attributed to how you stretch the words over the music. It'sof phrasing, not really tune differences. And, of course, there are songs which are, as you say, very similar without being the same. Sometimes the differences are not at all clear.

cheers,

david


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: Amos
Date: 15 Jan 04 - 12:15 AM

DDW:

Donna, Unchained Melody, Santa Catalina, Sh-Boom, Teenager in Love, Jo-Ann, The Bristol Stomp, Blue Moon, Dream (torqued a bit), The Book of Love...(I know there are 20 or so...)

A


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: ddw
Date: 15 Jan 04 - 12:23 AM

Yeah, Amos. I wasn't thinking about most of those -- I stuck almost entirely with folk or quasi-folk tunes. The only ones I can remember right now is "The Seine" (KT), and Blue Moon, but it's such a common progression in the early R&R stuff that it could go on forever in that genre.

cheers,

david


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: voyager
Date: 15 Jan 04 - 06:35 PM

Finger-style transcriptions available in
"The Music of Mississippi John Hurt"
Stefan Grossman's - Masters of Country Blues Guitar
Publisher - CPP/Belwin (1993)

BTW - Has anyone besides MJH produced a credible version of this tune.
      IMHO this is a signature tune for Mississippi John

voyager


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me
From: ddw
Date: 15 Jan 04 - 11:12 PM

Voyager,

Just checked the Folk Music Index and MJH is the only source of this song listed. That's not definitive, but that site is usually pretty good, I think.

david


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me(John Hurt)
From: GUEST,Rob
Date: 20 Jul 06 - 12:23 PM

What is the name of the Stefan Grossman MJH book?
Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me(John H
From: voyager
Date: 20 Jul 06 - 01:35 PM

Masters of Country Blues Guitar Series - MJH

voyager


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me(John H
From: GUEST,mmmmmmm
Date: 11 Jan 07 - 01:32 AM

hi I've recently learnt about 8 john hurt songs,
I sing and play guitar as a soloist but haven't performed them live yet,
I'm in newcastle australia and I'm very curious to see how people react to this music, most people round this way haven't heard of MJH,
has anyone been playing them live out there?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me(John Hurt)
From: alanabit
Date: 05 Jul 07 - 06:32 AM

It does not matter if they have heard of him, does it? You know that it is gorgeous, inspiring music. So get out there and give others the chance to hear it.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me(John Hurt)
From: PoppaGator
Date: 05 Jul 07 - 09:55 AM

Looking back, I can't believe that I heard this MJH song on the radio and didn't immediately recognize the key; I had long since learned to play quite a few key-of-C John Hurt numbers, and should have recognized a number of familiar riffs in there.

At any rate, I began playing and singing this song very regularly since participating in this discussion back in 2004. It became a special favorite the following year while I went through about with cancer, thanks to the basically death-defying lyric.

Yesterday was the annual festival/gathering at the late Mr Hurt's homestead in North Mississippi. Once again, I was not able to attend; maybe next year. When I do show up and have a chance to play a song or two on John's front porch, "Mermaids" will be my first choice.

Here's a link:

http://www.msjohnhurtmuseum.com/

Webmaster Frank Delaney is working on a documentary film about MJH and the museum; I think it's suppposed to appear on PBS within the next year or so.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me(John Hurt)
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Apr 08 - 08:47 PM

Save on the undetakers bill


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