Sunday, September 4, 2016

Two Examples Of Post 1950s Versions Of "Blues Jumped A Rabbit"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part II of a two part series on Blues songs that include the lyrics "Blues jumped a rabbit" or similar words.

Part II quotes the Wikipedia page on "Blues Jumped The Rabbit". Most of that Wikipedia page focuses on 1960s versions of that song. A link to a 2011 article entitled "Blues Jumped A Rabbit" about when & where Blues begin is also included in this post along with two post 1950s examples of lyrics to that song.

Several YouTube examples of this song are also featured in this post.

Click Part I of this series. Part I showcases a 1926 sound file of Blind Lemon Jefferson singing "Rabbit Foot Blues". That post also features quotes from a Mudcat folk music forum about "Blues Rabbit A Rabbit" songs. These selected quotes focus on information about and/or lyrics for pre-1950s examples of songs that include the lyrics "Blues jumped a rabbit or similar words.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those singers who are featured in this post and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to the publishers of these examples on YouTube.

The words "Blues jumped the rabbit" first appeared in Blind Lemon Jefferson's 1926 record "Rabbit Foot Blues." However, the Wikipedia page focuses on 1960s versions of songs with those lyrics and only mentions Blind Lemon Jefferson as an afterthought.

Here's that entire Wikipedia page
"Blues Jumped the Rabbit" is a blues song from the album Cotton Eyed Joe recorded by Karen Dalton in 1962. A slightly altered version called "Blues Chase up a Rabbit" was recorded by Judy Henske in 1964. Both versions contain variations of the lyrics:

I wish I was a headlight,
On some eastbound train,
I'd shine my light on,
Cool Colorado rain.

Another variation of these lyrics appeared in The Grateful Dead's version of traditional blues song "I Know You Rider" which they first performed in 1965.[1]

Karen Dalton's "Blues Jumped the Rabbit" also contains the lyrics:
When the blues jump up a rabbit,
Rabbit he'll run a mile,
Poor little rabbit,
Cries like a new born child.

A variation of these lyrics first appeared in Blind Lemon Jefferson's 1926 song "Rabbit Foot Blues." They also appear in Taj Mahal's song "Good Morning Miss Brown" on his 1968 album The Natch'l Blues."
Two versions of Blind Lemon Jefferson's 1926 song "Rabbit Foot Blues" are included in Part I of this pancocojams series.
UPDATE: May 3, 2018
Thanks to Joseph Scott for sending a comment to this discussion thread indicating that Bline Lemon Jefferson (and some others) sang "Blue jumped a rabbit", and not "Blues jumped a rabbit." Read my query about this line in the discussion thread below.

"Blues Jumped A Rabbit" is the title of this 2011 article by Mike Yates about when and where the Blues really began:

The following verse serves as the preface to that article:

"Blues jumped a rabbit
Blues ran a solid mile
Rabbit he ran a solid mile.
The rabbit sat down and cried just like a little child."

Text Example #1:

Subject: Lyr Add: RABBIT BLUES
From: Joe_F
Date: 25 Jun 06 - 11:56 AM

A very different version appears in Edwards & Kelley's _Coffee House Songbook_ (Oak, 1966, OOP, like most good things):


When the blues chase a rabbit,
He run one solid mile,
Poor little rabbit,
Cries like a new born child.

I wish I was a headlight,
On some eastbound train,
I'd shine my light on,
Cool Colorado rain.

Wish I was in cool Colorado,
On some mountain so high,
I'd watch my baby,
As she goes riding by.

Some like black or yellow,
Others white or tan,
I love my baby,
She loves another man.

Repeat first verse.

"As sung by Al Higgens" & "Collected in California", they say.

"A very different version" refers to the Blind Lemon Jefferson lyrics that were previously posted in that discussion thread. Click that Mudcat link for those lyrics and other text examples of this song.

This version appears to be similar or the same as the recording by Karen Dalton that is shown in the video found below.

My interpretation of the phrase "Blues jumped the rabbit" is that even a animal who runs as fast as the rabbit can be jumped by (i.e. fall victim to) the Blues.

Given the origin of the song "Blues Jumped A Rabbit" the last verse probably refers to skin colors from the perspective of Black Americans (African Americans), i.e. "yellow" - a light skinned Black person, "tan" a brown skinned Black person, "black"- a dark skinned Black person, and "white" - a White person.

Text Example #2: Elmo Williams & Hezekiah Early- The Blues Jumped The Rabbit

Oh Blues jumped the rabbit
Oh Blues jumped the rabbit
Rabbit ran him for a solid mile

Rabbit sat down
Rabbit sat down cryin’ like a natural child
Oh blues jumped the rabbit and he cried like a natural child.

