Robert Johnson
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All lyrics on this site are for private study, scholarship, or research purposes only. Read the copyright notice before printing/copying anything from this page.

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Ruler

About the Robert Johnson transcriptions...

Given Robert Johnson's pronunciation and the quality of the recording, it's often hard to tell what exactly he's singing. I've consulted several sources on Robert Johnson's' songs, on the internet as well as in printed and published form such as songbooks and I had to come to the conclusion that the dead right and certain transcription of a song probably doesn't exist or there is no way to be sure which one it is. So if you're looking for certified exact transcriptions, wander on blues boy or gal because you won't find them here. What you will find however, is transcriptions that I think are (most likely to be) correct and in many occasions alternative word(s) or phrases for a specific part of the song. Finally, for some songs you'll find bits and pieces of interesting background information, enjoy !.
Ruler

Table Of Content (41 songs, 41 soundclips)

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32-20 Blues
Come On In My Kitchen (1)
Come On In My Kitchen (2)
Cross Road Blues (1)
Cross Road Blues (2)
Dead Shrimp Blues
Drunken Hearted Man (1)
Drunken Hearted Man (2)
From Four Till Late
Hellhound On My Trail
Honeymoon Blues
I'm A Steady Rollin' Man
I Believe I'll Dust My Broom
If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day

Kind Hearted Woman Blues (1)
Kind Hearted Woman Blues (2)
Last Fair Deal Gone Down
Little Queen Of Spades (1)
Little Queen Of Spades (2)
Love In Vain (1)
Love In Vain (2)
Malted Milk
Me And The Devil Blues (1)
Me And The Devil Blues (2)
Milk cow's Calf Blues (1)
Milk cow's Calf Blues (2)
Phonograph Blues (1)
Phonograph Blues (2)

Preachin' Blues (Up Jumped The Devil)
Rambling On My Mind (1)
Rambling On My Mind (2)
Stones In My Passway
Stop Breakin' Down Blues (1)
Stop Breakin' Down Blues (2)
Sweet Home Chicago
Terraplane Blues
They're Red Hot
Traveling Riverside Blues
Walkin' Blues
When You Got A Good Friend(1)
When You Got A Good Friend(2)

Ruler

Preachin' Blues (Up Jumped The Devil)

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by Robert Johnson
recording of 3rd of 5 sessions, November 27 1936, San Antonio, Texas
from
The Complete Recordings (CBS 467246 2 & Columbia/Legacy C2K-46222 & Columbia 4622 & Sony 64916), copyright notice

Mmmmm mmmmm
I's up this mornin', ah, blues walkin' like a man
I's up this mornin', ah, blues walkin' like a man
Worried blues, give me your right hand

And the blues fell mama's child, tore me all upside down
Blues fell mama's child, and it tore me all upside down
Travel on, poor Bob, just can't turn you 'round

The blues, is a low-down shakin' chill
(spoken: Yes, preach 'em now)
Mmmmm mmmmm
Is a low-down shakin' chill
You ain't never had 'em I, hope you never will

Well, the blues , is a achin' old heart disease
(spoken: Do it now, you gon' do it? Tell me all about it)
The blues, is a low-down achin' heart disease
Like consumption, killing me by degrees

I can study rain, oh oh drive, oh oh drive my blues
I been studyin' the rain and, I'm 'on drive my blues away
Goin' to the 'stil'ry1, stay out there all day

__________
This is Robert Johnson's version of Preachin' The Blues Parts 1 and 2 that Son House Recorded in 1930.
Note 1: alternatively "steeray" instead of " 'stil'ry" as for distillery

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Ruler

Rambling On My Mind (Take 1)

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soundclip


by Robert Johnson
recording of 1st of 5 sessions, November 23 1936, San Antonio, Texas
from
The Complete Recordings (CBS 467246 2 & Columbia/Legacy C2K-46222 & Columbia 4622 & Sony 64916), copyright notice

