Posts Tagged ‘Baxter Bros.’

Forty Drops of Rye

May 7, 2012

OUT OF SIGHT: THE RISE OF AFRICAN AMERICAN POPULAR MUSIC, 1889 – 1895 by Lynn Abbott, Doug Seroff (University Press of Mississippi, 2003)

“At least two commercial recordings of “40 Drops” were made during the 1920s and 1930s.  In 1928, it was recorded by Andrew and Jim Baxter, a black fiddle and guitar duo. Andrew Baxter fiddles through a roughed-out country interpretation of the essential theme, struggling through a muddy variation or two, while Jim Baxter posits a verbal elucidation of the song title: ‘Now this is the “Forty Drops”.  Forty Drops of what?  Forty drops of rye!…Who’s gonna carry me home when the dance is over?  ‘Cause I”m getting about full of this rye”.

The Baxters were seperated for the source of ’40 Drops’ by more than a generation, so the accuracy of their explanation of the ‘forty drops of what’ is open to question.  It more likely referred to morphene or laudanum, popular recreational drugs of the 1890s, typically dispensed in drops [a footnote explains that the typical medicinal dose of laudanum was 50 drops, as per a medical text of the time].

“40 Drops” was also recorded by the Stripling Brothers, a white fiddle and guitar duo, in 1936.  In this version the initial theme is more distinctly articulated, but like the Baxters, the Striplings don’t attempt to execute every movement of “40 Drops” as preserved in the 1898 published edition.
In its published form “40 Drops” is a charcteristic early rag.  In places it resembles a standard country string band tune, but there is also an unmistakeble something “oriental’ or pseudo-Turkish, such as reverberated from the 1893 Word’s Columbian Exposition Midway.

“Forty Drops” played by Andrew and Jim Baxter:


“Been to the Nation, and I Just Got Back”

January 16, 2012

Edited excerpt from “The Red Man and the Blues,” by Max Haymes at

The eastern territory in Oklahoma, the ‘Indian Nation’, was admitted to the United States in 1907, along with Oklahoma Territory. But because of lack of law and order and relative freedom from white oppression, which attracted working-class blacks, Blues singers up to thirty-five years later still referred to the “Territo” or “Nation”.

Andrew and Jim Baxter’s “Bamalong Blues” includes this verse:

“Bin to the Nation, an’ I jus’ got back,
Bin to the Nation, an’ I jus’ got back.

Didn’t git no money but I brought the sack.”

The guitar player employing some sarcasm in the third line, which would not be lost on his black listeners. The ‘sack’ referred to was a Nation sack used to store any money which the Blues singer, or his lover, could hustle, cheat or otherwise cajole, ‘from those in employment around him, in order to survive.

Erstwhile leader of the great Memphis Jug Band (1927-34), Will Shade, recalled to Paul Oliver how the women (c.1900) used to follow the famous steamboat, the ‘Katy Adams’ as she plied her trade between Memphis and the Delta town of Rosedale in Mississippi. They made so much money from the roustabouts on the boat, who made “…a hundred and fifty dollars a trip totin’ all that cotton…”, that the women “…they used to wear ‘Nation’ sacks in them days – and they used to wear their money twixt their legs, hung on (sic) a sack tied round their waists.”  This custom seemed to continue into the mid-1930’s when youthful, Delta Blues man, Robert Johnson sang:

“Aaah! she’s gone, I know she won’t come back,
I taken her last nickel out of her Nation sack.”

probably advertising one of the reasons why his woman left him, having got tired of Johnson draining her financial resources.

Blues singers regarded the Nation as some sort of haven, safe from white interference. So Sam Collins, an older singer with a similar pitch and timbre to the young Jim Baxter, would have no doubt where he was headed in 1931:

“Went to the Nation, new Territo’,
Gonna catch me the first train, I got to go.”

Read the entire article here.

K.C. Railroad Blues

November 25, 2011

                                                 Andrew and Jim Baxter

From “Long Steel Rail,” by Norm Cohen

Andrew and Jim Baxter play “K.C. Railroad Blues.”