I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone
|"I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone?"|
Sheet music cover (1913)
"I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone?" is a ragtime/blues song written by Shelton Brooks in 1913. Sometimes categorized as hokum, it led to an answer song written in 1915 by W.C. Handy, "Yellow Dog Rag", later titled "Yellow Dog Blues". Lines and melody from both songs show up in the 1920s and 1930s in such songs as "E. Z. Rider", "See See Rider", "C. C. Rider", and "Easy Rider Blues".
"I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone?"
Written for the vaudeville stage, the lyrics tell of a Susie Johnson who bets on a horse race using a tip from Jockey Lee, who subsequently runs off with her money.
Miss Susie Johnson is a crazy as can be
About that easy riding kid they call Jockey Lee
Now don't you think it's funny, only bets her money
In the race friend jockey's goin' to be
There was a race down at the track the other day
And Susie got an inside tip right away
She bet a "hundred to one" that her little "Hon"
Would bring home all the "mon"
When she found out "Jockey" was not there
Miss Susie cried out in despair
I wonder where my easy rider's gone today
He never told me he was goin' away
If he was here he'd win the race
If not first he'd get a "place"
Cash in our winnings, on a "joy-ride" we'd go, right away
I'm losing my money that's why I am blue
To win a race, Lee knows just what to do
I'd put all my junk in pawn
To be on any horse that jockey's on
Oh' I wonder where my easy rider's gone
"I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone?" was first popularized on the vaudeville stage by Sophie Tucker. It is most noted for its performance in a 1933 movie, She Done Him Wrong, in which Mae West sang it in a suggestive manner. It is perhaps this performance which gave it its hokum reputation.
"Yellow Dog Rag"/"Yellow Dog Blues"
|"Yellow Dog Rag"|
Sheet music cover (1915)
In 1915, W.C. Handy wrote an answer song to "I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone?" which he called "Yellow Dog Rag." "Yellow Dog Rag" sold poorly. In 1919, he retitled it "Yellow Dog Blues" to take advantage of the popularity of blues, after which it sold moderately well. His song explains what became of Jockey Lee.
The version quoted is how Bessie Smith sang it in her well-known recording, but I have a copy of the original sheet music and the lyrics are as below:
E'er since Miss Susan Johnson lost her Jockey, Lee
There has been much excitement, more to be
You can hear her moaning night and morn
She's wonderin where her Easy Rider's gone?
Cablegrams goes off inquiry
Telegrams come in of sympathy
Letters come from down in "Bam"
And everywhere that Uncle Sam
Has a rural free delivery (1)
All day the phone rings, but it's not for me
At las' good tidings fill my heart with glee
This message came from Tennessee
Miss Sue your Easy Rider struck this burg today
On a southboun' rattler side door Pullman car (2)
Seen him here an' he was on the hog
Miss Sue your easy rider got to stay away
So he had to vamp it but the hike ain't far
He's gone where the Southern cross' the Yellow Dog
Dear Sue your, etc.
(1) (Rural Free Delivery or RFD as it was popularly called was a service by the post office to deliver mail directly to rural farm families)
(2) a "side door Pullman car" was hobo slang for a box car with the cargo door open which made it easy to "bum" a ride.
"Yellow Dog Blues" has been recorded a number of times, mostly as an instrumental, and has become a traditional jazz standard. Berl Olswanger and the Berl Olswanger Orchestra included its instrumental version on their album Berl Olswanger Orchestra with the Olswanger Beat (1964).
- Wintz, Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, Page 186: "The double-entendre song "I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone" (1913) was popularized in performances and recordings by both Sophie Tucker and Mae West."
- Louvish, Mae West, Page 221: "When Mae sashays on to belt out 'I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone' - ostensibly a song about a jockey - the lust and lasciviousness of the triple-meanings shimmers in the air."
- Rubin, Where the Southern Cross the Yellow Dog, page 31: "Handy said that he wrote the "Yellow Dog Blues" after hearing a black musician singing a blues song containing the words of the title at the railroad depot at Tutwiler, Mississippi, in 1902."
- Wald, Escaping the Delta, page 283: "When the popular taste for blues asserted itself I took out that old number and changed its name to 'Yellow Dog Blues.' Other than the name, I altered nothing."
- Louvish, Simon. Mae West: It Ain't No Sin. St. Martin's Griffin (2007).
- Rubin, Louis Decimus. Where the Southern Cross the Yellow Dog: On Writers and Writing. University of Missouri Press (2005).
- Wald, Elijah. Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues. Harper Collins (2004)
- Wintz, Cary D.; Finkelman, Paul. Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance. Routledge (2004).
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