Public Domain Blues Songs

What is a Public Domain song?

In short, a public domain song is a song that is not protected by any copyright. That means, it can be used freely by anyone, can be modified and used in any way. But when is a song free of any copyright? There are usually three possibilities:

  • The song never had a copyright
    For most Blues traditionals the author is simply unknown. The songs were transmitted orally and performed by custom over many years. St. James Infirmary Blues is a well known example.
  • The author(s) have put it into public domain
    Sometimes the author puts his song into public domain by himself. A newer variation is the use of one of the Creative Commons licenses. Please note: there are different CC licenses and they are not equivalent to public domain.
  • The copyright has expired
    The most interesting but also most complicated case. Copyright laws differ from country to country, and the Internet doesn’t make it easier.
    Some rules:

    • European Union: the author died 70 years ago
    • USA: everything published before 1923
    • Canada, China, Japan, Korea: the author died 50 years ago

Examples: The work of Robert Johnson (1911 – 1938) is public domain in the European Union because Johnson died more than 70 years ago, but not in the USA, because his recordings were published after 1922. Some songs from W.C. Handy (1873 – 1958) are public domain in the USA because they were published before 1922 (e.g. Memphis Blues), but they are normally not public domain in the European Union before 2028 (1958 + 70). But the Rule of the shorter term makes them (as far as I know!) PD in the states of the European Union.

The situation in the USA is so complicated that it’s hard to understand. Just search the ‘net for Robert Johnson copyright and you’ll find that some of his work is still under copyright while other parts aren’t. Looks like whenever something popular (= money making) is going to get public domain a new law is created. Be it Mickey Mouse or – Robert Johnson.

Sometimes the music is public domain, but the lyrics are not. A searchable database (although not official – no warranty) for US copyright is available at http://www.pdinfo.com.
If you want to be on the save side, use Blues traditionals. Unfortunately there are not many, but you can also convert old folk songs into a Blues version, still using the original lyrics.

Please note that – although this list is made with great efforts to include most accurate information – I can not guarantee that all songs listed here are public domain in your country! If you plan a commercial or public use always check using the copyright laws of your country.

To get an idea of the song, you might try a YouTube search, most songs can be found in different versions there. Some songs are also available on Wikimedia and at http://www.pdmusic.org.

PD: public domain (as far as I know)
unkown: maybe not PD, not sure about, use with caution

Additional Links

Song list

  1. Forty-Four (44 Blues)
  2. Ninety Nine Blues
  3. Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do
  4. Baby Won’t You Please Come Home
  5. Backwater Blues
  6. Beale Street Blues
  7. The Broadway Blues
  8. Candy man
  9. Catfish Blues
  10. Crazy Blues
  11. Downhearted Blues
  12. Down Home Blues
  13. Frankie and Albert
  14. Going Down The Road Feelin’ Bad
  15. House Of The Rising Sun
  16. I Ain’t Got Nobody
  17. Jelly Roll Blues
  18. John Henry
  19. The Memphis Blues
  20. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out
  21. Railroad Blues
  22. Rollin’ and Tumblin’
  23. Stagger Lee
  24. St. James Infirmary Blues
  25. St. Louis Blues
  26. Take this Hammer

44 Blues (Forty-Four)

  • PD status: USA: PD, EU: PD (music only, words are not PD in USA and EU)
  • Author: unkown around 1920, words 1929 by Roosevelt Sykes (1906 – 1983)
  • First recorded: 1929 by Roosevelt Sykes
  • Also known as: Fourty-Four, Number 44 Blues, Vicksburg Blues
  • Covered by: Howlin’ Wolf, Johnny Winter, Ry Cooder, Eric Clapton and many others
  • Additional info: Wikipedia
Chords (lyrics are still under copyright!)

F         Bb        F
I wore my .44 ...
Bb        F
I wore my .44 ...
C             Bb    F
I'm going to the ...

Ninety Nine Blues

  • PD status: USA: PD, EU: PD due to the rule of the shorter term (not sure)
  • Author: Henry McCurdy (w), Gordon Saunders (m) in 1920
  • First recorded: 1929 (Blind Joe Reynolds) (not sure)
  • Also known as:
  • Covered by: Sonny Boy Williamson (not sure)
Chords and lyrics
(currently unkown)

Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do

  • PD status: USA: PD, EU: PD due to the rule of the shorter term (not sure)
  • Author: Porter Grainger (1891 – 1955) and Everett Robbins in 1920
  • First recorded: 1922 (Anna Meyer with the Original Memphis Five)
  • Also known as: ‘T Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do
  • Covered by: Bessie Smith (1923), Sam Cooke, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Ardis, Diana Ross, Otis Spann, Hank Williams Jr., Freddie King, Frank Stokes, Mississippi John Hurt, Eric Clapton, Otis Spann, Susan Tedeschi, Taj Mahal, Wingnut Dishwasher’s Union, Willie Nelson.
Chords and lyrics:

I
[Bb] There ain't nothin' [D7] I can do, [Gm] nor nothin' I can [D7] say,
[G7] That folks don't [Dm7] cri[G7]ti[Cm]cize [G7] me.
[Cm] But I'm gonna [G7] do just as I [Cm] want to any[C]way,
[C7] I don't care if they all des[F#7]pise [F7] me.

II
[Bb] If I should [D7] take a notion
[Gm] To jump in[Eb]to the ocean,
[Bb] It ain't nobody's [F7] business if I [Bb] do. [G7] [C7] [F7]

III
[Bb] Rather than [D7] persecute me,
[Gm] I choose that [Eb] you would shoot me,
[Bb] It ain't nobody's [F7] business if I [Bb] do. [G7] [C7] [F7]

IV
[Bb] If I should [D7] get the feelin'
[Gm] To dance up[Eb]on the ceiling',
[Bb] It ain't nobody's [F7] business if I [Bb] do. [G7] [C7] [F7]

V
[Bb] If I let my [D7] best companion
[Gm] Drive me right in[Eb]to the canyon,
[Bb] It ain't nobody's [F7] business if I [Bb] do. [G7] [C7] [F7]

VI
[Bb] After all the [D7] way to do [Gm] is do just as you [D7] please,
[G7] Regardless [Dm7] of [G7] their [Cm] talk[G7]in'
[Cm] Often times the [G7] ones that talk will get [Cm] down on their [C] knees,
[C7] And beg your pardon for their [F#7] squak[F7]in'. (sp?)

