In The Jailhouse Now

Lyrics: Jimmie Rodgers
Music: Jimmie Rodgers

Sung by Jerry Garcia with Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions in 1964. The lyrics he sang are those from the Memphis Jug Band's 1930 version:

I remember last election
Sam Jones got in action
Said he'd vote for the man who paid the biggest price
The next day at the polls
He voted with heart and soul
But instead of voting once he voted twice

He's in the jailhouse now
He's in the jailhouse now
Instead of staying at home
Leaving the white folks' business alone
He's in the jailhouse now

You remember Henry Crew
He sold that no good brew
Sold it to the police on the beat
Now Henry's feeling funny
The police gave him marked money
Now he's got a ball and chain around his feet

He's in the jailhouse now
He's in the jailhouse now
The judge gave him two years
And Henry shed a tear
He's in the jailhouse now

Old Tom was walking down the street
A little girl he chanced to meet
Took her to every cabaret in town
He spent his money on liquor
His trouble's getting thicker
And now he's jailhouse bound

He's in the jailhouse now
He's in the jailhouse now
If he's got a political friend
The judge's sentence he will suspend
He's in the jailhouse now

Jim Johnson liked to run around
Flirt with every girl in town
Until one day he flirted with Benny's wife
[She was ugly]
Benny cut him in the face (note 1)
It was a bad disgrace
And now he's graveyard bound

He's in the jailhouse now
He's in the jailhouse now
It was his friend
That let this matter end
He's in the jailhouse now
Notes
(1) On the Mother McCree's recording, Weir comes in with the "She was ugly" comment, which makes Garcia laugh and miss the next line.

Grateful Dead and Related Recordings
     Date Album
     Jul 1964 Mother Mcree's Uptown Jug Champions

Origins
This song is usually credited to Jimmie Rodgers, although it dates back earlier than that. It was one of the most poular songs among black medicine and minstrel show entertainers, and first seems to have been recorded by Whistler and his Jug Band in 1924. (Thanks to Eric Levy for alerting me to this).

Whistler's version has rather different lyrics:
Remember that last election
The white folks was in action
Trying to get our man for President
I had one brother names Moses
Also a great promoter
Always looking for some funny sight

I told him to go sit at home
And vote for the party's [phone]
Instead of voting once he voted twice
But now he's down in jail
No one to go his bail
The clerks have said that he refused to [fight]

He's in the jailhouse now
He's in the jailhouse now
I told the boy to stay at home
And let those people leave him alone
He's in the jailhouse now

Remember New York City
Folks said it was one pity
Landlord had raised that rent so high
We hung around the town
Out of all our hustling grounds
We couldn't find that rent no way we tried

My mother took in washing
And my sister done that ironing
I helped around the town by shining shoes
But my daddy walks around
Just like he owned New York town
Spending all mom's money buying moonshine booze

All in the jailhouse now
All in the jailhouse now
Until Moses make that rent
No one has seen is your friend Kent
All in the jailhouse, I mean
All in the jailhouse now

I went out last Friday
I met a big brown girl named Ida
I told her I was the swellest coon layin' around in town
She started to call me honey
You know I got [hip?] and started to spend my money
We took in every cabaret and buffet in town

We were striking every minute
I made sure I was in it
I was buying Jamaica gin just by the gallon
But when I went to pay that man
I found that poor gal's hand
In my pocket where my money was

She's in the graveyard now, too bad
She's in the graveyard now
I told the judge right to his face
That woman's hand was out of place
She's in the graveyard now, I mean
She's in the graveyard now
Rodgers himself recorded two different versions, the first in 1928, some two years before the Memphis Jug Band version, with very different lyrics, though the same tune. This is the version played by the Soggy Bottom Boys in "Oh Brother Where Art Thou":
I had a friend named Ramblin' Bob
Who used to steal, gamble and rob
He thought he was the smartest guy in town
But I found out last Monday
That Bob got locked up Sunday
They've got him in the jailhouse way down town

He's in the jailhouse now
He's in the jailhouse now
I told him once or twice
To quit playin' cards and shootin' dice
He's in the jailhouse now

He played a game called poker
He knuckled with Dan Yoakum
But shootin' dice was his greatest game
Now he's downtown in jail
Nobody to go his bail
The judge done said that he will pay the fine

He's in the jailhouse now
He's in the jailhouse now
I told him once or twice
To quit playin' cards and shootin' dice
He's in the jailhouse now

I went out last Tuesday
Met a girl named Susie
I told her I was the swellest man around
We started to spend my money
Then she started to call me honey
We took in every cabaret in town

We're in the jailhouse now
We're in the jailhouse now
I told the judge right to his face
We didn't like to see this place
We're in the jailhouse now
Jimmie Rodgers' second version, as played for example by Steve Earl on the Jimmie Rodgers Tribute CD, was recorded in 1930 under the title "In The Jailhouse Now - No. 2"
I had a friend named Campbell
He used to rob, steal and gamble
He tried ev'rything that was low-down
He was out tom-cattin' one night
When he started a big fight
Then a big policeman came and knocked him down

He's in the jailhouse now
He's in the jailhouse now
I told him over again
To quit drinking whiskey
Lay off of that gin
He's in the jailhouse now

Campbell broke jail one day
Decided he'd go away
But the police met him at the train
The cop says I've come for you
Campbell says that this won't do
Because Campbell never was my name

He's in the jailhouse now
He's in the jailhouse now
Yes, he broke out
All over town the fool walked about
He's in the jailhouse now

I met his old gal Sadie
She said, "Have you seen my baby"
I told her he was downtown in the can
She went down to the jail
Just to go his bail
She said, "I've come down here to get my man"

She's in the jailhouse now
She's in the jailhouse now
So you can understand
Why old kid Sadie's in the can
She's in the jailhouse now

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

 


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