Home Page

Charlie Patton painting © Copyright 2004 Loz Arkle
Painting © 2004 Loz Arkle

Website © Copyright 2000-2011 Alan White - All Rights Reserved

Site optimised for Microsoft Internet Explorer

Hero. Legend. Good Bloke.
John Peel OBE, 1939 - 2004

Red Lick Records



"I Heard The Voice of a Pork Chop"
by Max Haymes
(converted to web format from the original typescript by Alan White)

This seemingly humorous title actually has some dark undertones; as with many apparently comedic blues in the earlier era (1890-1943).  The title and first line were adapted from a religious song I Heard The Voice Of Jesus Say which was recorded in various guises in the 1920s by a cappella groups and also as part of some of the myriad of preachers’ sermons set down on disc in this same time-frame.  These included the highly popular Rev. J.M. Gates. 

One of the earliest, if not the earliest, recordings of this religious song was made “at or around Chapel Hill and Durham, N.C. and Hampton, Va., in the spring or summer of 1925”. (1)  Listed under the heading “Male Negro, v.” (2) the full title is given in the first line: I Heard The Voice Of Jesus Say, Come Unto Me And Rest.  This is one of some two dozen other titles recorded at Iowa State University the same time, which “are the earliest non-commercial field recordings of which we have any knowledge.” (3)   [Footnote 1]

Often used in long-metre or ‘lining out song’ form by black preachers, in 1929 the famous Norfolk Jubilee quartet chose to feature a jaunty piano accompaniment (atypically) and sang their version [Footnote 2] at a much quicker tempo. Possibly, the 'jolly' atmosphere generated (despite adhering to the religious lyric) together with the bass singer/manager Len Williams’ brief scat vocal, could have been inspired by Jim Jackson who cut I Heard The Voice of A Pork Chop [Victor unissued] some 12 months earlier, in January, 1928. [Footnote 3]

Spoken: Ah! Don’t that sound good? It sounds good to me. It’s just like
somethin’ good to drink. It’s alright with me. I know that’s playin’ good. 
Vocal:    1. I walked an’ I walked, an’ I walked an’ I walked;
I stopped for to rest my feet.
I sit down on an old oak tree, there went fast asleep;
I dreamt I was sittin’ in a swell café as hungry as a bear.
My stomach sent a telegram to my soul: ‘There’s a wreck on the road somewhere’.
Refrain:   I heard the voice of a pork chop say ‘Come unto me an’ rest’;
Well, you talk about your stewin’ beans, I know what’s the best.
Well, you talk about your chicken, ham an’ egg, turkey stuffed an’ dressed;
But I heard the voice of a pork chop say: ‘Come unto me an’ rest’
Yeh! I heard the voice of a pork chop say: ‘Come unto me an’ rest’.
Ref:  Well, you talk about your stewin’ beans, etc.
Spoken: Ah! Stir it up now. Ah!  Don’t that sound good? Ah! Stir it up.
  Repeat 1.
Ref:  I heard the voice, etc.
Spoken:  Oh! Ah! Ain’t that soundin’ good? Oh! Play it, man. Don’t I do that thing?
Ref: I heard the voice, etc.
Spoken: Aw! Ain’t that nice? Lord, it’s nice to be nice when you can be nice. (4)

One of the kings of the medicine show, Jim Jackson included a variety of songs in his recorded legacy and this one also has the air of minstrelsy about it. Jackson’s ‘Pork Chop’ is not so much a parody of the religious number as a brilliant adaptation of it into a quite subtle (at the time) protest song about starvation or at least a general lack of sufficient food, experienced by many of his black audience.  African Americans (and especially the working class - i.e. the majority of blacks) found themselves on the lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder.  Not only because of the evil racial system in the South which left them the ‘choice’ of low-paid, menial and/or dangerous jobs; but also their social services were sorely lacking in federal funding as this was often appropriated by the state legislature - for white schools, hospitals, etc. 





Jim Jackson LP cover on
Agram Records - 1970s

Jim Jackson may have got the idea for this song from a contemporary, songster and bluesman Sam Collins.  Born in Louisiana in 1887 (some 3 years younger than Jackson) Collins recorded quite extensively in 1927 and 1931.  At one of his earlier sessions he cut Pork Chop Blues [Gennett 6260] which had a definite medicine show-cum minstrelsy feel to it. 

