In the history of rock ‘n roll and rhythm and blues there are few songs as important then That’s Alright Mama. It was the first hit record released by Elvis Presley on Sam Phillips’ Sun Records, but Elvis was not the first to do the tune. That distinction belongs to Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup who, borrowing ideas from Blind Lemon Jefferson, wrote and recorded the tune in 1946. I’ve heard both versions of the song and they are very similar. Elvis didn’t wander too far from Crudup’s tree with his version.
I have a friend in France who is a wonderful cigar box guitar player, singer, and video editor. He performs under the name Delbarjo and I’ve featured some of his videos on this site before. To my ear Delbarjo has an understanding of the blues that came straight out of the Mississippi Delta. Since I first became aware of him I have watched and rewatched all of his YouTube videos and never tire of his style and try to patiently wait for him to come up with something new.
Well, my most recent wait has been answered. Today he uploaded a new video covering Crudup’s That’s Alright Mama in a style far different from that of Crudup or Presley. It’s much slower, blusier, and raw. Just what I’d expect to hear if this was 1940 and I was sitting on the front porch of a Delta plantation shack. The guitar work is exemplary, especially given he is playing a simple 3-string instrument based on a discarded guitar box.
Many thanks to Delbarjo to my ear his version of this classic is the best yet. I’ve included videos of both Delbarjo’s and Crudup’s takes.
Arthur Crudup’s original version from 1946.