“Catfish Blues” – Robert Petway (Bluebird 1941)

Delta blues guitarist Robert Petway helped establish an enduring downhome blues theme with his March 28, 1941, recording of ‘Catfish Blues’ in Chicago (Bluebird B8838). Many other bluesmen have since sung their own renditions of Petway’s line, ‘Well, if was a catfish, mama, I said swimmin’ deep down in deep blue sea, all these gals now, sweet mama, settin’ out hooks for me, settin’ out hooks for me . . .’ Petway’s friend Tommy McClennan recorded a similar ‘Deep Blue Sea Blues’ later in 1941, and Muddy Waters most famously reworked the catfish verse as the opening line of his smoldering classic ‘Rollin’ Stone’ in 1950. Kokomo Arnold had earlier (1935) sung, ‘I’d rather be a catfish down in the Gulf of Mexico.’ None of the other versions, however, were carried by such a propulsive rhythmic drive as Petway provided on this flailing guitar workout, which was also the model for Eddie Taylor’s Vee-Jay recording ‘Stroll Out West.’

2017-04-21T00:29:05+00:00 November 10th, 2016|