Mining Camp Blues

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"Mining Camp Blues" is a jazzy blues song recorded in February 1925 by Trixie Smith and her Down Home Syncopators for Paramount Records's "race" series. It was released as the A-side of a 78 RPM single (Paramount 12256), with "You've Got to Beat Me to Keep Me" on the reverse. The song's lyrics, penned by Smith, are sung from the perspective of a girl whose "daddy" dies in a coal mining accident:

"Once I had a daddy, and he went down in a hole.
Once I had a daddy, and he went down in a hole.
Diggin' and a-haulin', haulin' that Birmingham coal.
Many times I wondered when they took my daddy down.
Many times I wondered when they took my daddy down.
Will he come back to me? Will they leave him in the ground?
Something like a pitcher that they sent down in the well.
Something like a pitcher that they sent down in the well.
Wondering will they break it. Lordy, Lordy, who can tell?
It was late one evening. I was standing at that mine.
It was late one evening. I was standing at that mine.
Foreman said my daddy had gone down for his last, last time.
He was a coal miner from his hat down to his shoes.
He was a coal miner from his hat down to his shoes.
And I'm nearly dying, from these mining camp blues.

Though not from Alabama, Smith attended Selma University and often made reference to the state in her compositions. The arrangement was by Porter Grainger and features Louis Armstrong on cornet, Charlie Green on trombone, Buster Bailey on clarinet, Fletcher Henderson on piano, and Charlie Dixon on banjo.

"Mining Camp Blues" was included in the Spirit of Steel compilation produced by the Sloss Furnace Association in 1999.

References

  • Green, Archie (1972) Only a Miner: Studies in Recorded Coal-Mining Songs. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press
  • Brackner, Joey, ed. (1999) Spirit of Steel: Music of the Mines, Railroads and Mills of the Birmingham District. Birmingham: Sloss Furnaces/Crane Hill Publishers ISBN 1575871084