I got ramblin', I got ramblin' on my mind
I got ramblin', I got ramblin' all on my mind
Hate to leave my baby, but you treats me so unkind

I got mean things, I got mean things all on my mind
Little girl, little girl, I got mean things all on my mind
Hate to leave you here, babe, but you treats me so unkind

Runnin' down to the station, catch the first mail train I see
(spoken: I think I hear her comin' now)
Runnin' down to the station, catch the old first mail train I see
I got the blues about Miss So-and-So and the child got the blues about me

And I'm leavin' this mornin', with my arm' fold' up and cryin'
And I'm leavin' this mornin', with my arm' fold' up and cryin'
Hate to leave my baby, but she treats me so unkind

I got mean things, I've got mean things on my mind
I got mean things, I got mean things all on my mind
I got to leave my baby, well, she treats me so unkind

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Ruler

Rambling On My Mind (Take 2)

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soundclip


by Robert Johnson
recording of 1st of 5 sessions, November 23 1936, San Antonio, Texas
from
The Complete Recordings (CBS 467246 2 & Columbia/Legacy C2K-46222 & Columbia 4622 & Sony 64916), copyright notice

I got ramblin', I got ramblin' on my mind
I got ramblin', I got ramblin' all on my mind
Hate to leave my baby, but you treats me so unkind

And now babe, I will never forgive you anymore
Little girl, little girl, I will never forgive you anymore
You know you did not want me, baby, why did you tell me so?

And I'm runnin' down to the station, catch that first mail train I see
(spoken: I hear her comin' now)
An' I'm runnin' down to the station, catch that old first mail train I see
I've got the blues 'bout Miss So-and-So, and the child got the blues about me

An' they's de'ilment, she got devilment1 all on her mind
She's got devilment, little girl, you got devilment all on your mind
Now I got to leave this mornin', with my arm' fold' up and cryin'

I believe, I believe my time ain't long
I believe, I believe that my time ain't long
But I'm leavin' this mornin', I believe I will go back home

__________
Note 1:. devilment, wicked and cruel behavior [synonym: deviltry] or reckless or malicious behavior that causes discomfort or annoyance in others.

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Ruler

Stones In My Passway

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by Robert Johnson
recording of 4th of 5 sessions, June 19 1937, Dallas, Texas
from
The Complete Recordings (CBS 467246 2 & Columbia/Legacy C2K-46222 & Columbia 4622 & Sony 64916), copyright notice

I got stones in my passway, and my road seem dark as night
I got stones in my passway, and my road seem dark as night
I have pains in my heart, they have taken my appetite

I have a bird to whistle, and I have a bird to sing
Have a bird to whistle, and I have a bird to sing
I got a woman that I'm lovin', boy, but she don't mean a thing

My enemies have betrayed me, have overtaken poor Bob at last
My enemies have betrayed me, have overtaken poor Bob at last
And there's one thing certainly1, they have stones all in my pass

Now you tryin' to take my life, and all my lovin' too
You laid a passway for me, now what are you trying to do?
I'm cryin' please, please let us be friends
And when you hear me howlin' in my passway, rider, please open your door and let me in

I got three lane's2 to truck home, boys, please don't block my road
I got three lane's2 to truck home, boys, please don't block my road
I've been feelin' ashamed 'bout my rider, babe, I'm booked and I got to go

__________
Note 1: alternatively "certain" instead of "certainly"
Note 2: alternatively "legs" instead of "lane's"

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Ruler

Stop Breaking Down Blues (Take 1)

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by Robert Johnson
recording of 5th of 5 sessions, June 20 1937, Dallas, Texas
from
The Complete Recordings (CBS 467246 2 & Columbia/Legacy C2K-46222 & Columbia 4622 & Sony 64916), copyright notice

Everytime I'm walkin', down the streets, some pretty mama start breakin' down with me
Stop breakin' down, yes stop breakin' down
The stuff I got'll bust your brains out, baby, hoo hoo, it'll make you lose your mind.

