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Lyr Req: I'll be down on the last bread wagon

21 Jul 13 - 07:39 PM (#3540132)
Subject: Lyr Req: I'll be down on the last bread wagon -
From: GUEST,Bonzo

Hi,

First of all, thank you for this site. It's wonderful.
I'm having trouble with part of the lyrics for this song.
Can anybody help me? Or does anybody have it already? I can't find it anywhere!

This is from Last Sessions.

Thanks in advance

I'll be down on the last bread wagon
I'll be there with the head in my hand (?)
When the boys go to no man's land, I'll be there
But I won't be fighting
I'll be there with (a?) shotgun shell(s?)
I won't be fighting, but I'll be running like hell

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX blow the top off? top up?
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX catching the eagle around?
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX shotgun shell...

I got sad news, honey (boom boom boom)
Let me take you to the xxxx (dying?) hole (?) (boomboomboom)
Everything is sad XXXXXX
And I'll soldiers will be there

I'll be down on the last bread wagon
I'll be there with the head in my hand (?)
When the boys go to no man's land, I'll be there
But I won't be fighting
I'll be there with (a?) shotgun shell(s?)
I won't be fighting, but I'll be running like hell

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX blow the top off? top up?
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX catching the eagle around?
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX shotgun shell...


21 Jul 13 - 07:41 PM (#3540133)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I'll be down on the last bread wagon
From: GUEST,Bonzo

Sorry, second verse is "And our soldiers will be there".


21 Jul 13 - 09:26 PM (#3540148)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I'll be down on the last bread wagon
From: Thomas Stern

There is a song of this title on LEAD BELLY's LAST SESSIONS
Is that the one you seek lyrics for??? If not, what is
your source of the song?
The booklet on the Smithsonian Folkways site does not have
lyrics unfortunately.

Thomas.


21 Jul 13 - 10:07 PM (#3540157)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I'll be down on the last bread wagon
From: GUEST,Bonzo

Oh, forgot to put it. YES, it's Leadbelly's version I'm looking for.
Sorry for that.


22 Jul 13 - 08:21 AM (#3540231)
Subject: Lyr Add: I'LL BE DOWN ON THE LAST BREAD WAGON
From: Jim Dixon

Here's my best attempt. I have put my new words in boldface, and the words I am most doubtful about in brackets.

The tune, by the way, is DARKTOWN STRUTTER'S BALL (approximately).


I'LL BE DOWN ON THE LAST BREAD WAGON
As sung by Lead Belly on "Lead Belly's Last Sessions"

I'll be down on the last bread wagon.
I'll be there [with the head] in my hand.
When the boys goes to no man's land,
I'll be there, but I won't be fighting.
I'll be there [with the] shotgun shells.
I won't be fighting, but I'll be runnin' like hell.
When the boys goes over the top[-up],
And they're kickin' down the eagle rock,
I'm gonna beat 'em to the dugout, to dodge those
shotgun shells.

I got sad news, honey. (boom boom boom)
Let me take you to the dancin' hall. (boomboomboom)
Everything is sad but it's fair,
And all the soldiers will be there.

REPEAT FIRST PART.


23 Jul 13 - 02:41 PM (#3540897)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I'll be down on the last bread wagon
From: Bonzo19

That's very nice Jim, I think you got it. My only doubt would the top/top up line, but this is great. Shotgun line might be a number, two, could be three...

And thanks A LOT for the name of the tune...

I wonder if these lyrics by Leadbelly were ever put to paper.


19 Dec 13 - 01:40 AM (#3585341)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I'll be down on the last bread wagon
From: GUEST

I've been listening to this since I was 19. I'm 65 now and I still wonder about this lyric. Jim's version is the one I've been following for a long time now. All I can add is this:

I'll be down there in the last bread wagon.
I'll be there with my head in my hand.
When the boys goes to no man's land,
I'll be there, but I won't be fighting.
I'll be there dodgin shotgun shells.
I won't be fighting, but I'll be runnin' like hell.
When the boys goes over the top out,
And they're kickin' down the eagle rock,
I'm gonna beat 'em to the dugout and dodge those shotgun shells.

Y'all probably already know this but "Eagle Rock" was a popular 1920's black dance performed with the arms outstretched and the body rocking from side to side. "Doing the eagle rock" is also a metaphor for sex. Leadbelly did a piano solo called Eagle Rock and mentions the term in a number of other songs. In his intro to this song Leadbelly says "this is a song they did in 1917, the boys all got their bonus" and goes on to tell how the boys "didn't have a nickel the next day," because the girls just "smacked the money." So I assume this is a tongue in cheek lyric having to do with men somehow associated with WWI and the ladies of the evening that followed them around.


