Quote and Credit

Quote and Credit

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The Greatest Blues Song Ever Written But who WROTE it? by Jim Linderman



Can any blues song, or blues performance be called the best?  There are many one could nominate, and you are welcome to suggest yours as a comment here. This is the story of a song which combines infidelity, deception, sex, humor, fear, impending violence, escape, neighborhood gossip and more in a few short lines.  Who wrote it?  Let's try to find out.  This is the story of One Way Out.

One Way Out isn't even a traditional blues song, except for the first stanza. 

Ain't but one way out baby, Lord I just can't go out the door
Ain't but one way out baby, and Lord I just can't go out the door
'Cause there's a man down there, might be your man I don't know

Lord you got me trapped a woman, up on the second floor
If I get by this time I won't be trapped no more
So raise your window baby, I can ease out soft and slow
And Lord, your neighbors, no they won't be
Talking that stuff that they don't know

Lord, I'm foolish to be here in the first place
I know some man gonna walk in and take my place
Ain't no way in the world, I'm going out that front door
'Cause there's a man down there, might be your man I don't know
'Cause there's a man down there, might be your man I don't know

 
The most familiar version is, of course, the Allman Brothers.  Recorded and released numerous times, and a stalwart of the brother's live performances for 40 years.  Likely brought to the band by Duane "Skydog" Allman. The track here comes from the last night of a four night stand recorded for their Live at the Fillmore Lp in June 1971 with Tom Dowd at the controls (?)  This version is selected as Duane was alive, though not to be for long…and the interplay with co-lead guitarist Dickey Betts is outstanding.   Duane regularly appears on "top ten greatest guitar player" lists, but on each one he should be bumped up a few notches.


Duane's brother Gregg Allman once said the phrase "southern rock" is redundant."  He is right, and it is one of my favorite rock and roll quotes.  Mr. Allman often says a great, great deal with few words.



On the Allman Brothers releases, One Way Out is credited to Marshall Sehorn and Elmore James.   Sehorn was a musician who became southern promotion man for  the Fire and Fury labels.  He put his name on Elmore's recording.  

Common practice then…and theft.  Sehorn would eventually receive songwriting credit (and the royalty payments) for over 350 songs recorded in the 1960s.  He went on to form a company with Allen Toussaint, helping the the Neville Brothers obtain a recording contract and recording numerous New Orleans legendary musicians.  As this story is aimed at blues listeners…he also claimed writing credits with Lightnin Hopkins.  Here is Sehorn, a fellow who LOOKS like an adulterer who might skulk out a second floor window, but not really a bluesman. He didn't write it.

By the way, Dickie Betts, who had to take the place of a very young Duane Allman at a very young age....is no slouch either.


 

The Elmore James version of One Way Out is a screech with a fingered solo…no slide (!!!) and a saxophone. He recorded it in 1961 but it didn't get released until two years after Elmore passed away.  I believe it first appeared on The Sky is Crying Lp, and it was also released the same year as a single.

I believe it is most likely Sonny Boy Wiliamson who should be credited with the song.  It is a clever lyric, and Sonny boy was clever. He recorded two versions, the first in 1961 and again in 1965.  Sonny was also not bound by tradition.  If he wanted his blues song to read like a poem, a sonnet or a speech it was his right, and he is usually considered one of the most poetic writers of blues songs.  Here, it is Chess Records house-writer Willie Dixon who sneaks his name onto the label.


G. L. Crockett's version of the song in 1965 gives it a primitive, swampy sound. A little King Bee, a little Jimmy Reed. G.L. Crockett was Chicago-based, and his real initials were G. T. Crockett. Why the change? Typo? The label didn't care much. He also recorded as "G. Davy Crockett (!)  He claims authorship!

Likewise, Duster Bennett recorded as It's a Man Down There, He credits the song to Crockett and speaks a bit of the song. Duster was a British blues singer, so we might say he apes his way through the song. Needless to say he didn't write it. Duster Passed away in 1978 when his Ford van collided with a truck after doing a gig with Memphis Slim.


Jimmy Reed recorded an ANSWER SONG(!) titled I'm the Man Down There in which he dares the man upstairs to use the stairs! Jimmy wants to kick your ass, but in real life his wife was tougher than he was…and she's upstairs busy.




 "I'm the man down there, boy Don't you come down those stairs".



I am willing to bet there were some 1960s garage band versions and many African-American Chitlin Circuit versions of the song too.

There was truly only one way out, at least for Elmore…and Stefan Wirz shows it on his Elmore James discography HERE.


ORIGINAL VINTAGE PHOTOGRAPHS COLLECTION JIM LINDERMAN
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE THE BOOK "THE BIRTH OF ROCK AND ROLL: PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE COLLECTION OF JIM LINDERMAN


3 comments:

  1. "Dickie Betts, who had to take the place of a very young Duane Allman at a very young age.."

    Dickey was a founding member of the ABB and no one's replacement.

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  2. Cool! Greatest blues song? I don't know but it's a good one.I never heard the Crockett version before.The other Sonny Boy version is slower and slyer.Thanks.

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  3. Virtually everything written about the Allman's says Dickie had to carry the weight of Duane after he passed away. I didn't SAY he was a replacement. Everyone knows, or should, that Mr. Betts was an original member. Thanks.

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