Friday, September 23, 2011

Nine Lives: Black Cat Bone

Albert Collins, Robert Cray, Johnny Copeland: Black Cat Bone


This version of Black Cat Bone begins with Albert Collins and Johnny Copeland talking about hearing the song played by Hop Wilson, who wrote it. As nearly as I can tell, that would have been in Houston Texas, in about 1950. Very quickly, the song became a blues classic, and it was recorded in the 50s by Lightning Hopkins, Muddy Waters, and many others. By 1985, the song had become one of Albert Collins’ signature tunes, and he was the one who brought it to the sessions for the album Showdown! This was one “super group” album that lived up to its billing. The idea was to bring together three of the biggest names in blues at the time and let them make magic. Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland, and Robert Cray did just that.

In African-American folk belief, a black cat bone is a lucky charm, with the power to render the bearer invisible or bring about the return of a lost love. Here however, the singer is the victim of extraordinary bad luck, and he believes that his girlfriend has used a black cat bone to put a curse on him. There is a rather gruesome ritual for the proper making of a black cat bone charm. I will spare you the details, but you can find a description if you are curious in Zora Neal Hurston’s Mules and Men.

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