VII
[Bb] If I dis[D7]like my lover
[Gm] And leave (him/her) [Eb] for another,
[Bb] It ain't nobody's [F7] business if I [Bb] do. [G7] [C7] [F7]

VIII
[Bb] If I go to [D7] church on Sunday,
[Gm] Then caba[Eb]ret on Monday,
[Bb] It ain't nobody's [F7] business if I [Bb] do. [G7] [C7] [F7]

IX
[Bb] If my friend ain't [D7] got no money
[Gm] And I say, "Take [Eb] all mine honey,"
[Bb] It ain't nobody's [F7] business if I [Bb] do. [G7] [C7] [F7]

X
[Bb] If I lend (him/her) [D7] my last nickel
[Gm] And it leaves me [Eb] in a pickle,
[Bb] It ain't nobody's [F7] business if I [Bb] do.

Baby Won’t You Please Come Home

Chords and lyrics

Verse
G   Bbo    A7+5   D9    G   Bbo    A7+5 Ab7 D9
G   B7 B7-5  Em   B+    Em7   A7    Am7     D7-9
G   Bbo    A7+5 A7 D9    Dm7   G9    C
Em7 A7     D^7   Ebo    Em7   A7-5    D7   Am7 Ab7

Chorus
G   Gbm7    F9   E9    A7   Em7    A7
D7        Em        A7   Eb9    D9
G   Gbm7 B7  E7        Am7   C C7  B7
C   Dbo    G F7 E7    A7   D7   1 G   A7 Ab9
G B7 E7    Am7   D7 Ab7  G

Version in F:

F A7 D7 G7
A7 Dm G7 C7
F A7 D7 Gm7 A7
Bb Bdim F D7 G7 C7 F D7
G7 C7 F

I've got the blues, I feel so lonely
I'll give the world if I could only
Make you understand
It surely would be grand
I'm gonna telephone my baby
Ask him won't you please come home
'Cause when you're gone, I'm worried all day long
Baby won't you please come home
Baby won't you please come home
I have tried in vain
Ever more to call your name
When you left you broke my heart
That will never make us part
Every hour in the day
You will hear me say
Baby won't you please come home, I mean
Baby won't you please come home
Baby won't you please come home
Cause your mama's all alone
I have tried in vain
Never more to call your name
When you left you broke my heart
That will never make us part
Landlord gettin' worse, I've got to move May the first
Baby won't you please come home, I need money
Baby won't you please come home

Backwater Blues

  • PD status: USA: unkown, EU: PD
  • Author: Bessie Smith (1894 – 1937) in 1927
  • First recorded: 1917 (Bessie Smith and James Price Johnson)
  • Also known as: Back-water Blues
  • Covered by: Lonnie Johnson, Lead Belly,Big Bill Broonzy, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bob Dylan, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Colosseum,B.B. King, The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band and many more
  • Additional info: Wikipedia
Chords and Lyrics

  E7                       A7                  E7
It rained five days and the sky turned black as night
  A7                                           E7
It rained five days and the sky turned black as night
             B7                  A7                  E7
There's some trouble taking place in the lowlands at night

I woke up this morning, couldn't even get out of my door
Woke up this morning, couldn't even get out of my door
Sometimes there's so much trouble, a poor girl don't know where to go

They rowed a little boat about five miles across the farm
They rowed a little boat about five miles across the farm
I packed up all my clothes and they rowed me right along

It thunders and lightnings and the wind begins to blow
It thunders and lightnings and the wind begins to blow
There's about a thousand people there, and they ain't got nowhere to go

I went up and stood on a high and lonesome hill
I went up and stood on a high and lonesome hill
I looked down below me on the house I used to live

That's how the blues done caused me to pack up my things and go
Blues done caused me to pack up my things and go
My poor house is gone, I can't live there no more
My poor house is gone, I can't live there no more
My poor house is gone, I can't live there no more

Beale Street Blues

  • PD status: USA: PD, EU: PD
  • Author: W. C. Handy (1873 – 1958) in 1916
  • First recorded: 1919 (Gilda Gray)
  • Also known as:
  • Covered by: Fats Waller, Herb Wiedoeft, Alberta Hunter, Charlie Poole and Jack Teagarden, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Tommy Dorsey
  • Additional info: sheet music available, i.e. at Wikisource
Chords and Lyrics

Intro
[E] I've seen the lights of gay Broadway
[A] Old Market Street, down by the Frisco [E] Bay
[E] I've strolled the Prado [B7] I've gambled on the [E] Bourse
[A] The seven wonders of the world I've [E] seen
[A] And many are the places I have [E] been
[E] Take [B7] my advice folks, see Beale Street first

I
[E] You'll see pretty browns in beautiful gowns
[F#] You'll see tailor-mades and [B7] hand me downs
[E] You'll meet honest [E7] men and [A] pick-pockets skilled
[A] You'll find that [E] business never closes till [B7] somebody gets [E] killed.

II
You'll see Hog-Nose rest'rants and Chitlin' Cafes
You'll see Jugs that tell of bygone days
And places, once places, now just a sham,
You'll see Golden Balls enough to pave the New Jerusalem.

III
If Beale Street could talk If Beale Street could talk,
Married men would have to take their beds and walk
Except one or two, who never drink booze
And the blind man on the corner who sings the Beale Street Blues.

Outro
[A] I'd rather be here, than any place I know
[D] I'd rather be here, than any place I [A] know
[A] It's gonna [E7] take the sergeant, for to make me [A] go.

Goin' to the river, maybe, bye and bye
Goin' to the river, and there's a reason why
Because the rivers wet and Beale Streets done gone dry.

