Words & Music: Mamie Desdoumes (c1900)


2:19 done took my babe away, [x2]
2:17 bring her back someday.

Stood on the corner with her feet all wet, [x2]
Begging each and every man she met:

“If you can’t give a dollar, give me a lousy dime, [x2]
I gotta feed that hungry man of mine.”


Two of the most beautifully nostalgic performances by the great pianist Jelly Roll Morton are the versions “Mamie’s Blues.” On the Library of Congress version, the piece is introduced by Morton with these words: “Here’s was among the first blues that I’ve ever heard, happened to be a woman, that lived next door to my godmother’s in the Garden District. Her name was Mamie Desdunes. On her right hand, she had her two middle fingers, between her forefingers, cut off, and she played with the three. So she played a blues like this all day long, when she first would get up in the morning.” Jelly Roll plays the piano introduction with his characteristic emphasis on the beauty of the melody, but with a quietly rocking, Spanish bass.

(From DoctorJazz.co.uk)


Here is the second of Morton’s recordings. The song starts at 40 seconds in, after a spoken introduction.

Here is a recording of Lu Watters’ Yerba Buena Jazz Band (and Bunk Johnson), featuring Clancy Hayes on vocals. The vocals begin one minute into the recording.