I haven’t done one of these in ages. I haven’t done much blogging in ages – at least not on my personal website. Either way, I found myself last night poking around on Wikipedia around the history of various Dallas neighborhoods, and of course the old blues references on the page for Deep Ellum wound up inspiring me to put together a short mix tape about Dallas.

Deep Ellum’s real claim to fame, however, was found in its music. By the 1920s, the neighborhood had become a hotbed for early jazz and blues musicians, hosting the likes of Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson, Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter, and Bessie Smith in Deep Ellum clubs like The Harlem and The Palace. From 1920 to 1950, the number of nightclubs, cafes and domino parlors in Deep Ellum jumped from 12 to 20.

Of course, locals will recognize the name “Blind Lemon,” as one of the more well known clubs in the district. Those that inspect the lyrics on Lead Belly and Blind Lemon’s song will discover that the district may be gentrified today from what we may remember fifteen or twenty years ago, but is most certainly a different place from the blues roots depicted in Blind Lemon and Lead Belly’s song “Take a Whiff on Me.”

Walked up Ellum and I come down Main
Tryin’ to bum a nickle, just to buy cocaine

Went to Mr. Lehman’s on a lope
Sign in the window said: ‘No more coke’.

Goin’ up State Street, comin’ down Main
Lookin’ for the woman that uses cocaine

Take a Whiff on Me was available on Spotify, but a couple Deep Ellum specific songs that didn’t make Spotify’s library of note are the Deep Ellum Blues (by a wide variety of artists, most notibly the Grateful Dead) as well as the song that pays tribute to the well known venue Trees, a song by the same name by one of the best bards of our age, They Might Be Giants.

I could go on, but instead I’ll leave you with the discography and trust you’ll take a look at the lyrics at some of the more interesting songs. Quite a bit of culture and history of Dallas has been chronicled in song, both in the time capsules that are the lyrics sheets as well as the reflection of the changing nature of what type of music Dallas and Texas tends to give to the world (from western to blues to pop to rock to alt…).

Take a Whiff on Me by Lead Belly
Dallas County Jail Blues by Gene Autry
Dallas Blues by Louis Armstrong
Dallas by Willie Nelson
Deep Ellum Blues by Jimmie Dale Gilmore with the Wonglers
Dallas by Joe Ely
The Back Side of Dallas by Jeannie C. Riley
Dallas Darlin’ by Tex Ritter
Ohio (Come Back to Texas) by Bowling for Soup
City of Hate by Toadies
Fort Worth Jail by Tim Timebomb


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