Milkcow’s Calf Blues

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Overview

For one thing, again it’s great to take note of Johnson’s great prowess at adding in a perfect amount of innuendo to his lyrics. It’s been mentioned before, but even having this sort of language would rile people up today– let alone in the southern 1930s. That sort of uninhibited attitude among blues in general (Bessie Smith, etc too) really set the stage for Rock n’ Roll.

Getting back to the song though, this is the first with Spanish tuning, and with fully incorporated bottleneck slide. The Spanish tuning he most likely picked up from his mentors, Willie Brown, Son House, and Charley Patton; all of whom were experienced players and used Open G tuning extensively. For example, the way that RJ uses the barre on the 4 chord is identical to many Son House and Patton tunes that were recorded several years earlier.

All sections of this song, from the starting 1 chord sweeps, to the barre 4 chord, and the break to lead in the 5 chord set the stage for this Spanish family, which makes for a perfect stepping stone to effectively move on and succeed with Terraplane Blues and Crossroad Blues. Hope you enjoy this one!

Workstation

Open G — DGDGBD
3rd Fret

Tell me, milkcow, what on earth is wrong with you
Hoo hoo, milkcow, what on earth is wrong with you
Now you have a little new calf, hoo hoo, and your milk is turnin’ blue

Your calf is hungry, and I believe he needs a suck
Your calf is hungry, hoo hoo, I believe he needs a suck
But your milk is turnin’ blue, hoo hoo, I believe he’s outta luck

Now I feel like milkin’ and my, cow won’t come
I feel like chu’in’ and my, milk won’t turn
I’m cryin’ pleease, pleease don’t do me wrong
If you can old milkcow, baby now, hoo hoo, drive home

My milkcow been ramblin’, hoo hoo, for miles around
My milkcow been ramblin’, hoo hoo, for miles around
Well, she been troublin’ some other bull cow, hoo hoo, in this man’s town

Song History

20 June 1937
Dallas, Texas
Vocalion 03665