I Love My Cherry Ball

In 1930 a Mississippi record-store owner heard Skip James and arranged for him to record an album for Paramount Records.  ‘Cherry Ball Blues’ was written by Skip James and he released it in 1931.  It was the A side to a record that had ‘Hard Time Killing Floor Blues’ on the flip.  Nehemiah Skip James was born in Bentonia, Mississippi in 1902 and he became interested in music around 1909, after hearing Green McCloud playing ‘Drunken Spree on the fiddle, backed by guitarists Henry Stuckey and Rich Griffith.  Skip followed Stuckey and other musicians, like the Pied Piper, all over town.  After World War I, Henry Stuckey and Skip James, along with Jack Owens, developed the Bentonia Style, which is one of the most haunting sounds in all of blues.  In France, Stuckey had learned an open E minor tuning from some black soldiers (who he believed were Bahamians), and this tuning, picked with three fingers in complex patterns, became the basis of the guitar pieces Skip James was to record in 1931.  Robert Johnson adapted elements of James’ style back in the early ’30s and his ‘Hell Hound on My Trail’ was based on James’ ‘Devil Got My Woman’.

Having made the records during the crest of the Great Depression, James’ music lingered in obscurity, and he gave up playing for decades.  When the folk scene exploded in the 1960s, long forgotten blues men like Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, and James experienced a resurgence in interest that far eclipsed any notoriety they’d ever enjoyed before.  Henry Vestine was one of the hottest electric guitar players in L.A. and had his own band called the Henry Vestine Trio.  They played at a small club in West L.A. where fingerstyle guitarist and composer John Fahey, Bob Hite and Allen Wilson began to hang out at and eventually jam with Vestine’s band.  In 1965, this resulted in the band Canned Heat.

In 1964, the legendary Son House invited Alan Wilson to play guitar and harmonica with him at the Newport Folk Festival and that is where he met Skip James.  In June, 1964, guitarist Henry “The Sunflower” Vestine, John Fahey and musician, concert promoter, and entrepreneur Bill Barth tracked down the legendary and mystical blues singer Skip James.  They located the 62-year-old singer in a hospital in Tunica, Mississippi and payed his modest medical bill.  John, Bill and Henry persuaded Skip James to play at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island.  He was a hit with the audience, and was soon playing gigs in folk clubs, blues clubs and festivals, often with fellow blues icon Mississippi John Hurt.  Skip James died of cancer in 1969 in Chicago, IL.

I love my cherry ball better than I love myself
I loves cherry ball better than I love myself
She get so she don’t love me, she won’t love nobody else

Cherry ball quit me, she quit me in a calm, good way
Cherry ball quit me, she quit me in a calm, good way
But what to take to get her, I carries it every day

I love my cherry, oh, better than I love myself
My cherry ball, better than I love myself
She get so she don’t love me, love nobody else

Sure as that spider hangin’ on the wall
Sure as that spider hangin’ on the wall
I advised that old cherry ball, “Keep fallin’ on call”

I’ll catch the Southern if you take the Santa Fe
I’ll take the Southern and if you’ll take the Santa Fe
I’m gonna ride and ramble, tell cherry to come back to me

Written for Song Lyric Sunday where the prompt is Apple/Banana/Cherry/Olive/Orange/Strawberry.

12 thoughts on “I Love My Cherry Ball

  1. Never heard the song thanks. It is also fantastic to read about the great gesture Henry “The Sunflower” Vestine, John Fahey & Bill Barth showed Skip James-Thanks for a great choice.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Could not play the video, or find any that would play on my MacBook but I did find a fantastic audio of Blues Unlimited #122 – The Blues at Newport 1963-1964. The link is here, although that may be a problem to follow:

    https://beta.prx.org/stories/63724

    Skip James features from the 1 hour mark.

    Great music with some interesting guitar tunings and really talented players and singers.

    Thanks Jim.

    Liked by 1 person

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