by David Hamburger

Video guitar lesson, part 1:

Click here for Part 1 of the “Talk to Your Daughter” tab.

Video guitar lesson, part 2:

Click here for Part 2 of the “Talk to Your Daughter” tab.

Some songs don’t go back that far, but have still cut a wide swath through the blues world. Then again, “so far” is relative. J.B. Lenoir recorded his “Talk To Your Daughter” in 1954, just as postwar Chicago blues was about to really hit its stride. That puts the song’s origins a good twenty to twenty-five years after the making of anything by Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson or the dozens of other prewar guitar-playing singers whose repertoire has been such a critical part of rock ‘n roll, largely by way of said Chicago blues heyday as filtered through the tail end of the Folk revival era and the British Invasion.

My own first encounter with “Talk To Your Daughter” was as the title track to Robben Ford’s 1988 solo album. Ford had been working for years already in any number of contexts, and had already recorded one blues classic as Jimmy Witherspoon’s sideman, Live: Jimmy Witherspoon and Robben Ford. But with Talk To Your Daughter Ford seemed to be saying, “yeah, it’s been fun and all palling around with Larry Carlton, cutting sessions in LA and wasting my time with – who’s that trumpet guy? Davis, Miles Davis, but what I really want to do is direct. I mean – I’d settle for making a real blues album, where I get to sing and everything, too.” While there’s footage of him playing it live as recently as 2009, here’s one from the year his record came out:

For a completely different angle that still swings like crazy, check out New Orleans singer and guitarist Snooks Eaglin’s 1985 trio version. In particular, it’s a lesson in how to hold it all together with just bass and drums, as Eaglin brings in jump-blues style chord hits during his second solo chorus that push the energy level over the top while threading the feel of the solo and the vocal verses together.

1960s bluesman Magic Sam’s version drew directly from J.B. Lenoir’s groove but clearly brought a hip, young West Side energy to the song. (Fellow Chicagoan Hound Dog Taylor would cover the song as well, though you’ll have to hunt up some audio on your own for that.)

Like any self-respecting iconic blues song, “Talk To Your Daughter” has also made it into the mainstream rock repertoire, being covered by Thin Lizzy as a tour encore in the 1970s and in true guitar-hero fashion by Johnny Winter, at Woodstock, no less:

Let’s conclude, however, at the source – here’s J.B. Lenoir laying down the original “Talk To Your Daughter,” recorded for the Parrot label in 1954. Acoustic guitar, drums and vocals, and you gotta love the way the drums just kind of collapse into place at the end of the first bar, and how Lenoir vamps on the I chord for the solo. What makes it especially cool and what, perhaps, has contributed to its longetivity, is that, like some of Willie Dixon’s best tunes, it has an actual verse/chorus structure, with the repeated “talk to your daughter” giving the song a lyric hook that’ s more like a pop song.

By way of an epilogue, here’s contemporary bluesman Alvin Youngblood Hart bringing things nearly full circle with a solo take on Lenoir’s certified classic: