Language of the Blues: "ASHES HAULED"

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2019 Beth Hart wide
Sleepy John Estes
Sleepy John Estes

Another installment in our new 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 Wednesday for the latest!

Sleepy John Estes had a real problem back in 1929, according to his recording of “The Girl I Love, She Got Long Curly Hair.” His girlfriend wasn’t putting out, thanks to her vigilant parents.

Now, the girl I’m lovin’
She got the great long, curly hair
Now, the girl I’m lovin’
She’s got the great long, curly hair
And her mama and her papa
They sure don’t allow me there

When Estes sang “I need my ashes hauled” in the next verse, he was expressing the less-than-romantic sentiment that he was feeling backed up—sexually speaking.

Needing to get one’s ashes hauled stems from the longstanding notion that men “need” to visit prostitutes in order to “empty the trash.” This justification reflects a medical idea dating back to the Middle Ages that “semen must be regularly vented to prevent a poisonous accumulation,” according to The Slanguage of Sex by Brigid McConville and and John Shearlaw.

Getting one’s ashes hauled does not necessarily require participating in sexual intercourse. Any sexual act that leads to the desired result will do.

And, hey, the ladies need to get their ashes hauled, too, as Hattie Hart and Lucille Bogan remind us in “I Let My Daddy Do That” and “Tired As I Can Be,” respectively. Check out the video!

 

Pick up a copy of The Language of the Blues: From Alcorub to Zuzu (Foreword by Dr. John) at Amazon