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King Solomon Hill
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King Solomon Hill: a visitors personal search in the realms of a long gone by time of the blues for an "unknown" bluesman, an introduction...

"I recently discovered King Solomon Hill and it turns out that he was from the same small Louisiana town that my wife was raised in. I told a friend its kind of like finding out that Robert Johnson grew up next to you!" -- Mark Reljac


King Solomon Hill (born Joe Holmes, 1897-1949, McComb, Mississippi) has the classic nomadic history of a hard-living bluesman in playing juke joints, predominantly in north Louisiana with Sibley as his base. He met and played and traveled on the blues circuit with Blind Lemon Jefferson for a couple of months in 1928. Blind Lemon was his idol. What is known of his life, is the product of deep and hard-sought research by Gayle Dean Wardlow (King Solomon Hill's story is recounted on pages 2 thru 7 and pages 208 thru 218 of the book "Chasin' the Devil Music" by Gayle Dean Wardlow) in his blues writings from the 1960's thru 1980's. King Solomon Hill was known for both his unusual falsetto singing and his self-taught style of slide guitar playing which he improvised using a cow bone, of all things!! He had a large repertoire of cover songs (many from his friend Blind Lemon) and many original songs, many of which were never recorded and will never be known to us.

He recorded 6 tunes that we know of today, in circa January 1932 in Grafton, Wisconsin. They are on the Document CD # 5036 - BackWoods Blues:
(1.) "The Gone Dead Train" - about life as a hobo on the "death train";
(2.) "Tell Me Baby" - Hill's own variation of the Memphis Minnie-Kansas Joe duet "What Fault you find of me?";
(3.) "Whoopee Blues (Take 1) - this version is of very poor quality sound recording on which Hill sings lower;
(4.) "Whoopee Blues (Take 2) - better quality, Hill sings in falsetto of his woman sleeping with the devil!;
(5.) "Down on my Bended Knee (Take 1) - another poor quality sound recording;
(6.) "Down on my Bended Knee (Take 2) - much better quality recording of this song.

Two more songs from the 1932 Grafton session were recorded, but are lost to history, unless someone accidentally discovers them. They are:
(1.) "My Buddy Blind Papa Lemon" - Hill's tribute to his friend Blind Lemon Jefferson
(2.) "Times Has Done Got Out of Hand" - a song about the great depression

After this single recording session, Hill returned to the juke joint circuit, eventually vanishing from sight; reputedly a heavy smoker and drinker, he died of a massive brain hemorrhage near Heflin, a small town between Sibley and Fryeburg, Louisiana in 1949.

-- Mark Reljac

All lyrics transcribed & contributed by Mark Reljac.

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Table Of Content (5 songs, 2 soundclips)

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Down On My Bended Knee (Take 2)
Tell Me Baby
The Gone Dead Train
Whoopee Blues (Take 1)
Whoopee Blues (Take 2)

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Down On My Bended Knee (Take 2)


by King Solomom Hill
recording of ca. January 1932, Crafton, Wisconsin
from
Backwoods Blues (Document DOCD 5036), copyright notice

Ella, Ella, down on my bended knee
Ella, Ella, down on my bended knee
I worry about my baby, bring her back to me

You know I love my baby, that's why we can't get along
You know I love my baby, that's why we can't get along
Look like everything I do, something goin' on wrong

Ohh-Ohh, down on my bended knee
I'm worrying about my baby, bring her back to me

I can see the sun is shining, leaves shaking on the trees
I can see the sun is shining, leaves shaking on the trees
I got a letter from my daddy, I been thank-up drunk to heel1

Ooh, baby now, hear my lonesome plea
Ohh-ooh. down on my bended knee
I'm worried about my baby, bring her back to me

Oooh-oooh, hear my lonesome plea
I'm worried about my baby, down on my bended knee

__________
Note: this is King Solomon Hill's most sensitive song, whereas his other songs were mostly about the hobo and rambling life of a nomadic bluesman;
Note 1: The lyric is very garbled; the lyric "I been thank-up drunk to heel" is a total guess on my (Mark Reljac) part.

 

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Tell Me Baby


by King Solomom Hill
recording of ca. January 1932, Crafton, Wisconsin
from
Backwoods Blues (Document DOCD 5036), copyright notice

Oh tell me baby, what fault you find of me?2
I'm gonna pack my suitcase, beat it back to Tennessee

On my hands and crying, I've been treated so blind Lord
Oh, tell me baby, what fault you find of me?
I'm gonna pack my suitcase...

Nickel is a nickel, dime is a dime
Wish I had a love in my life, love me all the time
Call her baby...
I'm gonna pack my suitcase...

Nickel is a nickel, dime is a dime
Got a house full of children, ain't no ne'er one mine
Oh, tell me baby...

Babe, I can't see, honey to save my life
Why we can't get along just like man and wife3
Oh tell me baby, what fault you find of me?
I'm gonna pack my suitcase...

I said think mama told me, papa told me too
Don't need whiskey and women, gonna beat around on you
I'll call my baby, what fault you find...?

__________
Note: this song is a lyrical variation of the 1930 Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe duet "What Fault You Find of Me?" Hill used his slide to play the melody of some parts of the choruses instead of singing all of the lyrics;
Note 1: this line is incorporated directly from "What Fault You Find of Me?(#1)";
Note 2: another line incorporated from "What Fault You Find of Me?(#1)".

