Sunday, October 5, 2008

Red Apple Juice Song Notes

Good Morning,

The Bluegrass Messengers played at Talentfest last night at the Clifton Center. We played two short 3 songs sets: Rollin' My Sweet Baby's Arms; Lonesome Valley; Little Maggie; Hot Corn; Used To Be and Circle Be Unbroken. I want to thank the talented players that performed with me: Dennis Talley Bass, John Dwyer Mandolin, Zack Pursell fiddle, and Murrell Thixton banjo.

Now for Red Apple Juice! This white blues is found throughout the Southeast and Appalachians. Red Apple Juice is known by these different names: Red Rocking Chair; Red Apple Juice; Sugar Baby; Honey Baby; I Ain’t Got No Honey Baby Now.

The confusion between the Sugar Babe/Crawdad Song and the Sugar Baby/Red Rocking Chair continues. The Folk Index on-line fails to differentiate and lumps the Sugar Babe/Sugar Baby songs together. Clearly Sugar Babe (Crawdad Song) and Sugar Baby (Red Rocking Chair) are two different songs. The problem is that some Red Rocking Chair songs are named Sugar Babe- such is life!

The origin of the Red Rocking Chair/Red Apple Juice/Sugar Baby songs I am referencing here may be traced back to Child No. 76 "The Lass of Roch Royal." In Scottish Ballads by Robert Cambers 1829 p. 91 the forsaken Lass asks Love Gregory:

Oh who will shoe my bonny foot? And who will glove my hand?
And who will lace my middle jimp Wi’ a new made London band?

Compare to the standard American lyrics found in many "True Lovers Farewell" songs:

Oh, who will shoe your little feet/ And who will glove your hand
And who will kiss your red rosy cheeks/ When I'm in some far off land

Compare to Doc Boggs’ "Sugar Baby" on Brunswick 118 in 1927:

Who'll rock the cradle, And who'll sing the song?
Who'll rock the cradle when I'm gone? Who'll rock the cradle when I'm gone?

The question (posed originally by "The Lass of Roch Royal") is answered:

I'll rock the cradle, And I'll sing the song.
I'll rock the cradle when you’re gone, I'll rock the cradle when you’re gone.

Bogg's 1927 version features "Hub Mahaffey on guitar. John Boggs, Dock's oldest brother, taught him this and Dock kept his brother's tuning. The song was fist collected in 1909 by EC Perrow as "Done All I Can Do."

DONE ALL I CAN DO Earliest collected version E.C. Perrow JOAFL (From Mississippi; negroes; MS. of W. G. Pitts; 1909.)

Done all I can do
Trying to get along wid you;
Gwine to carry you to your mammy pay day.

Dock Boggs made the first as "Sugar Baby" 1927. Both Frank Profitt and Clarence Tom Ashley sang songs close in word and tune to Dock's. The first recording as "Red Apple Juice" was from Bascom Lamar Lunsford in 1935. In 1939 Charlie Monroe recorded the song as "Red Rocking Chair." The Country Gentlemen and Doc Watson also used the "Red Rocking Chair" title.

The use of floating verses and the lack of a theme make the lyrics of Red Rocking Chair/Red Apple Juice/Sugar Baby/Honey Baby songs difficult to understand. The song is a white blues about the difficulties of the singer’s lover. Check out my painting in the last blog for one interpretation.

I've got many versions and more info on my web-site:

That's all folks for now,


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