I'm Alabama Bound

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This article is about the 1909 rag. For the popular 1925 vaudeville song, see Alabamy Bound.
"I'm Alabama Bound"
Music by Robert Hoffman
Published 1909
Form Ragtime

"I'm Alabama Bound" is a ragtime melody composed by Robert Hoffman in 1909. Hoffman "respectfully" dedicated it to one M. T. Scarlata.[1] The cover of its first edition, published by Robert Ebberman, New Orleans, 1909, advertises the music as "Also Known As The Alabama Blues" which has led some to suspect it of being one of the first blues songs. However, as written, it is an up-tempo rag (Rag Time Two Step) with no associated lyrics.

It has been recorded numerous times in different styles—both written and in sound recordings—with a number of different sets of lyrics.

Two recording artists claimed composing credits for the tune under two different titles and both with differing lyrics: Trixie Smith for "Railroad Blues" (Paramount 12262, 1925) and Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton for "Don't You Leave Me Here" (Bluebird 10450, 1939).

Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter recorded perhaps the best-known version of "I'm Alabama Bound" ("Alabama Bound", Victor 27268, 1940).

Lyrics[edit]

Chorus of "I Hab Leff Alabama", 1849.

The first lyrics associated with the melody was a 1909 sound recording attributing the words to the owner of a New Orleans sheet music publishing company. The actual source of the lyrics is unclear, however, but they may have come out of a folk tradition.

1849—Minstrel[edit]

The earliest lyrics expressing the sentiment found in some of the later songs are found in a popular song, "I Hab Leff Alabama", written by Marshall S. Pike and published in 1849. The chorus, which is not the same melody, written in dialect in the original, is:

Alabama agen, Alabama agen,
And if I ebber lib till the sun rise tomorrow,
I's a gwine to go back to Alabama agen.[2]

1909—Rag[edit]

The first lyrics actually recorded to the music were by Prince's Band (Columbia A-901) in November, 1909. The music was attributed to Hoffman and words to John J. Puderer. Charles Adams Prince was a popular march band leader of the day, performing cake-walks and military marches. Puderer was the proprietor of The Music Shop in New Orleans, who published Hoffman's sheet music. The verses, in rag-time, were pretty much the same as those found in later versions:

I'm Alabama bound, I'm Alabama bound,
I've tried you out, I've got to turn you down.

The Columbia recording also included such staple coon song lyrics as:

I done told you, nigger, for to be like me,
Just drink good whisky, let your cocaine be.

1915/1916—Negro folk song[edit]

Alan Lomax attests to words found in his 1934 collection of "Alabama Bound" as being found in Newman I. White's Negro Folk-Songs (1915–1916).[3] White's fragments, which are not set to music, are:

If de train goes and leaves me here,
I got a mile to ride, I'm Alabama bound.[4]

1925—Blues[edit]

Trixie Smith's 1925 "Railroad Blues" contains such lyrics as:

Now, if the train stays on the track, I'm Alabama bound.
Now, if the train stays on the track, I'm Alabama bound.[5]

1928—Old-time[edit]

The Tennessee Ramblers' 1928 recording "Preacher Got Drunk and Laid His Bible Down" contains the chorus:

Alabama bound, Alabama bound,
If the train breaks down we got a mule to ride.

The Ramblers' banjo player, James "Mack" Sievers, claimed to have learned the song from an African-American blues musician in Knoxville, Tennessee.[6]

1934—Folk song[edit]

Lomax's 1934 "Alabama Bound", collected from prisoners in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, contains such verses as:

I'm Alabama boun', I'm Alabama boun',
Jes' as sho' as de train pull out, eas' today, I'm Alabama boun',
Great God a mighty, babe, I'm Alabama boun'.[7]

and,

Why doncha be like me? Why doncha be like me?
Drink yo' high-tension whisky, babe, an' let yo' cocaine be, An' let yo' cocaine be.
Great God a mighty, babe, An' let yo' cocaine be.[7]

1939—Jazz[edit]

Jelley Roll Morton's 1939 "Don't You Leave Me Here" has verses such as:

I'm Alabama bound, Alabama bound,
If you like me, honey babe, you've got to leave this town.
She said, "Don't you leave me here, don't you leave me here,
But, sweet papa, if you must go, leave a dime for beer.

