"Blue Yodel no. 8, Mule Skinner Blues" (a.k.a. "Muleskinner Blues", and "Muleskinner's Blues") is a classic country song written by Jimmie Rodgers. The song was first recorded by Rodgers in 1930 and has been recorded by many artists since then, acquiring the de facto title "Mule Skinner Blues" after Rodgers named it "Blue Yodel #8" (one of his Blue Yodels).

"Blue Yodel no. 8
Mule Skinner Blues"
Song by Jimmie Rodgers
B-sideJimmie’s Mean Mama Blues[1]
PublishedFebruary 13, 1931 (1931-02-13) by Southern Music Publishing Co., Inc., New York[2]
ReleasedFebruary 6, 1931 (1931-02-06)
RecordedJuly 11, 1930 (1930-07-11)[1]
StudioHollywood Recording Studios, 7000 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, California[1]
GenreHillbilly (Country)
Country blues
LabelVictor 23503[1]
Songwriter(s)Jimmie Rodgers
Alternative cover
Record label from Bill Monroe's version, 1946
Alternative cover
Cover of the Fendermen's version, 1960

"George Vaughn", a pseudonym for songwriter George Vaughn Horton, is sometimes listed as co-author. Horton wrote the lyrics for "New Mule Skinner Blues", Bill Monroe's second recorded version of the song.[3]

Structure Edit

The song tells the tale of a down-on-his-luck mule skinner, approaching "the Captain", looking for work ("Good Morning, Captain." / "Good morning, Shine." / "Do you need another muleskinner on your new mud line?"). He boasts of his skills: "I can pop my 'nitials on a mule's behind" and hopes for "a dollar and a half a day". He directs the water boy to "bring some water round". The term "Mule Skinner", slang for muleteer, is a driver of mules, and has nothing to do with removing the animal's hide.

Tom Dickson's "Labor Blues" Edit

The first verse of the song is similar to Tom Dickson's 1928 recording "Labor Blues" in which the exchange is clearly between a white boss and an African-American worker who is quitting the job, not applying for it:

It’s "good mornin’ Captain", ‘e said "good mornin’ Shine",
Said "good mornin’ Captain", said "good mornin’ Shine".
"T’ain’t nuthin’ the matter, Captain, but I just ain’t gwine.
"I don’t mind workin’, Captain, from sun to sun,
I don’t mind workin’, Captain, from sun to sun.
But I want my money, Captain, when pay-day come."

"Captain" was a traditional term for the white boss; "Shine" is a derogatory expression for "African-American". Dickson was black. After the narrator rebels and quits because he is not being paid, he turns his attention to his "Mississippi gal" and the remaining lyrics concern their romance. In this 12-bar blues recording, muleskinning is not mentioned, and the remaining Dickson lyrics differ from Rodgers', whose other Blue Yodels also used verses previously recorded by Blues musicians, such as Blind Lemon Jefferson.

Versions of "Muleskinner Blues" Edit

  • Rodgers' original version was a hit.
  • Roy Acuff recorded the song in 1939; his version was released in 1940.[4]
  • Bill Monroe performed the song for his November 25, 1939 debut on the Grand Ole Opry. The performance can be found on the MCA compilation Music of Bill Monroe From 1936-1994 (1994).[4][5]
  • Monroe re-recorded the song in 1950 as "New Mule Skinner Blues" in his first session for Decca, with new lyrics written by George Vaughn Horton (credited as "George Vaughn"). Monroe apparently never sang the song with Horton's lyrics in concert.[3]
  • Odetta - Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues (1956)
  • Lonnie Donegan - Lonnie Donegan Live, 1957 [1]
  • Ramblin' Jack Elliott - Jack Takes the Floor (1958)
  • Joe D. Gibson (Jody Gibson) recorded a souped up version titled "Good Morning Captain" on tetra Records which served as a model for The Fendermen.
"Mule Skinner Blues (Blue Yodel No. 8)"
Single by Dolly Parton
from the album The Best of Dolly Parton
B-side"More Than Their Share"
ReleasedJune 1970
RecordedMay 4, 1970
StudioRCA Studio B, Nashville
LabelRCA Victor 47-9863
Producer(s)Bob Ferguson
Dolly Parton singles chronology
"Daddy Come and Get Me"
"Mule Skinner Blues (Blue Yodel No. 8)"

Charting versions Edit

Artist Chart Positions
U.S. C&W U.S. CAN C&W U.K.
1960 The Fendermen 16[7] 5[8] 32[9]
1970 Dolly Parton 3 4
1976 Jerry Palmer 3

References Edit

  1. ^ a b c d "Victor matrix PBVE-54863. Blue yodel no. 8 / Jimmie Rodgers". Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved 2022-12-14.
  2. ^ Library of Congress. Copyright Office. (1931). Catalog of Copyright Entries, 1931 Musical Compositions For the Year 1931 New Series Vol 26 Part 3. United States Copyright Office. U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
  3. ^ a b Rosenberg, Neil V. (2007). The Music of Bill Monroe (1st ed.). University of Illinois Press. p. 83,84. ISBN 978-0252031212.
  4. ^ a b c Rosenberg, Neil V. (2007). The Music of Bill Monroe (1st ed.). University of Illinois Press. pp. 26–28, 34. ISBN 978-0252031212.
  5. ^ "Bill Monroe Biography". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 2012-04-09.
  6. ^ "Marcus Singletary Sings Country Music Standards". Amazon. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 121.
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2013). Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles, 14th Edition: 1955-2012. Record Research. p. 292.
  9. ^ "officialcharts.com". officialcharts.com. Retrieved December 16, 2021.