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"Blue Yodel #8" /
"Mule Skinner Blues"
Song originally by Jimmie Rodgers
Published 1930
Recorded July 11, 1930
Genre Country
Bluegrass
Blues
Rockabilly
Length 2-5 minute
Label RCA/Victor
Writer Jimmie Rodgers,
Record inner rom Bill Monroe's version, 1946
Cover of the Fendermen's version, 1960

"Blue Yodel #8" (a.k.a. "Mule Skinner Blues", "Muleskinner Blues", and "Muleskinner's Blues") is a classic country song written by Jimmie Rodgers and first recorded by him in 1930 It has been recorded by many artists since then, acquiring the de facto title "Mule Skinner Blues" after Rodgers named it "Blue Yodel #8" (one of his Blue Yodels). Some versions list "George Vaughn" as a co-author; the name is a pseudonym for Vaughn Horton, who wrote the new lyrics for Bill Monroe's "New Mule Skinner Blues" the second version recorded by Monroe.) .

The song tells the tale of a down-on-his-luck mule skinner, approaching "the Captain", looking for work:

Good Morning, Captain
Good Morning to you, son.
Do you need another muleskinner on your new mud line?

He boasts of his skills: "I can pop my 'nitials on a mule's behind" and hopes for "a dollar and a half a day". He directs the water boy to "bring some water round".

Contents

Tom Dickson's "Labor Blues"

The first verse the song is similar to Tom Dickson's 1928 recording "Labor Blues" in which the exchange is clearly between a white boss and an African-American worker who is quitting the job, not applying for it:

It’s good mornin’ Captain, ‘e said “good mornin’ Shine,
Said good mornin’ Captain, said “good mornin’ Shine.”
T’ain’t nuthin’ the matter, Captain, but I just ain’t gwine.
I don’t mind workin’, Captain, from sun to sun,
I don’t mind workin’, Captain, from sun to sun.
But I want my money, Captain, when pay-day come.”

Captain was a traditional term for the white boss;Shine is a derogatory expression for "African-American". Dickson was black. The remaining Dickson lyrics differ completely from Rodgers. After the narrator rebels and quits because he is not being paid, he turns his attention to his "Mississippi gal" and the remaining lyrics concern their romance. Muleskinning is not mentioned. Dickson's version was a conventional 12-bar blues while Rodgers' version includes his characteristic yodeling.

Versions of "Muleskinner Blues"

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1930s

  • Rodgers's recording in the early 1930s was a hit.
  • It later became one of bluegrass creator Bill Monroe's signature songs, when he recorded it in 1939, singing all of Rodgers' lyrics and throwing in a half-dozen traditional blues lyrics at the end.

Monroe changed Rodgers' lyrics, omitting the direct references to "honey"- the ever present woman in Rodgers' "Blue Yodels"-and further stripped the song of its gendered and sexual references by leaving out the "good gal waiting on a Saturday night, just to draw (his) pay," changing the "pint of booze" to an innocuous "walking cane" and discarding Rodgers' final verse with its blatant sexual references: "I smell your bread burning, better turn your damper down".

1940s

  • Woody Guthrie recorded the song in 1944 for Asch Recordings. A 1998 Guthrie album is named Muleskinner Blues - Asch Recordings, Vol. 2 and features his version.

1950s

1960s

1970s

  • Dolly Parton - The Best Of Dolly Parton (1970) This 1970 recording of the song reached #3 on the U.S. country charts, and earned Parton a Grammy nomination.
  • Jerry Reed recorded "Muleskinner Blues" in 1971 on the album "Georgia Sunshine". Chet Atkins plays on the right channel, and takes one guitar solo.
  • Levi's used a variation of this song for its blue jeans commercial using stop motion animation, around 1972. Lyrics included:

"Good Morning, World! Good Morning to you! I'm Wearing my Levi's, Le-hee-hee-hee-vis!"

1980s

1990s

2000s

2009

  • Bob Wier and Ratdog - Live at the Grand Ballroom (10/20/2009) The same evening the Empire State Building was lit in tie dye to honor the Grateful Dead.

References


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