Friday, 11 October 2013
The Return Of Friday Night Is Rockabilly Night 122
Muleskinner Blues first appears in 1930, performed with some yodelling by country legend Jimmie Rodgers
Being an unemployed muleskinner can't have been much fun during the Depression of the 1930s. Come to think of it, being a muleskinner can't have been much fun at any time. Muleskinning isn't as gruesome as it sounds though- a muleskinner was usually a man who drove mules. In the song the muleskinner approaches a boss looking for work. Asked what skills he has he replies 'I can pop my initials on a mule's behind'. Various versions take the song elsewhere, some directing it as a Black narrator who walks out on the white boss when he doesn't get paid, some not mentioning muleskinning at all, some using the third verse to turn attentions to the man's Mississippi girl. Blind Lemon Jefferson had a blues take on it, country stars Bill Monroe and Roy Acuff recorded it, Woody Guthrie, Odetta, Lonnie Donegan, Ramblin' Jack Elliott...
In the 1960s The Fendermen added some surfy guitars and rockabilly swing, and a fairly unique vocal take, full of hee-hee-hee-heeing. Many muleskinning aficionados rate this as the best version and it's got rockabilly written all over it's grooves.
Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton and Don McLean all had a pop at muleskinning. By the time The Cramps got to it in 1989 the yodelling had vanished more or less, although Lux adds some pretty raw vocals with a bit of guttural hiccuping. Very raw with amped up zinging guitars and some real menace.