Milk Cow Blues
|"Milk Cow Blues"|
|Single by Kokomo Arnold|
|B-side||"Old Original Kokomo Blues"|
|Format||10-inch 78 rpm record|
|Recorded||September 10, 1934|
|Kokomo Arnold singles chronology|
"Milk Cow Blues" is a blues song written and originally recorded by Kokomo Arnold in September 1934. In 1935 and 1936, he recorded four sequels designated "Milk Cow Blues No. 2" through No. 5. The song made Arnold a star, and was widely adapted by artists in the blues, Western swing and rock idioms.
Kokomo Arnold song
The lyrics of the Kokomo Arnold record combine the threads of:
- Blues on awakening –
- Good morning, Blues Blues how do you do?
- Do mighty well this morning, can't get along with you.
- The loss of a dairy cow –
- Says, I woke up this a-morning and I looked outdoors
- Says, I knowed my mamlish milk cow pretty mama, Lord, by the way she lowed
- Lord, if you see my milk cow, buddy, I said, please drive her home
- Says, I ain't had no milk and butter, mama, Lord, since a-my cow been gone
- A breakup with his lover –
- How can I do right, baby when you won't do right yourself?
- Lord, if my good gal quits me well, I don't want nobody else
- A warning that she will have regrets –
- Now you can read out your hymndbook, preach out your Bible
- Fall down on your knees and pray, the good Lord to help you
- Because you going to need you going to need my help some day
- Mama if you can't quit your sinning please quit your lowdown ways.
These four themes are found in the lyrics of later versions of the song.
- Now my hair is nappy and I don’t wear no clothes of silk
- But the cow that’s black and ugly has often got the sweetest milk
- Well, you see my milk cow tell her to hurry home
- I ain’t had no milk since that cow been gone
- If you see my milk cow tell her to hurry home
- Yeah, I ain’t had no milk since that cow been gone
Arnold uses basically two melodic structures, according to the number of lines in a verse. For three-line verses such as the following, he sings a melody interspersed by guitar in the first two lines:
- All in good morning, I said, “Blues, how do you do?”
- All in good morning, I said, “Blues, how do you do?”
- You’re mighty rare this mornin’, can’t get along with you.
For four line verses such as the following, he sings the first two lines to a melody uninterrupted by guitar:
- Takes a rockin’ chair to rock, mommy, a rubber ball to roll,
- Takes a tall cheesin’ black, pretty mommy, to pacify my soul.
- Lord, I don’t feel welcome, please, no place I go,
- Oh that woman that I love, mommy, have done drove me from her door.
- Now you can read out your hymnbook, preach out your Bible,
- Fall on your knees and pray, the good Lord will help you.
- Cause you gonna need, gonna need my help someday.
- Mama, if you can’t quit your sinnin’, please quit your lowdown ways.
These three melodies, and the device of a falsetto leap were used if following versions of the song.
Other songs with the same title
- She's a full-blood Jersey, I'm going to tell you boys the way I know
- People just screamin' for my milk cow, I don't care where my Jersey go
with one hint at a lost lover:
- Say my bed is lonesome my pillow now it sure won't do
- I wake up out of the midnight I really have those milk cow blues
- Well, she looked at me, she began to smile
- Says, I thought I would use you for my man a while
- That's if you just don't let my husband catch you there
- Now, if just-just don't let my husband catch you there
There is some similarity between the melody used by Estes and the melody used by Arnold for his four-line verses of his record. Some have concluded that Estes's song is an earlier version of the same song. This is disputed by Boyd and Kelly.
- A dairy cow theme –
- I haven't seen my milk cow in three long weeks today
- I haven't had no rich cream, mama since my milk cow strayed away
- Have you seen a big brown cow she have no horns at all
- You don't need a chair to milk her she will back right in your stall
- and a departed human lover –
- When I got up this morning she had had every dime I had
- I said that's all right, mule cow your daddy understand
Robert Johnson song
Robert Johnson recorded a version of Sleepy John Estes' song, re-titled "Milkcow's Calf Blues", at his last recording session on June 20, 1937. It was released by Vocalion Records in September 1937 as the B-side to "Malted Milk."
Johnnie Lee Wills version
In 1941, Johnnie Lee Wills (younger brother of Bob Wills) recorded a version which was released the same year by Decca Records as "Milkcow Blues" by Johnny [sic] Lee Wills & His Boys. It was sung by Cotton Thompson.
