Summary: Texas is rich in space and myth, in the 1920's it had perhaps
the greatest cultural diversity of any southern state. East Texas is
not particularly the Texas of cattle, cowboys and wide open plains. It has
rich bottom land and cotton flourished there as did sharecropping.
There were plantations up and down the Brazos River. If Mississippi had its
dreaded Parchman Farm then Texas had the spectre of Uncle Bud Russell
and the Midnight Special. Both were equally feared by black men in Texas.
Yet within its borders, black music was vital and had a particular style
and sound all its own.
Lightnin' Hopkins in his "TEXAS BLUES" album
sings his "BUD RUSSELL BLUES". The song begins
in a mellow tone.
Sure is hot in here
Bud Russell don't care
He said he didn't send for me
And he didn't ask me to come down here
Then there's the "MIDNIGHT SPECIAL"!
(playing in the background of this page)
sung by the likes of Leadbelly, and later
made known to a new generation by
John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater
Revival. The song begins like this...
Let the Midnight Special shine her light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine her ever-lovin' light on me
"Here come Bud Russell," How in the world do you know?"
Well he know him by his wagon, and his forty-fo'
Big gun on his shoulder, big knife in his hand
He's comin' to carry you back to Sugarland.
MIDNIGHT SPECIAL served as the theme song for Burt Sugarman's
weekly music program, "Midnight Special", which aired on television
from 1972 to 1981 and was hosted by the legendary "Wolfman Jack".
There is a large sacred and secular African-American tradition
of songs of release from slavery, from prison, from a world of
trouble. In a field recording made in the '30s, an inmate of a
southern penitentiary sang of the imminence of Diamond Joe,
a mysterious agent of salvation. "DIAMOND JOE" grew out of the chorus
of his incantation. Sonya Cohen does the vocals and it goes like this...
If I don't go crazy, I'm bound to lose my mind.
I can't see nothing breaking, boys,
nothing but the long sight line.
Diamond Joe, where you find him, Diamond Joe,
where you find him,
Diamond Joe, where you find him, Diamond Joe.
Go and tell Bud Russell, tell old Ludlow Jones,
Everytime you see me crying, that's my trainfare home.
Diamond Joe, come and get me, Diamond Joe,
come and get me,
Diamond Joe, come and get me, Diamond Joe.