Robert Petway

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Now this really is the core of Petway's discography — the starting kernel. It's arguably the 1st complete version of putting together the famous Catfish Blues lyrics, and done with a rhythmic style that is as rare as it is filled with cutting precision.

Speaking about the rhythm, that pulsing, driving beat - with a light but incisive, biting touch - is so unseen in nearly any other recording of other artists. It's quite unique, and not just unique but wonderfully executed. Almost as if his right hand is just bouncing in perfect time on the strings.

Next, the patterns that he plays with his left hand — the set moves, are excellent. Beautiful shapes, and biting tones and harmonies that fit the style so well.

Overall, it's fitting that this is the classic version of Catfish Blues, despite Muddy's version being so renowned and well done also. It's probably deserving for this recording to be among the top blues recordings of the day, alongside Crossroads, and others.

This song was recorded in 28 March 1941, for the Bluebird B8838 label, at its Chicago, Illinois studio
To get your guitar setup,
  • tune to Standard — EADGBE
  • capo up to fret number 3rd Fret
Here's the link to the original recording, and here is a link to the song tabs (which aren't perfect but hopefully help)!

Well I laid down, down last night, well I tried to take my rest
Notion struck me last night, babe I, I believe I take a stroll out, out west
Take a stroll out, out west, take a stroll out, out west
Take a stroll out west, take a stroll out west

What if I were a catfish, mama?
I said, swimmin’ deep down in, deep blue sea
Have these gals now, sweet mama, settin’ out
Settin’ out hooks for, for me, settin’ out hook for, for me
Settin’ out hook for, for me, settin’ out hook for me
Settin’ out hook for me, settin’ out hook for me

Well I went down, yeah, down to the church house, yes
Well I called on me to pray
Fell on my knees, now mama, I didn’t know, Lord
Not a word to, to say, not a word to, to say, not a word to
Not a word to, not a word to say, not a word to say, not a word to say

Play ’em, man, play ’em a long time

I’m gonna write, write me a letter baby, I’m gonna write it just to see
See my babe, my baby who she’s thinkin’ of
Little ol’ thing on, on me, little ol’ thing on, on me, little ol’ thing on, on me
Little ol’ thing on me, little ol’ thing on me, a little thing on me

About the player

When speaking of major, unsung influences on America’s music, Robert Petway is without doubt a top contender. Aside from being the first to cut the blues standard “Catfish Blues” to wax, thus paving the way for subsequent renditions by Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Jimi Hendrix, and more, Petway had a fabulous guitar/vocal style well in his own right -- much in thanks to his influences as Mississippi legend Charley Patton and best friend Tommy McLennan.

Both Petway and McLennan, with a similar style of country blues, recorded a chock full of incredible music for the illustrious Bluebird label: a Victor subsidiary run by Lester Melrose who also made the likes of John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson (the OG Sonny Boy), Big Joe Williams, Jazz Gillum, and Washboard Sam into full-fledged recording stars.

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