1. I went out west about a year ago. I taken sick an’ I like to die;
Had the rheumatism all in my breast, tuberculosis all in my side.
2. I went to the doctor, doctor said: “Boy, what’s the matter with you?”
That doctor looked around at me; I said “Doctor, what I need?”
3. That doctor shook his head an’ said:
“You need the pork chop poultice an’ the stew an’ veg. in’ your stomach three times a day.”
4. If you had been doin’ all the time;
You’d-a been a healthy child today.
5. When a man gets sick an’ about to die;
  Stop in a swell café an’ get a chocolate pie.
  Pork chop poultice, stew an’ beans in your stomach three times a day.
6. Lord, some folks say that a preacher won’t steal;
  I caught two in my cornfield.
  They both had crocus sacks around their neck.
  Pork chop poultice, stew an’ beans in your stomach three times a day.
7. Need a pork chop poultice, stew an’ beans in your stomach three times a day.
  Do you know last winter when the time was tough?
  ‘Pork an’ beans’ in the kitchen was a-struttin’ ‘is stuff.
  Pork chop poultice, stew an’ beans in your stomach three times a day. (5)

The only other version of Pork Chop Blues I have come across was recorded some nine years later, in 1936.  Listed as by "The Two Charlies" it was reissued on a Charlie Jordan CD.  Yet THE Charlie Jordan is not present!  To the accompaniment of finely-meshed twin guitars they use most of Sam Collins’ lyric but omit the 6th. and 7th. verses.  They also introduce ‘Doctor Haigh’ and reveal the singer appearing to be living in an old school bus!

1. Folks, you oughta know, three weeks ago, I was sick an’ was about to die;
  I had a stomach trouble from missin’ my meals, I feel sore in my side.
2. Doctor Haigh came into the front of my bus an’ set down on my wheel;*
  An’ just about the time when mother walked in, this is the word he said.
  You need some pork chop poultice an’ some pork an’ beans, good greasy, [in your] stomach three times  a day.
3. If you had-a been doin’ three weeks ago;
  That boy been well today.
4. Well, a man is sick an’ about to die;
  Just mix ‘im up some of they potato pie.
   Hear the voice of a pork chop say, ‘Come unto me an’ rest’.
  (Spoken)  Yeah! (6)
  Repeat 1-4                       *=steering wheel

There are in fact another three songs entitled Pork Chop Blues

Table A    
Artist Recording Status Date/Location
Bessie Brown Columbia 14036-D 19/8/24. New York City
Lee Green Vocalion 1562 c. 6/11//30. Chicago
Funny Paper Smith Vocalion unissued 22/4/35. Fort Worth, Tex.

The earliest, by Bessie Brown, is a different song and a slow blues with fine tenor sax playing by a young Coleman Hawkins, ably backed up by Fletcher Henderson on lively piano. 

  Got to have my pork chops, if I don’t I’m simply lost. (x 2)
  Goin’ to have my pork chops an’ I don’t care what they cost.
  Goin’ to find a butcher with his pork chops, in my street;
  Goin’ to find a butcher with pork chops, that’s in my street.
  Tell ‘im when he sees me, let ‘im start to callin’ on me.  (7) 

This 1924 recording may well have sparked the imagination of Sam Collins or Jim Jackson some 4 years down the line.  The same comment applies to the Virginia Liston title You Can Dip Your Bread In My Gravy, But You Can’t Have None Of My Chops [OKeh 8218] made in the following year 1925. 

The next Pork Chop Blues, by Lee Green, is yet a third different song.  Green went by the pseudonym ‘Pork Chops’, ‘Pork Chop Jackson’/ ‘Johnson’, and ‘Pork Chop Green(e)’ [sic] (8) and is therefore his own blues.  It’s quite likely Green took his name from a  railroad freight as “ Pork Chops was an Illinois Central meat train out of Council Bluffs,” (9).  This was in Iowa and the Pork Chops ran eastward to Chicago.  Pianist Lee Green recorded many sessions from 1929 to 1937 in the Windy City.   

The song by ‘Funny Paper’ Smith might well be another version of the Collins saga.  Sadly, this must remain conjectural as this unissued Vocalion master (along with the remainder of this long session) was destroyed by the company as “the 1935 sessions were found to be faulty.” (10)   This affected a total of 18 sides.

Hogs were often ‘running in the streets’ according to observations that have been handed down to us from the earlier part of the 19th. Century.  This was true of cities like New York as well as those much further south.  So it is not surprising that some of this livestock found its way into the woods and forests where they soon became feral.  Thus giving access to the poorest section of the southern population as a basic source of their diet.  Indeed, hogs still roamed the streets of many a small rural town into the 1920s. 

