Dying Crapshooter’s Blues – Gothic Old Time Blues

It was one of the greatest blues men, Blind Willie McTell, who on a wintry day in November, 1940, cut the first known recording of Crapshooter in the style of the rural blues, in Atlanta, Georgia (McTell’s home state) for the Library of Congress based in Washington D.C.  It was a gothic old time blues song he was to re-record on two more occasions in the post-war period.

Gothic Old Time BluesBlind Willie McTell’s first known recording of Crapshooter as has already been stated was in November, 1940, and as part of his introduction to this version he states “I am gonna play this song that I made myself, originally this is from Atlanta”.  McTell’s third and final version has a lengthy spoken introduction including the claim “I started writin’ a song in ’29, though I didn’t finish it, I didn’t finish it  til 1932.” 

Little Jesse was a gambler, night and day
He used crooked cards and dice
He was a sinful boy, good hearted but had no soul
His heart was hard and cold like ice

Little Jesse was a wild, reckless gambler, won a gang of change
And many a-gambler’s heart he left in pain
Little Jessie begin to lose his money but he was all alone
And his heart had even turned to stone

The police walked up and shot my friend Jesse down
Said “Boys I got to die today”
He had a gang of crapshooters and gamblers at his bedside
But here are the words he had to say

I guess I ought to know
How’re I wants to go

[spoken] How you wanna go, Jesse? [/spoken]

I wants eight crapshooters for my pallbearers
Let ’em all be dressed there in black
I want nine men going to the graveyard
But only eight mens comin’ back

I wants a gang of gamblers gathered around my coffin side
With a crooked card printed on my hearse
Don’t say the crapshooters’ll never grieve over me
My life been a doggone curse

Send poker players to the graveyard
Dig my grave with the ace of spades
I want twelve polices in my funeral march
High sheriff playin’ blackjack, lead the parade

I want the judge and solic’ter who jailed me 14 times
Put a pair of dice in my shoes
Let a deck of cards be my tombstone
I got the dyin’ crapshooter’s blues

I want sixteen real good crapshooters
Sixteen bootleggers to sing a song
Sixteen buck-riders gamblin’
With a couple tends bar while I’m rollin’ along

He wanted 22 womens outta the Hampton Hotel
26 off-a South Bell
29 women outta North Atlanta
Know that little Jesse didn’t pass out so swell

His head was achin’, heart was thumpin’
Little Jesse went down bouncin’ and jumpin’
Folks don’t be standin’ around ole Jesse cryin’
He wants everybody to do the Charleston whilst he dyin’

One foot up, a toenail dragging
Throw my buddy Jesse in the hoodoo wagon
Come here mama with that can of booze
He’s got the dyin’ crapshooter’s, passin’ out
Well the dyin’ crapshooter’s blues