Friday, October 8, 2010

Blind Boy Fuller: Truckin' My Blues Away

Although immensely popular in the late 60s and early 70s because of R. Crumb’s artwork, the phrase “Keep on Truckin’” can be attributed to Blind Boy Fuller with his 1937 recording of “Truckin’ my Blues Away.” The song, later rechristened in 1972 as “Keep on Truckin’ Mama,” was from Hot Tuna's third LP: “Burgers.”

The song’s genesis was in Bob Carleton’s 1918 nonsense composition named “Ja-Da.” Carleton, a ragtime pianist and composer, gained prominence during World War I with sales of sheet music – a mainstay of the music business until it was eclipsed by sales of recordings and performance royalties from radio.

Since Carleton held the copyright on the song, often he is listed as the sole composer; however, it was Blind Boy Fuller’s derivative work “Truckin’ my Blues Away” that later gained nearly popularity twenty years later.

Born as Fulton Allen, Blind Boy Fuller was one of the few recorded bluesmen from the Piedmont region of North Carolina and his influence extended to several generations of guitarists and bluesmen. From 1935 to his death in 1940, Fuller recorded 120 songs which were released as 78 RPM discs for the ARC, Columbia, Decca, Mellotone, OKeh, Perfect, and Vocalion labels. Fuller recorded “Truckin’ My Blues Away” in 1937 – our Friday First selection.

Hot Tuna: Keep on Truckin’ Mama

To fulfill our violin week, I’m featuring the version by Hot Tuna from 1972 that features the fiddle work by Papa John Creach. Hot Tuna was a spinoff of the Jefferson Airplane and was centered around guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady. Later, fiddler Papa John Creach joined as a permanent member of Hot Tuna and Jefferson Airplane.

I remember hearing this song quite often on Pittsburgh’s WDVE during 1972 and 1973; however, when I moved south of the Mason-Dixon line, I was amazed that most people I knew in radio had never heard of the song. It really showcases the fiddle work of Papa John. Creach, who was a generation older than his band mates, died in 1994 a few months before his 77th birthday.

A Jefferson Airplane Extra

I wanted to also add an unrelated Airplane tune to the repertoire that also featured Papa John Creach. When I was looking for an appropriate tune, I returned to the second Jefferson Airplane LP that I owned: “Thirty Seconds over Winterland.” I bought a UK import of this LP at a flea market during the summer of 1974. It was in immaculate condition. Up to this point, I only had their first: “Jefferson Airplane Takes Off.”

Although I had three hours of JA music on cassette tape recorded from WDVE, this live album doubled the recorded output on vinyl from the Airplane that I owned. I would follow it with “The Worst of Jefferson Airplane” and “Bark” – both purchased largely due to Grunt/RCA Records changing the cover designs to save money on future pressing costs. Here’s “Milk Train.”

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