I can't walk the streets now con, consolate my mind,
some no-good woman she starts breakin' down
Stop breakin' down, please stop breakin' down
The stuff I got it gon' bust your brains out, baby, hoo hoo, it'll make you lose your mind

Now, you Saturday night women's, you love to ape and clown,
you won't do nothin' but tear a good man reputation down
Stop breakin' down, please stop breakin' down
The stuff I got'll bust your brains out, baby, hoo hoo, it'll make you lose your mind

Now, I give my baby, now, the ninety-nine degree,
she jumped up and throwed a pistol down on me
Stop breakin' down, please stop breakin' down
Stuff I got'll bust your brains out, baby, hoo hoo, it'll make you lose your mind

I can't start walkin' down the streets, but some pretty mama don't start breakin' down with me
Stop breakin' down, yeah stop breakin' down
The stuff I got'll bust your brains out, baby, hoo hoo, it'll make you lose your mind

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Ruler

Stop Breaking Down Blues (Take 2)

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soundclip


by Robert Johnson
recording of 5th of 5 sessions, June 20 1937, Dallas, Texas
from
The Complete Recordings (CBS 467246 2 & Columbia/Legacy C2K-46222 & Columbia 4622 & Sony 64916), copyright notice

Now, I can't walk the streets, now, to consolate my mind,
some pretty mama, she start, breakin' down
Stop breakin' down, please, stop breakin' down
Now, the stuff I got'll bust your brains out, baby, hoo hoo, it'll make you lose your mind

I can't walk the streets, now, to consolate my mind,
some no-good woman, now, she start breakin' down
Stop breakin' down, please, stop breakin' down
The stuff I got'll bust your brains out, baby, hoo hoo, it'll make you lose your mind

You know the Saturday night women, now, they love to ape and clown
They won't do nothin' but tear your, reputation down
Stop breakin' down, please, stop breakin' down
The stuff I got'll bust your brains out, baby, hoo hoo, it'll make you lose your mind

Now I gave my baby, that ninety-nine degree
She jumped up and throwed a pistol, down on me
Stop breakin' down, please, stop breakin' down
That stuff I got'll bust your brains out, baby, hoo hoo, it'll make you lose your mind

Now, that fiddle1 player, now, use, rosum on his bow
That don't make your fiddle cry, baby, you know it, don't go
Stop breakin' down, please, stop breakin' down
The stuff I got'll bust your brains out, baby, hoo hoo, it'll make you lose your mind

__________
Note 1: fiddle, a stringed instrument of music played with a bow, a violin.

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Ruler

Sweet Home Chicago

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by Robert Johnson
recording of 1st of 5 sessions, November 23 1936, San Antonio, Texas
from
The Complete Recordings (CBS 467246 2 & Columbia/Legacy C2K-46222 & Columbia 4622 & Sony 64916), copyright notice

Ooh, baby don't you want to go?
Ooh, baby don't you want to go?
Back to the land of California1, to my sweet home Chicago

Ooh, baby don't you want to go?
Ooh, baby don't you want to go?
Back to the land of California1, to my sweet home Chicago

Now one and one is two, two and two is four
I'm heavy loaded baby, I'm booked, I gotta go
Cryin' baby, honey don't you want to go?
Back to the land of California1, to my sweet home Chicago

Now two and two is four, four and two is six
You gonna keep monkey'in 'round here friend-boy2,
you gonna get your business all in a trick
But I'm cryin' baby, honey don't you wanna go
Back to the land of California1, to my sweet home Chicago

Now six and two is eight, eight and two is ten
Friend-boy, she trick you one time, she sure gonna do it again
But I'm cryin' hey, baby don't you want to go
To the land of California1, to my sweet home Chicago

I'm goin' to California, from there to Des Moines, Iowa'y3
Somebody will tell me that you, need my help someday,
cryin', hey hey, baby don't you want to go
Back to the land of California1, to my sweet home Chicago

