Episode Air Date: June 3, 2016
Artist: Johnny Dodds
Recording Title: Joe Turner Blues
You’re listening to Johnny Dodds and his Black Bottom Stompers with Joe Turner Blues, from 1927.
Not to be confused with Big Joe Turner, the Joe Turner in this song is actually Joe Turney. He was the brother of Pete Turney, a one-term governor of Tennessee at the end of the 19th century. Joe’s official duty was the transportation of black prisoners from Memphis to the Nashville penitentiary. And though slavery was illegal at this time, Turney made a practice of pressing the men into labor at the convict farms along the Mississippi. WC Handy wrote the tune; here’s a passage from his autobiography, “Father of the Blues”:
That night, perhaps, there would be weeping and wailing among the dusky belles. If one of them chanced to ask a neighbor what had become of the sweet good man, she was likely to receive the pat reply, “They tell me Joe Turner’s come and gone.”