Diamond Joe

Lyrics: Tex Logan/Traditional
Music: Tex Logan/Traditional

Jerry played this with the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band. Note that it is not the same song as Bob Dylan's (see below).

Diamond Joe come and get me
My wife gonna quit me
Diamond Joe come and get me, Diamond Joe

Diamond Joe I don't know when
I'll ever be back here again
Diamond Joe come and get me, Diamond Joe

I got a brand new shiny tin
Keep my paper colors in
Diamond Joe come and get me, Diamond Joe

And I'm gonna walk in the city square
With all this bear grease in my hair
Diamond Joe come and get me, Diamond Joe

Got a brand new nickel and a shiny dime
We'll show those Boston girls a time
Diamond Joe come and get me, Diamond Joe

And I'm gonna get me a shiny gun
Just to show the boys some fun
Diamond Joe come and get me, Diamond Joe

When I land in the Boston jail
Yo're gonna come and go my bail
Diamond Joe come and get me, Diamond Joe

Diamond Joe don't you know
She should have left me long ago
Diamond Joe come and get me, Diamond Joe

Diamond Joe come and get me
My wife gonna quit me
Diamond Joe come and get me, Diamond Joe
Jerry Garcia Recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
     31 Oct 1987 Pure Jerry 2: Lunt-Fontanne Jerry Garcia Band
      6 Dec 1987 Almost Acoustic Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band
 
New Riders Recordings
     31 Dec 2006 Live: New Year's Eve


Origins
There seem to be three different songs titled "Diamond Joe."

Version 1
The first is the song Jerry Garcia sang. It is credited to Tex Logan on the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band album. Tex Logan played fiddle with Jerry Garcia in one of the early incarnations of Old And In The Way, and I presume that Jerry Garcia and David Nelson learned it from him. It clearly derives from older versions, but many of the verses don't seem to appear elsewhere and may have been put together by Tex Logan.

The earliest version of this song I have found was collected by Howard Odum and published in the Journal of American Folklore in 1911:
Chorus
Diamon' Joe, you better come an' git me
Don't you see my man done quit?
Diamon' Joe com'n git me

Diamon' Joe he had a wife
They parted every night

When the weather it got cool
Ole Joe he come back to that black gal

But time come to pass
When old Joe quit his last
An' he never went to see her any mo'
The Georgia Crackers recorded a version in 1927 (and this is very similar to the version recorded subsequently by the New Lost City Ramblers):
Chorus
Diamond Joe, come and get me
My wife now done quit me
Diamond Joe, you better come and get me, Diamond Joe

I'm gonna buy me a sack of flour
Cook me a hoecake every hour
Diamond Joe, you better come and get me, Diamond Joe

I'm gonna buy me a piece of meat
Cook me a slice but once a week
Diamond Joe, you better come and get me, Diamond Joe

I'm gonna buy me a sack of meal
Take me a hoecake to the field
Diamond Joe, you better come and get me, Diamond Joe

I'm gonna buy me a jug of whiskey
I'm gonna make my baby frisky
Diamond Joe, you better come and get me, Diamond Joe

I'm gonna buy me a jug of rum
I'm gonna give my Ida some
Diamond Joe, you better come and get me, Diamond Joe

John Lomax recorded a version by Charlie Butler in 1937 that is different but recognisably from the same roots:
Chorus
Diamond Joe, come and get me
Diamond Joe, come and get me
Diamond Joe, come and get me
Diamond Joe

Went up on that mountain
Give my horn a blow
Thought I heard Miss Maybelle say
Yonder come my beau

Ain't gonna work in the country
And neither on Parchman Farm
I'm gonna stay till my Maybelle come
And she gonna call me home

Ain't gonna tell you no story
And neither would I lie
One of them my Maybelle say
Didn't she keep on by

Ain't gonna work in the country
And neither on Parchman Farm
I'm gonna stay till my Maybelle come
And she gonna call me home
Harry Belafonte recorded a version derived from Charlie Butler's:
Ain't gonna work in the country
And neither on Forester's farm
I'm gonna stay 'till my Marybell come
She gone call me Tom

I'm gonna ask you a question
Captain tell me no lie
Will I stand this rotten old jail
Till the day I die

Diamond Joe come-a getta me, Diamond Joe

I'm tired eating this cornbread
And can't even wash when it rain
If I could get me some meat and soap
If I could lose my chain

Diamond Joe come-a getta me, Diamond Joe

Last night I heard the bloodhounds
Two of the men done escape
One was framed for murder
And the other one framed for rape

Diamond Joe will they catch 'em, Diamond Joe

Now I bust rock in the summer
In the spring winter and fall
If I have me some powder
Great God I'll blast me a hole in the wall

Diamond Joe, come-a getta me Diamond Joe
Second version
The second version is the one Bob Dylan recorded on "Good As I Been To You." It is a very different song. That album credits it as arranged by Dylan, without giving an author. Larry Shiereck tells me Ramblin' Jack Elliot performs that version which he claims he learned from a bronco rider in Brussels. It was also recorded by Cisco Houston, and the liner notes say that it is an adaption of "The State Of Arkansas," though that relates to the tune rather than the lyrics.