The Broadway Blues

  • PD status: USA: PD, EU: PD
  • Author: J. Brandon Walsh (w, 1882 – 1955) and Terry Sherman (m) in 1915
  • First recorded: 1915 (Sophie Tucker, 1884 – 1966)
  • Also known as:
  • Covered by: unkown
  • Additional info: Original sheet music available here
Chords (not found) and lyrics

I
Oh there's no use talking folks I'm feeling blue,
Oh there's no use talking folks I'm feeling blue
All alone in New York town and loaded down
with the mean old blues
Those Broadway blues.
Got to go and get myself some gin right now
Got to go and get myself some gin right now
It's an awful thing when gloom keep hanging 'round
With the Broadway blues, those Broadway Blues.

Chorus
Oh the blues, oh the blues,
did you ever have the Broadway blues,
They're the meanest old Blues,
those nasty Broadway Blues.

II
Oh there's no use talking folks the panic's on,
Oh there's no use talking folks the panic's on,
'Cause my gal's done left me and my sugar's gone
and I've got the blues
Those Broadway blues.
Oh you baby "Babe" Yo' sure did treat me mean
Oh you baby "Babe" Yo' sure did treat me mean
If you don't come back,
I'm goin' to take morphine
To kill the blues, those Broadway Blues.

Chorus
Oh the blues, oh the blues,
did you ever have the Broadway blues,
They're the meanest old Blues,
those nasty Broadway Blues.
Those mean old Blues,
Those Broadway Blues.

Candy man

Chords and lyrics

-------3---------------|-----------3-------------|
---------------1-------|-----1-----------1-------|
-------0----------2----|--------0-----------2----|
-----------------------|-------------------------|
--3---------3----------|--3-----------3----------|
-----------------------|-------------------------|

-------0---------------|-----------0-------------|
---------------1-------|-----1-----------1-------|
-------0----------2----|--------0-----------2----|
-----------------------|-------------------------|
--3---------3----------|--3-----------3----------|
-----------------------|-------------------------|

-------1---------------|-----------1-------------|
---------------0-------|-----0-----------0-------|
-------0----------2----|--------0-----------2----|
-----------------------|-------------------------|
-----------------------|-------------------------|
--3---------3----------|--3-----------3----------|

-------0---------------|-----------0-------------|
---------------1-------|-----1-----------1-------|
-------0----------2----|--------0-----------2----|
-----------------------|-------------------------|
--3---------3----------|--3-----------3----------|
-----------------------|-------------------------|

-------3---------------|-----------3-------------|
---------------1-------|-----1-----------1-------|
-------0----------2----|--------0-----------2----|
-----------------------|-------------------------|
--3---------3----------|--3-----------3----------|
-----------------------|-------------------------|

-------0---------------|----------0--------------|
---------------1-------|----1-----------1--------|
-------0----------2----|-------0-----------2-----|
-----------------------|-------------------------|
--3---------3----------|-3-----------3-----------|
-----------------------|----------------------0--|

-----------------------|-------------0----3------|
-------------1----3----|-------------------------|
-----2-----------------|-----0------------0------|
--------3--------------|--------2----------------|
-----------------------|-------------------------|
--1--------------------|--3----------3-----------|

------------------------|------------0-----------|
-------------0----------|--1--------------1------|
-----0--2-------0--2----|------------------------|
-------------0----------|------------2-----------|
------------------------|--3--------------3------|
--3---------------------|-------3----------------|

Candy man been here and gone
Candy man been here and gone
Candy man, salty dog
If you can't be my Candy man you can't be my salty dog

Candy man, candy man
Candy man, fattin hog
Candy man, Santa Claus
If you can't be my candy man, can't be my fattin hog

Candy man, candy man
Candy man, been here and gone
Candy man, salty dog
I wish I was in New Orleans, sitting on the candy stand

Run get the pitcher, get the baby some beer (6X)
I'd give anything in this god almighty world
To get my Candy man home

Candy man, salty dog
Candy man, fattin hog
Candy man, salty dog
If you can't be my Candy man
You can't be my man at all

Catfish Blues

  • PD status: USA: PD, EU: PD
  • Author:Traditional around 1920
  • First recorded: March 28, 1941 by Robert Petway
  • Also known as: Deep Blue Sea Blues, Rolling Stone
  • Covered by: Tommy McClennan 1941 as Deep Blue Sea Blues, Muddy Waters 1950 as Rolling Stone, B.B. King, Skip James, Jimi Hendrix, John Lee Hooker and many more.
  • Additional info: Catfish Blues
Chords and lyrics
Well I laid down, down last night, well I tried to take my rest
Notion struck me last night, babe I, I believe I take a stroll out, out west
Take a stroll out, out west, take a stroll out, out west
Take a stroll out west, take a stroll out west

What if I were a catfish, mama?
I said, swimmin' deep down in, deep blue sea
Have these gals now, sweet mama, settin' out
Settin' out hooks for, for me, settin' out hook for, for me
Settin' out hook for, for me, settin' out hook for me
Settin' out hook for me, settin' out hook for me

Well I went down, yeah, down to the church house, yes
Well I called on me to pray

Fell on my knees, now mama, I didn't know, Lord
Not a word to, to say, not a word to, to say, not a word to
Not a word to, not a word to say, not a word to say, not a word to say

Play â€~em, man, play â€~em a long time

I'm gonna write, write me a letter baby, I'm gonna write it just to see
See my babe, my baby who she's thinkin' of
Little ol' thing on, on me, little ol' thing on, on me, little ol' thing on, on me
Little ol' thing on me, little ol' thing on me, a little thing on me

Crazy Blues

  • PD status: USA: PD, EU: PD due to the rule of the shorter term (not sure)
  • Author:Perry Bradford (1893 – 1970) for Mamie Smith (1883 – 1946) in 1920
  • First recorded: 1920 (Mamie Smith And Her Jazz Hounds, first African American Blues singer on record)
  • Also known as:
  • Covered by: Noble Sissle
Chords and lyrics

I can't sleep at night
I can't eat a bite
'Cause the man I love
He don't treat me right