Elvis Presley & the Blue Moon Boys version
|"Milkcow Blues Boogie"|
|Single by Elvis Presley, Scotty and Bill|
|A-side||"You're a Heartbreaker"|
|Released||January 8, 1955|
|Format||78 & 45 rpm records|
|Recorded||November or December 1954|
|Studio||Sun, Memphis, Tennessee|
Elvis Presley, on guitar, accompanied by Scotty Moore on guitar recorded a rockabilly version retitled "Milkcow Blues Boogie" at Sun Records in November or December 1954. The arrangement was closer to Wills' version than to the Arnold original.
Sun Records released the song as a single in January 8, 1955, with "You're a Heartbreaker" as the flipside. RCA Victor Records also released the single in December 1955. It was later included on Presley's 1959 album A Date with Elvis.
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- The McGee Brothers (Sam and Kirk) recorded a version of the song.
- 1946: Cotton Thompson on King Records. This is sometimes incorrectly credited to Moon Mullican because Cotton was part of Moon's band and recorded this after a Mullican session in 1946. Available on two Mullican CDs titled "New Milk Cow Blues".
- 1947: The Maddox Brothers and Rose.
- 1955: Mike Seeger recorded a banjo version that was inspired by the Johnnie Lee Wills version.
- 1956: Bob Crosby B-side of Bob Crosby and his Orchestra in Hi Fi album with Nappy Lamar on vocals.
- 1960: Ricky Nelson B-side of single with "You Are the Only One", also included on album Million Sellers and compilation Legendary Masters.
- 1962: Eddie Cochran on the posthumous album Never to Be Forgotten
- 1962: George Lewis on his album Endless the Trek Endless the Search
- 1965: The Kinks on their album The Kink Kontroversy (although credited to Sleepy John Estes on the UK release).
- 1967: The Chocolate Watchband on the 1994 CD reissue of their album No Way Out.
- 1970: We Five on their album Catch the Wind.
- 1971: Mungo Jerry on the second side of their maxi-single, "Lady Rose".
- 1976: Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen on their live album We've Got A Live One Here.
- 1977: Levon Helm & the RCO All-Stars on their self-titled album as 'Milk Cow Boogie'.
- 1977: Aerosmith their album Draw the Line.
- 1977: Pirates former Johnny Kidd's band recorded the song. It appears on their 1977 live album Out of Their Skulls.
- 1979: Jerry Lee Lewis recorded on the Elektra label.
- 1981: Glen Campbell recorded the song on his album Glen Campbell Live.
- 1990: Dead Moon on their 1990 album, Defiance.
- 1990: Aerosmith on their 1990 MTV Unplugged Live Performance in New York.
- 1991: George Strait on his 1991 album, Chill of an Early Fall.
- 2000: Willie Nelson on his 2000 album, Milk Cow Blues.
- 2001: Doc Watson on his album, Doc Watson at Gerdes Folk City, recorded live in 1962 and 1963 but never released until 2001.
- 2002: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, featuring Doc Watson, on the 2002 album Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Volume III
- 2004: Eric Clapton on his 2004 tribute to Robert Johnson, Me and Mr. Johnson, titled "Milkcow's Calf Blues".
- 2009: Obits on their debut album I Blame You.
- 2016: The Kinks featured a live version on their 2016 Record Store Day exclusive album, The Kinks in Koncert 1965.
- Mississippi Fred McDowell recorded "Milk Cow Blues" on a self-titled album.
- Tyler Hilton recorded it for the film Walk the Line.
- Dixon, Robert M. W.; Godrich, John; Rye, Howard (1997). Blues and Gospel Records 1890-194 (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-816239-1.
- Boyd, Jean A.; Kelly, Patrick (2012). "The Many Faces of Milk Cow Blues". Journal of Texas Music History. 12: 17–35. ISBN 0-19-816239-1.
- Wald, Elijah (2004). Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues. New York City: Amistad. p. 134. ISBN 978-0-06-052427-2.
- Hatch, David; Millward, Stephen (1989). From Blues to Rock: An Analytical History of Pop Music. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press. pp. 42–43. ISBN 0-19-816239-1.
- Sackheim, Eric; Shahn, Jonathan (2003). The Blues Line: Blues Lyrics from Leadbelly to Muddy Waters. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-19-816239-1.
- Russell, Tony (2007). Country Music Originals: The Legends and the Lost. New York City: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-532509-5. OCLC 85822512.
- The Complete 50's Masters (Box set booklet). Elvis Presley. New York City: RCA Records. 1992. pp. not numbered. 07863 66050-2.