And here we have a couple of YouTube productions, screensaverish animations of photos and lyrics to the original recordings: Robert Petway - Catfish Blues
and Tommy McClennan - It's Hard To Be Lonesome
. This is mostly about Petway and Catfish Blues
but you can't mention Petway without mentioning McClennan, as they ran together in their time and as both did versions of Catfish
, a song canonical in Delta Blues, recorded and performed by nearly everyone--Muddy Waters - Rolling Stone
, for example. Petway just happens to be the first person to record Catfish
, and quite possibly the person who wrote it and certainly. to my mind, at least, the person who nailed it... in the uptempo version at the very least.
It is remarkable, given the later ubiquity of 'Catfish Blues', how little solid information there is about Robert. He was born about 1908, probably on the J.F. Sligh Farm near Yazoo City, like his running buddy, Tommy McClennan. His publicity photograph shows a small man with a toothbrush moustache, a lantern jaw, and big, guitar player's hands. Most unusually, he apparently saw no reason to don the sharp suit and hand painted tie so often favoured by musicians (Tommy McClennan included) when facing the camera; photographed in his working man's blue duckins, Petway's only concession to style was a rakishly angled trilby. McClennan and Petway would play at house parties, and in the juke joint at Three Forks crossroads, nowadays famous as the place where Robert Johnson was poisoned.
...thus reads the text on the Document Records page for Mississippi Blues Vol. 3 Complete Recordings of Robert Petway, Mississippi Matilda, Sonny Boy Nelson
comes these Coralized mp3s of Petway's Catfish Blues
as well as his and McClennan's Boogie Woogie Woman
. If these don't work, the links for them on the page will.
What they give you are a cpuple of slices of 1940s Delta Blues in their original context as downhome juke joint dance music performed by two diminutive men--McClennan evidently stood 4'10" and weighed in at 133, according to David Honeyboy Edwards--with big voices and punchy percussive National guitars.
As guitar players, they are limited in one sense, expansive in another. As singers, well, they are shouters and they tear it up.Regarding Catfish
is Robert Petway - Acoustic Guitar Forum
. And, also, at Weenie Campbell's Keys To the Highway
forum, Robert Petway--Keys/Positions for his Songs
is a comment in the thread concerning Tommy McClennan--Keys/Positions for his Songs
As for Tommy McClennan
, go to the Blues & Gospel from the 1920s & 1930s
section after you join up--for free--at the The Roots Music Listening Room
, which was brought to our attention by one crunchland, and you will find Baby, Don't You Want To Go
, Cross Cut Saw Blues
, Down To Skin And Bones
, Drop Down Mama
, Elsie Blues
, and I'm A Guitar King
--ha!--among a dozen or so others of McClennan's 40 odd song output.
And, for the record, compare and contrast their portraits on their respective Stefan Wirz' Robert Petway
and Tommy McClennan
And here iare two more pages: Tommy McClennan
and Tommy McClennan, Whiskey Head Woman: The Complete Recordings 1939-1940