71 “Poor Boy Blues” by Ramblin’ Thomas


June 3, 2013 by gadaya

“Poor Boy Blues” by Ramblin’ Thomas

(recorded in Chicago, November 1928)

Poor boy, poor boy.
Poor boy long ways from home.

I was down in Louisiana,fa1c0-50062 Doing as I please.
Now I’m in Texas.
I got to work or leave.

Poor boy, poor boy.
Poor boy long ways from home.

If your home’s in Louisiana,
What you doing over here?
Say my home ain’t in Texas
And I sure don’t care.

Poor boy, poor boy.
Poor boy long ways from home.

I don’t care
If the boat don’t never land.
I’d like to stay on water
As long as any man.

Poor boy, poor boy.
Poor boy long ways from home.

Poor boy, poor boy.
Poor boy long ways from home.

And my boat come a rockin’,
Just like a drunken man,
And my home’s on the water
And I sure don’t like land.

Poor boy, poor boy.
Poor boy long ways from home

Ramblin Thomas biography by Eugene Chadbourne:

The rediscovery of bluesman Jesse “Babyface” Thomas in the 70’s was the equivalent of a blues archivist’s two-for-one sale. It turned out that the mysterious and up-til-then totally obscure ’20s recording artist known as Rambling Thomas was the brother of Jesse Thomas, and the latter man was able to spill the beans on just who the rambling man with the fascinating guitar style really was. The Thomas clan, which also included the guitar picking older brother Joe L. Thomas, were sons of an old-time fiddler and were raised in Louisiana close to the Texas border. The boys got into playing guitar after looking with admiration at various models in a Sears catalog. Jesse Thomas has recalled that the mail-order guitar purchased by his brother, Willard “Rambling” Thomas, came equipped with a metal bar for playing slide; indicating the tremendous popularity of country blues at the time or the possibility that someone at Sears knew the guitar was headed into the arms of a Southern bluesman.
Thomas rambled, indeed he did. He was discovered by recording scouts playing in Dallas, but prior to that had performed in San Antonio and Oklahoma. His style also seemed influenced by the double threat of blues guitarist and pianist Lonnie Johnson, suggesting a possible St. Louis sojourn as well. Thomas played quite a bit in the key of E, making him harmonically quite a typical Delta bluesman. His picking style is curious, however, and even more interesting is his timing. His rhythmic variations suggest that his nickname might have been handed out by a musician attempting to accompany him, and not just relate to his geographical roaming. On some of his recordings for Paramount and Victor, such as “Ground Hog Blues,” he plays it a little straighter, going for an imitation of then current hitmaker Tampa Red. The Document label is among several blues record companies that have released collections of Thomas’ material, usually in the form of either a compilation or a collection of several artists; since Thomas was apparently too busy rambling to record a full album’s worth of material. Thomas reportedly died of tuberculosis in Memphis, circa 1945.

Some links of interest:

An illustrated discography at Wirz’s website

A nice post about “Poor Boy Blues” on the blog “Just a song”

A great detailed review of all of Ramblin’ Thomas songs (including the lyrics) and guitar techniques by John Miller on the Weenie Campbell forum

-Listen here to Ramblin’ Thomas complete recordings:

  1. Back Gnawing Blues
  2. Good Time Blues
  3. GroundHog Blues
  4. Hard Dallas Blues
  5. Hard to rule woman Blues
  6. Jig Head Blues
  7. Lock and Key Blues
  8. New way of living Blues
  9. No Baby Blues
  10. No Job Blues
  11. Poor Boy Blues
  12. Ramblin’ Man
  13. Ramblin’ mind Blues
  14. Sawmill Moan
  15. Shake it Gal
  16. So lonesome

(All the tracks above are available on a Document cd called “Ramblin’ Thomas & The Dallas Blues Singers”)

The Poor Boy Variations

“Poor Boy Blues” is one of those Blues songs/lyrics that are so popular that most Blues players seemed to have a version of it. The poor boy, long ways from home, was more often than not, the rambling Blues musician himself. It was usually a piece played on the guitar out of an open-tuning called Vestapol (open D) and using a slide or bottleneck to play the melody on the high strings.

I’ve selected a few versions that I love, mostly from black Blues players but the Kentucky banjo player Buell Kazee and the “American Primitive” guitar player John Fahey make an apparition as well.

  • 1.John FaheyJohn Fahey -- 13 Jan 1970
  • 2.Barbecue Bob
  • 3.Banjo Joe (Gus Cannon)
  • 4.Mississippi John Hurt
  • 5.Buell Kazee
  • 6.Cat Iron
  • 7.Bukka White
  • 8.R.L. Burnside
  • 9.Sam Butler
  • 10.Blind Thomas148408-000
  • 11.Willie “Poor Boy” Lofton
  • 12.Smoky Babe



7 thoughts on “71 “Poor Boy Blues” by Ramblin’ Thomas

  1. Shadonoz says:

    Thank you, gadaya, for another great post!

  2. Rebecca says:

    The first track sounds like Elizabeth cotton? Maybe she could have made the list too. Need some ladies on it even though its a “poor boy” theme!

  3. inthealley says:

    Hi gadaya, Always such a great pleasure to get the next number – and this is another great favourite of mine in the Blues category!! Thanks as ever.

  4. Kipp Normand says:

    I just want to tell you how much I appreciate all the research and hard work you put into these posts. I love your writing and I have recently discovered your You Tube channel. It is all great fun. Thanks for being so wonderful!


  5. Max says:

    Great post! Great post!
    Great music! Great music!

  6. dw says:

    hope this multi-month silence doesn’t mean you’re gone . . . without question one of the best music blogs the internet ever had to offer . . .

  7. Taylor says:

    Oh my goodness…I think I’ve accidentally stumbled upon my dream website. This is the first post I’ve seen but it’s spectacular. You’ve done an incredibly thorough job, I can’t tell you how excited I am to spend hours exploring the rest and coming back religiously. Thank you so much!!

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