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Handy said that in writing the Joe Turner Blues he did away with the prison theme and played up a love element, so that Joe Turner became, not the dreaded sheriff, but the absent lover.
Here is the result as Handy sent it out, though folk-songsters over the South have doubtless wrought many changes in it since then:
You'll never miss the water till the well runs dry,
Till your well runs dry. You'll never miss Joe Turner till he says good-bye.
Sweet Babe, I'm goin' to leave you, and the time ain't long,
The time ain't long. If you don't believe I'm leavin', count the days I'm gone.
You will be sorry, be sorry from your heart (uhm),
Sorry to your heart (uhtn), Some day when you and I must part.
And every time you hear a whistle blow,
Hear a steamboat blow, You'll hate the day you lost your Joe.
I bought a bulldog for to watch you while you sleep,
Guard you while you sleep; Spent all my money, now you call Joe Turner "cheap."
You never 'predate the little things I do,
Not one thing I do. And that's the very reason why I'm leaving you.
Sometimes I feel like somethin' throwed away,
Somethin' throwed away. ,
And then I get my guitar, play the blues all day.
Now if your heart beat like mine, it's not made of steel,
No, 't ain't made of steel. And when you learn I left you, this is how you 'll feel.
Loveless Love, which Handy calls a "blues" ballad, was, he said, based on an old song called Careless Love, which narrated the death of the son of a governor of Kentucky. It had the mythical "hundred stanzas,'' and was widely current in the South, especially in Kentucky, a number of years ago. Handy in his composition gives a general philosophy of love, instead of telling a tragic story, as the old song did.
Long Gone has its foundation in another old Kentucky song, which tells of the efforts a certain Negro made to escape a Joe Turner who