He makes me feel so blue
I don't know what to do
Sometime I sit and sigh
And then begin to cry
'Cause my best friend
Said his last goodbye

There's a change in the ocean
Change in the deep blue sea, my baby
I'll tell you folks, there ain't no change in me
My love for that man will always be

Now I can read his letters
I sure can't read his mind
I thought he's lovin' me
He's leavin' all the time
Now I see my poor love was blind

Now I got the crazy blues
Since my baby went away
I ain't got no time to lose
I must find him today

Now the doctor's gonna do all that he can
But what you're gonna need is an undertaker man
I ain't had nothin' but bad news
Now I got the crazy blues

Down Hearted Blues

  • PD status: USA: PD, EU: PD due to the rule of the shorter term (not sure)
  • Author: Alberta Hunter (w, 1895 – 1984) and Lovie Austin (m, 1887 – 1972) in 1922
  • First recorded: 1922 (Alberta Hunter)
  • Also known as: Downhearted Blues, Gee but it’s hard to love someone when that someone don’t love you
  • Covered by: Bessie Smith, Fletcher Henderson & His Orchestra, Eva Taylor, Lucille Hegamin, Edna Hicks, Mildred Bailey and Her Alley Cats, Cab Calloway and His Orchestra, Teddy Wilson, Kid Ory, Juanita Hall, Ella Fitzgerald, Son House, Teresa Brewer
  • Additional info: several other Blues songs (from BB King, Son House) are named also Downhearted Blues
Chords and lyrics

I
Gee, but it's hard to love someone when that someone don't love you.
I'm so disgusted, heart-broken, too.
I've got those down hearted blues.
Once I was crazy 'bout a [man. He|gal. She] mistreated me all the time.
The next [man|gal] I get [he's|she's] got to promise me to be mine, all mine.

II
If I could only find the [man|gal] oh how happy I would be.
To the Good Lord ev'ry night I pray.
Please send my [man|gal] back to me.
I've almost worried myself to death wondr'ing why [he|she] went away.
But just wait and see [he's|she's] gonna want me back some sweet day.

Chorus 1
Trouble, trouble, I've had it all my days.
Trouble, trouble, I've had it all my days.
It seems that trouble's goint to follow me to my grave.

Chorus 2
Got the world in a jug, the stopper's in my hand.
Got the world in a jug, the stopper's in my hand.
Going to hold it, baby, till you come under my command.

Additional Choruses (Ad lib.)
Chorus 3
Say, I ain't loved but three [men|women] in my life.
No, I ain't loved but  three [men|women] in my life,
'Twas my [father, brother|mother, sister] and the [man|woman] who wrecked my life.

Chorus 4
'Cause [he|she] mistreated me and [he|she] drove me from [his|her] door,
Yes, [he|she] mistreated me and [he|she] drove me from [his|her] door,
But the Good Book says you'll read just what you sow.

Chorus 5
Oh, it may be a week and it may be a month or two,
Yes, it may be a week and it may be a month or two,
But the day you quit your honey, it's coming home to you.

Chorus 6
Oh, I walked the floor and I wrung my hands and cried,
Yes, I walked the floor and I wrung my hands and cried,
Hand the down hearted blues and couldn't be satisfied.

Down Home Blues

  • PD status: USA: not sure, EU: unkown
  • Author: Tom Delaney (1889 – 1963) in 1921 (not sure)
  • First recorded: 1924 (Ethel Waters)
  • Also known as:
  • Covered by:
  • Additional info: Allmusic.com
Chords and lyrics

unkown

Frankie and Albert

  • PD status: USA: PD, EU: PD
  • Author:Hughie Cannon (1877 – 1912) in 1904
  • First recorded: 1904 (Mississippi John Hurt)
  • Also known as: Frankie and Johnny, Frankie and Johnnie, Frankie, Bill You Done Me Wrong
  • Covered by: Charlie Patton, Jimmie Rodgers, Lead Belly, Big Bill Broonzy, Frank Crumit, Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger, Mississippi John Hurt, Mississippi Joe Callicott, Charlie Patton, Taj Mahal, Charlie Poole, Sam Cooke, Lena Horne, Lonnie Donegan, Bob Dylan, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, Fats Waller, Van Morrison, Brook Benton, Lindsay Lohan, Jack Johnson and Stevie Wonder.
  • Additional info: Wikipedia
Chords and lyrics

Chorus
     G
Well Frankie and Albert were sweethearts

And lordy how they could love
     C
They vowed to love one another

Baby beneath those stars above
             D  C
It was her man
                         G  D
But he was doing her wrong

I
     G
Well Frankie went down to the barroom

To fetch herself a bucket of beer
    C
The bartender said Miss Frankie you know

Your lovin' man been here
              D  C
It was your man
                         G  D
But he was doing you wrong

II
    G
The bartender said Miss Frankie

Well girl I can't tell you no lies
     C
Your husband left about an hour ago

With that Hussy named Nelly Bly
              D  C
It was your man
                         G  D
But he was doing you wrong

III
     G
Well Frankie she cried, she cried, she cried

She said now lordy what have I done
C
I done give enough love to my man

He done took my love and run
            D  C
It was my man
                        G  D
But he was doing me wrong

IV
     G
Well Albert saw Frankie comin'

He said lordy don't you shoot
    C
But out from under that red kimono

The gun went rooty-toot-toot
                D  C
She shot that man
                             G  D
Because he was doing her wrong

V
        G
Boo-hoo boo-hoo boo-hoo

She said baby what have I done
C
I done shot the only man I loved

With a Colt 44 gun
            D  C
I shot my man
                            G  D
Because he was doing me wrong

VI
        G
And the sheriff come quickly, quickly, quickly

He done clipped her at the trail
C
He said now look here woman you done shot your man

Stick you in the county jail
                     D  C
Talkin' about your man
                         G  D
But he was doing you wrong

