Saturday, January 25, 2014

Odetta - Jack O' Diamonds (sound file & lyrics)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases the Blues song "Jack of Diamonds" (Is A Hard Card To Play) as recorded by Odetta in 1956. Odetta's lyrics for this now classic Blues song are also included in this post.

Click for a companion post of Blues singer Blind Lemon Jefferson's 1926 version of this song.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

SHOWCASE EXAMPLE: Odetta - Jack O' Diamonds

Nostalgicjukebox, Published on Aug 19, 2013

From the album Odetta - "Sings Ballads And Blues" [1956 Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues Tradition TLP1010]
Here's information about Odetta from
"Odetta Holmes (December 31, 1930 – December 2, 2008), known as Odetta, was an American singer, actress, guitarist, songwriter, and a civil and human rights activist, often referred to as "The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement".[4] Her musical repertoire consisted largely of American folk music, blues, jazz, and spirituals. An important figure in the American folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s, she was influential to many of the key figures of the folk-revival of that time, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mavis Staples, and Janis Joplin"..."

(as recorded by Odetta)

Jack O' Diamonds is a hard card to play
Jack O' Diamonds is a hard card to play
Jack O' Diamonds is a card
Sending many poor man to his grave
Jack O' Diamonds is a hard card to play

Put your Jack on the Queen
It'll turn your money green
Jack O' Diamonds is a hard card to play
Put your Jack on the Queen
And it'll turn your money green
Your Jack is a hard card to play


Put your Jack on the Queen
It'll turn your money green
Jack O' Diamonds is a hard card to play

Well I tell you
[?] its old enough to change
keep on playing
Man you're far to win
Keep your Jack on the Queen
It'll turn your money green
Jack O' Diamonds is a hard card to play


According to
"It [Jack o'Diamonds] was sung by railroad men who had lost money playing Coon can.[2]."
"Conquian (also known as "Cooncan", "Coon Can", and "Coon-Can") is generally regarded as the earliest form of Rummy (see Rummy History). It features all of the basic features common to all Rummy games.
Note that the name "Coon Can" isn't related to the [now always highly derogatory] referent for Black people "coons".

"Jack of Diamonds is a hard card to play"


02-01-2001, 12:14 PM puddleglum
"...since the Jack is the lowest of the face cards it is hard to play because for it to win all of the other face cards have to have been played and by then someone might have run out of diamonds and use the trump. So it is a card that looks important but has little real value. Also it is a one eyed jack. It seems the metaphor is of feeling of having something but of not having enough to make a difference."

Johnny Angel
"I'm with puddleglum on this. The significance of the Jack of Diamonds is that it's the lowest ranked face card, and therefore a tempting but lousy bet. Like the old song says:

Jack of Diamonds, Jack of Diamonds, well I know you of old
Robbed my poor pockets of silver and gold.
If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck
I'd dive to the bottom and never come up.
But the ocean ain't whiskey and I ain't a duck.
I play Jack of Diamonds and trust to my luck."
for information about & analysis of the Jack of Diamonds song that includes the line "
Here's a brief excerpt from that page: [This is] "A 19th century American folk song, with the melody based on the Scottish song “Farewell to Tarwathie.”.

"Put [or "keep"] your Jack on your Queen/ It'll will turn your money green"

I think that the verse signifies that in the card game of coon can (the card game that this song is said to refer to as per the Wikipedia article cited above) the Jack of Diamonds beats the Queen (note that in the United States all paper money is the color green) and the person playing the Jack would therefore win the money that was betted.

Click for a discussion about these lines. Here's one entry from that discussion that was posted by blueshome; February 08, 2009, 03:08:01 PM:
"In Bob Campbell's "Dices Blues" he has the line:
"My buddy played the Jack when he give me that hard-luck queen"

and in the following stanza:
"Jack o'diamonds, jack o'diamonds will turn your money green"

This would seem to refer to the same game with the jack beating the queen."

Click for the song "Grizzly Bear" that refers to "Jack Of Diamonds". In that song "Jack Of Diamonds refers to a particular man and not a card.

Thanks to Odetta for her musical legacy.

Thanks also to the publisher of this sound file on YouTube and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

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