Blues Tradition

You should know how I feel.
I can’t do nothin wrong.
They call me the she-wolf
I prowl all night long.
Music is my life. I’m a Blues
woman. A miracle child.

A miracle child from two years old.
Mama prayed so hard for me
that night she got lost in the bed.
Woke up. Didn’t know where she was.
Doctor said I’d never get fourteen.
Ten years old I heard my mama say that.
Hurt me so bad I ran out the house
a shotgun house down in Alabama.
I hid and cried my little eyes out.
Lord, don’t let me die. Let me live.
He heard my call cause here I am.
And I do thank God.

By me having a heart condition
I prayed as a little
child to spare my life.
If the Lord let me live I would like
to be a writer. A big singer.
If you don’t tell mama that I beat on her water buckets
I’m gonna give you some of my supper.
That’s how I learned to play drums.

Music is my life.
The one and only best drummer
on radio off radio.
I don’t back down.
I’m the one brought Jimmy Reed
back to the people.
Me and the good Lord Jesus.

I was there when he played
Port Arthur   
North Hollywood
The Burning Spear
The High Chaparral   
Ethy's in Detroit
Liberty Hall
The Nutcracker in New Orleans.
I was all up in there. I played with all the guys.
Little Willie Foster
Pork Chops
Snooky Pryor
Big Red
Guitar Charles.

Everybody says I am a legend.
Everyday I write a song.
Lazy Bill Lucas asked me
one time why you looking like this?
I’m evil. Don’t mess with me.
You can’t do nothin to me with that
johnny’s conqueror root cause
I got the devil’s shoestring.
If you only knew what’s rollin
around in this big head.
Inside me is a ball of fire.
You know what I’m sayin?

In 1988 I couldn’t walk.
I kept praying. I kept voting.
And I prayed hard. My only company
a doll I keep right by my bed.
I would talk to that doll and cry.
Seemed like that doll was just comin alive
like everything was gonna be alright.
Here alone at times probably I would
kinda go out of my mind.
But as you can know and see I’m
in my sound mind. I want everybody
to know they don’t have to give up.

Made it through to seventy-seven
and I thank God.


I had a rough time but see God know
when you done had enough. And then
He make it easy for ya.
So that’s what happened.
I’m at peace now. I’m just enjoying life.
I like pretty things. I like fancy things.
Even to now I like to be dap all the time.
Purple is my favorite color. Green too.
I like silk and satin. Because you’re in
the kitchen that don’t mean you have
to be in there lookin any kinda way.

I sit up at night and write songs
sing songs and be all by myself.
Close the door and just start singing.
I know God gave me the talent to do somethin.
When I was born He had my life
all laid out. Let me sing and shout.
After the madness come the gladness.


The words of Johnnie Mae Dunson Smith,
as told to Jim Fraher, edited by Connie Scanlon
November 12, 1998

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I wish I had a pencil with everlasting lead
to write and count the tears that you made me shed.

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