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← PreviousNext →Bam-a-Lam: The man Behind lamb Jam’s “Black Betty”

Many world are well-aware of the standard rock one-hit wonder “Black Betty” by ram Jam and its tradition in film, television, advertisements, and also other develops of popular culture entertainment. Personally, I fairly enjoy the song and I find it to have a great percussive groove and a attractive melody through some rather amazing rhythmic modulations and shifts. (Link listed below in case you might not be acquainted with the song)

Ram Jam – black Betty (Official Audio)

However, no many world might no be aware of that is origins, specifically in the paper definition of black American music. Ram Jam did credit the blues and folk artist Leadbelly for the origin of your cover and also it to be advertised as a cover, as have the right to be watched by Richard Cromelin’s blended review of ram Jam’s concert in ~ the Starwood in Los Angeles <1>:


While Leadbelly has been generally credited together such, that cannot totally take credit transaction for miscellaneous he videotaped as a people artist, together Henry Edward Krehbiel suggested that individual songs needed to it is in birthed initially by a group of civilization rather than an individual artist <2>. The resource of the song is routinely contested as well as the original definition of what a “Black Betty” might have been, even if it is it be things or a person. Some sources insurance claim “Black Betty” can have been provided as early as the start of the 19th century to explain a musket or a liquor bottle, and it is an extremely plausible those might be meanings that would be used to the black color Betty in the song. One source I found an especially interesting was our favorite folk song collectors, John and Alan Lomax.

You are watching: Ram jam black betty other recordings of this song

In their repertoire of songs of the southerly chain gangs, the Lomaxes recorded “Black Betty” sung by “a judge on the Darrington farm in Texas” and also what they construed “Black Betty” was:

“Black Betty is not an additional Frankie, nor yet a two-timing woman that a man can moan his blues about. She is the whip the was and is provided in some southern prisons… where <…> whipping has actually been practically discontiuned…” <3>

Being the Leadbelly was additionally a member that Texas jail chain gangs, its an extremely plausible that he learned the song and also many rather there, and there may additionally be a trace that might be investigated further into the musics that enslaved blacks in the US. Therefore, this displayed a rather interesting transmission of music indigenous a possible origin in servant songs come white musicians choose Ram Jam. Lock did regulate to provide credit come the artist who had actually a critical recording, i beg your pardon I uncover to it is in at the very least somewhat mindful on their initiatives as recording artists in the American famous music scene, but it need to be precious noting the influence of black people music that was felt together late together the 1970s and that we are likely still emotion today.


<1> Cromelin, “Ram Jam at the Starwood”

<2> Krehbiel, “Songs of the American Slaves,” 22

<3> J.A. Lomax, A. Lomax, “American Ballads & people Songs,” 60


Cromelin, Richard. “Ram Jam in ~ the Starwood.” Los Angeles time (1923-1995), Nov 12, 1977. 1,

Krehbiel, Henry Edward. “Songs the the American Slaves” in Afro-American Folksongs: A study in Racial and National Music (New York: Frederick Ungar posting Co., 1914), 11-28.

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Lomax, man A., Lomax, Alan. “Songs from southern Chain Gangs” in American Ballads & folk Songs (New York: Macmillan Co., 1935), 57-86.