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Bull Dyker's Blues

I worked so hard researching this that
I decided to share what I found,
and hopefully encourage others
with additional info to
contact me

and it all started with...
did anyone record
"Bull Dyker's Blues"?
or similar titles...

search phrases:
the dream
bull dyker's dream
bull dyker's blues
bull diker's dream
digah's dream
digah's stomp
b.d.'s dream
bowdigger's dream
ladies' dream
dream rag

When something is put on the internet, it seems to take on a life of its own,
like waves crossing the seas, often with the identical phrasing, and just
as often taking huge leaps from what is stated or intended by an author to
results that just cannot be verified.

Before I start the research info, here are some examples of the myth
that Ma Rainey recorded "Bull Dyker's Dream"

from UniBlogger, kind of a second string Wiki:
(Wikipedia itself does not mention the song)

On to the research, starting perhaps as close to the beginning as possible:


Another link to hear the song file, with more credibility than the Youtube one above

More about Johnson from the wonderful site Red Hot Jazz,
and it is likely the 1945 recording is the same one listed at the
Library of Congress site, as Alan Lomax was long associated with
Folkways Records




And, Eubie Blake's version, "The Dream Rag"

Here's one reference, Shane Vogel's "The Scene of Harlem Cabaret," 2009

*the reference above to a performance of the song by John "the bear" Wilson
has later determined to be incorrect. It was Jesse Pickett. See the CD liner notes above.

I have seen a couple of references to the song being recorded by Fats Waller. Waller did
record a song with the title "The Digah's Stomp," in 1927. I wonder if this correlation between
the songs is at all correct, with only the word "digah" to go by. To me it sure has no
resemblance to the Pickett song as done by James P Johnson. Also I do not understand
why Waller (who takes writing credit for it) would call it a stomp, when to me it is
something that might be used to put ice skaters to sleep. But listen for yourself...

Another mention of Waller

Note 30 above takes us to Jonathan Katz' book of essays, from 1975, and in that book,
on page 77, Chris Albertson quotes the lyrics of "It's Dirty But Good." And Albertson's
own footnote only tells us he got the lyrics from an etymological study by Peter Tamony.

And HERE is where some people get the idea the Bessie Smith recorded
"It's Dirty But Good." Chris Albertson (who wrote The book on Bessie Smith),
starts off the essay he gave to "Gay American History," a chapter called
"Lesbianism in the Life of Bessie Smith" with quotes from two songs, but
does not mention either one again in the rest of the 6-page essay.

His footnotes do explain that "Boy in the Boat" was recorded by George
Hannah, but no info is given on the recording for "It's Dirty But Good."
I can understand the folks on the net who think Bessie recorded it. They
took a very easy jump. By the way, the song was recorded by Rufus and
Ben Quillian, in 1930, and is in Part 2 of this show.

Here are two sites echoing the error

As I could not find the video where you can conveniently hear it,
I uploaded it to Youtube, click the graphic to hear it.

And HERE is another place readers may make a jump.
This is in Sandra Lieb's 1981 book on Ma Rainey, generally
considered the main book on her. On page 123, in the
middle of a discussion of of Rainey's song "Sissy Blues,"
she starts talking about "Bull Dyker's Dream," saying
there are several versions of the song but not mentioning
who did them. Her footnote goes to another book and turns
out to be about another subject. By ommission, she lets the
reader assume Ma Rainey had a version of the song.

alas, it turns out that footnote 29 refers only to the "freak shows"

The website coverage of Ma Rainey on the respected site makes the jump even easier. It quickly says
"Rainey's own composition "Sissy Blues" was a matter-of-fact
complaint by a woman whose male lover was stolen by a "sissy"
man, "Miss Kate. " Several recordings exist of a song about
lesbians, "Bull Dyker's Dream."

It cites the original expanded article, by Jonathan Katz
(from The Advocate, July 18, 1989), though it has the same information:

To reinforce the jump made by readers that we are talking about
a Ma Rainey song, the article is titled "Singing the 'Bull Dyker's' Blues."
No, it does not punctuate it "Bull Dyker's Blues," but that niceity would
get by many.

As long as I'm complaining, I'll repeat something I mentioned in my script section.
So here's one of the frustrating things about being a researcher.
It's that once in a while you find things stated as fact but when you try to verify them,
.... well, you just cannot.
I've got another Bessie Smith example.

In 1928 she recorded the song "Empty Bed Blues," about a man. And I found an article about it by David Hajdu, who wrote a wonderful biography of Billy Strayhorn. He says Bessie sang the lyrics....

I want a deep-sea diving woman
That got a stroke that can't go wrong
I want a deep-sea diving woman
That got a stroke that can't go wrong
Yeah, touch that bottom, gal
Hold it all night long

Well, while I would love to verify that, I just cannot. Perhaps he has some way of knowing that she sang those lyrics live, but I do not think she recorded them. You can hear the non-lesbian version, where she's definitely singing about a man, in Part 2 of this show.