Going Down The Road Feelin’ Bad

  • PD status: USA: PD, EU: PD
  • Author: traditional
  • First recorded: 1924 (Henry Whitter, 1892 – 1941)
  • Also known as: Lonesome Road Blues
  • Covered by: Cliff Carlisle (1933), Woody Guthrie, Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Roy Hall, Elizabeth Cotten, Grateful Dead
  • Additional info: Wikisource
Chords and Lyrics

I
(E) I'm going down this road feeling bad
(A) I'm going down this road feeling (E) bad
(A) I'm going down this road feeling (E) bad, lord, (C#m) lord
(E) And I ain't a-gonna be (B) treated this (E) a-way

II
I'm down in the jailhouse on my knees
Down in the jailhouse on my knees
Down in the jailhouse on my knees, lord, lord
And I ain't a-gonna be treated this a-way

III
They feed me on corn bread and beans
They feed me on corn bread and beans
They feed me on corn bread and beans, lord, lord
And I ain't a-gonna be treated this a-way

IV
Got two dollar shoes on my feet
Got two dollar shoes on my feet
Two dollar shoes they hurt my feet, lord, lord
And I ain't a-gonna be treated this a-way

V
It takes a ten dollar shoe to fit my foot
It takes a ten dollar shoe to fit my foot
It takes a ten dollar shoe to fit my foot, Great God
And I ain't a-gonna be treated this a-way

VI
I'm going where the weather fits my clothes
I'm going where the weather fits my clothes
I'm going where the weather fits my clothes, lord lord
And I ain't a-gonna be treated this a-way

House Of The Rising Sun

  • PD status: USA: PD, EU: PD
  • Author: traditional
  • First recorded: 1934 (Clarence Tom Ashley, 1895 – 1967 and Gwen Foster, 1903–1954)
  • Also known as: The House of the Rising Sun, Rising Sun Blues
  • Covered by: Georgia Turner, Woody Guthrie Josh White, Lead Belly, The Animals, Dolly Parton, Pete Seeger and many many more.
  • Additional info: Wikipedia
Chords and lyrics

Am    C        D          F
There is a house in New Orleans,
      Am        C      E7
They call the Rising Sun,
      Am       C       D           F
It's been the ruin of many a poor girl, (boys)
     Am     E        Am    E7
And God, I know, I'm one.

My mother was a tailor,
She sewed those new blue jeans,
my husbend he's a gambling man,
(drinks) down in New Orleans.

My husbend in a gambler,
He goes from town to town,
The only time, he's satisfied, is when
He drinks his liquor down.

Oh, mother, tell your children
Not to do what I have done -
Spend your lives in sin and misery
In the House of Rising Sun

One foot on the platform,
The other's on the train,
I'm going back to New Orleans,
to wear that ball and chain.

Going back to New Orleans,
My race is almost run,
I'm going to spend the rest of my life,
Beneath that Rising Sun.

 Hesitation Blues

  • PD status: USA: PD, EU: PD
  • Author: traditional, adapted by Billy Smythe, Scott Middleton, and Art Gillham and another version by W.C. Handy
  • First recorded: 1916
  • Also known as: Hesitating Blues
  • Covered by: Victor Military Band, Al Bernard, W.C. Handy, Louis Armstrong, Janis Joplin, Taj Mahall and many more
  • Additional info: Wikipedia
Chords and lyrics       

Am          E7           Am          E7
A nickel is a nickel and a  dime is a  dime
Am     E       C    C7
I need a new gal she won't mind, tell me

Chorus:
F      C7   
How long do I have to wait?      
G7      
Can I get you now, Lord, must  I hesitate
C     C7    F     Fm6     C     G7


Am    E7     Am    E7
Well, the eagle on the dollar says in God we trust
Am     E       C    C7
You say you want a man, I wanna see that dollar first, tell me

(Chorus)

Am    E7     Am    E7
If the river was whiskey, and I was a duck,
Am     E       C    C7
You know I'd swim to the bottom, Lord, an' never come up, tell me

(Chorus)

Am    E7     Am    E7
Rocks in the ocean, baby, fish in the sea
Am     E       C    C7
knows you mean the world to me, tell me—

(Chorus)

Am    E7     Am    E7
Well, the hesitatin' stalker's got them hesitatin' shoes
Am     E       C    C7
Lord, I got them Hesitatin' Blues, tell me
F     F  F    F
How long do I have to wait?
G7      G7
Can I get you now, Lord, must I hestitate
Said, can I get you now, how long must I hesitate?

I Ain’t Got Nobody

  • PD status: USA: PD, EU: PD due to the rule of the shorter term (not sure)
  • Author:Spencer Williams (1889 – 1965) and Roger Graham (1885–1938) in 1914, and others (see Wikipedia link)
  • First recorded: 1916 (Marion Harris, 1896 – 1944)
  • Also known as: I Ain’t Got Nobody and Nobody Cares for Me, Just a Gigolo
  • Covered by: Bessie Smith, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, the Mills Brothers, Cab Calloway, Wingy Manone, Chick Webb, Emmett Miller, Merle Haggard, Bob Wills, Coleman Hawkins, David Lee Roth and Rosemary Clooney.
  • Additional info: Wikipedia
Chords and lyrics

I'm jus[G]t a gigolo, and e[Gmaj7]verywhere I go
[G7]People know the [G6]part I'm [D7]playing
Pai[D7]d for every dance, selling each romance
Every night some h[C]eart bet[G]raying

The[G]re will come a day when yo[Dm7]uth will pass away
T[E7]hen what will they say [Amin]About me
Wh[Amin]en the end comes I k[Cm6]now they'll say j[G]ust a gigolo as
[D7]Life goes on wi[G]thout me

'Cause [G]I---- [F#]ain't [F]got [E]nobody
[E]Nobody [C]Nobody [G]cares for [D7]me
[G]I'm [F#]so [F]sad and [E]lonely
[E]Sad and lonely [E]Sad and lonely
[A7]Won't some sweet mama come and take a chance with [D7]me
[D7]Cause[Db7] I aint so [D7]bad
[G]Get along with me babe, been singin love songs
[C]All off the time
[E]Even only be, honey only, only be
[A7]Bop bozadee bozadee bop z[D7]itty bop
I ain't got nobody 'cept love songs in love
[NC]Hummala bebhuhla zeebuhla boobuhla hummala bebhuhla zeebuhla bop
I ain't got nobody, nobody, nobody cares for me
Nobody , nobody
I'm so sad and lonely, sad and lonely, sad and lonely,
Won't some sweet mama come and take a chance with me cause I aint so bad
Get along with me babe, been singin love songs
All off the time
Even only be, honey only, only be

