Sugar Mama (song)
|"Sugar Mama Blues No. 1"|
|Single by Tampa Red|
|B-side||"That Stuff Is Here"|
|Format||10" 78 rpm record|
May 12, 1934
|Label||Vocalion (no. 2720)|
|Tampa Red singles chronology|
"Sugar Mama" or "Sugar Mama Blues" is a song that is a standard of the blues. Called a "tautly powerful slow blues", it has been recorded by numerous artists, including early Chicago bluesmen Tampa Red, Sonny Boy Williamson I, and Tommy McClennan. John Lee Hooker and Howlin' Wolf later adapted "Sugar Mama" for electric blues.
Country bluesman Yank Rachell recorded "Sugar Farm Blues" February 6, 1934 (Melotone M12958, listed as "Poor Jim with Dan Jackson"). Sonny Boy Williamson I, with whom "Sugar Mama" is often associated, was an early collaborator of Rachell. "Themes that Yank Rachell recorded also turn up in the blues of [Sleepy John] Estes, [Sonny Boy] Williamson, and other artists from the [same] area, and it would be difficult to determine which artist actually created any particular theme".
Tampa Red song
Tampa Red recorded two different versions of "Sugar Mama Blues" in 1934, shortly after Rachell's "Sugar Farm Blues". Both are medium tempo twelve-bar blues that featured Red's trademark slide resonator guitar work and vocals. "Sugar Mama No. 1", recorded May 12, 1934, features the lyrics often found in subsequent versions of the song:
- Sugar mama sugar mama, please come back to me (2x)
- Bring my granulated sugar, and ease my misery...
"Sugar Mama Blues No. 2", recorded March 23, 1934 (Vocalion 2753), has some different lyrics (although recorded first, it was released later, hence "No. 2").
Sonny Boy Williamson I song
John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, sometimes identified as the composer of "Sugar Mama", first recorded the song three years after Tampa Red. The recording took place during his first session for Bluebird Records on May 5, 1937, that also produced "Good Morning, School Girl", which was used as the flip side for "Sugar Mama". Williamson's song uses most of the lyrics in Tamp Red's "Sugar Mama Blues No. 1" as well as the overall arrangement. However, his version features a harmonica solo with guitar accompaniment by Robert Lee McCoy, later known as Robert Nighthawk. Williamson later recorded several versions of "Sugar Mama Blues".
Both Tampa Red's and Williamson's "Sugar Mama Blues" were released before Billboard Magazine or a similar service began tracking such releases, so it is difficult to gauge which version was more popular, although the song has been often identified with Williamson.
"Sugar Mama Blues", usually called "Sugar Mama", has been recorded a by many blues and other musicians including Tommy McClennan as "New Sugar Mama" (1940 Bluebird 8760), John Lee Hooker (1952 Chess 1515 and 1965 from It Serves You Right to Suffer), B.B. King (1959 Kent 329). Hooker also used the song as basis for several of his own songs, such as "Sally Mae".
In 1964, Howlin' Wolf recorded the song as "My Country Sugar Mama" (Chess 1911). It was performed as a Chicago blues shuffle with lyrics from the Yank Rachell, Tampa Red, and Sonny Boy Williamson songs. The song was credited to Wolf as are many subsequent versions. Taste (1969 Taste), and Fleetwood Mac with Otis Spann (1969 Fleetwood Mac in Chicago/Blues Jam in Chicago, Vols. 1–2) have also recorded versions of the song.
- Herzhaft, Gerard (1992). "Sugar Mama Blues". Encyclopedia of the Blues. University of Arkansas Press. p. 473. ISBN 1-55728-252-8.
- Murray, Charles Shaar (2002). Boogie Man: The Adventures of John Lee Hooker in the American Twentieth Century. Macmillan. p. 345. ISBN 978-0-312-27006-3.
- Charley Jordan recorded a different "Sugar Farm Blues" in 1932 (Vocalion 1717).
- Congress, Richard (2001). Blues Mandolin Man: The Life and Music of Yank Rachell. University Press of Mississippi. p. X. ISBN 978-1-57806-334-5.
- Humphrey, Mark (1994). Tampa Red: The Guitar Wizard (Media notes). Tampa Red. Columbia /Legacy Records. p. 4. CK 53235.
- Fancourt, Les (1995). Sugar Mama: The Essential Recordings of Sonny Boy Williamson (Media notes). Sonny Boy Williamson I. Indigo Records. p. 2. IGOCD 2014.