Travelling Riverside Blues

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"Travelling Riverside Blues"
Song by Robert Johnson
Recorded Dallas, Texas June 20, 1937
Genre Blues
Length 2:50
Label Vocalion
Writer Robert Johnson
Producer Don Law

"Travelling Riverside Blues," sometimes called "Mudbone" or "Mud Bone," is a blues song written and recorded in Dallas, Texas by the bluesman Robert Johnson. Johnson's June 20, 1937 recording has a typical 12 bar blues structure (though as is common in downhome blues of this era, the length of each verse is in fact thirteen-and-a-half bars of 4/4), played on a single guitar tuned to open G, with a slide. It was first released on the 1961 compilation LP King of the Delta Blues Singers. The song has proved popular with more recent blues musicians.

The song is well known for the lyrics:

"I want you to squeeze my lemon
until the juice runs down my leg."

The song was made internationally famous by the band Led Zeppelin, whose version of the song is most known to modern listeners.

Led Zeppelin version[edit]

"Travelling Riverside Blues"
Single by Led Zeppelin
from the album Led Zeppelin Boxed Set
Released 8 October 1990
Format CD single: US, Japan, Europe, Australia
Recorded June 24, 1969. Maida Vale studio 4, London
Genre Blues rock, hard rock
Length 5:12
Label Atlantic
Writer(s) Robert Johnson, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant
Producer(s) Jimmy Page
Certification Gold
Led Zeppelin singles chronology
"Fool in the Rain" / "Hot Dog"
"Travelling Riverside Blues"
"Baby Come On Home"
Coda track listing
"Baby Come On Home"
"Travelling Riverside Blues"
"White Summer"/ "Black Mountain Side"
Music video
"Travelling Riverside Blues" at

English rock band Led Zeppelin's version of this song was recorded by engineer John Waters at the BBC studios in Aeolian Hall on June 24, 1969 during the band's UK Tour of Summer 1969. Jimmy Page dubbed extra guitar tracks onto the track (the main track being played on a 12-string electric guitar, possibly the same one used on the track "Thank You"), and it was broadcast four days later on John Peel's Top Gear show under the title "Travelling Riverside Blues '69",[1] and repeated on January 11, 1970.

It is quite different from the original, and it is more a tribute to Robert Johnson than a straight cover. The song showcases a riff by Page (also in open G tuning), and in the lyrics Robert Plant quotes many Robert Johnson songs, such as "She studies evil all the time", from "Kind Hearted Woman Blues", and "Why don't you come on in my kitchen", from "Come on in My Kitchen" (which is heard during the song's solo). Conversely, parts of Johnson's "Travelling Riverside Blues" are used as lyrics in Led Zeppelin's "The Lemon Song", namely the "squeeze my lemon" sequence. It is likely that Johnson borrowed this himself, from a song recorded earlier that same year (1937) called "She Squeezed My Lemon", by Roosevelt Sykes.[2] The line "she got a mortgage on my body, got a lien on my soul" and reference to "front teeth lined with gold" at the end of the song are also from Johnson's original.

"Travelling Riverside Blues" can be found on the Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions album, on disc one of the Led Zeppelin Boxed Set, and on the expanded Coda album from The Complete Studio Recordings box set. It was interest from US radio interviewers and fans during Page's Outrider tour that originally led him to negotiate with BBC Enterprises for the song's release.[1] A promotional video clip was also released in 1990, with out-take footage from the band's 1976 concert film, The Song Remains the Same inter-spliced with other footage from the band's archive. The clip also features a railroad montage, and underwater shots of the Mississippi River. The song reached number seven on the Billboard Top Rock Tracks Top 50 chart in November 1990, culled from national album rock radio airplay reports.[1]

Other versions[edit]

A verse was incorporated into Cream's "Crossroads", their 1968 version of Johnson's "Cross Road Blues".

Eric Clapton covered this song, along with several other Robert Johnson classics, on his 2004 album, Me and Mr. Johnson.

Myles Kennedy has sung and played the song with his band Alter Bridge at live shows in 2007 and 2008. Alter Bridge's version of the song was included on the live Alter Bridge DVD Live from Amsterdam.

Dion DiMucci covered this song on his 2006 Grammy-nominated album Bronx in Blue.

Todd Rundgren included this song on his 2011 Todd Rundgren's Johnson tribute album to Robert Johnson.

Takoma Deathpunk band Zeke's "10 to the Riverside Blues", from their split with Peter Pan Speedrock, is a clear, if unconventional, homage to the Johnson recording.

Dave Hole covered this song on his 1990 album Short Fuse Blues.

John P. Hammond covered an acoustic version of this song in 1964 and with an electric band in 1967 on the albums, Country Blues and Mirrors respectively.[3]

Chart positions[edit]

Led Zeppelin single[edit]

Chart (1990) Peak position
US Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks Chart[4] 7
Canadian RPM Top 100 Chart[5] 57


  1. ^ a b c Dave Lewis (1994), The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin, Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9.
  2. ^ Australian Broadcasting Corporation - Triple J Music Specials - Led Zeppelin (first broadcast 2000-07-12)
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Mainstream Rock Tracks - 1 November 1990". Billboard. Retrieved 2009-01-15. 
  5. ^ "RPM Singles Chart - 1 December 1970". Retrieved 2009-01-15.