Louis Collins

Lyrics: Mississippi John Hurt
Music: Mississippi John Hurt

Mrs Collins weep, Mrs Collins moan
What made her son Louis leave his home?
Angels laid him away

Chorus
Angels laid him away
Laid him six feet under the clay
Angels laid him away

Oh kind friends, now ain't it hard
To see poor Louis in a new grave yard
Angels laid him away

[chorus]

When they heard that Louis was dead (note 1)
All the women folk they dressed in red (note 2)
Angels laid him away

[chorus]

Bob shot one and Louis shot two
Shot poor Collins, shot him through and through
Angels have laid him away

[chorus]

Mrs Collins weep, Mrs Collins moan
What made her son Louis leave his home?
Angels laid him away

[chorus]
Notes
(1) this is the order of verses on "Shady Grove." On "The Pizza Tapes", Garcia reverses the order of the third and fourth verses, and then repeats the "Oh kind friends, now ain't it hard" verse before ending with the repeat of the first verse. Thanks to "CJ" for pointing this out.

Jerry Garcia Recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
      2 Jun 1992 Shady Grove Garcia/Grisman
     4/5 Feb 1993 Pizza Tapes Garcia/Grisman/Rice
Roots
According to "Masters Of The Instrumental Blues Guitar", Louis Collins is a murder ballad which Mississippi John Hurt composed from hearing people talk about a shooting. He first recorded it in 1928 for Okeh Records and then again in 1963 for Piedmont. Similarly, "Masters Of Country Blues Guitar" says that, according to Hurt, this song (his own composition) was based on a true episode.

If anyone knows more about the incident which inspired the song, do let me know.

Garcia sticks pretty closely to Mississipi John Hurt's version. These are the lyrics from "Mississippi John Hurt Today" (Vanguard 79220):
Mrs Collins weeped, Mrs Collins moaned
To see her son Louis leaving home
The angels laid him away

Chorus
The angels laid him away
Laid him six feet under the clay
The angels laid him away

Mrs Collins weeped, Mrs Collins moaned
To see her son Louis leaving home
The angels laid him away

Oh Bob shot one and Louis shot two
Shot poor Collins, shot him through and through
The angels have laid him away

Oh kind friends, oh ain't it hard
To see poor Louis in a new grave yard
The angels laid him away

[chorus]

Oh when they heard that Louis was dead
All the people they dressed in red
The angels laid him away

[chorus]

Mrs Collins weeped, Mrs Collins moaned
To see her son Louis leaving home
The angels laid him away

[chorus]
Further notes
(2) a posting I found from Catherine Yronwode helpfully explains a bit more about the reference to "dressed in red":
"White folks, accostomed to black being the color worn both for funerals and for post-funereal mourning, sometimes think that references in blues songs to dressing in red signify a party atmosphere or happiness over a person's death. Not so. In Africa, and among African-Americans in earlier times, drssing in red has been a funerary custom. As such, it is reminiscent of burial with red ochre pigment, which was used among neolithic poeople (the "red paint people") the world around. The religious idea behind this custom is that as a baby is born from the mother's womb through blood, so will rebirth occur (after interrment in Mother Earth) through blood.

"Another old blues song with a similar lyric is "Ella Speed" as recorded by Leadbelly (Huddie Ledbetter) circa the mid 1930s.
When the women all heard that Ella Speed was dead
They went on home and they re-ragged in red
"That is, the women went home and changed clothes to attend Ella Speed's funeral."


Futher Information
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography
For online chords and TAB see www.rukind.com
For sheet music, see:
          Shady Grove (guitar TAB)

 


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