Walking Down the Street

‘Don’t Ease Me In’ was first recorded by Henry Thomas (aka Ragtime Texas) on June 13, 1928.  The Grateful Dead played this song a lot in concert and they even played when they were called Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions.  This is an old blues tune about a dude who just got out of jail and the first thing on his mind is to get some loving.  He is having trouble finding that, so much that he is willing to pay for it.  His girl is nice to him, bringing him coffee and tea, but she is not giving him the loving that he is seeking.  Thomas is the source of a number of other well-known blues covers, including ‘Fishing Blues’ (popularized by Taj Mahal) and Canned Heat’s ‘Goin’ Up the Country’, which went to #1 in 25 countries around the world in 1968, and this song was derived directly from Thomas’ ‘Bull Doze Blues’.

Adding a bit more mystery to the origin of this song is the Jelly Roll Morton tune ‘Don’t You Leave Me Here’, which is sometimes called ‘Alabama Bound’.  Folklorist Alan Lomax recorded the jazz pianist and composer on May 23, 1938, at Coolidge Auditorium in the Library of Congress.  Jelly Roll put this on a single in 1939 that was the B side to ‘Ballin’ The Jack’.  The melody and words are not exactly the same, as this is much slower, but there are some similarities.  In 1927, it seems that Laura Smith recorded Morton’s ‘Don’t You Leave Me Here’, so it is quite possible that this not really Jelly Roll’s song and maybe it should just be considered traditional.

Pigpen had the blues in his blood.  His father, Phil McKernan, was a boogie-woogie pianist and a Berkeley DJ from the mid ‘40s to the mid ‘50s who spun 78 rpm discs under the moniker of Cool Breeze.  With his father’s huge record collection always handy, the young Ron spent countless hours absorbing the likes of Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Joe Turner, and the Coasters.  His family moved to Palo Alto and he met Jerry Garcia when he was fourteen.  Ron had already cultivated this biker image, developed a taste for cheap wine, groomed himself for high school expulsion, become expert in the blues, as he picked up the rudiments of blues piano and guitar.  When he took up the harmonica, he became known as “Blue Ron” in the black community, but he was soon christened “Pigpen” after the unkempt scruffy character in Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip.

Garcia said, “I spent a lot of time over at the Pigpen house, but it was mostly in Pigpen’s room, which was like a ghetto!  I sat in his room for countless hours listening to his old records.  It was funky, man!  Stuff thrown everywhere.  Pigpen had this habit of wearing just a shirt and his underpants.  You’d come into his house and he’d say, ‘Come on in, man,’ and he’d have a bottle of wine under the bed.  His mom would come in about once every five hours to see if he was still alive.  It was hilarious!  But yeah, we’d play records.  I’d hack away at his guitar, show him stuff.”

Don’t ease, don’t ease
Don’t ease me in
I’ve been all night long coming home
Don’t ease me in

I was standing at the corner
Talking to Miss Brown
Well I turned around, sweet moma
She was way cross town

So I’m walking down the street
With a dollar in my hand
I’ve been looking for a woman, sweet moma
Ain’t got no man

[chorus]

The girl I love
She’s sweet and true
You know the dress she wears, sweet moma
It’s pink and blue

She brings me coffee
You know she brings me tea
She brings ‘bout every damn thing
But the jailhouse key

Written for Paula’s Thursday Inspiration 56 where this week’s theme is street.

5 thoughts on “Walking Down the Street

  1. The Festival Express version remains my favorite of this one. It was one of the couple of songs I remember the most from that.

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      1. They did look so young and I loved that they later on played another show in the park for the people that could not get in.

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