Nicholas Hawes emailed me with a fascinating account of the origins of this version:
This version was written by my father, Baldwin "Butch" Hawes in 1944 in New York City for a radio program to be broadcast on the British Broadcasting Corporation. The program was the second of two "ballad operas" produced for a branch of the BBC operating in New York at the time (although the shows would be aired only in the U.K.). You can learn more about these programs if you visit the "Association for Cultural Equity" website

Alan Lomax (who was my uncle) hired his then-wife Elizabeth Lyttleton to write the script, and directed her to consult the published Lomax song collections for material. Elizabeth based one her major characters, Diamond Joe Chisholm, on the song "Diamond Joe" collected from J. D. Dillingham in Austin, TX in 1935. Unfortunately Elizabeth didn't read music, and she set the song in a rowdy barroom. My mother, Bess Lomax Hawes, was the music editor, and when she got the script she realized that the song -- sung in a rather stately 3/2 meter -- wouldn't work for the program. Since my father was a part-time songwriter, she asked him to write a new "Diamond Joe" song which would better fit the script.

The song was to be performed by Lee Hays, so my father set his new song to the tune of "State of Arkansas" which was a staple of Lee's repertoire at that time. With some modifications (perhaps suggested by Lee), the verses written by my father were incorporated into the script, but the introduction to the program in which it was stated that the "songs are traditional" was never changed so few in the cast ever knew this "Diamond Joe" wasn't traditional. One cast member was Cisco Houston, and the song he recorded in 1952 on his Folkways album is identical to the song as it appeared in his copy of the script (Cisco's script is now in the Woody Guthrie archives).

As far as I have been able to determine, all recorded versions of my father's "Diamond Joe" can be traced back, directly or indirectly, to Cisco's record. Jack Elliott tells me he learned the song from George Williams in Brussels, but I wasn't able to interview Williams. However the fact that he taught it to Jack in 1958 and the verses are identical to those recorded by Cisco quite strongly suggests that Williams got the song from Cisco's recording.

I first learned about the song in 1954 when it was published as "traditional" in Sing Out! magazine. I remember my mother nagging my father to write in and claim credit, but he had just quit the songwriting business and was a little bitter about it. I remember him saying it was "a greater honor to be accepted into tradition" and he left it at that. He might have felt differently if he'd any sense that the song was to turn out to be his "big hit".
The lyrics to this version are:
Now there's a man you'll hear about
Most anywhere you go
And his holdings are in Texas
And his name is Diamond Joe

And he carries all his money
In a diamond-studded jar
He never took much trouble
With the process of the law

I hired out to Diamond Joe, boys
Did offer him my hand
He gave a string of horses
So old they could not stand

And I nearly starved to death, boys
He did mistreat me so
And I never saved a dollar
In the pay of Diamond Joe

Now his bread it was corn dodger
And his meat you couldn't chaw
Nearly drove me crazy
With the waggin' of his jaw

And the tellin' of his story
Mean to let you know
That there never was a rounder
That could lie like Diamond Joe

Now, I tried three times to quit him
But he did argue so
I'm still punchin' cattle
In the pay of Diamond Joe

And when I'm called up yonder
And it's my time to go
Give my blankets to my buddies
Give the fleas to Diamond Joe
Third version
The third version is one collected by Alan Lomax and published in "Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads" in 1935. Like the second version, it is about a rich rancher, but otherwise doesn't have much in common. I don't know of any recordings of this version:
Old Diamond Joe was a rich old jay
With lots of cowboys in his pay
He rode the range with his cowboy band
And many a mav'rick got his brand

Chorus
Roll on, boys, roll, don't you roll so slow
Roll on, boys, roll, don't you roll so slow
Ki-o-ho-ho, ki-o-ho-ho
You roll like cattle never rolled before

I am a poor cowboy, I've got no home
I'm here today and tomorrow I'm gone
I've got no folks, I'm forced to roam
Where I hang my hat is home, sweet home

If I was as rich as Diamond Joe
I'd work today and I'd work no mo'
For they work me so hard and they pay so slow
I don't give a durn if I work or no

I left my gal in a Texas shack
And told her I was a-coming back
But I lost at cards, then got in jail
Then found myself on the Chisholm Trail

I'll stay with the herd till they reach the end
Then I'll draw my time and blow it in
Just one more spree and one more jail
Then I'll head right back on the lonesome trail

I'll cross old Red at the Texas line
And head straight back to that gal of mine
I'll sit in the shade and sing my song
And watch the herds as they move along

When my summons come to leave this world
I'll say good-by to my little girl
I'll fold my hands when I have to go
And say farewell to Diamond Joe


Futher Information
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography

 


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