by catherine yronwode

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TITLE: Aunt Caroline Dyer Blues
MATRIX NO.: 62541-2
SINGER: The Memphis Jug Band
(Will Shade, guitar and vocals; Ben Ramey, kazoo;
Charlie Burse, guitar [and spoken interjections], Hambone Lewis, jug)
COMPOSER(S): Jennie Mae Clayton
DATE OF REC.: 29 May 1930, Memphis, Tennessee
ORIGINAL ISSUE(S): Victor 23347
REISSUE(S): Frog DGF18 Memohis Jug Band Volume 3
Click here to listen to an MP3 of this song

by The Memphis Jug Band

I'm going to Newport News
        just to see Aunt Caroline Dye
I'm going to Newport News
        just to see Aunt Caroline Dye
                [What you gon' ask her, boy?]
She's a fortune-telling woman, oh Lord,
        and she don't tell no lie
                [I'm gon' to see her myself]

I'm going to Newport News, partner,
        catch a battleship across the doggone sea
I'm going to Newport News,
        catch a battleship across the doggone sea
Because bad luck and hard work, oh Lord,
        sure don't agree with me

Aunt Caroline Dye she told me,
        "Son, you don't have to live so rough"
Aunt Caroline Dye she told me,
        "Son, you don't have to live so rough
"I'm going to fix you up a mojo, oh Lord,
        so you can strut your stuff"
                [Go on and strut yo' stuff!]
                {fancy guitar duet}

Aunt Caroline Dye she told me,
        "Son, these women don't mean you no good"
Aunt Caroline Dye she told me,
        "Son, these women don't mean you no good
                [Yes, i know that]
Said, "Take my advice
        and don't monkey with none in your neighbourhood"

I am leaving in the morning,
        I don't want no one to accuse me
Yes, I am leaving in the morning,
        I don't want no one to accuse me
I'm going back to Newport News
        and do what Aunt Caroline Dye told me to
TRANSCRIBED BY: catherine yronwode, 1 Oct 1998

DISCOGRAPHY BY: uncredited, from Frog DGF18

COMPOSER CREDITS: given per Frog DGF18; Jennie Mae Clayton was Will Shade's wife; in the interview below he claimes comper creidts for himself.

RELATED LYRICS: Hoodoo Women" by Johnnie Temple, 1937
("Well, I'm going to Newport, just to see Aunt Caroline Dye")

LITERATURE: Paul Oliver, "Conversation with the Blues"; Harry M. Hyatt, "Hoodoo - Conjuration - Witchcraft - Rootwork."

WEB PAGE CITATION: Catherine Yronwode: Hoodoo in Theory and Practice:
Aunt Caroline Dye

COMMENTS BY CAT YRONWODE: This song is about Aunt Caroline Dye, not Dyer. In addition to the error in the title, an error in the lyric is Shade's alone: he confuses the seaport town of Newport News, Virginia, with Aunt Caroline Dye's actual home in Newport, Arkansas. It may be for this reason (or because of it) that he set the melody of "Aunt Caroline Dyer Blues" to his own earlier composition "Newport News Blues" and borrowed from that topical song about World War One (first recorded in 1927) the second verse, which incongruously brings a "battleship" into a lyric that is ostensibly about getting a mojo hand fixed up. By way of contrast, in Johnnie Temple's 1937 song, "Hoodoo Women," Dye is correctly located in Newport, Arkansas.

People unfamiliar with The Memphis Jug Band may need one further piece of information to fully understand this song: The name "Son," by which Aunt Caroline addresses the narrator, is in this case not a generic term of endearment from an old woman to a young male client; rather, it refers to Will Shade himself. "Son" is regional slang for "grandson" and Shade was raised by his grandmother, Annie Brimmer, so in Memphis he was known as Son Brimmer, a fact that engendered the title of his very first record, "Son Brimmer's Blues."

COMMENTS BY WILL SHADE: "Aunt Caroline Dye was a fortune-tellin' woman. See, 'Aunt Caroline Dye, she's a fortune-tellin' woman, never tol' no lie' -- I made that up, my own right, my own song; nobody knowed it but me.

She was a fortune-tellin' woman -- two-headed woman. She call you, she'd fix you, so you better come; she didn't have to come to fetch you. That's the kind of woman she was; had that much power -- 'fore she died. White and Colored would go to her. You sick in bed, she raise the sick. Conjure, hoodoo, that's what some people say, but that's what you call it, conjure.

"Yeah, she could make a hand so you could win anybody's money. Take her hand wit' ya, win everybody's money wit' that spell. Had that much brains -- smart lady. She break up all kinds of spells you had. She could have you walkin' like a hawg; any kinda which-way, she could make you walk on two legs again.

"That's the kind of woman she was. Aunt Caroline Dye, she was the worst woman in the world. Had that much sense. Seven Sisters ain't nowhere wit' Aunt Caroline Dye; she was the onliest one could break the record with the hoodoo." From Paul Oliver's interview with Shade, July 20, 1960, in "Conversation with the Blues." (Thanks to Chris Smith ( for identifying the interviewer as Paul Oliver and the text from Oliver's book)

FURTHER INFORMATION: The following web pages can be consulted for more details about the topics referenced in this song:
V.1 Aunt Caroline Dye
V.1 fortune-telling woman
V.3 mojo

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Individual acknowledgements for transcriptions and discographical data appear on each song-page, but i want to note that this Blues Lyrics and Hoodoo archive would never have been possible without the contributions of Gorgen Antonsson, who generously shared with me the format and content of his own personal lyrics archive. Additionally, i wish to thank the kind members of the prewar blues e-list who have aided my research in innumerable ways. If you have missing data to supply, hear a substantially different take on a transcription, or want to let me know about a song that has been overlooked in these pages, please contact me through the prewar blues e-list:

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Due to certain social, economic, and political paradigms in place at the time of their composition, many early blues songs were improperly copyrighted or not copyrighted at all. Many bore no composer credits. Many were ripped off by unethical music publishers who falsely claimed authorship and copyrighted them in their own names. Many that were once copyright-protected are now in the public domain due to publishers' or composers' failures to properly renew the copyrights. Many have since been ripped off by unethical performers or music publishers who have pretended to be the composers for the purpose of securing a belated copyright or who have claimed "arranger's" credits on songs they falsely swore were "traditional" when in fact the songs were composed by the people who originally performed them on record. It is my sincere belief that the song transcribed on this page bears the implied moral copyright of its composer, whoever that may be. If you believe that you control the copyright by virtue of authorship or legal legerdemain, you may contact me in a civil and polite manner and i will attempt in good faith to satisfy your needs in the matter of obtaining formal permission to quote the lyrics in this scholarly publication.

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