Johnny Cash – Cocaine Blues

Lyrics:

Early one mornin’ while makin’ the rounds
I took a shot of cocaine and I shot my woman down
I went right home and I went to bed
I stuck that lovin’ .44 beneath my head

Got up next mornin’ and I grabbed that gun
Took a shot of cocaine and away I run
Made a good run but I ran too slow
They overtook me down in Juarez, Mexico

Late in the hot joints takin’ the pills
In walked the sheriff from Jericho Hill
He said Willy Lee your name is not Jack Brown
You’re the dirty heck that shot your woman down

Said yes, oh yes my name is Willy Lee
If you’ve got the warrant just a-read it to me
Shot her down because she made me sore
I thought I was her daddy but she had five more

When I was arrested I was dressed in black
They put me on a train and they took me back
Had no friend for to go my bail
They slapped my dried up carcass in that county jail

Early next mornin’ bout a half past nine
I spied the sheriff coming down the line
Ah, and he coughed as he cleared his throat
He said come on you dirty heck into that district court

Into the courtroom my trial began
Where I was handled by twelve honest men
Just before the jury started out
I saw the little judge commence to look about

In about five minutes in walked the man
Holding the verdict in his right hand
The verdict read murder in the first degree
I hollered Lawdy Lawdy, have a mercy on me

The judge he smiled as he picked up his pen
99 years in the Folsom pen
99 years underneath that ground
I can’t forget the day I shot that bad bitch down

Come on you’ve gotta listen unto me
Lay off that whiskey and let that cocaine be

http://blacklavel.blogspot.com/

 

“Cocaine Blues” is a Western Swing song written by T. J. “Red” Arnall, a reworking of the traditional song “Little Sadie“.

Background

The song is the tale of a man, Willy Lee, who murders his unfaithful girlfriend while under the influence of whiskey and cocaine. He flees to Mexico and works as a musician to fund his continued drug use. Willy is apprehended by a sheriff from Jericho Hill, tried, and promptly sentenced to ninety-nine years in the San Quentin Pen“. The song ends with Willy imploring the listener:

Come all you hypes and listen unto me,
Drink all you want to, but let that cocaine be.

Early recordings

This song was originally recorded by W. A. Nichol’s Western Aces (vocal by “Red” Arnall) on the S & G label, probably in 1947, and by Roy Hogsed and the Rainbow Riders May 25, 1947, at Universal Recorders in Hollywood, California. Hogsed’s recording was released on Coast Records (262) and Capitol (40120), with the Capitol release reaching number 15 on the country music charts in 1948.[1]

Johnny Cash versions

Johnny Cash famously performed the song at his 1968 Folsom Prison concert. He replaced the lyric “San Quentin” with “Folsom”, and changed “C’mon you hypes…” to “C’mon you gotta listen unto me…”, as well as using the then-provocative lyric “I can’t forget the day I shot that bad bitch down.” Cash also altered the last line to “Lay off the whiskey…” instead of “Drink all you want…”. During the performance, which was released uncensored by Columbia Records in 1968 (though other language is censored), Cash can be heard coughing occasionally; later in the concert recording, he can be heard noting that singing the song nearly did his voice in.

The song was also featured on Cash’s 1960 Columbia album Now, There Was a Song! under the title “Transfusion Blues” substituting the line “took a shot of cocaine” with “took a transfusion” along with some other minor lyrical changes (and a tamer version of the climactic lyric “I can’t forget the day I shot my woman down”). Cash later recorded “Cocaine Blues” for his 1979 album Silver. Cash chose not to use the word “bitch” in this version.

Cash also performed the song — with original lyrics and the use of the word “bitch” — for his December 1969 performance at Madison Square Garden, which was recorded but withheld from release until Johnny Cash at Madison Square Garden was released by Columbia Records in 2002.

Cash’s Folsom Prison performance of “Cocaine Blues” was portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix in the 2005 Cash biographical film Walk the Line. The film version, edited down to make it shorter, fades into the next scene before the line “I can’t forget the day I shot that bad bitch down” is sung. The DVD specials include an extended version of the song with the lyric, and the full, unedited version (apparently a different “take”) is found on the soundtrack CD

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