Hello again Monday. Here’s a down and dirty groove, killer rock riffs to beat the blues: Black Betty.

Many people—including me—think that this song is originally written and sung by Ram Jam. Matter of fact, thanks to Wikipedia, this 20th-century African-American work song often credited to Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter as the author, though the earliest recordings are not by him. Some sources claim it is one of Lead Belly’s many adaptations of earlier folk material, back to 18th-century.

The best known modern recordings are rock versions by Ram Jam, Sir Tom Jones, and Spiderbait, all of which were hits.

David Hackett Fischer, in his book Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America states that “Black Betty” was a common term for a bottle of whisky in the borderlands of northern England/southern Scotland, and later in the backcountry areas of the eastern United States. In January 1736, Benjamin Franklin published The Drinker’s Dictionary in the Pennsylvania Gazette offering 228 round-about phrases for being drunk. One of those phrases is “He’s kiss’d black Betty.” Other sources give the meaning of “Black Betty” in the United States as a liquor bottle.


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