by catherine yronwode

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TITLE: Black Dust Blues
MATRIX NO.: 20886-1
SINGER: Ma Rainey
COMPOSER(S): Selma Davis, words, Ma Rainey, music, cop. 1928
DATE OF REC.: c. Sep 1928
ORIGINAL ISSUE(S): Paramount 12926
REISSUE(S): Document DOCD-5156, Kings of Jazz KJ 184 [CD], ...
by Ma Rainey

It was way last year, when my trouble began
It was way last year, when my trouble began
I had done quarrelled with a woman, she said I took her man

She sent me a letter, said she's gonna turn me round
She sent me a letter, said she's gonna turn me round
She's gonna fix me up so I won't chase her man around

I began to feel bad, worse than I ever before
I began to feel bad, worse than I ever before
Lord, I was out one morning, found black dust all round my door

I began to get thin, had trouble with my feet
I began to get thin, had trouble with my feet
Throwing dust about the house whenever I tried to eat

Black dust in my window, black dust on my porch mat
Black dust in my window, black dust on my porch mat
Black dust's got me walking on all fours like a cat
TRANSCRIBED BY: Chris Smith ( 14 Sep 2000
and Gorgen Antonsson (, 13 Sep 1997

DISCOGRAPHY BY: Gorgen Antonsson (, 13 Sep 1997

LITERATURE: Lieb, Sandra: Mother of the Blues : A Study of
Ma Rainey. - University of Massachusetts Press, 1981, p. 111-112

WEB PAGE CITATION: Catherine Yronwode: Hoodoo in Theory and Practice:
Goofer Dust and Graveyard Dirt

COMMENTS BY GORGEN: Composer's credits according to Lieb, Sandra:
Mother of the Blues: A Study of Ma Rainey, University of Massachusetts
Press, 1981, p. 193

COMMENTS BY CAT: Regarding Verse 5: "walking on all fours like a cat":
Two 1930s oral history accounts of hoodoo victims "walking
on all fours" can be found on my page about Aunt Caroline Dye

"She could have you walkin' like a hawg; any kinda which-way,
she could make you walk on two legs again."
-- Will Shade (Son Brimmer) interview

"Ah had a cousin, she lived in Oil Town, Arkansas
{Oil Trough, Arkansas}. She got poison, see. {She was
poisoned by some sort of trick or spell.}. Dis woman had
her howlin' [like a dog -- see No. 775, p. 256]. Now,
Ah know this fo' a pus'nul fac'. She wus howlin' an'
sometimes she jis' crawlin' on her knees, see."
-- Harry M. Hyatt's Informant from Little Rock, Ark.

FURTHER INFORMATION: The following web pages can be consulted for more details about the topics referenced in this song:
V.2 fix up (hoodoo definitions and history)
V.2 dressed letter (powders)
V.3 black dust (goofer dust)
V.5 door (foot track magic)
V.4 trouble with my feet (foot track magic)
V.5 porch mat (foot track magic)
V.5 walking on all fours (Aunt Caroline Dye)

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, and Alan Balfour and Chris Smith, who have devoted a great deal of time to supplying me with tapes, transcribed lyrics, and detailed discographical information. 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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