FRIDAY SONG, Jim Kweskin, BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME ( Arthur Swanstrom, Chas McCarron and Carey Morgan, 1919)
Let’s admit, first of all, that this week’s Friday Song has a slightly silly, borderline weird title. I like to think that, when it was written in 1919, Carey Morgan came up with a killer tune and the lyricists Swanstrom and McCarron struggled to find a lyric for the title line.
Or maybe it was capturing a mood of post-war zaniness.
Or is it possible that, like now, the idea of infection was in the air because a pandemic was sweeping the world? If that was the case, the disease had the last laugh. One of the lyricists Chas McCarron, who had written such wartime hits as ‘Your Lips Are No Masn’s Land But Mine’, died of Spanish Flu in 1919 before this was released. He was 27.
‘Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me’ is one of those early 20th century songs whose tunes lent themselves so well to jazz that the original sung version has been rather lost over time. In a similar way, ‘I’ll See You in My Dreams’, the 1924 song by Isham Jones and Gus Kahn, became best known as a guitar instrumental for many decades.
The long list of cover versions tells the story. While the song has been sung by artists as variable as Bing Crosby, Glen Campbell and John Denver, it’s the jazz treatments, notably the famous Sidney Bechet rendition, that make a longer list. Toe-tapping, banjo-driven, it has become a staple of the Dixieland repertoire.
You can see why. It’s a terrific tune, with the bouncy minor chords of the verse resolving into major chords as we lead up to the title line. I defy you to stay still while listening to this astonishing version by the Orquesta Brazofuerte.
But I like the words, too. The opening is conventional enough (the original had a slow introduction):
‘There are blues that you get from loneliness
There are blues that you get from pain
There are blues when you’re lonely for your one and only
Blues you can never explain.’
What’s clever is the way the unexceptional lyrics compliment the tune, before going into mad double-time after the break with some terrific comic rhymes.
‘And there are blues you get from tryin’ to keep your uncle Bill from dyin’ and he afterwards forgets you in his will
There are blues you get from kisses when you’re walkin’ with the missus and another baby shouts, “Hi, Bill!”
But the blues that make you hop and really stop and shake and shiver, The blues that make you want to go and end it in the river
They’re the blues my naughty sweetie gives to me, oh yeah
The blues my sweetie gives to me.’
My favourite version of ‘Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me’ is by the great Jim Kweskin who has been singing it now for over a half century.
They’re still out there, those jug-band heroes of the 1960s – Kweskin, Geoff Muldaur, John Sebastian, Maria Muldaur – and the loose old-timey swing they brought to the folk and pop scenes in the 1960s was hugely influential.
The sound in this live version is not great but the performance is. Listen out, in particular, to the terrific banjo solo by the amazing Katie Cavera