Paul Jones – Flatfoot Sam [..with tab]

Background

It was Blues at The Fort, Portsmouth 2007 and the Good Doctor was in the backstage marquee with The Elevators. Three years earlier he was playing the same gig with The Blackjacks. ‘Who else is on the bill tonight?’ he asked. ‘Eddie Martin is after us,’ came the reply, ‘and The Blues Band are headlining.’ The Good Doctor smiled at the news; an excellent evening’s harpoonery lay ahead.

Then the Good Doctor’s thoughts rolled back to 1979 and radio reports of a new blues band that was taking the country by storm, featuring Paul Jones, former front man of Manfred Mann. It was a time when Punk Rock and New Wave were peaking on the UK music scene and live music gigs were where you still went to be cool. No MTV, no internet, no DVDs. The erupting live music scene had belched forth a number of red hot R&B bands. The Blues Band, 9 Below Zero, The Inmates and The Cheaters to name a few.

A year later, amidst great media interest, The Blues Band took the stage at the 1980 Knebworth Festival. The Good Doctor was in the crowd with the ‘naughty botty’ gang, ready for a musical feast which also featured Lindisfarne, Elkie Brooks, Santana and The Beach Boys. It was a fabulous day compered by Richard Digence and the bands were exceptional. After the festival, one song in particular stuck in the Doctor’s mental jukebox – Flatfoot Sam by The Blues Band. It was his favourite track on their Bootleg LP and just as good performed live.

Back in Portsmouth 2007, the Good Doctor sat down with his plate of chilli con carne and struck up a conversation with Paul Jones who was next to him at the table. Mr Jones proved affable and was quite open to conversation. ‘Any chance of hearing Flatfoot Sam tonight?’ enquired the Good Doctor mawkishly. ‘Oh I don’t know’, answered Mr Jones, ‘We haven’t played that one in a while!’. ‘Never mind’, replied the Good Doctor, ‘I just love the harp break in that number. It takes me back to Knebworth 1980.’ ‘I remember the gig very well,’ replied Mr Jones, ‘I was nervous as hell.’

Half an hour later, shortly before taking the Portsmouth stage, Mr Jones collared the Good Doctor and played the Flatfoot Sam harp break to him personally, followed by a brief history of the song. The Doctor stood there in awe and shock. That moment made his year. In fact it made his quarter century. What he’d heard on the radio and observed from afar so long ago had suddenly been performed one to one, just two feet away. Life’s like that.

Song history

Flatfoot Sam was written by Oscar Wills (born 1916) in 1957. Wills played guitar and fiddle, sang and produced records on his own Speed Label. His musical interest had been largely inspired by DeFord Bailey, Sonny Boy 2 and Guitar Slim. During the day he was a TV repairman – the job which gave rise to his musical pseudonym, TV Slim. His style was at the forefront of Texas country blues and New Orleans Rock and Roll and he recorded a wide collection of songs. His only real commercial hit however, was Flat Foot Sam (with Robert ‘Barefootin’ Parker on sax). In 1969, following a Chicago gig, Slim was driving home to LA but sadly died in a car crash en route in Arizona. TV Slim’s original recording of Flatfoot Sam has no harmonica part, only Sax.

So how did Paul Jones do it?

The song is in C but instead of playing 2nd position on an F harp, Paul Jones chooses 1st position on a C harp. This carries us out of mainstream blues licks and into some unfamiliar patterns which, when handled by the Maestro, deliver a series of really well crafted phrases. The following tab does not offer up any timing or rhythm, but it is a guide to the notes being played.

Tab Key: Plain numbers indicate draw notes. Numbers prefixed with a + symbol indicate blow notes. Bends are indicated by ‘ for first bend, ” for second , and “‘ for third bend respectively.

2D 3D”..3D’..3D 6B 5D 5D..6B..5B 4D..5B..4B 5B 6B 7B 8D..7D 6D..6D

7D..8D 7D..8D 7D..8D 7D..8D 7D..6D..6B..6D..6B 8D 8B..8B..8B 7D 7B..7B..7B 6B..6B 6D..6B 5B..4B

2D 3D”..3D’..3D 6B 5D 5D..6B..5B 4D..5B..4B 5B 6B 7B 8D..7D 6D..6D

7D..8D 7D..8D 8D 7B..7B 8D..7D..6D 6D 6B..5B 6B..6D’..6D 6B..5B..4D 4B 4B..4B 3D..6B 5B..4B

2D-3D-4D draw chord chug x four into 3D”..2D 2D-3D-4D draw chord chug x four into 3D”..2D

2D-3D-4D blow chord chug x four into 3D”..2D 2D-3D-4D blow chord chug x four into 3D”..2D

2D-3D-4D draw chord chug x four into 3D”..2D 2D-3D-4D draw chord chug x four into 3D”..2D

1B..1B 2B..2B 2D..2D 3D”..3D” 3D’..3D’ 3D”..3D” 2D..2D 2B.. 2B

2D-3D-4D draw chord chug x four into 3D”..2D 2D-3D-4D draw chord chug x four into 3D”..2D

2D-3D-4D blow chord chug x four into 3D”..2D 2D-3D-4D blow chord chug x four into 3D”..2D

3D”‘..3D”..3D”‘ 4D’..4D’..4D’ 4D-4D.. 5D 4D 3D”..3D'”..3B 3B..3B 4B..5B..6B 7B 8B..9B

Final flourish right at the end of the song..

4B 5B 6B 6D 7B (8B’)-8B 9B

Here’s a recording that includes the solo above (at 3:19), then embarks on a harping odyssey via a minor Stone Fox Chase, Carmen, Swan Lake, that bluegrass riff that Mark Feltham used on Riding on The L&N and Rockin’ Robin… be amazed at how deeply Paul Jones carves into first position harp playing and pulls out some fabulous licks.

2 thoughts on “Paul Jones – Flatfoot Sam [..with tab]

  • July 29, 2008 at 1:12 am
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    I love Tommy Blake’s rockabilly version of that song, on Sun.

  • July 31, 2008 at 9:34 am
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    It’s a great number. A version of the original is available on You Tube if you search out TV Slim. The recording has a couple of blips, but is great anyway. His voice reminds me of a cross between Paul Jones and Lazy Lester.

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