Words & Music by: William Christopher Handy (1873 – 1958)
"St. Louis Blues" is an American popular song composed by William Christopher Handy in the blues style. It remains a fundamental part of jazz musicians' repertoire. It was also one of the first blues songs to succeed as a pop song; it has been performed by numerous musicians of all styles from Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith to Glenn Miller, Guy Lombardo, and the Boston Pops Orchestra. It has been called "the jazzman's Hamlet". Published in September 1914 by Handy's own company, it later gained such popularity that it inspired the dance step the "Foxtrot".
Handy said he had been inspired by a chance meeting with a woman on the streets of St. Louis distraught over her husband's absence, who lamented, "Ma man's got a heart like a rock cast in de sea", a key line of the song. Details of the story vary but agree on the meeting and the phrase.
Sheet music cover
William Christopher Handy (1873 – 1958) In July 1941
LYRICS: St. Louis Blues
I hate to see de ev'nin' sun go down
Hate to see de ev'nin' sun go down
'Cause my baby, he done lef' dis town.
Feelin' tomorrow lak ah feel today.
Feel tomorrow lak ah feel today.
I'll pack my trunk, make ma getaway.
St. Louis woman, wid her diamon' rings
Pulls dat man 'round by her apron strings.
'Twant for powder an' for store-bought hair,
De man I love would not gone nowhere.
Got de St. Louis blues jes as blue as Ah can be
Dat man got a heart lak a rock cast in the sea.
Or else he wouldn't have gone so far from me.
Been to de Gypsy, to get ma fortune tol'
To de Gypsy, done got ma fortune tole
'Cause I'm most wile 'bout ma Jelly Roll.
Gypsy done tole me, "Don't you wear no black,"
Yes she done tole me, "Don't you wear no black,"
Go to St. Louis, you can win him back.
Help me to Cairo, make St. Louis by maself.
Git to Cairo, find ma ol' friend Jeff
Gwine to pin maself close to his side
If ah flag his train, I sho' can ride.
I loves dat man lak a schoolboy loves his pie,
Lak a Kentucky Col'nel loves his mint an' rye.
I'll love ma baby till the day ah die.
A black-headed gal make a freight train jump the track,
Said a black-headed gal make a freight train jump the track;
But a long tall gall makes a preacher ball the jack.
You ought to see dat stovepipe brown of mine
Lak he owns the Diamon' Joseph line;
He'd make a cross-eyed woman go stone blind.
Blacker than midnight, teeth lak flags of truce,
Blackest man in de whole St Louis;
Blacker de berry, sweeter is the juice.
About a crap game, he knows a pow'ful lot,
But when work-time comes, he's on de dot.
Gwine to ask him for a cold ten spot,
What it takes to git it, he's cert'nly got.
Lawd a blonde-headed woman makes a good man leave the town
I said blonde-headed woman makes a good man leave the town
But a red-headed woman makes a boy slap his papa down.
Oh, ashes to ashes, and dust to dust,
I said ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.
If my blues don't get you, my jazzing must.