__________
Note: a or the source for this song is probably Kokomo Arnold's popular song "Old Original Kokomo Blues", recorded in 1934;
Note 1: confusing California for Illinois suggests that Robert Johnson had not been yet to Chicago prior to the recording of this song. Another explanation is offered by Patrick Clark: "I do believe that he was simply using the phrase "the land of California" as an alternative way of stating "that place of great riches". California as a metaphor for the land of milk and honey, it is a possibility. Thanks to Patrick for this contribution;
Note 2: friend-boy is a dialectic synonym for "boyfriend" when used between men;
Note 3: "from there to Des Moines, Iowa-y" is best-guess work based on the phonetics. Hear the soundclip and please mail me if you think you know the words, bluesmanharry@bigfoot.com;

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Ruler

Terraplane Blues

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GuitarPro

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by Robert Johnson
recording of 1st of 5 sessions, November 23 1936, San Antonio, Texas
from
The Complete Recordings (CBS 467246 2 & Columbia/Legacy C2K-46222 & Columbia 4622 & Sony 64916), copyright notice


And I feel so lonesome, you hear me when I moan
When I feel so lonesome, you hear me when I moan
Who been drivin' my Terraplane1, for you since I been gone.

I'd said I flash your lights, mama, you horn won't even blow
(spoken: Somebody's been runnin' my batteries down on this machine)
I even flash my lights, mama, this horn won't even blow
Got a short in this connection, hoo well, babe, it's way down below

[Label: Terraplane Blues]


I'm goin' heist your hood, mama, I'm bound to check your oil
I'm goin' heist your hood, mama, mmm, I'm bound to check your oil
I got a woman that I'm lovin', way down in Arkansas

Now, you know the coils ain't even buzzin', little generator won't get the spark
Motor's in a bad condition, you gotta have these batteries charged
But I'm cryin', pleease, pleease don't do me wrong.
Who been drivin' my Terraplane1 now for, you since I been gone.

Mr. highway man, please don't block the road
Puh hee hee, please don't block the road
'Cause she's reachin' a cold one hundred and I'm booked and I got to go

Mmm mmm mmm mmm mmm
Yoo ooo ooo ooo, you hear me weep and moan
Who been drivin' my Terraplane1 now for, you since I been gone

I'm gon' get down in this connection, keep on tanglin' with your wires
I'm gon' get down in this connection, oh well, keep on tanglin' with these wires
And when I mash down on your little starter, then your spark plug will give me fire

__________
Note 1: the Terraplane was a 1930's car model of the Hudson Motor Company, see a picture and read more about it.

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Ruler

They're Red Hot

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soundclip


by Robert Johnson
recording of 3rd of 5 sessions, November 27 1936, San Antonio, Texas
from
The Complete Recordings (CBS 467246 2 & Columbia/Legacy C2K-46222 & Columbia 4622 & Sony 64916), copyright notice

Hot tamales1 and they're red hot, yes she got'em for sale
Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got'em for sale
I got a girl, say she long and tall
She sleeps in the kitchen with her feets in the hall
Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got'em for sale, I mean
Yes, she got'em for sale, yeah

Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got'em for sale
Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got'em for sale
She got two for a nickel, got four for a dime
Would sell you more, but they ain't none of mine
Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got'em for sale, I mean
Yes, she got'em for sale, yes, yeah

Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got'em for sale
Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got'em for sale
I got a letter from a girl in the room
Now she got something good she got to bring home soon, now
Its hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got em for sale, I mean
Yes, she got'em for sale, yeah

Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got em for sale
Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got em for sale
(spoken: They're too hot boy!)
The billy got back in a bumble bee nest
Ever since that he can't take his rest, yeah
Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes you got'em for sale, I mean
Yes, she got'em for sale

Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got'em for sale
(spoken: Man don't mess around em hot tamales now
'Cause they too black bad, if you mess around em hot tamales
I'm gonna upset your backbone, put your kidneys to sleep
I'll due to break away your liver and dare your heart to beat bout my)
Hot tamales cause they red hot, yes they got em for sale, I mean
Yes, she got em for sale, yeah

Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got'em for sale
Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got'em for sale
You know grandma loves them and grandpa too
Well I wonder what in the world we children gonna do now
Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got'em for sale, I mean
Yes she got'em for sale

Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got'em for sale
Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got'em for sale
Me and my babe bought a V-8 Ford
Well we wind that thing all on the runnin' board, yes
Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got'em for sale, I mean
Yes she got'em for sale, yeah

Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got'em for sale
(spoken: They're too hot boy!)
Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes, now she got em for sale
You know the monkey, now the baboon playin' in the grass
Well the monkey stuck his finger in that old 'Good Gulf Gas', now
Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got'em for sale, I mean
Yes she got'em for sale, yeah

Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got'em for sale
Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got'em for sale
I got a girl, say she long and tall
Sleeps in the kitchen with her feets in the hall
Hot tamales and they're red hot, yes she got'em for sale, I mean
Yes she got'em for sale, yeah

__________
Note: some sources credit Robert's brother "Red" Johnson for this song. The melody and chord pattern were widely known and recorded under many different titles by many singers. Probably the best known one is Big Bill Broonzy's Take Your Hands Off Her, recorded in 1935. This song was the only example of a southern medicine show "hokum" song that Robert recorded;
Note 1: tamales, Mexican Spanish spicy food consisting of ground meat seasoned usually with chili, rolled in cornmeal dough, wrapped in corn husks, and steamed.

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Ruler

Traveling Riverside Blues

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by Robert Johnson
recording of 5th of 5 sessions, June 20 1937, Dallas, Texas
from
The Complete Recordings (CBS 467246 2 & Columbia/Legacy C2K-46222 & Columbia 4622 & Sony 64916), copyright notice

If your man get personal, want you to have your fun
If your man get personal, want you to have your fun
Best come on back to Friars Point1, mama, and barrelhouse all night long

I got women's in Vicksburg, clean on into Tennessee
I got women's in Vicksburg, clean on into Tennessee
But my Friars Point1 rider, now, hops all over me

I ain't gon' to state no color but her, front teeth crowned with gold
I ain't gon' to state no color but her, front teeth is crowned with gold
She got a mortgage on my body, now, and a lien2 on my soul

Lord, I'm goin' to Rosedale3, gon' take my rider by my side
Lord, I'm goin' to Rosedale3, gon' take my rider by my side
We can still barrelhouse baby, on the riverside

Now you can squeeze my lemon 'til the juice run down my...
(spoken: 'til the juice rune down my leg, baby, you know what I'm talkin' about)
You can squeeze my lemon 'til the juice run down my leg
(spoken: That's what I'm talkin' 'bout, now)
But I'm goin' back to Friars Point1, if I be rockin'to my head

__________
Note 1: Friars Town is a small town in a bend of the Levee river, Mississippi
Note 2: a lien is a charge upon real or personal property for the satisfaction of some debt
Note 3: Rosedale is further south, some twenty miles west of Cleveland, Mississippi

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Ruler

Walkin' Blues

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GuitarPro

soundclip


by Robert Johnson
recording of 3rd of 5 sessions, November 27 1936, San Antonio, Texas
from
The Complete Recordings (CBS 467246 2 & Columbia/Legacy C2K-46222 & Columbia 4622 & Sony 64916), copyright notice

I woke up this mornin', feelin' round for my shoes
Know 'bout 'at I got these, old walkin' blues
Woke up this mornin', feelin' round for my shoes
But you know 'bout 'at I, got these old walkin' blues

Lord, I feel like blowin' my woh old lonesome horn
Got up this mornin', my little Bernice was gone
Lord, I feel like blow ooohn' my lonesome horn
Well I got up this mornin' woh all I had was gone

