Tuesday, September 20, 2022


Up late, boosted and vaxxed and achy, watching the beginning of A Face in the Crowd (dir. Elia Kazan, 1957), it hit me: the music that runs behind the opening credits (credited to Tom Glazer) is more or less a version of the Mississippi Sheiks’ “Sitting on Top of the World.” An apt choice for the story the movie tells. Here’s the original 1930 recording, with Walter Vinson (guitar, vocal) and Lonnie Chatmon (violin). From the liner notes for the CD Stop and Listen (Yazoo, 1992):

When the Sheiks’ Walter Vinson unveiled the melody for his partner, Lonnie Chatmon, the latter’s first reaction was to ask, "What kind of song is that?“
Answer: a hit song, recorded by many. It owes something to Tampa Red (Yazoo doesn’t say what, and I don’t know offhand). And it’s the source for Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen.” It’s a formative song, and I’m glad I was up late, boosted, vaxxed, and achy, to notice its presence in the movie.

[Tampa Red’s “It Hurts Me Too” is a dead ringer for “Sitting on Top of the World,” but it’s a later recording.]

comments: 2

Chris said...

Elijah Wald (Leaving the Delta) says that Tampa Red recorded an instrumental version of the melody in 1929, entitled "You Got to Reap What You Sow," but then recorded a song called "Things About Coming My Way" that was based on the Sheiks' hit.


Michael Leddy said...

Yes, those are the ones. Thanks, Chris. (That’s an excellent book too.)