When I searched for which video to post, one of them began with a graphic card that the song was written by Gun Cannon. I knew nothing about his career, but figured he'd had a number of hits, which is why the person posting the video included his name. Mainly, I just liked that the name of the songwriter was included, particularly since we live in an era where people refer to a song "by" the singer who performs it.
For those who don't know the song, or didn't play it the other day and so haven't heard it in decades, here it is again. Bear with me, there's a point to this all, so do give it a listen.
The point to this all is that while doing some more browsing I found out more about Gus Cannon, the songwriter. And it turns out that he wasn't a contemporary of The Rooftop Singers, but in fact was a black banjo player who had written the song...in 1929!!
And recorded it. And with just a few minor lyric changes and small tempo changes, it's the very same song.
Side note: I know that there is a history of white singers recording current blues songs from black singers and black songwriters and turning these little-known songs into more mainstream hits. (It's one of the sub-themes of August Wilson's play, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, now a Netflix movie.) While I suppose there's a touch of that here, I really don't think this is a precise case of that, since there was a 33 year gap, and it's more uncovering a lost song and giving it a new life.
There's a little bonus to all this.
In the late 1950s, a small record label, Satellite Records, was found and soon merged with Atlantic Records and became Stax Records, which became influential in rhythm-and-blues and soul music. And in 1962, they changed their name to Stax Records. And as it happens, at least as far as I can tell, the first record they did in 1963 was with -- Gus Cannon.
So, here is that recording. And it's wonderful, in some ones a better version -- his voice is strong, the banjo solo break is lovely, and the sound quality very good. I didn't use it above because I thought it best to play the original 1929 version. But this is a special treat, and why I'm adding it, because he talks at the beginning briefly about how he came to write the song.
(By the way, at one point in his story he refers to "Bessie," and I wonder if that was the Blues legend Bessie Smith? Just a guess...)