Booker White – Fixin’ to Die Blues
Howdy, y’all. I’m Danny. Our gracious host asked me to do some guest posts for Your Daily Song Fix, and I’m happy to oblige. Lately, my tastes have tended toward old blues and country music, so I’ll be delivering that pre-war flavor you’ve been looking for. I hope you enjoy my first pick.
Booker T. Washington “Bukka” White was a blues guitarist born in Houston, Mississippi in 1906. Between 1930 and 1940, he recorded for the Victor and Vocalion labels, as well as for folklorists John Lomax and Alan Lomax. A young Bob Dylan covered this song, “Fixin’ to Die Blues,” for his debut album in 1961. That recording prompted John Fahey and Ed Denson to contact White (by sending a letter to “Bukka White (Old Blues Singer), c/o General Delivery, Aberdeen, Mississippi”), and White continued to record until his death in 1977.
“Fixin’ to Die Blues” was recorded in 1940 for the Vocalion label (which later became the OKeh label; thanks to Stefan Werz’s extensive Bukka White Discography). Robert “Washboard Sam” Brown accompanies White on (you guessed it) the washboard. Brown’s washboard and White’s alternating bass picking pattern create a chugging, locomotive rhythm that supports White’s trainwhistle slide guitar licks and his powerful singing. Check out some of White’s performances on YouTube to get better idea of his strength as a performer.