Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday's Just as Bad)

T. Bone Walker, 1947

Released at a time when genres of recorded music were largely segregated, "Call It Stormy Monday" proved meaningful to both Black and white audiences. In what ways do the lyrics enable it to speak to many different people's life experiences, across racial lines?

In the second verse, T-Bone Walker sings that "the eagle flies on Friday and Saturday I go out to play." The "eagle" refers to the dollar bill, where the eagle is prominently featured. What, then, does this line mean?

Like many blues songs, this song uses a repeating pattern of just a few chords, known as the twelve-bar blues. On their own, the chords are not very virtuosic or expressive. What elements of the singing and playing are virtuosic and expressive?

Compare and contrast this song with other blues songs, such as Robert Johnson's "Crossroads Blues" (Unit 7), Muddy Waters's "I Feel Like I'm Going Home" (Unit 7), and Odetta's "Special Delivery Blues" (this unit). What blues elements do these songs share? How are they different?

"Call It Stormy Monday" performed by T. Bone Walker on T-Bone Blues, ©1958. Available on Itunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. For the lyrics please consult this online source:

http://www.lyricsfreak.com/t/t+bone+walker/
call+it+stormy+monday_20169179.htm

Born in 1910 in Linden, Texas, Aaron Thibeaux Walker (later known as T-Bone Walker) grew up surrounded by music. His stepfather was in a Dallas string band and it was through him that Walker met blues musicians Leadbelly and Blind Lemon Jefferson. As a teenager, Walker played the guitar and piano and performed on the streets of Dallas with Jefferson. Walker then began traveling and playing in road shows with such artists as Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Bessie Smith, "Ma" Rainey, Cab Calloway, and jazz guitarist Charlie Christian.

Walker blended blues and jazz guitar and was one of the first blues musicians known for his widespread use of the electric guitar. His music thus embodies the shift from the acoustic sound of earlier country blues guitarists to the modern blues sound. He incorporated jazz harmonies and jazz chord substitutions and became known for his showy stage performance. In addition to dressing in sharp suits and dress shoes, he played the guitar behind his head, did splits, and played with his teeth.

T. Bone Walker in a publicity photo from 1942.

His most famous song and a blues classic, "Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday's Just As Bad)," was released in 1947. The chords underlying each verse are in the standard twelve-bar blues structure, which dates to the early blues of W. C. Handy and was common in the folk blues. The lyrics of the first two verses deal with the sadness he experiences each day of the week. In the third verse, it is revealed that his sadness is the result of having lost a loved one. The verses are organized in three-line stanzas (the first line, a repeat of the first line, and then a third rhyming line).

The verses also utilize the technique of call-and-response, a technique common in African American genres dating to the spiritual. After each sung line (the call), the piano, guitar, saxophone, and/or trumpet respond to the line.

A guitar solo follows the second verse and the third verse produces passionate musical calls from Walker in the text as well as emotional responses from the instruments (especially after the line "my heart's in misery"). The guitar solo is in Walker's signature playing style, which has since become standard in the blues. Walker does not play many chords, but instead typically plays one note at a time, resembling horn solos.

Like many blues songs, the lyrics of the song speak to nearly everyone, regardless of race. This quality helped "Call It Stormy Monday" and the blues in general become widely influential. Indeed, Walker and his guitar style influenced many blues and rock artists, including Chuck Berry, B. B. King, Jimi Hendrix, and the Allman Brothers Band. The song became part of the Library of Congress National Recording Registry in 2008.