Jelly Roll Blues

  • PD status: USA: PD, EU: PD
  • Author: Jelly Roll Morton (1885 – 1941) in 1905 (published 1915)
  • First recorded: 1924 (Jelly Roll Morton)
  • Also known as: Original Jelly Roll Blues
  • Covered by: various artists
  • Additional info: Wikipedia, Sheet music, tablature
Lyrics

Jelly roll, jelly roll
Sitting on a fence
If you don't get it
You ain't got no sense

Now I'm wild about my jelly
'Bout my sweet jelly roll
When you taste my jelly
You wanna take me right home

Can make a blind man see
A lame man walk
Can make a deaf woman hear
And a rude lady talk

Now I'm wild about my jelly
'Bout my sweet jelly roll
When you taste my jelly
You wanna take me right home

Go on an' tell all your people
What jelly roll done, done
A grand mama married
Her youngest grand son

Now I'm wild about my jelly
'Bout my sweet jelly roll
When you taste my jelly
You wanna take me right home

I went up on the mountain
And looked down on the sea
A good looking woman
With her eye at me

Now I'm wild about my jelly
'Bout my sweet jelly roll
When you taste my jelly
You wanna take me right home

If you don't meet my jelly roll blues
He's asking 'bout it on
Columbus Avenue

Now I'm wild about my jelly
'Bout my sweet jelly roll
When you taste my jelly
You wanna take me right home

John Henry

  • PD status: USA: PD, EU: PD
  • Author: traditional (1873?), many versions with different lyrics
  • First recorded: unkown
  • Also known as: The Ballad of John Henry
  • Covered by: Furry Lewis, Big Bill Broonzy, Pink Anderson, Fiddlin’ John Carson, Uncle Dave Macon, J. E. Mainer, Leon Bibb, Lead Belly, Joe Bonamassa, Woody Guthrie, Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, Gillian Welch, the Drive-By Truckers, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
  • Additional info: Wikipedia
Chords and lyrics

John Henry was a steel driving man
Yes he went down
Well he went down

You just take this hammer and carry it to my captain
Oh tell him I'm gone
Won't you tell him I'm gone

John Henry, he left his hammer
Layin' aside the road
Layin' aside the road

John Henry, he left his hammer
All painted in red
All painted in red

You just take this hammer and carry it to my captain
Yes tell him I'm gone
Won't you tell him I'm gone

This is the hammer that killed John Henry
But it won't kill me
No it won't kill me

I walked all the way from East Colorado
Baby that's my home
Honey that's my home
That's where I'm goin'

You just take this hammer and carry it to my captain
Oh tell him I'm gone
Won't you tell him I'm gone

The Memphis Blues

  • PD status: USA: PD, EU: PD due to the rule of the shorter term (not sure)
  • Author:W.C. Handy (m, 1873 – 1958) as an instrumental in 1912. George A. Norton (w, 1880-1923) added the lyrics 1913.
  • First recorded: 1914 (Victor Military Band)
  • Also known as: Mr. Crump
  • Covered by: Prince’s Band and others
  • Additional info: Wikipedia
Chords and lyrics

Folks I've just been down, down to Memphis town,
That's where the people smile, smile on you all the while.
Hospitality, they were good to me.
I couldn't spend a dime, and had the grandest time.

I went out a dancing with a Tennessee dear,
They had a fellow there named Handy with a band you should hear
And while the folks gently swayed, all the band folks played Real harmony.
I never will forget the tune that Handy called the Memphis Blues.
Oh yes, them Blues.

They've got a fiddler there that always slickens his hair
And folks he sure do pull some bow.
And when the big Bassoon seconds to the Trombones croon.
It moans just like a sinner on Revival Day, on Revival Day.

Oh that melody sure appealed to me.
Just like a mountain stream rippling on it seemed.
Then it slowly died, with a gentle sigh
Soft as the breeze that whines high in the summer pines.

Hear me people, hear me people, hear I pray,
I'm going to take a million lesson's 'til I learn how to play
Because I seem to hear it yet, simply can't forget
That blue refrain.

There's nothing like the Handy Band that played the Memphis Blues so grand.
Oh play them Blues.
That melancholy strain, that ever haunting refrain
Is like a sweet old sorrow song.
Here comes the very part that wraps a spell around my heart.
It sets me wild to hear that loving tune a gain,
The Memphis Blues.

Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out

  • PD status: USA: not sure, EU: PD
  • Author: Jimmy Cox (1882 – 1925) in 1922 or 1923
  • First recorded:1927 (Julia Lee)
  • Also known as: Nobody Knows You
  • Covered by: Julia Lee, Bobby Leecan & Robert Cooksey, Pinetop Smith, Bessie Smith, Count Basie Orchestra, Leadbelly, Scrapper Blackwell, Jimmy Witherspoon, Janis Joplin & Jorma Kaukonen, Otis Redding, Eric Clapton and many many others
  • Additional info: Wikipedia
Chords and Lyrics:

I
C                E         A A7 A
Once I lived the life of a millionaire
Dm           A                   Dm
Spent all my money, just did not care
F           F#dim   C C/B          A
Took all my friends out for a good time
D7                     G7
Bought bootleg whisky, champagne and wine

II
Then I began to fall so low
Lost all my good friends, I did not have nowhere to go
If I get my hands on a dollar again
I'm gonna hang on to it till that eagle grins, yeah

III
Cause no, no, nobody knows you
When you're down and out
In your pocket, not one penny
And as for friends, you don't have any

IV
When you finally get back up on your feet again
Everybody wants to be your old long-lost friend
Said it's mighty strange, without a doubt
Nobody knows you when you're down and out

