Thursday, March 16, 2006

Lead Pencil Blues

I'm amused to find two of my abiding interests -- blues and stationery supplies -- brought together in the following lyric of graphitic dysfunction. Blues lyrics are rich in double-entendres -- elevators, jellyrolls, lemons, pincushions, poodles, snakes, switchboards, and wieners, but Johnnie Temple's "Lead Pencil Blues" and Bo Carter's "My Pencil Won't Write No More" are the only blues lyrics I'm aware of that focus on the mighty (or not so mighty) pencil. I've transcribed the lyric of "Lead Pencil Blues" from the recording.

Spoken: Lord have mercy --
I wanna write a letter so bad I don't know what to do


I laid down last night, couldn't eat a bite
The woman I love don't treat me right
Lead in my pencil, baby it's done gone bad
And it's the worst old feelin' baby, that I've ever had

I woke up this mornin', my baby says she mighty mad
Cause the lead in my pencil, it's done gone bad
Lead in my pencil, baby it's done gone bad
And that's the worst old feelin' that I've ever had

My baby told me this mornin', she's feelin' mighty
    blue
Lead in my pencil just wouldn't do
And she said "Been ready all night --
Lead in your pencil daddy, just wouldn't write"
Lead in my pencil, baby it just won't write
And it's the worst old feelin' baby, that I've ever had

My baby says she goin' to quit me
I'll tell you for this reason why
Lead in my pencil gone bye-bye
Laid down last night, couldn't help but cry
Wanted to write so bad, I was about to die
Lead in my pencil, baby it's done gone bad
And it's the worst old feeling baby, that I've ever had
Johnnie Temple, "Lead Pencil Blues" (1935). Available on Back to the Crossroads: The Roots of Robert Johnson (Yazoo).

comments: 1

Anonymous said...

FANTASY CAREER: I would have made a very excellent book editor, because I am interested in writing and in words, and I like red pencils.

Laura Bush

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/03/magazine/mag-03domains-t.html?ref=magazine

(btw, remember the pencils that were blue on one end and red on the other?)