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Deep Ellum Blues (author?)

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by P Thought, Oct 20, 2017.

  1. P Thought

    P Thought Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I first heard this song on my "Dead Reckoning" CD a year or two ago, and the other day I ran across a YouTube clip with Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir playing it on the Letterman show. I like the song, so I set about learning it.

    When I add songs to my repertoire I try to make sure I know who wrote them, and I was pretty sure the Dead didn't write this one. The only place I found a credit was on the "Cowboy Lyrics" website; it listed Merle Lovell. I googled all over, no Wikipedia, no nothing about Merle Lovell except a Library of Congress recording collection. . .not the author. Then I found that it had been recorded in the '40s by the Shelton Brothers, whoever they were. . .not the author.

    I read an article about Deep Ellum (Elem, Elm) online, and found it's an interesting place, a place that morphed from its origins as a Dallas neighborhood where newly freed slaves lived after the Civil War, to a music haven where '30s blues legends played, to a "gentrified" upscale hip neighborhood as it apparently is today. This article suggests that it's a "traditional" song (authorship lost, variable verses from various places), and that appears to be the truth.

    I like that. It gives me license, not that I need it, to do the song any way I want--right now I'm liking it low and slow--and add verses of my own* if I feel like it. Do any of you play this song?





    * I ain't been in Deep Ellum since nineteen thirty-three,
    Now everybody in there's as black as you and me,
    Oh, sweet mama, Daddy's got them Deep Ellum blues,
    Oh, sweet mama, Daddy's got them Deep Ellum blues.
     
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  2. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Poster Extraordinaire

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    I play Deep Elem or Deep Elum Blues
    at most of my gigs, be they acoustic or electric.
    If on acoustic I'll do a straight fast 4/4, closer to trad Bluegrass

    When electric/full band we do a funky rhythm ( similar to an acoustic version done by duo Jerry Garcia and bassist John Kahn)
    It's often a ' last song, show-off ' tune at our gigs, as I have a great little band and everyone solos on this song ( actually, most songs!)- I sing lead, with bass and harmonica doing some sparse harmonies.
    Our take is definitely an ' amped up' jam- kind of The Dead sounding like The Meters, channeled thru Crazy Horse- if the vibe is right, folks are dancing...we will tone it down if it's a quieter night, but it's a fun song
     
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  3. Flat6Driver

    Flat6Driver Friend of Leo's

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    I like the song a lot and set out to learning it. I have never played it live or jam or with people, so I'll have to change that.

    @Chiogtr4x have we ever met? It looks like you're closer to me than any other TDPRIer out there. I'm about 10 miles west of MP. PM me and tell me about your band.
     
  4. DSharp

    DSharp Tele-Holic

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    I've played it here and there since the early 80's. I first heard it played by Doc Watson and always assumed it was a traditional tune.
     
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  5. John Thigpen

    John Thigpen Tele-Meister

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    I checked the sleeve for Levon Helm Band Ramble At The Ryman and it says Traditional (Arranged by Larry Campbell). By the way, Larry Campbell plays some great guitar on this CD.
     
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  6. Edgar Allan Presley

    Edgar Allan Presley Friend of Leo's

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    Here's an interesting article about Deep Ellum. I went to U. of North Texas in Denton in the '90s and liked going to Deep Ellum for live music when I could find a ride. It was already gentrified by then, but the music was good.

    None of this answers your question about the song, though. Just background. There is a Wikipedia entry about the song under the title "Deep Elm Blues."

    Here's a good thread about the song's history.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2017
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  7. P Thought

    P Thought Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Good stuff, King Creole. I've been swamped in this song for a couple weeks now. Besides reading about it and listening to different performances of it, I've been playing and singing it every day--acoustic and electric, six-string and twelve--pretty much to the exclusion of everything else. I've got one of the kids at school playing it with me in the mornings before the bell: I'm working on giving it some good breaks (a developing skill for me), and playing its three chords every which way up and down the neck, throwing in minors and major flat thirds, switching up the tempo, singing high and fast, low and slow. . .I guess I got the Deep Elem Blues!
     
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  8. texastengu

    texastengu Tele-Holic

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    Twisted. For some reason I'd always assumed Blind Lemon Jefferson wrote the tune being he played that part of town nightly. But on many recording sessions the producer would bring in an extra guitar or banjo player and songs quickly mutated.
    It does look like the earliest version might have been this.

     
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  9. Fret Wilkes

    Fret Wilkes Friend of Leo's

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    Great tune. Love Jerry's reading of the song. I first heard it performed by the Highwoods String Band at a Brown Spring Weekend in Providence RI, May 1976. I immediately loved the tune and was thrilled to hear it show up on Dead Reckoning a few years later.
     
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  10. jonnyfez

    jonnyfez Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Les Paul did a version back in the 30s when he was still Rhubarb Red:
     
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  11. Flat6Driver

    Flat6Driver Friend of Leo's

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    This thread got me back on this tune. (See Friday where I'd never played it with folks. ) I pulled it out at my home jam on Monday where a couple of the guys are Deadheads. A warm up if you will as I played it last night at an open mic jam with some even more hardcore Deadheads. I know it's not a Dead song, but they did it an that's how it got to me (except when I heard it on Bluesville). It went over big in both cases! Fun!
     
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  12. BorderRadio

    BorderRadio Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Not much to add, but here to read up on Deep Ellum— the place, the song. The wife used to live there when she was a grad student, been down a few times.
     
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  13. Flat6Driver

    Flat6Driver Friend of Leo's

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    Uh oh.






    ;)
     
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  14. Smoky Booroo

    Smoky Booroo Tele-Meister

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    Very interesting. Just an aside, I've been reading a biography on Bonnie and Clyde and West Dallas in the 20s and 30s. Extremely poor sharecroppers moving to some very harsh lands when the cotton price fell out during the depression. A lot of people living in tents and piecing together shacks that housed entire families. Yet, the downtown was a thriving young metropolis. That city has a lot of history. My mom was born there in the 40s. I think I'm going to have to do a Texas trip someday!
     
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  15. Edgar Allan Presley

    Edgar Allan Presley Friend of Leo's

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    That sounds like terrific fun.
     
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