A Song For Now, Verse 2 – “Worried Man Blues”

“Music is the best medicine.”

That line is from “Best Medicine” – a 2014 song by Maya de Vitry when she was with the wonderful acoustic trio known as The Stray Birds.

My thought behind this series is to offer up some songs that I’ve been thinking about, listening to and singing quite a bit these days. It is my hope that these small doses of musical medicine will be a source of comfort, joy, hope and sanity for you as they have been for me.

Give a listen and, if you’re so inclined, sing along!

“Worried Man Blues” is credited to A.P. Carter of The Carter Family.

Most likely, “Worried Man Blues” was a song that A.P. and his partner, Lesley Riddle, became acquainted with on one of the many song-collecting trips they made around their corner of Poor Valley, Virginia.

The Carter Family – A.P., Sara & Maybelle – made the first recording of “Worried Man Blues” in Memphis, Tennessee on May 24, 1930.

For you guitar players out there, Maybelle – the “lead” guitarist in The Carter Family –  is fingering chords in the Key of C (her favorite). But, since she has her guitar tuned down one whole step, the performance sounds in the Key of B-flat.

The chord progression is a standard 12-bar Blues.

||: 4/4  C     | C     | C     | C     | F     | F     | C     | C     | G     | G     | C     | C     :||

(In the picture below, that’s Maybelle on the left, A.P. in the middle and Sara on the right.)

 

In Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? – The Carter Family & Their Legacy in American Music, authors Mark Zwoniter and Charles Hirshberg wrote: “In ‘Worried Man Blues,’ a man goes across the river to sleep, wakes up a prisoner in chains, and has no idea what he’s done wrong. That song spoke a simple unjustifiable truth: Some men were born to the poor and lonesome class in America, and despite the national promise, that class was hard to escape.”

Thanks to the endless wonders of YouTube, here’s a somewhat blurry but still wonderful clip of Maybelle herself playing “Worried Man Blues.”

On June 14, 1969, Maybelle and her three daughters – June, Anita and Helen – performed as The Carter Family on Episode 2 of the television music variety program known as The Johnny Cash Show. They did this lively, syncopated 16-bar rendition of “Worried Man Blues” with Johnny Cash, himself.

(Maybelle is again using those Key of C fingerings but this time with her Gibson guitar in standard tuning and capoed at the 5th fret. Johnny is capoed at the first fret and fingering chords in the Key of E.)

 

There are dozens of cover versions of this song out there. My favorites are by Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Lonnie Donegan. Check them out!

Stay safe, take good care and always, now more than ever, add some music to your day.

“Music is the best medicine.”

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2 Responses to A Song For Now, Verse 2 – “Worried Man Blues”

  1. Thom Hickey says:

    Wonderful stuff.

    Regards Thom

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