Monday, March 28, 2005


"there's no business like the truck business"

Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, My Baby Left Me.

In 1956 Elvis Presley, flush with first success, emboldened and bewildered by it, could see nothing but a boundless future before him, a future he had somehow crafted himself. He had seemed (for most of the U.S.) to have come out of nowhere that year, and even for Presley the past must have seemed a strange, distant land, though only two years before he had been driving a truck in Memphis.

But one day, when an interviewer from the Charlotte Observer asked him about his inspirations, Presley thought back to Tupelo, to Memphis, the songs playing in his head while daydreaming at Humes High School, to the performers whose sound he had craved, whose sound finally had become, after a few twists, his own.

"I used to hear Arthur Crudup bang his box the way I do now, and I said, 'If I ever get to the point where I could feel how all old Arthur felt I'd be a music man like nobody ever saw."

Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup
was born in Forest, Mississippi in 1905, and began playing professionally at the relatively late age of 32, playing guitar with a gospel group. By 1940 he was homeless in Chicago, living in a packing crate and playing on the street, until he was discovered by producer Lester Melrose. Between 1942 and 1954 he wrote and recorded a slew of R&B standards. Tired of being ripped off for royalties, Crudup quit recording in the mid-'50s and only played sporadically in the years before his death in 1974.

Crudup had the misfortune to have his major songs covered by Presley at the peak of his powers, so the covers have come to dwarf the originals. Presley's version of "That's All Right" is epochal; his take on "My Baby Left Me" (in which Crudup essentially refitted "That's All Right" with more traditional blues lyrics) is one of the few true rockers Presley recorded after signing with RCA in 1956.

Crudup's "Baby Left Me" was recorded in Chicago on November 8, 1950 and featured Ranson Knowling on string bass and Judge Riley on drums. Buy "Baby" here.

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