Sunday, March 23, 2014

'Chain Gang Blues' - Kokomo Arnold (1935)

one of the only photos of Kokomo Arnold

"Kokomo" was a popular brand of coffee back in the day, and was the subject of Francis "Scrapper" Blackwell's first recorded blues in 1928. When slide guitarist James Arnold covered that song as "Old Original Kokomo Blues" for the Decca record label in 1934, little did he know that this would soon become his permanent stage name: Kokomo Arnold.

Arnold recorded 88 tracks for Decca in the 1930s and was an influence on Robert Johnson, however he quit the music business in disgust in 1938 and went into factory work in Chicago. He was rediscovered there by blues researchers in 1962, but didn't show much enthusiasm for reviving his musical career, and certainly did not resume recording. Kokomo Arnold died of a heart attack at the age of 67.

This next song from 1935 is a gritty blues number, about murder and serving jail time, as such: 

'I'm layin' in jail, with my back tied to the wall;
I'm layin' in jail, with my back tied to the wall;
Says this whiskey and old bad women, WHOA, was the cause of it all'

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