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Peregrine flight

Monday, July 8, 2024

Lonesome Road Blues


This is a song that has been covered by practically everybody, from Elizabeth Cotton to the Grateful Dead. Woody Guthrie might have done the most to popularize it but this Henry Whitter cut is supposedly the first recorded version, in 1924. Tommy Jarrell said that he first heard it come to North Carolina in 1918. Ernest Stoneman cut a version and I think Tommy Johnson might have as well. 

It has been played as a blues, country, bluegrass and rock tune. The Dead learned it from the Bramletts in Canada in 1970, but did not record it until 1971 according to this data.


Woody said that it, like most blues music, originally came from an African slave. A lot of people have played with the lyrics over time as is their right. My favorite version was always Doc Watson's. "Going down the road feelin' bad, bad luck is all I ever had." Doc changed the lyrics up as well over time. I was so lucky to see him perform multiple times and with his son Merle.


The great Bill Monroe sang it as a jailhouse wail -

I'm going down this road feeling bad
I'm going down this road feeling bad
I'm going down this road feeling bad, lord, lord
And I ain't a-gonna be treated this a-way

Down in the jailhouse on my knees
Down in the jailhouse on my knees
Down in the jailhouse on my knees,Great God
And I ain't a-gonna be treated this a-way

They feed me on corn bread and beens
They feed me on corn bread and beens
They feed me on corn bread and beens, O lord
And I ain't a-gonna be treated this a-way.

Here is an early recording (1960-1962) of a young Doc Watson backing up Clarence Ashley on the song with Clarence handling the vocals. Doc later took the tempo down a lot. 

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