"Yellow Dog Blues" - Kid Ory
In Chicago, you can either take “The El” or “LSD” to “The Loop” where you can walk to “The Bean.” Try to avoid any “Six Corners” when possible. In Nashville, you can see “The Batman Building,” or in Austin, stroll across “The Bat Bridge” from downtown to “SoCo.” In Decatur, Illinois, you can smell “The Stinky Bridge” from miles away, but there’ll probably be a different aroma emitting from “Willy Street” in Madison, Wisconsin. Still lost? Then check out Max Haymes’ Origin of the term Yellow Dog for a sense of direction.
In it, Haymes discusses the influence of railroad transportation on the early blues, an era when the train tracks were the best way out of town or a binding situation. It will be interesting to study in time, a century removed, if and how contemporary music reflects this same mentality; the “Call An Uber Blues” has yet to be written but Drake’s “Hotline Bling” sounds awfully familiar. Or what kind of circumstances will lead one to sing about autonomous cars? Or vacuum tubes along America’s west coast? Or the centrifugal elevator to the moon? And what kind of nicknames will we use?
“Yellow Dog Blues,” composed by W.C. Handy and inspired by the march-and-trio form of ragtime, features a modulation from the key of Bb to the key of Eb where the melodies become improvised solos. Additionally, the first four bars of each twelve-bar chorus uses an ensemble “shout” pattern to launch the soloist into an eight-bar solo starting on the Ab chord, or the IV of the IV of the original I. Still lost? Then try making a farting glissando noise and then hop onto the next train outta town.
Here's a YouTube video of Tuba Skinny doing their version of "Yellow Dog Blues."
Recommended reading: Creole Trombone: Kid Ory and the Early Years of Jazz by John McCusker. Published by University Press of Mississippi.