R. L. Burnside playing “Poor Black Mattie” and Explaining How He Got His Start

After R.L. explain how he got his start and plays a bit, I have another wonderful version by Samantha Fish. Later, I have Burnside’s full version.


Although R.L. Burnside is closely connected to traditional Delta blues, he’s actually from a little outside the Delta, in the nearby hills. Some call his style, “Hill Country Blues.”

Here he explains the first time he played in public, a party where his friend, Mississippi Fred McDowell, asked him to play. For those of us who love the blues, the rest is history.

Here is one version of the lyrics (like all folk tunes, they change a bit with each rendition):

Poor Black Mattie, yeah (Poor Black Mattie)
Ain’t got a change in clothes (change in clothes)
Girl got drunk, oh (girl got drunk)
Close that door (close that door)
Poor Black Mattie (Poor Black Mattie)
Ain’t got change o’ clothes
Girl got drunk, throwed her trunk outdoor

Goin’ to Memphis to see that (goin’ to Memphis)
Worldly fair (the worldly fair)
Reason I’m goin’ (the reason I’m goin’)
Baby, there (is my baby’s there)
Goin’ to Memphis (goin’ to Memphis)
See that worldly fair
Reason I’m goin’, ’cause my baby there

Need no heater fireplace (need no heater)
By my bed (said, by my bed)
Woman I got (that woman I got)
Cherry red (cherry red)
Need no heater (need no heater)
Fireplace by my bed
Woman I got, keep me cherry red

–Poor Black Mattie


Now, here’s a wonderful version by someone keeping the blues alive, Samantha Fish, together with Lightnin’ Malcolm. They are OUTSTANDING!!

It was produced at the legendary Zebra Ranch Studios in Coldwater, Mississippi by Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars. (I can’t hear his name without thinking about another famed producer named Dickinson–Bruce Dickinson of “More Cowbells.”)


Here’s R.L. playing a full version: