Statesboro Blues the well known blues song was written by Blind Willie McTell and first recorded in 1928. It was to be the first of many recordings of the song but probably the most notable version being the Allman Brothers version recorded in 1971, live at the Filmore East in New York.
Ask most blues lovers to make a list of their all time favourite blues songs, you can bet ‘Statesboro Blues’ will be in there! Although, which version people favour is harder to predict.
The lyrics have changed over the years from the original Blind Willie McTell’s version.
I’m not sure if the lyrics changed simply because the original one was hard to understand or because Taj Mahal and The Allman Brothers wanted to make them a little simpler and easier for modern audiences. One thing for sure, Blind Willie McTell borrowed some of the lyrics from a 1923 recording by Sippie Wallace ‘Up The Country Blues’, which became better known as a hit for Canned Heat known as ‘Goin Up The Country’.
The story goes that Duane Allman taught himself to play slide guitar learning this song, and driving his bandmates crazy, playing it over and over!!
However, the opening track on that live album from The Filmore East in 1971 shows just how great Duane Allman was at playing slide guitar on this song. Goose bumps and hairs standing up on the back of the neck!
That night, the Allman Brothers owned Statesboro Blues and is probably why so many people think they originally wrote the song.
Taj Mahal recorded his version in 1968 and was slower than the Allmans. It’s been said that it was his recording that influenced the brothers to make their own version. In 2008, Rolling Stone magazine rated the Allman Brothers version at #9 in its 100 all time greatest guitar songs of all time. It’s still played to day as part of their stage shows, but the slide part is down to either Warren Haynes or Derek Trucks.