by catherine yronwode

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TITLE: Hoo Doo Blues
MATRIX NO.: 94422-1
SINGER: Harry Chatmon
DATE OF REC.: 10 Aug 1935
ORIGINAL ISSUE(S): Bluebird B 6095
REISSUE(S): Document DOCD-5233 ...

I'm the old hoodoo, works with white mojo.
I'm the old hoodoo, works with white mojo,
I can get a woman a man, anywhere I go.

A woman come to me, beggin' and cryin',
"Someone have done went and took that man of mine;"
"Listen, sweet mama, looked at your hand,
Go back home and control your man."

'Cause I'm the old hoodoo, works with white mojo.
I'm the old hoodoo, works with white mojo,
I can get a woman a man, anywhere I go.'

[piano break] (Spoken) Step on it, boy. [piano break]

I'll tell you one thing, sweet mama, what you'll have to do,
Go down town and get you a old horseshoe.
Come back home and fix it up over your front door,
Bet you five dollars your man'll never leave home no more.

'Cause I'm the old hoodoo, works with white mojo.
I'm the old hoodoo, works with white mojo,
I can get a woman a man, anywhere I go.
TRANSCRIBED BY Chris Smith ( 18 Sep 2000 with an acknowledgement to Bob Macleod's version in Document Blues 6; also thanks to Gorgen Antonsson (, for his rough transcription, circa 1997, and to Alan Balfour ( for a tape; slight changes made by cat yronwode 30 Sep 2000.

COMMENTS BY GORGEN ANTONSSON: David Evans, in notes to Document DOCD-5233, wrote: "'Hoo Doo Blues' was perhaps composed as a tribute to New Orleans' reputation as a headquarter for conjurers."

COMMENTS BY CHRIS SMITH: I had my doubts about 'white mojo', but it's very clear in the last chorus. Can you tell us anything about that, Cat?

COMMENTS BY CAT YRONWODE: First, obviously David Evans's speculation (reprinted by Gorgen) was wrong, because this text has nothing to do with New Orleans at all.
Second, sure i know what "white" mojo is, Chris -- it is WHITE PEOPLE'S FOLK MAGIC -- and Harry Chatmon described it quite accurately, with a highly observant, almost anthropological eye, clearly naming some of the beliefs that distinguish European-American (white) folk magic from his own African-American (black) folk magic, namely the use of palmistry in divination and the reliance on the "lucky horseshoe." The Chatmon family, as most of us know, straddled the blues/country line. They played a lot of music for white audiences (e.g. "Corinne, Corrina") and their blues songs were also adopted by white singers who did not know the black roots of their music (cf. Doc Watson's spoken intro to "I'm Sittin' on Top of the World," circa 1960-62).
One of the major theses i am developing in my book is that hoodoo is a Creole folk magic, that it combines specifically African, specifically Native American, specifically Jewish, and specifically Germano-British beliefs and practices unblended but side-by-side. I have had an uphill battle trying to convince scholars and academics of this -- especially those who insist against all evidence that hoodoo is solely African in origin (and West African at that, which is also off the mark, since it is mostly Congolese). And here comes Harry Chatmon, circa 1935 -- courtesy of an English blues scholar -- telling us all that he knows very well, and expects his audience to know, that "black" hoodoo contains obviously "white" beliefs -- and *naming* them!

FURTHER INFORMATION: The following web pages can be consulted for more details about the topics referenced in this song:
V.1 hoodoo (meaning a practitioner)
V.2 rarity of palmistry in hoodoo: root workers, readers, black gypsies
V.2 "control your man": spells of female domination
V.4 horseshoe

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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