The Songs of Charlie Poole

You're looking for the lyrics of Charlie Poole? Good luck! In 1982, C. Kinney Rorrer published Rambling Blues: The Life and Songs of Charlie Poole London, UK: Old Time Music, which contained Rorrer's transcriptions of Charlie Poole's recordings. As Rorrer says in his introduction to the songs, "One problem that most fans of Charlie Poole have is understanding some of the words to his songs...[Lonnie] Austin says some people used to treat the records as puzzles, purchasing them just to find out what Poole was saying." Rorrer reports, among other theories for Poole's being difficult to undersand, Ernest Stoneman's suspicion that Poole deliberately mumbled some words just to keep others from learning his material.

One thing Poole did do, according to the documentation provided by Rorrer, is restrict himself to pre-1923 material, which places his songs in the public domain(*) and outside the reach of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act.

These are transcriptions of the songs the way I hear them. I agree with Rorrer to a large extent, but with a performer like Poole it would be a miracle for us to agree completely.

Baltimore Fire Letter That Never Came
Bill Mason Look Before You Leap
Budded Rose Milwaukee Blues
Can I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight Mister Monkey on a String
C from Tennessee Mother's Last Farewell Kiss
Don't Let Your Deal Go Down Blues Mother's Plea for Her Son
Falling by the Wayside My Gypsy Girl
Girl I Left in Sunny Tennessee My Wife Went Away and Left me
Good-bye Sweet Liza Jane Old and Only in the Way
Goodbye Booze One Moonlight Night
Goodbye Mary Dear Only Girl I Ever Loved
Hangman Hangman Slack the Rope Ramblin' Blues
He Rambled Shootin' Creek
Highwayman Sweet Sixteen
Hungry Hash House Sweet Sunny South
Husband and Wife Were Angry One Night Take a Drink on Me
I'm the Man That Rode the Mule 'Round the World There'll Come a Time
If I Lose I Don't Care Took My Gal a Walkin'
If the River Was Whiskey Wayward Boy
It's Movin' Day What Is Home Without Babies
I Cannot Call Her Mother When I'm Far Away
I Left My German Home Where the Whippoorwill Is Whispering Goodnight
I Once Loved a Sailor White House Blues
Jealous Mary Write a Letter to My Mother
Just Keep Waiting Till the Good Time Comes Young Boy Left His Home One Day
Leaving Dear Old Ireland You Ain't Talkin' to Me
Leaving Home

*Any song published before 1923 is in the public domain. However, it's not always easy to determine when a song was originally published. Even after a song has entered the public domain, new lyrics, new arrangements, and derivative works may be copyrighted. One song that appeared to be under copyright still was Leaving Home (Frankie and Johnny) by the Leighton Brothers and Ren Shields. The song can be found in the ASCAP database as Frankie and Johnny, Title Code 360056306. However, Vance Randolph lists its copyright as 1912 in volume 2 of his Music of the Ozarks. I subsequently obtained a copy of the original sheet music with the 1912 copyright date, so the song is included here. If anyone knows of songs that Rorrer or I may have misidentified as published before 1923, please let me know and they will be removed.

More information about Charlie Poole and copyright can be found here.