V
When you finally get back upon your feet again,
Everybody wants to be your good old long-lost friend
Said it's mighty strange
D7 D#7 E7 F7
Nobody knows you
F7 E7 D#7 D7
Nobody knows you
G7 C F7 C G7 C
Nobody knows you when you're down and out

Railroad Blues

  • PD status: USA: PD, EU: PD
  • Author: see below
  • First recorded: 1914
  • Also known as: see below
  • Covered by:
  • Additional info: Wikipedia

There are several songs named Railroad Blues:

  • Railroad Blues – Westbrook H. Carr (w+m), 1914
  • Railroad Blues – Howard C. Washington (w) / Haven Gillespie and Lucky Roberts (ed. Roy Bargy) (m), 1920
  • Those Railroad Blues – S. W. Morris (w), Hector Richard (m), 1920
  • The Railroad Blues – Fred Brooks (w), Leo Friedman (m), 1920
  • Railroad Blues – Trixie Smith, 1925
Lyrics (as recorded by Sam McGee in 1934)

Went to the depot, looked up on the board
Went to the depot, looked up on the board
It read good times here, but better down the road
(Falsetto yodel)

Well you caint do me, like you done poor Shine
You caint do me, like you done poor Shine
You took poor Shine's woman, but you sure lord caint take mine

Spoken: 'Here comes De Ford Bailey now with his harmonica'

[Instrumental passage]

'Tom Long comin' through Nashville with a load of pig iron'

[Instrumental passage]

Where was you, mama, when the train left the shed
Where was you, mama, when the train left the shed
'Standin' in my front door, wishin' I was dead'

Two little monkeys playin' up in a tree
Two little monkeys playin' up in a tree
One said to the other, 'Come on, let's make whoopee'

[Instrumental passage]

I met a little gypsy in a fortune telling place
I met a little gypsy in a fortune telling place
She read my mind, then she slapped my face

Rollin’ and Tumblin’

  • PD status: USA: considered to be PD, but not sure, EU: not sure
  • Author:traditional or Hambone Willie Newbern (1899 – 1947) in 1913 or 1929
  • First recorded: 19 ()
  • Also known as:Minglewood Blues (1928 by Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers), Roll and Tumble Blues, If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day (1936 by Robert Johnson), Brownsville Blues, The Girl I Love, She Got Long Curly Hair, Goin’ Back to Memphis, Banty Blues, Rollin’ Blues
  • Covered by: nearly every Blues artist
  • Additional info: Wikipedia, The story of R’T
Played in open G with slide, usual I-IV-V chords.

Lyrics

Well I'm rollin' and I'm tumblin'
Cried the whole night long
Well I'm rollin' and I'm tumblin'
Cried the whole night long
Well I woke up this morning
Couldn't tell right from wrong

Well I told my baby, before I left that town
Well I told my baby, before I left that town
Well don't you let nobody
Tear a [barrel] house down

Well if the river was whiskey
And I was a diving duck
Well if the river was whiskey
And I was a diving duck
Well I would dive to the bottom
Never would I come up

Well I could have had religion
[??]
Well I could have had religion
[??]
Well whiskey and women
Would not let me rest

If you ever wake up
And find your daughter gone (note 1)
If you ever wake up
And find your daughter gone
And you wring your hands
And you cry the whole day long

And I fold my arms
And I slowly walk away
And I fold my arms
And I slowly walk away
Said that's all right sweet moma
Your trouble gonna come some day

Well come here baby
Sit down on your daddy's knee
Well come here baby
Sit down on your daddy's knee
I want to tell you
'Bout the way they treated me

Stagger Lee

  • PD status: USA: PD, EU: PD
  • Author:traditional, 1911
  • First recorded: Frank Westphal and his Regal Novelty Orchestra (1923)
  • Also known as: Stack Lee, Stagerlee, Stagolee, Stack-A’Lee, Stagger Lee, Stackalee, Stack a Lee, Stack-O-Lee
  • Covered by: Herb Wiedoeft’s Cinderella Roof Orchestra (1924), Ma Rainey (1925), Frank Hutchison (1927), Furry Lewis (1927), Mississippi John Hurt (1928), Woody Guthrie (1931 + 1944), Sonny Terry (1944), Lloyd Price (1959) an many others
  • Additional info: Wikipedia, Harry Blues Lyrics

The song is about Lee Sheldon (known as Stag Lee), who shot his friend William Lyons because of a hat.

Lyrics

Police officer, how can it be?
You can 'rest everybody but cruel Stack O' Lee
That bad man, old, cruel Stack O' Lee
Billy de Lyon told Stack O' Lee, Please don't take my life,
Sez I got two little babies, and a darlin' lovin' wife
He's a bad man, old, cruel Stack O' Lee
What I care about your two little babies, your darlin' lovin' wife?
Sez Ya done stole my Stetson hat, I'm bound to take your life
That bad man, old cruel Stack O' Lee
Boom-boom, boom-boom, went a forty-four
When I spied poor Billy de Lyon, he was lyin' down in the floor
Find more similar lyrics on http://mp3lyrics.com/97cVThat bad man, old cruel Stack O' Lee
Gentleman's of the jury, what do you think of that?
Said Stack O' Lee killed Billy de Lyon about a five-dollar Stetson hat
That bad man, old cruel Stack O' Lee
Standin' on the gallows, Stack O'Lee did cuss, the judge said lets kill him
before he kills some of us,
He's a bad man, old cruel Stack O'Lee
Standin' on the gallow, head held way up high
At 12 O'clock they killed him, they was glad to see him die
He's a bad man, old cruel Stack O'Lee

St. James Infirmary Blues

  • Author: traditional
  • First recorded: not sure
  • Also known as: The Unfortunate Rake, The Unfortunate Lad, The Young Man Cut Down in His Prime
  • Covered by: James Booker, Duke Ellington, Kermit Ruffins, King Oliver, Jerry Reed, Artie Shaw, Lead Belly, Big Mama Thornton, Jack Teagarden, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Cassandra Wilson, Stan Kenton, Josh White, Lou Rawls, Bobby Bland, Ramblin Jack Elliott, Doc Watson, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Van Ronk, Spider John Koerner, Janis Joplin, The Doors, Paul Butterfield, The Animals, The Standells, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker and many many others
Chords and lyrics:

I
Dm          A7           Dm
I went down to St. James Infirmary.
Gm                 A7
I saw my Sweeheart there.
Dm         A7 Dm
Lying on a table,
A7                    Dm
So cold, so white, so fair.
A7           Dm
I went up to see the doctor.
Gm                 A7
She's very low, he said.
Dm             A7     Dm
I went back to see my baby
A7                                Dm
And great God she was lying there dead

II
I went down to old Joe's bar room.
Down on the corner by the square.
They were serving drinks as usual
And the usual crowd was there.
On my left stood Joe MacKennedy.
His eyes were bloodshot red.
He turned to the crowd around him
And these were the words he said.

III
Let her go. Let her go, God bless her.
Where ever she may be.
She may search this wide world over
But she'll never find another man like me.
When I die please bury me
In a high top stetson hat.
Put a gold piece on my watch chain,
So the boys will know I died standing pat.

IV
Get six gamblers to carry my coffin.
Six chorus girls to sing my song.
Put a jazz band on my tail gate
To raise hell as we roll along.
This is the end of my story
So let's have another round of booze.
And if anyone should ask you just tell them
I've got the St. James Infirmary blues.

St. Louis Blues

  • PD status: USA: PD, EU: PD due to the rule of the shorter term (not sure)
  • Author:W.C. Handy (m, 1873 – 1958) in 1914.
  • First recorded:1918 (Al Bernard, 1888 – 1949)
  • Also known as:
  • Covered by: Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Guy Lombardo and the Boston Pops Orchestra and many others
  • Additional info: Wikipedia
Chords and lyrics

I
E          A         A7   A6   E
I hate to see that evenin' sun go down 
A       A7           Gdim Cdim   E   
I hate to see that evenin' sun go down 
B7             B7/F#      E   Edim  B7 
'Cause my baby, he has left this town 
    E             A      A7   A6  E  
If I'm feelin' tomorrow  like I feel today 
      A        A7       Gdim   Cdim   E    
If I'm feelin' tomorrow like I feel today 
     B7       B7/F#        E     Edim  B7 
I'll pack my trunk   and make my get-away 
Em       Am7    Em            C   B7      C   B7 
Saint Louis woman, with all her diamond rings 
B7          Cdim   B7    Am7     Em      F#7   B7 
Stole that man of mine by her apron strings 
    Em        Am7  Em       C        B7      C   B7 
If it wasn't for powder and her store-bought hair 
  B7    Cdim  B7       Am7         Em    F#7   B7 
The man I love   wouldn't'a gone nowhere, nowhere 
B7     E  Em   E       Em  E        Em E  Edim E 
Got the Saint Louie Blues, just as blue  as  I can be 
  A     A6    A7               Gdim Cdim  E 
That man's got a heart like a rock cast in the sea, 
Edim B7      B7/F#       A   Gdim Cdim  E  
Or else he wouldn't have gone so far from me 
B7  E  Em  E    Em   E             E Edim E 
I love that man like a schoolboy loves his pie 
    A   A6  A7           Gdim   Cdim  E 
Like a Kentucky Colonel loves his rocker and rye 
Edim  B7     B7/F#  A     Gdim Cdim  E  
Gonna love that man til the day  I  die 

II
Been to de Gypsy to get ma fortune tole
to de Gypsy done got ma fortune tole.
Cause I'm most wile 'bout ma Jelly Roll
Gypsy done tole me, don't you wear no black
yes she done tole me don't you wear no black
go to St. Louis you can win him back
help me to Cairo make St. Louis ma-self
git to Cairo find my ole friend Jeff,
gwine to pin ma-self close to his side
if Ah flag his train I sho' can ride.
I loves dat man lak a school boy loves his pie
lak a Kentucky Col'nel loves his mint an' rye
I'll love ma baby till the day Ah die.

III
You ought to see dat stovepipe brown of mine
lak he owns de Dimon Joseph line.
He'd make a cross-eyed o' man go stone blind
Blacker than midnight, teeth lak flags of truce
blackest man in de whole St. Louis
blacker de berry sweeter is the juice
about a crap game he knows a pow'ful lot
but when worktime comes he's on de dot
gwine to ask him for a cold ten spot
what it takes to git it he's cert'nly got.
A black headed gal make a freight train jump the track
said a black headed gal make a freight train jump the track
but a red headed woman makes a preacher ball the Jack.

Chorus

Lawd, a blond-headed woman makes a good man leave the town,
I said a blond-headed woman makes a good man leave the town,
But a red-headed woman makes a boy slap his papa down.

Oh ashes to ashes and dust to dust,
I said ashes to ashes and dust to dust,
If my blues don't get you my jazzing must.

Take this Hammer

  • PD status: USA: PD, EU: PD
  • Author: prison work song, traditional
  • First recorded: 1915 (Newman Ivey White, 1892-1948)
  • Also known as: Nine Pound Hammer, Swannanoa Tunnel
  • Covered by: The Beatles (1969), Big Bill Broonzy, Brothers Four, Jimmy Witherspoon (1966), Johnny Cash (1963), Lead Belly (1942), Mississippi John Hurt and many others
  • Additional info: Wikipedia
Chords and lyrics

Take this hammer, carry it to the captain
Take this hammer, carry it to the captain
Take this hammer, carry it to the captain
Tell him I'm gone
Tell him I'm gone
If he asks you was I runnin'
If he asks you was I runnin'
If he asks you was I runnin'
Tell him I was flyin'
Tell him I was flyin'
If he asks you was I laughin'
If he asks you was I laughin'
If he asks you was I laughin'
Tell him I was cryin'
Tell him I was cryin'
They wanna feed me cornbread and molasses
They wanna feed me cornbread and molasses
They wanna feed me cornbread and molasses
But I got my pride
Well, I got my pride

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