Oh pack your suitcase
Pack your suitcase
Bring your clothes on home, little girl
Pack your suitcase.
Pack your suitcase.
Bring your clothes on home.
Just like the Blues got the rabbit
A bulldog will hug a hound

You don’t know baby
You don’t know,
You don’t know, baby
You don’t know
You don’t know.
You don’t know
You don’t know baby
You ain’t traveled my road.
You don’t know baby, yeah
You ain’t traveled my road.
Transcription by Azizi Powell from the YouTube video (found below). Additions & corrections are welcome.

Example #1: Karen Dalton "Blues Jumped The Rabbit"

Delmore Recordings / Minnow Publishing, Uploaded on Mar 19, 2008

"Blues Jumped The Rabbit" - Summerville, Colorado 1970. From Karen Dalton's "Cotton Eyed Joe" double CD & DVD U.S. release on Delmore Recordings.
Here's some information about Karen Dalton from
"Karen J. Dalton (born Karen J. Cariker; July 19, 1937 – March 19, 1993) was a Cherokee folk blues singer, guitarist, and banjo player. She was associated with the early 1960s Greenwich Village folk music scene, particularly with Fred Neil, the Holy Modal Rounders, and Bob Dylan."...

Example #2: Elmo Williams & Hezekiah Early - Blue Jumped The Rabbit

YEFJJ, Uploaded on Sep 10, 2011
Here are three customer reviews of Elmo Williams & Hezekiah Early's 1997 album "Takes One To Know One" that includes the song "Blue Jumped The Rabbit":
"Elmo Williams & Hezekiah Early - Takes One To Know One (Fat Possum, 1997)
By Dimitrion February 20, 2013
Format: Audio CD
Elmo Williams & Hezekiah Early - brothers in Blues and Blues in the brothers. Two Natchez, Mississippi native Bluesmen combined their efforts to deliver 10-cut Mississippi Hill Country oriented album Takes One To Know One representing Elmo's gritting guitar and deep vocals and Hezekiah Early's (Hezekiah and The Houserockers) powerful drums and harmonica (Hezekiah Early is only the recording artist who can beat drums and blow the harp simultaneously).

Album comprises of both original songs and covers. One such, cover of Howlin' Wolf's "Natchez Burning" (here it is called "Natchez Fire") is awesome as well as "Mother's Dead", "Nothin' Man", "Hoopin' and Hollerin'?... No weak composition here. Amazing music. For true connoisseurs of the Blues only."

"SMOKIN' Blues in TRUE Blues Tradition
By Deniseon May 15, 2005
Format: Audio CD
In 50 years, few will care who Motley Crue were, but blues buffs will still be discovering Hezekiah Early and Elmo Williams. In the Bayou Belt, perhaps one can hear music of this caliber in every town's juke joint, but I doubt it. If you love Leadbelly, Howlin' Wolf, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson, or any other of the seminal blues artists who are long gone, order this album. Not a dud cut on it. I heard them play at the '05 JazzFest in NOLA, and was mesmerized. All the records my Dad played when I was young---indeed, the soundtrack of my youth--were come to life in these gents. When you hear them, you realize what a huge debt the Stones, Paul Butterfield, Eric Clapton et al, owe these smokin'est of smokin' down to it musicians. Check out the Blue Possom website for a great bio---these cats kept their families together, yet managed to lay down tracks that will stand the test of time."

"Buy it. You won't be sorry.
ByA customeron December 8, 1999
Format: Audio CD
I'd rarely write a review for any album unless you paid me, but I dig this one so much that I can't believe no one else is singin' its praises. Comes from Fat Possum Records, which specializing in capturing older blues artists and more experimental ones. Elmo Williams is around 70 years old, but he can bring it. Listen to the snippets of "Mother's Dead" or "Blue Jumped the Rabbit" and you'll be hooked."

This concludes Part II of this series.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. Hi Azizi, Lemon sang "Blue jumped a rabbit," as in "Old Blue jumped the rabbit" (Booker White recalling lyrics sung by Charlie Patton) and "Old Blue Jumped A Rabbit" (Mose Vinson). Some people changed Blue to Blues, which was clever, but Lemon's record didn't.

    1. Hi Joseph.

      Thanks for sharing that information about Blind Lemon Jefferson's 1926 song "Rabbit Foot Blues." I'll add this information as a note to the post itself.

      Is that title correct? Also, is "Blue" in this lyrics a dog's name as per this quote:

      "Old Blue" (also known as "Old Dog Blue") is an old folk song, believed to have originated from the minstrel shows of the late 19th century.[1] A 1928 version by Jim Jackson, entitled "Old Dog Blue", appears on the Anthology of American Folk Music album. Since this early recording, a number of covers and variations of this song have been recorded. In his 1985 play, Fences, August Wilson uses Jim Jackson's version as a leitmotif, and the play's central character (who had a dog named Blue as a boy) says his father originated the song."...