Harp and blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson (aka Rice Miller) wrote, performed and released this blues song ‘Don’t Start Me To Talking’ in 1955, as his first single for Checker Records which was part of Chess Records. The song reached #3 on Billboard’s R&B chart and it was Sonny Boy’s biggest hit. Williamson sang and played harmonica on this song and he was joined with Otis Spann on piano, Muddy Waters on guitar, and some say Jody Williams while others say Jimmy Rodgers also played guitar, along with Willie Dixon on bass, and Fred Below on drums. Sonny Boy had been recording for Trumpet Records in Mississippi, but when Trumpet sold his contract to a pressing plant owner to settle a debt, the record presser (Buster Williams) in turn sold it to Chess Records in Chicago. This pairing was a good match, as Sonny Boy came up with strong material throughout his association with the Chess/Checker combine, showing his prowess as a singer, lyricist, and harmonica maestro. Chess kept Sonny Boy off the Chess label in order to save the limelight for Little Walter who was in the Chess house band and a Chess star.
This song features a pure Chicago blues sound and it has been recorded by The Doobie Brothers, New York Dolls, Pat Benatar and many others. I think that the saying, “don’t start me to talking” is probably an older more country way of saying “don’t get me started”, where someone would bring up a topic about which another person would have a lot to say on this topic and they would be passionate about their thoughts, most likely this would be in a negative way. This phrase is not meant to be taken literally, as this idiom is more of an expression of strong feelings, whether negative or positive. More often, the intent is negative and the expression is used to express exasperation or a strong dislike. It is usually said as a warning like, If I were to start talking about this, I’ll never stop! If somebody starts talking about what a good president Trump was, I would normally respond by saying, “Don’t get me started”, because I could go on forever about what a despicable human being he is. This idiom is said when a subject comes up that you may not want to hear about and it is usually used when a contentious situation arises.
There are a whole bunch of characters mentioned in this song, a Fannie, Jack, George and Jim and the guy singing it, who I will refer to as the gossiper, who seems to know something and he relishes telling everyone. The gossiper gets around, going out to Rosie’s, and then stopping in at Fannie Mae’s, probably because he doesn’t have a real life of his own and he wants to feel like he belongs someplace in this world. The gossiper is like a Monday Morning quarterback analyzing what is going down and saying that somebody has to go because of this. Jack has an unnamed wife who goes out to get margarine and when she is on the street, she runs into this awful man named George who stops her, knocks her down and gives her a black eye, although there is no reason given for his disturbing behavior. The wife makes it back home and she lies to Jack about the incident and then she wants money to go to the beauty shop and get a hair sock, which I think is used for curling hair. This time Jim sees her, honks his horn and she tells him to take her around the block and I am guessing that is for some type of hanky panky.
Well, I’m goin’ down to Rosie’s, stop at Fannie Mae’s
Gonna tell Fannie what I heard, her boyfriend say
Don’t start me to talkin’, I’ll tell her everything I know
I’m gonna break up this signifyin’, ‘cause somebody’s got to go
Jack give his wife two dollars, go downtown and get some margarine
Gets out on the streets, ol’ George stopped her
He knocked her down, and blackened her eye
She gets back home, tell her husband a lie
Don’t start me to talkin, I’ll tell everything I know
I’m gonna break up this signifyin’, somebody’s got to go
She borrowed some money, go to the beauty shop
Jim honked his horn, she begin to stop
She said, take me, baby, around the block
I’m goin to the beauty shop, where I can get my hair sock
Don’t start me to talkin’, I’ll tell everything I know
Well, to break up this signifyin’, somebody’s got to go
Written for Song Lyric Sunday where the theme is Old, New, Borrowed, Blue.