Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Big Joe Williams - Baby Please Don't Go (lyrics, sound files, & comments)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post is part of a continuing series about Blues songs that include the expression "turn your lamp down low" or the expression "turn your damper down".

This post showcases four Big Joe Williams performances of his composition "Baby Please Don't Go". Example #1 & #2 showcase Big Joe Williams' 1935 version of this song. Example #3 is the 1941 version with harmonica player extraordinaire Sonny Boy Williamson. Example #4 is probably Big Joe Williams' 1947 recording of this Blues Classic.

That song include the line "turn your lamp down low". Comments about the meaning of "turn your lamp down low" and "turn your damper down" are found in

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

“Baby, Please Don't Go" is a classic blues song which has been called "one of the most played, arranged, and rearranged pieces in blues history".[1 First recorded by Delta blues musician Big Joe Williams in 1935, it is likely an adaptation of "Long John", an old folk theme which dates back to the time of slavery in the United States.[1] "Baby, Please Don't Go" is related to a group of early twentieth-century blues songs that include "I'm Alabama Bound", "Elder Green Blues", "Another Man Done Gone", "Don't Leave Me Here", and "Turn Your Lamp Down Low", which have been traced back to late nineteenth-century work songs.[2] It has become a blues and rock standard and has been recorded by a variety of artists...

The song became a big hit[5] and established Williams recording career. On December 12, 1941, he recorded a second version titled "Please Don't Go" in Chicago for Bluebird, with a slightly different arrangement and lyrics. Called "the most exciting version",[1] backing Williams (vocal and nine-string guitar) are Sonny Boy Williamson I (harmonica) and Alfred Elkins (imitation bass). Since both songs appeared before recording industry publications began tracking such releases, it is unknown which version was more popular. In 1947, he recorded it for Columbia Records with Williamson and Ransom Knowling (bass) and Judge Riley (drums). This version did not reach the Billboard R&B chart,[6] but represents a move toward a more urban blues treatment of the song...

Big Joe Williams' "Baby, Please Don't Go" is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame list of "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll".[8] In 1992, it was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in the "Classics of Blues Recordings--Singles or Album Tracks" category.[9]"
Click for information about Big Joe Williams (October 16, 1903 – December 17, 1982).

Example #1: 'Baby Please Don't Go - Original' BIG JOE WILLIAMS (1935) Delta Blues Guitar Legend

RagtimeDorianHenry, Uploaded on Apr 18, 2009

Example #2: Big Joe Williams Baby Please Don't Go

BloodOfTheAncestors, Uploaded on Mar 24, 2011

Example #3: Roots of Blues Big Joe Williams „Please Don't Go

Slowtubbi, Uploaded on Jan 3, 2009

Please Don't Go
(Joe Williams)

Recorded: Chicago, December 12, 1941
Big Joe Williams (g) (vcl)
Sonny Boy Williamson (h), Alfred Elkins (imb)

Example #4: Big Joe Williams - Baby Please Don't Go

Santi GO, Published on Mar 9, 2012

Album: Blues From The Southside
In response to the comment "I miis the harmonica", TheRunner75 wrote "Sorry, this is not the 1935 original recording of this song. You'll find it in RagtimeDorianHenry's channel. Williams is backed by a fiddle and a washboard and an acoustic guitar. His second recording was done in 1945 with Sony Boy Williamson on harmonica. I don't know about this one."
The Wikipedia page whose link is given above mentions a 1947 version of this song. This is probably that version.

(Joe Lee Williams, first version 1935)

1. “Now baby, please don’ t go,
Now baby please don’t go.
Baby, please don’t go back to New Orleans
an’ get your cold ice cream”.

2. “I believe it - a man done gone,
I believe it - a man done gone.
I believe it - a man done gone to the county farm,
now with his long chain on”.

3. “Turn your lamp down low,
You turn your lamp down low.
Turn your lamp down low, I cried all night long,
‘now baby please don’t go’”.

4. “I begged you night before,
I begged you night before.
Begged you night before, turn your lamp down low,
‘now baby, please don’t go’”.

5. “I believe my baby’s done lyin’,
I believe my baby’ s done lyin’.
I believe my baby she’s lyin’ says she didn’t have a man,
now while I had my time”.

6. “Fo’ I be your dog,
Spoken: “Play it”.
Ah! fo’ I be your dog.
Fo’ I be your dog, I’d pack my trunk this mornin’, baby,
go back to rollin’ fog”.

7. “I believe I’ll leave here,
I believe I’ll leave you here.
I believe I’ 11 leave you here, ‘cos you got me way up here
an’ you don’ t feel my care”.

8. “Now baby please don’t go,
Oh! baby, please don’ t go.
Ah! Baby, please don’t go, back to New Orleans,
you know I love you so”.

9. “I believe you’re tryin’ to leave me here,
Try to leave your daddy, here.
Try to leave your daddy, here, you got me way down here
an’ you don’ t feel my care”. (1)

Source: "Baby Please Don't Go (Origins of a Blues)" by Max Haymes

Click that page for the lyrics to Big Joe William's 1945 version of this song and for more information about this Blues classic.

While the original version of "Baby Please Don't Go" is about a man pleaing to his lover not to leave him, contrary to some other versions of that song, the man isn't pleaing to his woman to remain faithful to him because he's going to prison. Notice that in verse #6 the singer indicates that "Fo’ I be your dog, I’d pack my trunk this mornin’, baby,
go back to rollin’ fog” [the name of his home in another area].

Baby & daddy = a woman and her man (lover)

"a man done gone to the county farm" - "county farm" = prison

This verse is from the song entitled "Another Man Done Gone" which is a precusor to "Baby Please Don't Go". Both songs have the same tune. Click for a sound file of "Another Man Don't Gone" as sung by Vera Hall.

"Turn your lamp down low" - stop being so heated (angry)

"Rollin fog" - the name of Joe William's home [information given in thee Maz Haymes page above

“Fo’ I be your dog" - "fo"= before; before you treat me like a dog [before I let you treat me as bad as people treat dogs]

"Play it" - interjection to continue to play that musical instrument very well

Click for a post about the Blues song "Sweet Mama Tree Top Tall". That song includes the related saying "turn your damper down".

Click Blind Willie McTell - Statesboro Blues (sound file & lyrics). That song includes the saying "turn your lamp down low".

Thanks to Big Joe Williams for his musical legacy. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of these examples on YouTube.

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. Thank you so much for this. I want to commend your work, and helps us understand the roots of this music that is so important to us.

    1. You're welcome, Stephen Block.

      Many of the examples of music and dance from that I share on this blog are new to me, and it's a pleasure to share information and examples with others.