Friday, October 16, 2015

Blues Standards: It Hurts Me Too

Hudson Whittaker (a.k.a. Tampa Red)

If you attend a show by a blues band, whether a local favorite or a long-established group, you'll find that most of them have a few standard tunes that most of their crowds are familiar with.....songs that have been popular for many years, first as a hit in the early years of blues recordings, as a later hit for one of the 50's blues artists, then maybe as a cover for one of the late 50's/60's rock bands who claimed the blues as an influence, and so on and so on......

In the past, Friday Blues Fix has looked at a couple of these tunes.  Several years ago, we looked at the history of "Sweet Home Chicago" in a full blog post and we also checked out "As The Years Go Passing By."  We've also discussed a few classics as part of our regular Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue posts.  Today, we will look at another crowd favorite that has stood the test of time.

"It Hurts Me Too" was first recorded by Tampa Red in 1940 on Bluebird Records.  The melody played pretty closely to a song that he recorded in 1931, called "Things 'Bout Comin' My Way," which has also become a standard over the years and was also recorded by Walter Vinson a few months earlier.  Vinson actually based his version on a hit that he recorded with the Mississippi Sheiks in 1930 that has also become a standard, "Sitting on Top of the World."  There's little doubt that there were other variations of the same melody that this song was based on from the days before recorded songs.  It would be interesting to be able to go back in time and trace it to its absolute beginnings.

Tampa Red re-recorded it in 1949 for RCA Victor as "When Things Go Wrong With You," updating it using electric guitar and a more modern arrangement.  It became a hit again at this time, breaking the Top Ten of the Billboard R&B chart.  Red changed up the lyrics for this newer version and this version is the one that was referenced by future artists.  Many of whom added their own lyrics from time to time.  Tampa Red enjoyed a very long career, beginning in the 1920's and lasting into the 1960's, making the move from acoustic to electric guitar and playing session work on many blues favorites between the mid 30's through the early 50's.  The slide guitar master also recorded in the late 50's and early 60's.  He recorded over 300 78's during his career, making him one of the most prolific artists of his era.  We'll be hearing more from him in a future FBF post.

"It Hurts Me Too" was recorded by several other blues artists in the 50's.  Stick McGhee (younger brother of Brownie McGhee) recorded it during the 50's and so did Big Bill Broonzy.  However, the most remembered version was by another slide guitar legend, Elmore James, who recorded his version for Chief Records in 1957, then later in early 1963 for Enjoy Records.  The latter version, released two years after James' death, made the R&B charts and the Pop charts.  There was more emphasis on James' scorching slide guitar on the later record, but both are top notch.

Photo by Jim Marshall

Around the same period, another blues legend recorded "It Hurts Me Too" several times.  Junior Wells first recorded it in the early 60's for Chief Records, then a couple of other times with Buddy Guy backing him on guitar.....first on the Vanguard compilation Chicago/The Blues/Today!, then in the late 70's on his Pleading The Blues album he recorded with Guy in France on Isabel Records (reissued on Evidence Records in the 90's).  The song became a mainstay on Wells' playlist.  He kept most of James' lyrical revisions on his own versions.  (Side note:  Pleading The Blues was part of a very productive weekend for Buddy Guy, who also recorded Stone Crazy! during the same session on the same day!)

Since then, "It Hurts Me Too" has been recorded dozens of times by a pretty formidable list of blues artists, such as Luther Allison, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Hound Dog Taylor, the Grateful Dead, Canned Heat, Eric Clapton, Keb' Mo', and it recently appeared on The Slide Brothers' 2013 self-titled disc, and Sonny Landreth's latest release, Bound By The Blues, as timeless as ever.  It's amazing to hear how effective the song is with so many variations musically and lyrically.

In 2012, Tampa Red's 1940 version of "It Hurts Me Too" was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in the Classics of Blues Recordings - Single or Album Track category.  It's hard to find a more classic blues song that works so well in so many different renditions.  Friday Blues Fix will be checking the history of other blues standards in the near future.

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