These animals were cheap enough to maintain and many a poor black family would have a hog or a shoat – a recently weaned young pig – rooting around in their back yard.  Many of the (usually) white-owned plantations would keep any amount of hogs and 'hog-killing' time meant a big social gathering with music, food and drink as well as some work for blacks.  The animal was hung from a tree by its feet and then had its throat slit and left until all the blood had drained away.  As an unidentified ex-slave wrote “Hog-killing time was an annual festival.” (11)   The author noted: “ When the work was over, the fiddle and banjo inspired the inevitable dance and the songs of slavery were sung again.” (12)  The illustration below (from 1852) also depicts a percussionist playing a set of bones in each hand! 

Pork chops and pig meat generally became a staple in the diet of blacks in the South, after the Civil War in 1865. [Footnote 4]  These cuts of meat quite naturally entered into black song.  Thomas A. Dorsey (aka Georgia Tom) once described the term ‘pig meat’ as a reference to a young attractive woman - at least under 40 years old!  Female singers also used it in connection with good-looking young men.  Older people (both men and women) tried to keep up with “the young folks ways” - not always very successfully. 

  Now, folks may call you pig meat;
  You may be pig meat.
  But you built on a old hog’s frame.
  You go acorn hunting;
  Growlin’ an’ gruntin’.
  But the old hogs is rootin’ just the same.
  Folks may call you pig meat;  etc.
  You go before the butcher, you start-a put on your stunt;
  They can stick a knife in you an’ you won’t even grunt.
   You may be pig meat;  etc.  (13)  [Footnote 5]

Nor was it just blues singers who appropriated farmyard symbolism in the 1920s.  On the gospel side of the ‘blues coin’ Rev. Emmett Dickinson preached a mini-sermon on the hypocrisy of so-called Christians on Pig Or Pup (or, The Two-Faced Man) in 1930 [Gennett Ge 7145].  Taking his text from the First Book of Kings (18:21) Dickinson finishes his introduction: 

  You can’t serve God an’ Baal. ‘He that is not for me is against me’,
  saith the Lord. (Yes)
  You must be pig or pup. (Amen!)   (14)

Dickinson then goes into his unusual half-chanted, half-spoken subject.  After moralizing against wandering married men and women, he really gets in to his stride:

  I’m reminded of a preacher who asked one of his deacons one time.
  He said “Brother Jones, I want you to give me a shoat. That I might
  raise my own meat this fall.”
  He said “All right Reverend, just bring your sack an’ come over home.”
  An’ er, Deacon Jones gave ‘im a choice pig.
  An’ on his way back home he came down a back alley. (Yeah!)
  To stop in a back of a saloon to get ‘im a little drink.
  Some little devilish boys was watchin’ ‘im.
  They went an’ took the sack an’ shook the pig out.
  An’ put a pup in the sack. (Yeah!)
  Now, when ‘e rushed on out the door an’ grabbed the sack an’ started for home.
(Lord, have mercy!)
  He called his wife to come an’ see what a beautiful shoat he had.
  When ‘e shook it out in the pen, it was a poor little puppy.
  The nastiest I ever saw.
  So ‘e  just picked it up an’ started back to go an’ cuss Brother Jones
  out. (Yeah!)
  When ‘e got to the saloon he felt that he didn’t have enough spirit.
  So ‘e just stopped in to get another drink. (Amen!)
  Those same devilish boys saw ‘im. (Good Lord!)
  An’ shook the pup out an’ put the pig in.
  When ‘e got over to Deacon Jones to bawl ‘im out, (Oh! Yeah!)
  He just reached over in the pen to shake the pup out. (Yeah!)
  An’ ‘e shook out the pig. (Yeah!)
  He said “Now, if you goin’ to be pig-be pig. (Yeah!)
  If you’re goin’ to be pup-be pup.” .(15)

In my own summary, it is tempting to think that with the inclusion of the ‘I heard the voice of a pork chop’ verse by the Two Charlies, that maybe Jim Jackson’s song was ultimately derived from Sam Collins.  Or maybe this duo just decided to incorporate Jackson’s line into what was at least a related title.  Interestingly, the blues referred to by female singers here, treated the iconic pork chop as part of the rich sexual symbolism that runs through the Blues. Memphis Minnie’s Selling My Pork Chops [Bluebird B 66199] from 1935 is a further example which includes as part of the refrain, “but I’m givin’ my gravy away” (16)  Whereas the male singers are regaling the pork chop in a literal sense of its culinary delights, as Alec Johnson sang: 

  If I see a pork chop, Lord, I believe I pass away. (x 2)
  I ain’t had a square meal in many a doggone day.  (17)

(A possible research road to stroll down by somebody?).