1956—Skiffle[edit]

Lonnie Donegan released a version of "I'm Alabamy bound" on the 1956 Pye 10" LP Showcase, which reached no. 26 in the UK singles charts.[8] The chorus, which feature a rare echoing vocal by guitarist Denny Wright goes as follows.

If this train don't stop and turn around
I'm Alabamy bound, I'm Alabamy bound

1960's—Psychedelic[edit]

The Charlatans recorded a version of the song, with lyrics mostly the same as Lead Belly, in their San Francisco psychedelic style.

1979—Muppets[edit]

The song was performed by Pilgrim penguins on The Muppet Show in episode 321.

Versions[edit]

John W. "Blind" Boone included a short section of "I'm Alabama Bound" in his "Southern Rag Medley No. Two (Strains from Flat Branch)." The sheet music, published by Allen Music Co., Columbia, Missouri, (copyright 1913), was transcribed from Boone's piano roll which he recorded for the QRS company in 1912.

Recording artists[edit]

Date Artist Title Label
1909 Prince's Band I'm Alabama Bound Columbia A-0901
1924 Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra Alabamy Bound (instr.) Victor 19557
1925 Charlie Jackson I'm Alabama Bound Paramount 12289
1925 Trixie Smith Railroad Blues † Paramount 12262
1938 Delmore Brothers I'm Alabama Bound Bluebird 8264
1939 Jelly Roll Morton Don't You Leave Me Here Bluebird 10450
1940 Louis Jordan & His Tympani 5 I'm Alabama Bound Decca 7723
1940 Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter & The Golden Gate Quartet Alabama Bound Victor 27268
† "Railroad Blues" is only partly "I'm Alabama Bound."

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hoffman, "I'm Alabama Bound".
  2. ^ Pike, "I Hab Leff Alabama".
  3. ^ Lomax, American Ballads and Folk Songs, p. 206: "We include in this version stanzas from Professor White's Folk Songs of the American Negro, from a collection made twenty years ago, and from the singing of prisoners in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi."
  4. ^ Cohen, Long Steel Rail, p. 451.
  5. ^ Cohen, Long Steel Rail, p. 450.
  6. ^ Wolfe, Notes, p. 7.
  7. ^ a b Lomax, American Ballads and Folk Songs, p. 206.
  8. ^ Lonnie Donegan Vynal Discography

Bibliography[edit]

  • Boone, John W. "Blind Boone's Southern Rag Medley No. Two: Strains From The Flat Branch". Allen Music Co., 1913. (Sheet music)
  • Cohen, Norm. Long Steel Rail: The Railroad in American Folksong. University of Illinois Press, 2000. ISBN 0-252-06881-5
  • Hoffman, Robert. "I'm Alabama Bound". Robert Ebberman, 1909. (Charles H. Templeton, Sr. Sheet Music Collection–Mississippi State University)
  • Lomax, John A. and Alan Lomax. American Ballads and Folk Songs. Dover Publications (reprint), 1994 [1934]. ISBN 0-486-28276-7
  • Pike, Marshall S. "I Hab Leff Alabama". The Harmoneons: New and Original Melodies Sung by Them at Their Principal Concerts, pp. 3–5. A & J.P. Ordway, 1849. (Library of Congress)
  • Waltz, Robert B; David G. Engle. "Alabama Bound". The Traditional Ballad Index: An Annotated Bibliography of the Folk Songs of the English-Speaking World. Hosted by California State University, Fresno, Folklore, 2007.
  • Wolfe, Charles K. Notes to Rural String Bands of Tennessee (p. 7) [CD liner notes]. County Records, 1997.

See also[edit]