 

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The Gone Dead Train

soundclip


by King Solomom Hill
recording of ca. January 1932, Crafton, Wisconsin
from
Backwoods Blues (Document DOCD 5036), copyright notice

And I'm goin' way down Winden1
Lord, I'm gonna try to leave here today
Tell 'em I believe I'll find my way
And that train is just that way

Gotta go on that train
I said I'd even broke my jaw job
Boys, if you out and runnin' around in this world this train will wreck your mind
(Spoken: Your life, too)

Lord, I once was a hobo
I crossed a many a point2
But I decided I'd go down the frog3 travelin' light
And take it as it comes
(Spoken: I reckon' you know the fireman and the engineer would, too)

There are so many people have gone down today4
And this fast train north and southern traveling light and clear5

Oooo-ooh, I wanna ride your train
I said, "Look here, engineer, can I ride your train?"
He said, "Look here, you oughta know this train ain't mine and you're asking me in vain"

Said, "You go to the Western Union, you might get a chance"
(Spoken: I didn't know the Western Union run no train)
Said, "You go to the Western Union, you might get a chance"
You might get wire to some of your people and your fare will be sent right ahere
(Spoken: Hadn't thought that's the way it is)

I wanna go home, and that train is done gone dead
I wanna go, that train is done gone dead
I done lost my6 wife and my three little children, and my mother's sick in bed

Oooo-ooh please, help me win my fare
'Cause I'm a travelin' man, boys I can't stay here

__________
Note: this is King Solomon Hill's most well known and mysterious single. It is a dark tune about the hard life of a hobo making his way on the rails. Hill also told his contemporaries that the song is about a "Death Train" which killed several people. Hill uses his falsetto to create an apocalyptic atmosphere. He used a cow-bone to improvise a very unique slide on the guitar;

Note 1: on the record, Hill sings the lyrics "goin' Winden". Other contemporaries of his, who heard the recording, say that its "goin' way down". Hill probably meant the to sing that he was "going to Minden" to catch the train. Minden is a Louisiana town about 30 miles east from Shreveport. His contemporaries remembered variations of this song known as "The Minden Train Song". Hill spent much of his life in Sibley, a small town 3 miles below Minden. He lived in the black community around King Solomon Hill Baptist Church, from which he took his recording name. His real name was Joe Holmes;

Note 2: point, railroad terminology for a railroad switch, the tip of the angle between two rails in a railroad frog (frog, see note 3). Alternate text: "pome" instead of "point" according to Websters dictionary a pome is a fruit. According to Gayle Wardlow's research this stood for "palm";

Note 3: frog, railroad terminology for a device permitting the wheels on one rail of a track to cross an intersecting rail. Alternate text: "I'd go down to Fryeburg light" instead of "I'd go down the frog travelin' light". That would be a reference to traveling without any money to Fryeburg, Louisiana. Fryeburg is a small village about 15 miles south of Minden;

Note 4: Hill told contemporaries that this lyric stood for the people who had lost their lives because of this "Death Train";

Note 5: traveling light and clear, alternate text: "fell their lives in claim"

Note 6: lost my wife and children, alternate text "lied to my wife and children".

 

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Whoopee Blues (Take 1)

soundclip


by King Solomom Hill
recording of ca. January 1932, Crafton, Wisconsin
from
Backwoods Blues (Document DOCD 5036), copyright notice

Wherever you been gone all day, that you may make whoopee all night
Tell me you been gone all day, that you may make whoopee all night
I'm gonna take my razor and cut your late hours, you wouldn't think I'd be servin' you right

Undertaker been here and gone, I gave him your height and seize
Undertaker been here and gone, I gave him your height and seize
You'll be makin' whoopee with the devil in hell tomorrow night

Ah, you made me love you, now you got me for your slave
Baby, you done made me love you, now I got me for your slave
From now you'll be makin' whoopee, deep in your lonesome grave

The devil got 90,000 women, he just need one more
Boys, the devil got 90,000 women, now he just needs one more
He's on the mountain callin' for you, woman broke down, sure must go

Next time you go out, carry your black suit along
Coffin's gonna be your prison, hell gonna be your brand new home

Koo-koo's go howlin', sun is almost down
Koo-koo's go howlin', sun is almost down
I got to go to that valley1, ain't a house for 25 miles around

__________
Note: King Solomon Hill sings this take of "Whoopee Blues" in his lower voice. The surviving recording of take 1 is almost impossible to decipher the lyrics. This dark and vengeful song is about a woman cheating on her man with the devil;
Note 1: that valley, alternate text "Deatch Valley".

 

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Whoopee Blues (Take 2)

soundclip


by King Solomom Hill
recording of ca. January 1932, Crafton, Wisconsin
from
Backwoods Blues (Document DOCD 5036), copyright notice

Wherever you been gone all day, that you may make whoopee all night
Tell me you been gone all day, that you may make whoopee all night
I'm gonna take my razor and cut your late hours, you wouldn't think I'd be servin' you right

Undertaker been here and gone, I gave him your height and seize
I said, "Undertaker been here and gone, I gave him your height and seize"
You be makin' whoopee with the devil in hell tomorrow night

You made me love you, now you got me for your slave
Baby, you done made me love you, now I got me for your slave
From now you'll be makin' whoopee, deep in your lonesome grave

Baby, next time you go out, carry your black suit along
Mama, next time you go out, carry your black suit along
Coffin's gonna be your prison, hell's gonna be your brand new home

I say the devil got 90,000 women, he just need one more
He's on the mountain callin' for you, baby, broke down, show 'em I'm gone

Cool, cool weather we're having, summer's almost out
Then I got to go to that valley1, ain't a house for 25 miles around

My poor feet are so tired, Lord help me some way
Then I got 300 miles to go, slammin' through this mud and gray

__________
Note: take 2 of Whoopee Blues is much more understandable and listenable than the first scratchy version. King Solomon Hill's voice excels in his falsetto on this later version;
Note 1: that valley, alternate text "Deatch Valley".

 

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Created by:
Bluesman Harry
Page last updated on:
June 5 2000


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