“Talking Blues”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1925 (Scarborough)
Keywords: work nonsense animal bird nonballad courting humorous floatingverses
Found in: US


"If you want to get to Heaven let me tell you what to do, Gotta grease your feet in mutton stew...." The singer boasts of the ways he avoids work and easily acquires food, sex, etc. Many of the verses float


Robert Lunn and Chris Bouchillon both claim to have written and recorded the canonical "Talking Blues," with the above-quoted lyrics; however, it's likely they acquired the form and some of the verses from anonymous African-American musicians. [Given that Scarborough's text precedes them, I'd say it's nearly certain. - RBW]

[For the items in the "same tune" list, the] discographical information lists Mr. Brown's name as "Hersal" for one record and "Hershel" for another. I don't know which is right. And I've since found one spelled "Hershal." Are we confused yet? - PJS

Same tune

Cross references



  1. BrownIII 444, "If You Want to Go to Heaven" (1 fragment, apparently this piece)
  2. Lomax-FSNA 224, "Talking Blues" (1 text with metrical markings)
  3. Spaeth-WeepMore, pp. 116-117, "Jest Talkin'" (1 text)
  4. Lomax-ABFS, pp. 254-258, "When de Good Lord Sets You Free" (1 text, 1 tune -- an immense composite containing elements of "Moanish Lady," "Talking Blues," and probably other materials, to the tune of "Mourner, You Shall Be Free")
  5. Scarborough-NegroFS, p. 225, (no title) (1 fragment, perhaps one of the items that inspired the Lomax mess)
  6. Silber-FSWB, p. 80, "Talking Blues" (1 text)
  8. Roud #13912, etc.
  9. BI, LoF224