DELiA'S GONE: A letter from Mr. Johnson

When I helped Porkchop make Fry Pharmacy, we paid royalties to Johnny Cash for Delia's Gone. Now, I realize it's a much older tune.  I haven't done a huge amount of research on it, but it may all come from Alphonso "Blind Blake" Blake Higgs.  I have a Josh White songbook that says Josh started playing it in 1939. Youtube has several other covers. Thought you might enjoy Alphonso's version recorded in the 50's.

Mark "Porkchop" Holder @ MySpace // Facebook 

Some low-down non-triflin' versions of Delia: 

Blind Blake mp3 // Mark "porkchop" Holder mp3 // Ben Nichols mp3 // 
Waylon mp3 // Ron Wood mp3 // Blind Willie McTell mp3

A singer and leader of the house band at the Royal Victoria Hotel in Nassau, Bahamas, Blind Blake's music was a strange mix of old island classics, more recent calypso compositions and American ballads. His musicians combined jazz guitar licks with vocal harmonies and West Indian rhythms, with the result that his recordings have an easy humour and swing that few musicians from any continent can match. Born Alphonso Blake Higgs, commonly known as 'Blind Blake', was born at Matthew Town, Inagua, Bahamas, in 1915. He was adept at string instruments - ukulele, banjo, tenor banjo, six-string guitar - and also played the piano. He lost his eyesight at the age of sixteen and kept pursuing the goal of a career in music and a unique style, a blend of folksong, calypso and early jazz. The traditional song 'Peas and Rice' featured here (almost a Bahaman national anthem) originated during the First World War when the scarcity of imported cooking fats forced the substitution of local coconut oil. And one of the oldest Bahamian songs is the tragi-comic ballad 'John B. Sail' (later adapted and performed by many artists, notoriously The Beach Boys as 'Sloop John B.' on their 'Pet Sounds' album). The 'John B.' was an old sponger boat whose crew were in the habit of getting merry whenever they reached port...His most popular song 'Love, Love Alone' ("It was love, love alone, 'cause King Edward to leave the throne") was based on the love affair of King Edward VIII with Wallis Simpson. Blind Blake wrote about sixty Goombay songs starting in the 1930s, including 'Run Come See Jerusalem', based on the effects of the 1929 Hurricane, 'Jones (Oh Jones)' and 'J. P. Morgan'. This CD is drawn from a series of recordings made in the early 1950s when his band 'The Royal Victoria Hotel Calypsos' featured Dudley Butter (guitar, maracas), Chatfield Ward (guitar), Freddie Lewis (lead guitar), George Wilson (bass fiddle), and at times Lou Adams on trumpet. The band's popularity with tourists led to them being widely heard in the US, and they became an inspiration to many folk revival musicians. Josh White and Johnny Cash covered 'Delia', Pete Seeger 'Foolish Frog', Dave Van Ronk 'Yas, Yas, Yas', and 'Run, Come See Jerusalem' was done by dozens of groups.

Alphonso (Blind) Blake Higgs version of Delia 

Delia cursed Tony
Around one Saturday night
And she cursed him such a wicked curse
That he's swear to take her life
Delia's gone, one more round Delia's gone.
Delia's gone, one more round Delia's gone
The first time Tony shot Delia
Well he shot her right in her side
The second time he shot her
She gave up the ghost and died
The reason why Tony shot Delia
Because she cursed him a wicked curse
And if Tony hadn't shot little Delia
Perhaps she might have cursed him worse
On Monday Tony was arrested
Tuesday his case was tried
The jurymen brought him down guilty
He began to rollin' his goo goo eyes
The judge said sixty four years in prison
Tony told the judge that is no time
I have a younger brother 
who's serving nine hundred and ninety nine
Tony, he is in prison
Drinking of his silver cup
While Delia she lies in the grave
Fighting her level best to get up

Josh White version

Delia cursed poor Tooly
Cursed him such a wicked curse
If he hadn't shot her
She'd a cursed him ten times worse
Delia's gone, one more round Delia's gone.
Delia's gone, one more round Delia's gone
The sent him for the doctor
He came all dressed in white
Done everything a doctor could do
But he couldn't save Delia's life
Then her mother, she came a-runnin'
All dressed in black
She cried all day and she cried all night
But she couldn't bring Delia back
On a Monday he was arrested
Tuesday he was tried
Jury-box found him guilty
And the verdict was to die
He said, "Jailer, oh Jailer,
How can I sleep?
All around my bed at night
I can hear little Delia's feet