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From jail to the world: the unbelievable story of Ram Jam’s anthem Black Betty

Rock followers of the late 70s may need claimed her as their very own, however in reality Black Betty was older than she appeared. In December 1933, the famous American ethnomusicologists John and Alan Lomax arrange at Central State Farm in Texas – truly a jail the place convicts produced sugar cane and cotton – to report an a-capella take by profession felony James ‘Iron Head’ Baker, which is believed to be the tune’s first rendering. 

The 63-year-old couldn’t declare authorship of Black Betty, which had possible been hollered below the burning solar as an African-American work tune because the first slaves landed. However whether or not the ‘Betty’ of the title meant a bottle of whisky, a devious girl, a police automobile or the bullwhip that bit on the employees’ backs, Baker – self-described as “the roughest n**ger what ever walked the streets of Dallas” – knew of what he sang, and his vocal was an eerie moan that even Lead Stomach’s first business recording for Musicraft Information in 1939 struggled to match. 

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