Ó Max Haymes


1.   Dixon R.M.W.  J.Godrich. H.Rye p.966
2.   Ibid.  
3.   Ibid.  
4.   ‘I Heard The Voice of A Pork Chop’-Tk.1 Jim Jackson vo. gtr., speech;
30/1/28. Memphis, Tenn.
5.   ‘Pork Chop Blues’   Sam Collins vo.gtr. c. 17/9/27. Richmond,
Ind. or Chicago
6.   ‘Pork Chop Blues’ The Two Charlies:
  Charlie Manson vo.gtr.;
  Charlie Jordan gtr.
  10/4/36. New York City
7.   ‘Pork Chop Blues’ Bessie Brown vo.; Coleman Hawkins ten. sax;
  Fletcher Henderson pno. 19/8/24. New York City
8.    Dixon & co. Ibid. p.326
9.   Wheaton M. p.9
10.  Dixon & co. Ibid. p.825
11.  Gabriel R.H. (Ed.) p.160 (ex-slave quote)
12.  Ibid.   p.160
13. ‘Pig Meat Blues’ Georgia Tom vo. pno., whistling; ??Jones gtr.
  8/7/29. Richmond, Ind.
14.  ‘Pig Or Pup (or, The Two-Faced Man)’  Rev. Emmett Dickinson preaching, speech; two males speech; one female speech, shouts; unacc. 14/2/30. Richmond, Ind.
15.  Ibid.  
16.  ‘Selling My Pork Chops’   Memphis Minnie vo.gtr.; prob. Black Bob pno.;
  prob. Bill Settles bs. 31/10/35. Chicago.
[Footnote 6]
17.  ‘Miss Meal Cramp Blues’    Alec Johnson vo.; Joe McCoy gtr.; unk. pno.; Bo Chatmon vln.; Charlie McCoy mand. 2/11/28.
Atlanta, Ga.


Dixon Robert M.W. John Godrich. Howard Rye Blues & Gospel Records 1890-1943 4th. Ed. (rev.) (Clarendon Press. Oxford] 1997
Gabriel Ralph Henry The Pageant Of America Vol. III. (Toilers of Land and Sea)  (15 Vols.) [Yale University Press. New Haven & Oxford University Press. London] 1929.
Wheaton Melville (Ed.) All Aboard (Classic American Trains)
[Smithmark. New York] 1995
Discographical details from Dixon & co. Ibid.  

Additions/Corrections & Transcriptions by Max Haymes.
Website conversion by Alan White.

Footnote 1: See ‘Unknown Artists - Field Recordings by Milton Metfessel’ on the page quoted, for more detail of these ‘phonophotographic’ recordings.  Back

Footnote 2: In 1926 the Biddleville Quintette recorded the earliest commercial disc of the song as I Heard The Voice of Jesus Say Come Unto Me And Rest [Paramount 12396]. This and their virtually identical re-make in 1929, with the shortened title, also use the long-metre hymn style. Whereas the Mound City Jubilee Quartette gave a more upbeat, ‘modern’ version in 1935.  Back

Footnote 3: The issued Take 2 [Victor 21387] is almost identical in lyric and performance to this Take 1.  Back

Footnote 4: In slavery times, certainly on the larger plantations, often meat of any description was eked out in meagre rations to slaves; sometimes as little as 1lb. every month.  The nearest thing to a meat-based meal was usually bacon fat added to turnip or collard greens-officially!  Slaves often had to ‘steal’ a hog or chicken (from the ‘master’) which they had raised in the first place!  Although there were exceptions at traditional agricultural celebrations such as the aforementioned hog-killing and at corn-shucking time [more on this later] as well as Christmas, etc.  Back

Footnote 5: This is a different song from Pig Meat Blues [Paramount 12398] by Ardell “Shelley” Bragg which she recorded in 1926.  This latter title was covered by pianist Georgia White in 1936 and probably made more familiar to British collectors via versions by Leadbelly as Pig Meat Papa in 1935 and Pigmeat in 1943. And confusingly, Georgia Tom and Tampa Red ‘s Pig Meat Papa from 1929 is a another different song! There’s no copyright in song titles.  Back

Footnote 6: Casey Bill’s steel guitar is not audible, despite B.&G.R. (p.620).  Back

Website © Copyright 2000-2011 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.
Essay (this page) © Copyright 2008 Max Haymes. All rights reserved.
For further information please email:

Check out other essays here:

Home Page