Songs about Dylan 2: The Country Songs

The songs of Country Joe and the Fish & Samuel Walker

Research by Aaron Galbraith and text by Tony Attwood

For me Country Joe and The Fish was one of the alternative bands popularised in the UK by DJ John Peel initially on pirate radio station Radio London, and later (after the pirates were shut down after pressure from the music industry in the UK) the BBC.  For me the memorable song of the band was “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine…”

“Hey Bobby” came from the band’s fifth, and I think last, album “CJ Fish” released in 1970

In the opening of the Chronology files section “Dylan songs of the 1970s” on this site I used the headline  Dylan in 1970: a stuttering return to song writing and of course that relates back to 1968 in which he wrote just one song (Lay Lady Lay) and in 1969 a collection of songs very unlike much of what had gone before with Peggy Day, Country Pie and Tonight I’ll be Staying Here With You.

My take on this Country Joe song is that it is a response to that change in Dylan at this time from the music before 1969 to that which he was singing when Country Joe and the Fish made their recording.

I had a dream the other night, everybody was there
Laughing and singing, smoke filled the air
Everybody was rapping on the way it used to be
I searched my mind for the good old days, they’re coming up you know.

Hey Bobby, where you been? We missed you out on the streets
I hear you’ve got yourself another scene, it’s called a retreat
I can still remember days when men were men
I know it’s difficult for you to remember way back then, hey.

Screamin’ Jay can’t put no spell on me, I ain’t afraid of no bones
Tell them guys in Washington, D.C. to leave my friends alone
I’m sick and tired of hearing your lies
Takes nothin’ less than the truth to get me high.

Hey, I had a dream the other night, everybody was there
Laughing and singing, smoke filled the air
Everybody was rappin’ on the way it used to be
I searched my mind for the good old days are comin’ up, you know.

Screamin Jay is, I imagine, a reference to Screaming Jay Hawkins who recorded “I put a spell on you”.

Moving on to our second choice today it is Samuel Walker – Ragamuffin Minstrel Boy

This isn’t too well known either in the UK or the States, so here are some details…

This was released on the 1975 Song For Patty album and also included on the excellent The Best Of Broadside 5 disc box set, along with several Dylan tracks and covers.

Here are the lyrics

There’s mountains in the rocky west that stand above us strong,
And waves that rush on sandy shores where only wrecks belong,
Men who lift a thousand pounds and build up great stone walls,
And highways stretchin’ from Mexico to the hills of old Saint Paul.
But there’s one whose words are strong enough to change the seasons ’round,
That ragamuffin minstrel boy from a little ol’ minin’ town.
Standin’ on a high wire three days at a time,
Cannot match that minstrel and his haunting sense of rhyme.
Tunnels pass through solid rock and under salty bays,
But his tunes will still blow in the wind when the tunnel wall decays.
His leaves will still hang bright and green when the rest have all turned brown,
That ragamuffin minstrel boy from a little ol’ minin’ town.He’s walked down the backroad and through the velvet walls,
And he’s walked beside the poor man when he heard those helpless calls.
Blind eyes have been opened and deaf ears now can hear
From the words that he’s sung out over lands far and near.When all comrades lay down their hand, you’ll find him with the crown,
That ragamuffin minstrel boy from a little ol’ minin’ town.

Now I have to say that I had not only never heard this before Aaron offered it  for this article, I had not heard of Samuel Walker – although given there are a large number of people of whom I have not heard I guess that is not saying too much.

And because I didn’t know about Samuel Walker I have been doing a spot of research, which of course may have led to some false or incomplete information.  If you know more or can correct inaccuracies please do write in.

I believe he was born in Georgia in 1952 and is cited as being influenced by Dylan, Guthrie and Hank Williams.  He was spotted performing by Phil Ochs who helped promote him and later recorded with Warner Brothers touring Europe twice

In more recent times he released “Misfit Scarecrow” in 2008.  I do hope you enjoyed it. I certainly did.

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2 Responses to Songs about Dylan 2: The Country Songs

  1. Matthew says:

    Don’t forget Kris Kristoffersen’s New Mr Me, his retelling of Brownville Girl with Bob at the centre. “He had a face like Bobby Dylan’s… only worse”

  2. Owen Curran says:

    Tom Russells song Mesabi is about Dylan .

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