This is the latest installment in our weekly series entitled, The Language of the Blues, where author and rocker Debra Devi focuses on the meaning and significance of a unique word used in blues song. Come back every week for the latest! Devi’s The Language of the Blues: From Alcorub to ZuZu is now available at Bluescentric.com!
The blues is loaded with culinary references to sex- this is a form of signifying, which is the use of innuendo and doubletalk that is fully understood only by members of one’s community. Countless blues lyrics use metaphor and innuendo to allow the singer to brag about physical attributes and sexual prowess, and state all kinds of desires, without uttering a single profane or off-color word. That’s good signifying.
In this way, a delicate flaky biscuit dripping with butter and honey becomes a metaphor for a delectable young woman, and her skillful lover is called a biscuit roller.
A biscuit roller can be male or female, though, as evidenced by Robert Johnson’s lyric from “If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day”:
I rolled and I tumbled and I cried the whole night long
Boy I woke up this morning, my biscuit roller gone
In the 1930s and 1940s the word biscuit was also used to refer to a human skull, or even one’s pillow.
The King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas, by the way, has nothing to do with any of these meanings for biscuit. It’s named after the King Biscuit Flour Company, which used to sponsor the famous King Biscuit Time radio program.
“Biscuit Roller Blues”- Kokomo Arnold (James Arnold)
“If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day”- Robert Johnson
“Big Mama’s Door”- Alvin Youngblood Hart
“Biscuit Roller Blues” – Kokomo Arnold
“If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day” – Robert Johnson
“Big Mama’s Door” –Alvin Youngblood Hart, The Blues Kitchen Sessions