Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Gus Cannon - Old John Booker You Call That Gone (information, lyrics, sound file)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post is Part II of a two part series on "Johnny Booker" songs. This post focuses the song "Old John Booker [You] Call That Gone" as performed by Gus Cannon.

Part I focuses on American versions of this song whose titles include "Jonny Boker", "Old Johnny Booker", "Mister Booger" "What Johnny Booker Wouldn't Do" etc. Click for that post.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Part II
"Gus Cannon (September 12, 1883 – October 15, 1979) was an American blues musician who helped to popularize jug bands (such as his own Cannon's Jug Stompers) in the 1920s and 1930s. There is doubt about his birth year; his tombstone gives the date as 1874...

Cannon began recording as "Banjo Joe" for Paramount Records in 1927. At that session he was backed up by Blind Blake.[2] After the success of the Memphis Jug Band's first records, he quickly assembled a jug band featuring Noah Lewis and Ashley Thompson (later replaced by Elijah Avery)...

In the "blues revival" of the 1960s, he made some college and coffee house appearances with Furry Lewis and Bukka White,[3] but he had to pawn his banjo to pay his heating bill the winter before the Rooftop Singers had a hit with "Walk Right In".[4]

In the wake of becoming a hit composer, he recorded an album for Stax Records in 1963, with fellow Memphis musicians Will Shade, the former leader of the Memphis Jug Band, on jug and Milton Roby on washboard. Cannon performs a series of traditional songs, including "Kill It," "Salty Dog," "Going Around," "The Mountain," "Ol' Hen", "Gonna Raise A Ruckus Tonight," "Ain't Gonna Rain No More," "Boll-Weevil," "Come On Down To My House," "Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor," "Get Up In The Morning Soon," and "Crawdad Hole" along with his own "Walk Right In," plus various stories and introductions between the songs. The album is almost an audio documentary tour through different corners of Cannon's life and career that, ideally, might've run to several volumes.[5]"

"JOHNNY BOOKER. AKA and see "Knock John Booker," "Mister Booger," "Old Johnny Booker," "Old Johnny Bucker Wouldn't Do." Old-Time. This widely disseminated song/tune is known as a banjo piece and stems from the minstrel era where it was called "Old Johnny Bigger," among other titles. Sheet music published around 1840 gives the song as "Jonny Boker or the Broken Yoke" [1], "as sung by J. W. Sweeney" [Sweeney's Virginia Melodies]...

Gene Winnans mentions an African-American banjo player named Gus Cannon, who worked medicine shows from 1914 to 1929. Cannon's first two tunes (learned in "strumming style") were "Old John Booker You Call that Gone" and "It Ain't Gonna Rain No More," learned from "Old Man Saul" Russell, who "just played around the house fro [sic] his own amusement." ...
The song "Old John Booker You Call that Gone" can be said to be a variant form of the song "Old Johnny Booker".

Gus Cannon Old John Booker Call That Gone

jakartajive, Published on Jul 15, 2013

Gus Cannon was an American blues musician who helped to popularize jug bands (such as his own Cannon's Jug Stompers) in the 1920s and 1930s. He hung on in there well into his nineties, not passing on until 1979.

(As sung by Gus Cannon)

Old John Booker, call that gone!
Old John Booker, call that gone!
Old John Booker, call that gone!
I'm goin' back here on the farm!

Source: YouTube sound file and Negro Folk Music U.S.A, edited by Harold Courlander, 1963
Although this song in mentioned in a number of online sources, I've not found any explanation of what "[you] call that gone" means. Given the last line of that verse, my guess is that it means "call people and tell them that I'm gone" (that I'm leaving to go back to the farm).

In addition, I think that "I'm going back here on the farm" just meeans "I'm going back to the farm".

Coincidentally, the Wikipedia page for Gus Cannon that is quoted above mentions that the first folk blues song he learned was entitled "Po' [Poor] Boy, Long Ways from Home". I'm not sure how that song sounds, but I get the sense from "Old John Booker You Call That Gone", that the singer is happy to be returning "back [home] to the farm".

Thanks to Gus Cannon for his musical legacy. Thanks also to the publishers of this sound file.

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