ROSCOE HOLCOMB :: I AIN’T GOT NO SUGAR BABY NOW

Roscoe Holcomb, (born as Roscoe Halcomb, September 5, 1912 – died February 1, 1981) was an American singer, banjo player, and guitarist from Daisy, Kentucky. A prominent figure in Appalachian folk music, Holcomb was the inspiration for the term “high, lonesome sound,” coined by folklorist and friend John Cohen. The “high lonesome sound” term is now used to describe bluegrass singing, although Holcomb was not, strictly speaking, a bluegrass performer.

“Bob Dylan stated, “Roscoe Holcomb has a certain untamed sense of control, which makes him one of the best.” Eric Clapton called Holcomb “my favorite [country] musician.” Holcomb’s white-knuckle performances reflect a time before radio told musicians how to play, and these recordings make other music seem watered-down in comparison. His high, tense voice inspired the term “high lonesome sound.” Self-accompanied on banjo, fiddle, guitar, or harmonica, these songs express the hard life he lived and the tradition in which he was raised.” -Smithsonian Folkways, recording notes,http://www.folkways.si.edu/roscoe-holcomb/i-aint-got-no-sugar-baby-now/old-time/music/track/smithsonian

 

Holcomb’s repertoire included old-time music, hymns, traditional music and blues ballads. In addition to playing the banjo and guitar, he was a competent harmonica and fiddle player, and sang many of his most memorable songs a cappella.

Holcomb sang in a falsetto deeply informed by the Old Regular Baptist vocal tradition. Bob Dylan, a fan of Holcomb, described his singing as possessing “an untamed sense of control.” He was also admired by the Stanley Brothers, and Eric Clapton cited Holcomb as his favorite country musician.

A coal miner, construction laborer and farmer for much of his life, Holcomb was not recorded until 1958, after which his career as a professional musician was bolstered by the folk revival in the 1960s. Holcomb gave his last live performance in 1978. Due to what he described as injuries he sustained during his long career as a laborer, Holcomb was eventually unable to work for more than short periods, and his later income came primarily from his music. Suffering from asthma and emphysema as a result of working in coal mines, he died in a nursing home in 1981, at the age of 68.-wikipedia

>The song, I Ain’t Got No Sugar Baby Now is a variation of an american traditional appalachian song, Red Apple Juice, its origin tracing back to the early 1900s.

History of the Song: Red Apple Juice

Traditional Old-time and Bluegrass Song; Appalachian Region

OTHER NAMES: Red Rocking Chair; Red Apple Juice; Sugar Baby; Honey Baby; I Ain’t Got No Honey Baby Now;

DATE: 1909 From EC Perrow as “Done All I Can Do” (See Version 11) Early 1900’s as “Red Apple Juice” (from Lunsford- 1935). Dock Boggs as “Sugar Baby” 1927.

DONE ALL I CAN DO Earliest collected version E.C. Perrow JOAFL (From Mississippi; negroes; MS. of W. G. Pitts; 1909.) Done all I can do Trying to get along wid you; Gwine to carry you to your mammy pay day.

NOTES: This white blues is found throughout the Southeast and Appalachians. The confusion between the Sugar Babe/Crawdad Song and the Sugar Baby/Red Rocking Chair continues. The Folk Index on-line fails to differentiate and lumps the Sugar Babe/Sugar Baby songs together. Clearly Sugar Babe (Crawdad Song) and Sugar Baby (Red Rocking Chair) are two different songs. The problem is that some Red Rocking Chair songs are named Sugar Babe- such is life!

The origin of the Red Rocking Chair/Red Apple Juice/Sugar Baby songs I am referencing here may be traced back to Child No. 76 “The Lass of Roch Royal.” In Scottish Ballads by Robert Cambers 1829 p. 91 the forsaken Lass asks Love Gregory:

Oh who will shoe my bonny foot? And who will glove my hand?
And who will lace my middle jimp  Wi’ a new made London band?