Well ah leave this morn' of I have to, woh, ride the blind, ah
I've feel mistreated and I don't mind dyin'
Leavin' this morn' ah, I have to ride a blind
Babe, I been mistreated, baby, and I don't mind dyin'

Well, some people tell me that the worried, blues ain't bad
Worst old feelin' I most ever had, some
People tell me that these old worried old blues ain't bad
It's the worst old feelin', I most ever had

She got an Elgin1 movement from her head down to her toes
Break in on a dollar most anywhere she goes, oooh ooooh
(spoken: To her head down to her toes, oh, honey)
Lord, she break in on a dollar, most anywhere she goes

___________
Note: this song has so many things reminiscent of Son House's style that it's probably a song Robert learned from him. The rhythm, with the short rest before each vocal phrase, has the same work-gang phrasing that Son used in a number of his songs. These songs were so closely linked to their work-gang roots that they were still phrased with that short pause left for what was probably an (pick)axe blow. Chopping songs recorded in southern prisons have this same characteristic form of a short vocal line, the (pick)axes lifting while the songster sings the phrase, then the sharp noise of the (pick)axes hitting the (ground) tree, all of it in a steady, slow rhythm that a strong chain-gang could keep up for hours;
Note 1: only meaning for Elgin I found in was a place in Illinois. However Scott Niedentohl suggests: "I think he's talking about an Elgin watch or clock. It 's a brand name. She's got a real fine, real smooth "movement" - like a fine watch." Thanks to Scott for this contribution. Any idea's on Scott's suggestion?. If so or if anyone knows another more likely meaning, please mail me, bluesmanharry@bigfoot.com

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Ruler

When You Got A Good Friend (Take 1)

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by Robert Johnson
recording of 1st of 5 sessions, November 23 1936, San Antonio, Texas
from
The Complete Recordings (CBS 467246 2 & Columbia/Legacy C2K-46222 & Columbia 4622 & Sony 64916), copyright notice

When you got a good friend, that will stay right by your side.
When you got a good friend, that will stay right by your side
Give her all of your spare time, love and treat her right

I mistreated my baby, and I can't see no reason why
I mistreated my baby, but I can't see no reason why
Everytime I think about it, I just wring my hands and cry

Wonder could I bear apologize, or would she sympathize with me
Mmmmmm mmmm mmmm, would she sympathize with me
She's a brown skin woman, just as sweet as a girl friend can be

Mmmm mmmm, babe, I may be right ay wrong
Baby it's yo'y opinion, oh, I may be right ay wrong
Watch your close friend, baby, then your ene'ies can't do no harm

When you got a good friend, that will stay right by your side
When you got a good friend, that will stay right by your side
Give her all of your spare time, love and treat her right

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Ruler

When You Got A Good Friend (Take 2)

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by Robert Johnson
recording of 1st of 5 sessions, November 23 1936, San Antonio, Texas
from
The Complete Recordings (CBS 467246 2 & Columbia/Legacy C2K-46222 & Columbia 4622 & Sony 64916), copyright notice

Mmm, when you got a good friend, that will stay right by your side
When you got a good friend, that will stay right by your side
Give her all of your spare time, try to love and treat her right

I mistreated my baby, I can't see no reason why
I mistreated my baby, I can't see no reason why
Everytime I thinks about it, I just wring my hands and cry

Wonder could I bear apologize, or would she sympathize with me
Mmmmmmmmmm, or would she sympathize with me
She's a brown skin woman, just as sweet as a girl friend can be

I love my baby, but I can't make that ag'ee
I love that woman, but what can we can't agree
I really love that woman, nnn, wonder why we can't agree

It's your opinion, friend-girl, I may be right or wrong
It's yo'y opinion friend-girl, I may be right or wrong
But when you watch your close friend, baby,
then your enemies can't do you no harm

When you got a good friend, that will stay right by your side
When you got a good friend, that will stay right by your side
Give her all of your spare time, try to love and treat her right

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Ruler

Created by:
Bluesman Harry
Page last updated on:
June 8 2000


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