There is something special about the city of St. Louis in music history. It is the songs and the musicians who created history. We all know the legendary St. Louis Blues by W.C. Handy, and don’t forget the great St. Louis Jimmy Oden who wrote the Blues classic “Goin ‘Down Slow”.
Murder in St. Louis as inspiration
Well, I heard a song called Frankie and Johnny multiple time through Leadbelly and Sam Cooke, who both made in their own way made beautiful soulful versions of it. Also, Elvis has an album titled Frankie and Johnny which was part of the movie with the same name where he performed the song. But behind this great song, there is a story.
Frankie Baker (1876–1952) killed her lover Al “Albert” Britt in a jealous rage after he went to a dance with another woman”, In some lyrics, Frankie was a prostitute and Al, her pimp.” They also say that The shooting occurred in Britt’s room at 212 Targee Street. You can find multiple investigational stories about the murder online.
When Tommy Tucker recorded “Hi-Heel Sneakers for Checker Records back in 1963 I guess he could never expect the influence of this song. It was covered by many musicians including Tom Jones, Junior Wells, John Lee Hooker and Jerry Lee Lewis.
After retirement from the music industry in the late sixties Tommy Tucker woked as a real-estate agent and wrote for a local newspaper.
Classic Blues Songs and Traditional: Goin’ Down Slow
Some blues songs contributed so much to the history of blues and music that the can be named classic songs, or even a traditional. A few musicians have that honour. One of them is St. Louis Jimmy Oden. Goin’ Down Slow’ written by his hand in 1941 is covered over a forty times, and in my opinion it would still be a hit.
This November it rained so hard you wouldn’t think about goin´ out on the street. And yeah there was I walking to the city centre. Muddy Waters, best recordings was on headphone. The song: Goin’ Down Slow. It was what you can call right song on the right time. Wet from the rain, and cold from the wind. After Muddy version was finished. I searched for more versions while freezing my hands of. Wolf, Walter, Dupree, Charles and Sonny Terry’s Goin’ Down Slow made that terrible walk a pleasure. I searched around and found a whole lot of covers of Oden’s Masterpiece. Some of old dogs in blues, also a lot of new bluesman.
The Original: St. Louis Jimmy Oden Blues composer
St. Louis Jimmy Oden was a profilic composer from St. Louis alongside Roosevelt Sykes, Oden travelled throughout the south, mid-west and eventually settled in Chicago. Those days piano and guitar teams where popular around St. Louis. Odin recorded Goin’ Down Slow on November 11, 1941, and was issued on Bluebird records that year.
Other recording Goin’ Down Slow
More than forty times this traditional blues song had been recorded. Champion Jack Dupree, Roosevelt Sykes and Ray Charles where the first musicians to cover Oden’s hit. Almost every recording of Goin’ Down Slow stays close to the original. Howlin’ Wolf however, slightly changed some of the lyrics with the help of Willie Dixon. Wolf and Dixon made a greet dialog song of Goin’ Down Slow. How life for a man slowly slips away. Especially this rhyme:
“Man, you know I done enjoyed things
That Kings and Queens will never have
In fact, Kings and Queens can never get
And they don’t even know about it and good times?”
Howlin’ Wolf – Goin’ Down Slow
The bluesman who dominated the scene for a whole lot of years Howlin’ Wolf recorded Goin’ Down Slow in 1961 for Chess Record. His version is the grittiest, darkest and baddest of all, and therefore maybe the best. You would think It was written for Howlin’ Wolf. Willie Dixon added a few lyrics to the song.
“Now looky here, I did not say I was a millionaire
But I said I have spent more money than a millionaire
‘Cause if I had kept all of the money I done already spent
I would’ve been a millionaire, a long time ago
And women? Great googly moogly”
Little Walter – Goin’ Down Slow
Especially the intro of Walter’s Goin’ Down Slow is amazing, this true electric version is like a opera. Walter really creates the tradegy of the song, and makes it a real blues hit. The electric guitar part is deep and leading in this song. You wouldn’t expect such a leading guitar part in a Little Walter song.
Cousin Joe – Goin’ Down Slow
Down in New Orleans Cousin Joe recorded Goin’ Down Slow in 1994 on his Bad Luck Blues Album. Like you would expect from Cousin Joe the piano is a bit groovy, but Joe’s voice is the key to listening to this song. Joe preaches slow.
Sonny Terry & Brownie MC Ghee – Goin’ Down Slow
Like you would expect from Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee they turn this blues traditional into a Delta Folk mixer. Like most of the versions Goin’ Down Slow is a slow song, but Sonny adds with his harmonica a whole lotta groove into the composition.
BB King – Goin’ Down Slow
One of the few who make this Goin’ Down Slow a groovy rhythm full song is BB King. Especially the ongoing beat makes this song. But BB soulful voice is absolute fantastic.
After listening to al the version of Jimmy Oden’s masterpiece I really favoured the versions of Wolf and Walter. A few weeks later BB King was the man to listen to. There aren’t that many songs that have been recorded so many times, and that is a great thing about this song. You will change your favourite version a couple of time. But the song never changes.