bambalam black betty

bambalam black betty

He just does it with slightly more attitude and gusto.

Why?

James Baker’s history is itself fascinating. I haven’t done the research on it, but I would wager that 200 million bands have covered it since Ram Jam, and each of them (bar one) has that same riff, they do it fast and loud. They want to express themselves and their hardships. An interesting side note which is mostly unrelated: John A. Lomax married a woman called  Bess Brown. Radio friendly. Jack White belts into one Black Betty chorus during a live performance of Screwdriver with his band The White Stripes. Black Betty is a black belter according to every musician ever.

And only form of pleasure if it’s the sort of think you’re into. But, if you’re a black slave or prisoner in the southern states between the 1700s and early 1900s you’re not going to be singing about what a dick the white owners were.

There are literally too many versions to go through them all. So, I’ll just leave you with what I consider to be the important attempts, or the ones that were hits. We all spend so much of our time clicking through reams of content and sometimes not reading anything of interest at all. And when a updated model of the gun came out, known as ‘Brown Bess’, with an unpainted wooden stock, it was seen as the ‘child’ of the flint-lock musket. 4 Thrash Albums You Simply Don’t Throw Away! Then he started writing fiction and it has been published in several literary magazines and anthologies including 30 Under 30 which Joseph O'Connor chose as one of his books of the year for The Irish Times. It was a major hit. But the song is a lot more classic than you might think. His nickname ‘Iron Head’ is how he was known, but the name James Baker may just be a name the prison gave to him. ‘Clear Rock’s’ version of Black Betty seems to be about whiskey. Big City Rock did a version for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles soundtrack. But this is good. Cookies are yum so we use them to make your HeadStuff experience more yummy. He had an incredible voice, and it was said that he knew so many songs that he never sang the same song twice.

And he cracks his whip BAM-BA-LAM. But the song is a lot more classic than you might think. Lead Belly probably picked it up as a traditional folk song while he was imprisoned and working in a chain gang. There doesn’t seem to have been a lot going on with Betty during the 50s and 60s. He was recorded and archived by John A. Lomax and his sons Alan and John Jr.. Ministry did it.

In 1736 Benjamin Franklin published a book called The Drinker’s Dictionary which lists 228 phrases for being drunk. Everything creative is informed by what preceded it, everything is an evolution, and Black Betty is a great example of the evolution of one small traditional folk song. We are all familiar with the Ram Jam version of Black Betty. And you’re not going to be singing about how you don’t like his whip. Ed Murrow had a child, in his grave, the damn thing went wild, in his grave. Even if all the other ones with literally exactly the Ram Jam version, but with a slightly different singer voice, they’d still all be better than this nonsense.). And, as always, people want to sing about what’s going on in their lives. This is where the bottle of whisky version of Black Betty would come into it.

The musket would have been a flint-lock musket with a black painted stock. Even if you didn’t do a cover of it, you will get credited with one; ZZ Top, AC/DC and Lynyrd Skynyrd all have versions of Black Betty on Youtube, all of which are definitely Ram Jam. The medley ‘Looky Looky Yonder/Black Betty/Yellow Woman’s Doorbell’.

But before Ram Jam got their hands on it Manfred Mann did just that in a live show.

The party-rock song, whoa-O Black Betty, bam-ba-lam, whoa-O Black Betty.

But there was something of a revival about to take place. Next we have the dreadful, glitzy, get-back-in-your-box-Dad, 2002, Tom Jones version.

It’s often credited to Huddie Ledbetter, better known as ‘Lead Belly’, the fantastic blues musician from the 1930s and 40s. Gone are the days of Iron Head’s mellow acapella sing-a-long.

Instead, because he’s endlessly classy, he did the Lead Belly version. And even still, a year before Ram Jam could get their hands on it, a band called Starstruck did their cover of it. Then Meatloaf did a big-voice rock version in 2006. He knew his songs so well, was so knowledgeable that John Lomax referred to him as the ‘black Homer’.

And now we have the modern rock song. Because that prick will whip you again. By revival I mean the song was going to become an international hit, heard daily by more people than had heard it in the previous hundred or so years accumulated. Used some of ‘Black Betty’ in his political song, ‘Murrow Turning Over in his Grave’. He was a self-proclaimed habitual prisoner. One recorded example is done very much in this style. HeadStuff is all about putting buckets of interesting stuff in one place. His version called “Looky Looky Yonder/Black Betty/Yellow Women’s Doorbells” is a sort of medley, and it appears to be about a woman called Black Betty, who ends up pawning his clothes (that’s if the songs are linked). Damn thing went wild. Soil did it. It’s not the modern rock Black Betty that is familiar to us, but you can clearly see (hear) the evolution in process, sprawling guitars etc.

The party-rock song, whoa-O Black Betty, bam-ba-lam, whoa-O Black Betty. The song means nothing to her, there’s no history to it. This is art. I say that because in different versions of the song ‘Black Betty’ refers to various different things: a prison wagon for transferring prisoners, a whip, a gun (a specific type of musket) and a bottle of whisky. She is the whip that was and is used in some Southern prisons. It’s a classic and we all love it whether we’re willing to admit it or not. Lindsey Buckingham, from a band called Fleetwood Mac (look them up). There’s little of the old blues number in it. Mr. Cave is a brilliant musician, we all know that, and he’s a blues appreciator and he’s the one musician who took the song up post Ram Jam and didn’t do the rock version with the guitar riff. HeadStuff.org is a collaborative hub for the creative and the curious.

James ‘Iron Head’ Baker leads the line with ‘Oh Lord Black Betty-‘ and the rest of the gang would accompany with ‘bam-ba-lam,’ and then back to ‘Iron Head’, ‘Oh Lordy Black Betty’. Mad stuff. After Ram Jam there were a few remixes and dance versions of their hit.

And, it bothers me to say this, but the most different modern version comes from… ugh… this is difficult for me… Scooter (it is the most different version. Perhaps it was a musket, the bam-ba-lam becomes the noise of the gunshot. While on a chain gang, singing was pretty much the only past time. Unfortunately that alone doesn’t make it good. Except one thing.

The artist makes it their own. This is what the blues is about, you take something that came before you and do your own thing with it. We get up every morning to make your daily journey through the internet more interesting and productive.

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