zzzk | Fore Day Creep, Grinding, Axe to grind

In this column: Fore Day Creep, Creepers, Don't advertise your man, Grinding, Can't get no grinding, Axe to grind, Bushel and a peck |
This column is about sayings and words in blues lyrics. For a Dutchman it is sometimes hard to understand, what a singer is singing. In earlier days, we copied lyrics from vinyl records. If we didn't understand, we used "an English sounding word". Now with internet one can find out what was said and what the meaning is.


Ida Cox recorded "Fore Day Creep". The song describes the situation when a man early in the morning sneaks out of a woman's bedroom.
In 1927, the song had the correct title. Later incorrectly spelled "Four Day Creep". And that is wrong, because it is no such thing as the "four-day binge" of the drunkard.
There exists a whole series of "creepers" at the time of their activities "midnight", "day-before" and "all-night" creepers.

In the early 1900s they wrote in Alabama;
"The fore day blues is not nothing but a woman wants a man" and
"Some folks say the fore day blues is not bad - but the fore Day Blues are the worst I ever had."
Ida knew that her man was not to be trusted, therefore;
"I'm gonna buy me a bulldog to watch my husband while we sleep
They are so doggone crooked, I'm afraid he might make a 'fo'-day creep ".

In 1928 Bessie Smith recorded "Empty Bed Blues". The song is about the great things that her man can do in bed. She was of course very happy, but there was always the danger that another woman seduced her husband and that she would end up with them "Empty Bed Blues".
"When you get good loving, never go and spread the news,
Else he'll double-cross you and leave you with them empty bed blues".

Sippie Wallace sang "Women be wise, Don't advertise your man". In the next episode I will use Sippie's "Shorty George Blues" to tell a story related to blues.


Bessie Smith pampered her man with all sorts of things (Empty Bed Blues) to keep him happy: a coffee grinder, a blanket, a pillow, a mattress.
"Bought me a coffee-grinder, got the best one I could find
So he could grind my coffee 'cause he had a brand-new grind".
In slang "to grind" is a verb of sexual intercourse. It also is dancing while the bodies are rubbed against each other.
Coffee is an indication of skin color.

What's the matter with the Mill, Can't get no grinding (Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe, Muddy Waters).
Well, I had a little corn, I put it in a sack
Brought it to the mill and come right back
What's the matter with the mill?
I can't get no grinding
Tell me what's the matter with the mill
It done broke down, It done broke down

Where the mill is the economic center, that provides jobs and puts food on the table. The mill done broke down, and the townsfolk are wondering what to do. And above all, they want to know what did the mill break.
Grinding in the song refers to the grinding stones of a mill.
Where Minnie stayed with:
Now listen here folks, I want you to bear this in mind
If you're going to the mill, you're just losing time
What's the matter with the mill?

Muddy Waters went a step further when he sang about the wierd weevils he caught in his corn field.
You don't know the way I feel
I got some more weevil in my corn field
What's the matter with the mill
Done broke down

Some people said that a preacher won't steal
I caught one down in my corn field
One had a bushel and one had a peck
The other had the cornfield 'round his neck
What's the matter with the mill

A weevil is a snout beetle (more about weevils in the next episode).
A cornfield 'round his neck is funny way of saying, that he took a lot of corn.

Note; I love you a bushel and peck and a hug around the neck (nursery rhymes)
Both are a dry volume measure of quarts. A bushel is equal to 32 quarts, while a peck is equal to 8 quarts, or a quarter of a bushel.


Sayings with grind:
I better start the wheels grinding = Start with your work
An axe to grind = To have a grievance with someone, the phrase probably originates from the act of sharpening an axe with a grinding wheel, with the intent (in this definition) to get revenge on someone by harming them.

Picture of a man grinding an Ax (Federal Highway Administration - Department of Transportation)
Picture of a man grinding an Ax (Federal Highway Administration - Department of Transportation)

Sources: pancocojams.blogspot.nl, americanbluesscene.com, YouTube, Wikipedia, Hudson Motors Compagny, Archive Minneapolis, The Cruel Plains, M.H.Price a.o., truewestmagazine.com, The Austin Chronicle, Cambridge Free English Dictionary, Oxford Dictionary, TheSaurus.com, dragonjazz.com/grablue/blues_travel, Encyclopedia of African American Popular Culture, Blues by Paul Breman, Blues by David Harrison, Quora.com, urbandictionary.com, Blogs.loc.gov, The Ballad Hunter by Alan Lomax, Black Pearls: Blues Queens of the 1920th by Daphne Duval Harrison, jopiepopie.blogspot.nl,