Skip James--Delta Bluesman
December 26, 2008 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Mercurial Skip James was a Delta bluesman from Bentonia, Mississippi. His best known song is probably I'm So Glad, covered by Cream but my favorite is the haunting Hard Times Killin' Floor Blues.
posted by RussHy (30 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You may remember it from O Brother, Where Art Thou?
posted by ageispolis at 12:17 PM on December 26, 2008

You may also remember it from Ghostworld.
posted by not applicable at 12:41 PM on December 26, 2008

Any relation to this Killing Floor?
posted by Artw at 12:44 PM on December 26, 2008

I've got one Skip James CD. If I listen to it a few times in a row, I start putting things in "blues format" as I talk to myself, and it's a little disturbing. And, yeah, found it through Ghost World.
posted by adipocere at 12:46 PM on December 26, 2008

Any relation to this Killing Floor?

No, that song was written in the sixties by Howlin' Wolf. I think Hard Times Killin' Floor Blues came out in 1931.
posted by RussHy at 12:47 PM on December 26, 2008

-shrugs- I wouldn't have thought referencing something thrity years old would be all that much of a leap in blues.
posted by Artw at 12:54 PM on December 26, 2008

Artw: I don't think the songs are related. Howlin Wolf's is about trouble with a woman, and Skip James' is about widespread poverty. The tunes are different, too.
posted by RussHy at 1:00 PM on December 26, 2008

Fairy nuff.

And a good find too.
posted by Artw at 1:02 PM on December 26, 2008

Um, that's Howlin Wolf right there in the room on the I'm So Glad clip, BTW.
posted by Artw at 1:05 PM on December 26, 2008

Yea, Howlin' Wolf and Skip James played together at New Port and the like. If the two songs aren't directly related, I'm sure Howlin' Wolf's titling was at the very least an homage.
posted by ageispolis at 1:15 PM on December 26, 2008

Clicking around these youtube links is making my day, BTW. There's a lot up there.
posted by Artw at 1:16 PM on December 26, 2008

Smokestack Lightning
posted by ageispolis at 1:17 PM on December 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

Tarheel Slim - Number 9 Train
posted by ageispolis at 1:20 PM on December 26, 2008

Some nights I spend more time on YouTube than on TV. It's amazing how much vintage blues material has been posted on YouTube.
posted by RussHy at 1:25 PM on December 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Crow Jane.
Thanks for the great post, RussHy. And I am with you and ArtW - great to get lost in the YouTube blues clips ... I have quite a few faves bookmarked in a playlist but unfortunately, there are a lot of gaps from ones that get yanked as soon as they get posted.
posted by madamjujujive at 1:32 PM on December 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

One of my favorite, joyous, tremendously energizing pieces of music is Electric Flag's Killing Floor (this is a tinny, raw, bad recording of it).

Now with this post you got me curious about what the hell is a killing floor. Had to find out. so here it is, from The Killing Floor Blues blog:

"Killing floor-- The slaughtering room of an abattoir, a slaughter house, where animals were brought to be killed and cut up. Particularly in the Chicago Stockyards area where many black newcomers from the South found jobs during the 20's, 30's and 40's working on the killing floors."

Yup, that would certainly be blues inspiring. ack. However, "I like to say this is a good sign for world peace," Chiappetti said. "We have Christians, Muslims and Jews all working side by side with knives, and nobody's stabbing each other."
posted by nickyskye at 1:40 PM on December 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure I've ever heard any Skip James, so thanks for the great links RussHy. Here is a link to the best version of "Killing Floor" By Hendrix that I know of.
posted by Daddy-O at 1:46 PM on December 26, 2008

A fun clip of Howlin' Wolf's Killing Floor is a mashup with UB Iwerk's Flip the Frog.
posted by madamjujujive at 1:47 PM on December 26, 2008

Here is Howlin' Wolf doing Killing Floor.
posted by Daddy-O at 2:10 PM on December 26, 2008

Skip James has always done my favorite version of the classic blues song Crow Jane.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 2:43 PM on December 26, 2008

the song in ghost world aint killing floor its devil got my woman
posted by chelegonian at 3:53 PM on December 26, 2008

And then there's Devil Got My Woman.
posted by johnofjack at 3:54 PM on December 26, 2008

On a transatlantic flight, I was listening to a mix CD of different blues artists, including Skip James. I'm a terrible flyer, and stay pretty intoxicated for the duration of even the shortest flights, and the cognac and Cokes mixed with listening to some great music resulted in me slumped back in my seat with a big goofy grin on my face. This guy from Ghana sitting next to me asked me what I was listening to that "would make me so happy", and I told him the blues. I offered to let him have a listen. At first he said, "Oh, no thank you, I'm not really a fan of the blues". It turned out his sole exposure to the blues had been ZZ Top - and not La Grange-era ZZ Top, either, but She's Got Legs-era ZZ Top. "You, sir, are in dire need of hearing what blues is actually supposed to sound like", I insisted, and lent him the CD player. So he put on the headphones and listened. And listened. Over and over again. When the plane landed a couple hours later, I figured I might as well let him have the CD. He shot me an e-mail a few months later telling me he'd amassed a sizeable collection of Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, Skip James, and a slew of names I didn't recognize. Nothing brings people together like the blues, except maybe Remy Martin and flying coach.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:31 PM on December 26, 2008 [3 favorites]

I like the story about John Fahey being haunted by an open D-Minor tuning invented by Skip James, trying but failing to reverse-engineer it, finally tracking him down in 1964 to learn it firsthand (and also discover that his hero was kind of a jerk). Fahey's encouraging Skip James to re-enter the studio is sometimes attributed as being the start of the blues revival of the 1960's. I think this story is definitively told in Fahey's book, but maybe more objectively elsewhere.
posted by dylanjames at 4:33 PM on December 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the post, RussHy.

See also: All Skip James previously on Metafilter.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:04 PM on December 26, 2008

Good lawd. I can scarcely imagine how much poorer music would be without the likes of people like Skip James, delta bluesmen like Robert Johnson, Son House, Junior Kimbrough, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, Mississippi John Hurt, R. L. Burnside, Sonny Boy Williamson II and probably a slew of people I'm forgetting. Excellent post and excellent comments.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 7:49 PM on December 26, 2008

Good stuff right here.
posted by nola at 9:54 PM on December 26, 2008

Well, I knew Skip James wrote the book..

--but who knew it was among the 50 most cited ?
posted by y2karl at 3:09 PM on December 27, 2008

Well, I knew Skip James wrote the book..

Yes, we knew you knew, y2. :)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:35 PM on December 27, 2008

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