Compare to the standard American lyrics found in many “True Lovers Farewell” songs:

Oh, who will shoe your little feet/ And who will glove your hand
And who will kiss your red rosy cheeks/ When I’m in some far off land

Compare to Doc Boggs’ “Sugar Baby” on Brunswick 118 in 1927:

Who’ll rock the cradle, And who’ll sing the song?
Who’ll rock the cradle when I’m gone? Who’ll rock the cradle when I’m gone?

The question (posed originally by “The Lass of Roch Royal”) is answered:

You’ll rock the cradle, And I’ll sing the song.
You’ll rock the cradle when I’m gone, You’ll rock the cradle when I’m gone.

Bogg’s 1927 version features “Hub Mahaffey on guitar. John Boggs, Dock’s oldest brother, taught him this and Dock kept his brother’s tuning. The song is fairly common in the Southern mountains and may derive from the old ballad, The Lass-of Roch Royal (Child 76), with which it shares the verse “Who’ll rock the cradle?/Who’ll sing the song?/Who’ll call you honey/When I’m gone?” Since the two songs share no other common elements they are, at best, distant relations. Both Frank Profitt and Clarence Ashley sang songs close in word and tune to Dock’s.” from song notes.
The use of floating verses and the lack of a theme make the lyrics of Red Rocking Chair/Red Apple Juice/Sugar Baby/Honey Baby songs difficult to understand. The song is a white blues about the difficulties of the male singer’s lover. John Garst once commented that he thought the “Live in the shade, give her every dime I made;” referred to prostitution. The line “Got no use for the red rockin’ chair/ red apple juice” is a rejection of the singer’s lover and “red apple juice” is a form of sexual symbolism. To keep the rejection of the lover consistent it would seem the following verse should be:

You’ll rock the cradle, And I’ll sing the song.
You’ll rock the cradle when I’m gone, You’ll rock the cradle when I’m gone.
With these lyrics the rejection of the singer’s lover is complete. The singer wants to take her back to her Mama next payday, doesn’t want her “red apple juice” or to rock in her “red rocking chair.” He’s “got no honey baby now, got no honey baby now.”

 

Red Apple Juice  (Painting Lyrics)

Ain’t got no use for your red apple juice,
Ain’t got no honey baby now,
Ain’t got no honey baby now.

Who’ll rock the cradle and who’ll sing the song,
Who’ll rock the cradle when I’m gone,
Who’ll rock the cradle when I’m gone.

Ain’t got no use for your red rocking chair,
Ain’t got no honey baby there,
Ain’t got no honey baby there.

Gave her all I made then I laid her in the shade,
What more can a poor boy do?
What more can a poor boy do?
RED APPLE JUICE Capo 2 (key of D major) Performance lyrics
Richard Matteson C 2001 Arranged from traditional lyrics

[F]Ain’t got no [C]use,  [C]
[F]Ain’t got no [C]use for your [C]red apple [Am]juice.
[C]Ain’t got no honey baby [Am]now,
[C]Ain’t got no [G]honey baby [C]now. [C]

Who’ll rock the cradle,
Who’ll rock the cradle, who’ll sing this song?
Who’ll rock the cradle when I’m gone?
Who’ll rock the cradle when I’m gone?

You’ll rock the cradle,
You’ll rock the cradle, and I’ll sing the song.
You’ll rock the cradle when I’m gone,
You’ll rock the cradle when I’m gone.

Ain’t got no use,
Ain’t got no use for your red rockin’ chair.
Ain’t got no honey baby there,
Ain’t got no honey baby there.

I gave her all I made,
I gave her all I made, and I laid her in the shade.
What more can a poor boy do?
What more can a poor boy do?

Ain’t got no use,
Ain’t got no use for your red apple juice.
Ain’t got no honey baby now,
Ain’t got no honey baby now.

-from the blog Mattheson Art, http://www.mattesonart.com/111111history.aspx

 

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