Deep Ellum Blues Transcription | Folkstreams

Deep Ellum Blues Transcription

Deep Ellum Blues Transcription

Edited by Beverly Patterson and Alan Govenar


Produced by Dallas Museum of Art

Directed by Alan Govenar

Well, it's train time now
And the track's all out of line
Well, it's train time now
Track's all out of line
And I come here soon
I wanna catch that number nine
I ain't worried

ERNEST JOHNSON: At the time I was there, it was during the depression, in Dallas, and it seemed like even Dallas, people, the black and white, was kind of more congenial.

BILL NEELY: Chopping cotton and picking cotton and gathering corn, shocking wheat, got a little old, you know. So I'd take off down to Dallas down on Deep Ellum.

JOHNSON: It was a nice place. It was, you know. Have you ever been in a Black part of town? We were just like any other section of the town, below the tracks. In those days, we were closer together and more friendlier.

HERBERT COWENS: Well, Deep Ellum was the main thoroughfare for the community of Blacks. All of our businesses were along Central Avenue, which, at that time, was a railroad track. And the theaters, Park Theater, was a theater where vaudeville was being played. And our main restaurant was Mack Miller's Cafe and the original Green Parrot was over the top on the third floor above Mack Miller's Cafe.

NEELY: Wasn't no houses down there nowhere that I'd ever seen. It's just nothing but rooms and little hotels where all the bums, if they had the money, they'd stay all night there. If they didn't have it, they'd sleep on the sidewalk.

COWENS: But Deep Ellum was what you might call the 5th Avenue of Dallas at the time.

NEELY: It was a pretty rough place down on Deep Ellum. Down where I hung out all the time at the New Orleans place is, where , well, it's where all the thugs and thieves, drunks, bums, winos, they all hung out down there. The desperados. Guys like Clyde and Bonnie, Raymond Hamilton, even Pretty Boy Floyd hung out down there sometimes.

COWENS: Now you know you gonna have the blues if it was at Deep Ellum. But if a brother was there, it's gonna be a blues.

Oh, I'm going down on Deep Ellum
On a dark and lonely street tonight
I'm going down on Deep Ellum
On a dark and lonesome street tonight
Going down there and find me a woman
One that's gonna treat me right
Well I walked all over big Dallas
From the rich part to the slums and back
Now I walked all over Dallas
Rich part to the slums and back
I'm gonna stay right here on Ellum
Wait for my baby to come on back
I'm gonna walk on down this road
Get me one more fix and go to bed
I'm gonna walk on down this road
Get me one more fix and go to bed
Now when my baby finds me in the morning
She's gonna find the best man she ever had was dead

DOOLEY JORDAN: In 1930, everybody was playing the same music, which was "Moonglow," "Stardust." You name it. All of that, everybody's dancing to that. Now, western music and all that was an outcast. Blues was an outcast. If you remember, no you can't remember. You're too young.

ALAN GOVENAR: How did you get interested in blues music?

NEELY: Well I guess, from Jimmie Rogers, I guess. He was a bluesman. Everything he sung was blues. He got most of his songs down in the Delta country, down in Mississippi, down there-- the colored people down there. And all them songs Jimmie Rogers didn't write, just like some of them Hank Williams didn't write.

JORDAN: You would get together that night, the white musicians, the black musicians, all playing, some of them, the white musicians, playing the Gunter Hotel, you couldn't play there. The others playing out here at these different places. Now listen to me closely. Alright, but when they got through playing, they'd all meet down here at the Froggy Bottom-- whites, and blacks and all, white women and all, black and all getting, they just mix up. But as soon as daylight broke, everybody scrammed.

JOHNSON: They had a jam session down there in those days

JORDAN: Everybody moved out because if they were caught, they were gonna be arrested.

NEELY: I was up there in town one day, I'd been working on the farm and I seen a car sitting over there, '34 Ford, and this guy called me over to the car and asked me would I go get him a package of cigarettes. He smoked Lucky Strikes. He gave me a dollar and I went over and got him a package of Luckys and it only cost a dime and I have 90 cent left and he told me to just keep the change. Then he asked me, he said "Do you know who I am?" I said, "No, sure don't'. He said, "Do you ever hear of a Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker?" And I said, "Yeah, sure." Keep up with them all the time. He said, "You ain't scared?", I said "No, hell, I ain't scared of nobody". I said they just people like me. Well they said this is Bonnie sitting over here and she had a Tommy Gun laying across her lap. So, that's how I met them. Then they hung out down in Dallas all the time down there then, and that's where I hung out all the time

When you go down on Deep Ellum
Just to have a little fun
You better have your 15 dollars
When that policeman come
Oh, sweet mama
Daddy's got them Deep Ellum blues
Oh, sweet mama
Daddy's got them Deep Ellum blues
I watched you a preacher, preach the Bible
Through and through
Went down on Deep Ellum
Now his preaching days are through
Oh, sweet mama
Daddy's got them Deep Ellum blues
Oh, sweet mama
Daddy's got them Deep Ellum blues
When you go down on Deep Ellum
Keep your carburetor clean
Cause the women on Deep Ellum
Sell you dirty gasoline
Oh, sweet mama
Daddy's got them Deep Ellum blues
Oh, sweet mama
Daddy's got them Deep Ellum blues

JORDAN: It's so much different from the blues that we play Now when we play our blues, if there's any cat there, his wife done left him for another cat, he'll get up He going not far from everybody. And I know it, cause I lived with it, all my life.

COWENS: Now that it has been made into a thoroughfare or I should say, expressway, well that removed the railroad and removed all the business from--all the Black businesses from that area

Ha ha! Don't wear no crutches now
Throwed 'em 'way last night
Me and my feets is never late
Me and my feets just won't wait
These not no weary dogs
They are the hottest kind of dogs
I mean they're steamin' puppies

Featuring Bill Neely

Researched by Alan Govenar

Camera and Editing by Pacho Lane

Assistant Editing by Robin Inlander

Sound Recording by Jody Govenar

Production Assistance by Breea Govenar

Special thanks to:

Dallas Public Library

Library of Congress

Dooley Jordan

Herbert Cowens

Ernest Johnson

© 1985 Alan Govenar, Pacho Lane, All Rights Reserved