Crow Jane has roots in the Piedmont (North and South Carolina, Virginia) and the song is said to have been a favorite among the best bluemen. Certainly many early versions can be traced to the Greenville, SC area and was in the repertoire of Greenville bluemen Blind Willie Walker and Rev. Gary Davis both born in 1896.

Other Piedmont bluemen such as Josh White did the song as "Blood Red River" in 1933 and Blind Boy Fuller as "Bye Bye Baby Blues" in 1937. It's also been done by John Cephas (Cephas and Wiggins) and Skip James. Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee later did versions.

Crow Jane Blues was first recorded in 1927 for Victor by Julius Daniels (b. November 20, 1901 in Denmark, South Carolina; d. October 18, 1947), a Piedmont bluesman originally from Greenville, SC. His song "99 Year Blues" appeared on the box set Anthology of American Folk Music and his "Can't Put the Bridal on this Mule," an early version of "This Morning, This evening Right Now" are important contributions to old-time country blues genre.

Although he only recorded a few tunes, Daniels plays an important role in the history of Piedmont blues. One of the first black artists to record in the Southeast, Daniels inspired future bluesmen with his mix of finger-picked blues, sacred and country music. Recording for the first time, in 1927, Daniels was accompanied by the guitarist Bubba Lee Torrence, with whom he shared billing. During his second recording session, Daniels was joined by the guitarist Wilbert Andrews.

Daniels lived in Pineville, in Berkeley County, between 1912 and 1930. Relocating to Charlotte, North Carolina in 1930, he lived the rest of his life there, working in a variety of jobs, including as a firefighter.

Another Piedmont blueman sometimes credited with writing Crow Jane is Virginia bluesman Carl Martin, who was born near Stone Gap, VA, on April 1, 1906 (died in Pontiac, MI, on May 10, 1979). His main instrument was mandolin but he also mastered the guitar and fiddle. Martin recorded Crow Jane Blues for Bluebird in 1933.

He performed solo, and also spent much of his career in a trio featuring Ted Brogan (guitar) and Howard Armstrong (violin). The trio enjoyed a career that spanned five decades and was known under several different monikers, including the Four Keys, the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, and the Wandering Troubadours. They traveled all over the south entertaining at medicine shows, county fairs, on the radio and would play for tips in local taverns. Around 1940 they went to Chicago and eventually broke up briefly reuniting in the early '70s fo the folk and blues festival circuit.

In "Guitar Styles of Brownie McGhee" by Happy Traum (1970) Brownie said he heard his father sing this song first, and lists only one verse of it: "Crow Jane, Crow Jane, don't hold your head so high, Remember Crow Jane, you gotta lay down and die." Here's a link:


RED RIVER- Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee

Which way, which way, that blood red river run?
Honey, from my back door to the risin' sun.(let me tell you, boy)

I hate to see that risin' sun go down.
Makes me feel just like I'm on my last go round.

Well that stomper, Oh Lord (What'd he say, boy?) will send me six foot of clay. (Why?)
Well that blood river rising six feet every day. (Let me tell you)

Willis run into the camp, tell my brother Bill,
Well the woman that he's loving, sure gonna get him killed. (What was her name boy?)

Crow Jane, Crow Jane, honey don't hold your head so high.
You realize darlin', you're gonna lay down and die. (Play me some blues there, boy)

(Harmonica break)(Do it one more time)(Harmonica break)
(Let me play a little guitar for ya) (guitar break)

Well I heard, heard a mighty rumblin', Sonny and then I looked around.
Well that Northern and the Southern, tearin' that old depot down.

If you see me comin' babe, honey Oh, put your man outdoor.
Honey I ain't goin' explain yo-- Sonny may have before.

(Brownie: Let me tell you somethin' 'fore I play this)
(Sonny: Go ahead, tell me now)

If you see, see me comin' babe (Sonny: yeah) heist your window high,
If you see me leavin' little girl, hang your head and cry.


Joe Williams was born in Crawford, Mississippi, on October 16, 1903. He remembered one of his early songs, "Crow Jane Blues," as being about a neighborhood woman named Jane Tripley.

Big Joe Williams was known for his characteristic style of guitar-playing, his nine-string guitar, and his bizarre, cantankerous personality. The song was part of his repertoire by 1920 when he began wandering across the United States busking and playing stores, bars, alleys and work camps. In the early 1920s he worked in the Rabbit Foot Minstrels revue and recorded with the Birmingham Jug Band in 1930 for the Okeh label.

In 1934 he was in St. Louis, where he met record producer Lester Melrose who signed him to a contract with Bluebird Records in 1935. He stayed with Bluebird for ten years, recording such blues hits as "Baby, Please Don't Go" (1935) and "Crawlin' King Snake" (1941), both songs later covered by many other performers. He also recorded with other blues singers, including John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, Robert Nighthawk and Peetie Wheatstraw.


Since no one is sure where the song originated but it clearly is traditional. The song is one of many 8 bar blues (Key to the Highway; Dryland Blues; Jim Lee Blues; How Long Blues) usually it's played in E with the chords: E B7 A A E B7 E B7. Etta Baker does a great instrumental version and you can listen to Skip James on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytVww5r4Nk0 He uses a TAG at the end of each verse.

CROW JANE- Skip James 1967

Crow Jane, Crow Jane, Crow Jane Don't you hold your head high
Someday baby, you know You got to die
TAG: You got to lay down an - You got to die, you got to -

You know, I wanna buy me a pistol, Wants me forty rounds of ball
Shoot Crow Jane, just to see her fall
TAG: She got to fall, she got to - She got to fall, she got to-

That's the reason I begged, Crow Jane Not to hold her head, so high
Someday baby, you know You got to die
tAG: You got to lay down an -

When I dug her grave, With a silver spade
Ain't nobody gon' take, My Crow Jane place
TAG: You can't take her place, No, you can't take her -

That's the reason I begged, Crow Jane Not to hold her head, too high
Someday baby, you know You got to die
You got to lay down an -

You know, I let her down, With a golden chain
An ev'ry link I would call my, Crow Jane name
Crow Jane, Crow - Crow Jane, Crow -

You know I never missed my water, 'Till my well went dry
Didn't miss Crow Jane Until the day she died
'Till the day-ay-ay-ay she -

That's the reason I begged, Crow Jane Not to hold her head too high
Someday baby, you know you got to die
You got to lay down and - You got to die, you got to -

You know, I dug her grave, Eight feet in the ground
Didn't feel sorry, Until they let her down
They had to let her down Had-a - They had to let her down

That's the reason I begged, Crow Jane Not to hold her head too high
Someday baby, you know you got to die
You got to lay down and -

Site Map | Printable View | © 2008 - 2024 Your Company | Powered by mojoPortal | XHTML 1.0 | CSS | Design by styleshout