27 Jan 14 - 05:42 PM (#3595959)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I'll be down on the last bread wagon
From: GUEST,guest

I got a set of the vinyls from "Last Sessions" too, and also being old, and an old farm boy from Texas, and in our drawl, I think he might be saying, in the second line-- "I'll be there with a whip",(drivin' a team of mules pulling that wagon-remember this is wartime 1917), or "a fifth"(of whiskey-why not?), or "hip" ("hip-flask" of whiskey)"in my hand".   Also, could the "top" phrase be "cover" or "cup-board",   and I hear "in the kitchen doing the eagle rock". Why?- Who can tell about this stuff- its a song over ninty years old sung into a late '40s tape recorder, nearly 65 years ago!!


31 Dec 20 - 12:11 PM (#4085874)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I'll be down on the last bread wagon
From: GUEST,RelativitySetters

Great song, for some reasons there are struggles with the words. There are ways to reduce those struggles, and I've had a bit of practice with writing words from Leadbelly. A couple things - there are pump shotguns, and the "eatin' raw" words are followed by a laugh of observers during the recording, for obvious reasons - somebody at least understood the words as they were sang. This song closely follows the sentiments and gripes of the track I Don't Want No More Of Army Life. Here is my rendering, which I think is very close if not exact:

[Instrumental Prelude] (Then they got the invitation)

I'll be down on the last bread wagon
I'll be there with the hat in my hand
When the boys go to no man's land
I'll be there

But I won't be fightin'
I'll be there pumpin' shotgun shells
I won't be fightin'
But I'll be running like hell

When the boys goes over the top
I'll, be in the kitchen doin' the eatin' raw
I'm gonna beat 'em to the dugout
And dodge those shotgun shells

[Instrumental Interlude](Then they got the invitation)

I got sad news, honey (boom boom boom)
I'm gonna take you to the dancin' hall (boom boom boom)
Everything is sad, but it's fair
And all the soldiers will be there

I'll be down on the last bread wagon
I'll be there with the hat in my hand
When the boys go to no man's land
I'll be there

But I won't be fightin'
I'll be there pumpin' shotgun shells
I won't be fightin'
But I'll be running like hell

When the boys goes over the top
I'll, be in the kitchen doing the eatin' raw
I'm gonna beat 'em to the dugout,
And dodge those shotgun shells.

[Instrumental Finale] (pick it up now)


03 Jan 21 - 09:27 PM (#4086357)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I'll be down on the last bread wagon
From: cnd

This certainly must be one of Leadbelly's most obscure songs; aside from here, I've only found 2 other attempts at transcribing the lyrics, one of which was partial.

The partial attempt comes from Michael Winter's Into the Blizzard. I'll include his attempt here for posterity even though I strongly disagree with its results. In place of "When the boys goes over the top / I'll, be in the kitchen doing the eatin' raw" he writes:
"when the boys go over the top
he won't be dodging shotgun shells but doing the eagle rock"

The other attempt at transcribing the lyrics comes from the inimitable Weenie Campbell website, which you can see here -- it's much closer in my opinion, but not quite right.

I also thought it was important to consider the story Leadbelly told before the song: about women fleecing soldiers of their little money by inviting them to parties before they left for war. So I had the thought that the lyrics might be slightly sarcastic, sang from the perspective of a woman who is using the soldiers to earn herself some money. From there, I made the assumption that some of the jokes of the song were sexual innuendos relating to the promiscuity of soldiers or the prostitution of a woman who would hang around the soldiers' barracks (you can read more about brothels before WWI here).

Combining the attempts from RelativitySetters, Willie Poor Boy, and others:

[Instrumental Prelude] (Then they got the invitation)

I'll be down at the last bread wagon
I'll be there with a "helpin' a-hand"*
When the boys go to no man's land
I'll be there

But I won't be fightin'
I'll be there pumpin' shotgun shells*
I won't be fightin'
But I'll be running like hell

When the boys goes over the top I'll
Be in the kitchen doin' the eagle rock*
I'm gonna beat 'em to the dugout
And dodge those shotgun shells

[Instrumental Interlude] (Then they got the invitation)

I got sad news, honey (boom boom boom)
I'm gonna take you to the dancin' hall (boom boom boom)
Everything is sad, but it's fair
And all the soldiers will be there

I'll be down at the last bread wagon
I'll be there with a "helpin' a-hand"
When the boys go to no man's land
I'll be there

But I won't be fightin'
I'll be there pumpin' shotgun shells
I won't be fightin'
But I'll be running like hell

When the boys goes over the top I'll
Be in the kitchen doin' the eagle rock
I'm gonna beat 'em to the dugout
And dodge those shotgun shells

[Instrumental Finale] (pick it up now)

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Explanations of asterisks:
- the "helping hand" line is the promiscuous woman saying she's there to help in a less-than-sincere way
- Given that I'm assuming this song is from the perspective of a woman, I assumed most of the lines about "pumping shotgun shells" were slang for giving a handjob
- the "eagle rock" was a type of dance originating in the early 1900s; to do the dance, you "extend your arms in the shape of an 'Eagles wing,' .... The head tilts back while the body sways back and forth." Such a dance has clear sexual innuendos to it, and other people have commented that the dance had a clearly sexual meaning in the blues idiom (click)

I am, of course, operating under some large assumptions so I'd be welcome to any feedback