“You know why Elephants don’t smoke? Because they can’t get their butts in the ashtray!”
Born in Fitzgerald, Georgia in 1921 Abner Jay was a multi-instrumentalist best known for performing eccentric, blues-infused folk. Playing as a one-man band his idiosyncratic lyrics and style has been considered within the realm of outsider music. As a child he was introduced to a vast repertoire of old-time folk songs by his banjo-playing grandfather and at the age of 5 Abner began playing in medicine shows. In 1932 he joined the Silas Green (New Orleans) Minstrel Show and then went on to lead the WMAZ Minstrels on Macon radio from 1945-1956 before going solo. He then spent many years travelling the American South, playing concerts from his “converted mobile home that opened up into a portable stage, complete with amplification and home furnishings”. These concerts, as evidenced in his recordings, were often equal parts spoken word (jokes, philosophical asides, rants) and music.
Common instruments of Jay’s recordings included the harmonica, drum kit a six string banjo (that Jay claimed was made in 1748) and bones! The bones of chickens and cows that had been bleached in the sun to use as percussion. No wonder his sound is so authentic and unique!
Lyrically Jay’s songs fearlessly tackled the racial stereotypes and through his music he was somehow able to exorcise the pain of his ancestry. I’m So Depressed demonstrates his plight with heart-wrenching conviction as he retells how he “was born during the hard depression days…My folks were sharecroppers/We had nothing, we had nothing, we had nothing/But grasshoppers/Looking back over my life/O lord, I’m so depressed.” Looking for resolve and love to alleviate the pain he ends the song by tenderly singing, “Come on, baby, rub my head, Rub my head while I lay down in my bed, Kiss, kiss me, kiss me, baby, ‘Til I feel alright, ’til I feel alright,Oh, looking back over my life,,,”
It’s a haunting little beauty that was first featured on Jay’s 1968 record, Terrible Comedy Blues. Check it out above.