The 1937 Flood Watch
The 1937 Flood Watch Podcast
"Corrina, Corrina"

"Corrina, Corrina"

#191 / March 24 Podcast

Known to Bob Dylan’s earliest fans as the B side of his first single, “Corrina, Corrina” appeared briefly in record stores in late 1962. However, versions of that wonderful 12-bar blues already had been rattling around America’s musical consciousness for at least a half century before that.

In 1918, Roger Graham published a song called “Has Anybody Seen My Corrine?” In the next decade, Corrina was being flirted with by Vernon Dalhart and Wilbur Sweatman, by Blind Lemon Jefferson and Bo Carter of the Mississippi Sheiks.

Corrina’s Mid-Life

In the 1930s and ‘40s, novelty, blues and even Western swing versions of Corrina-centric tunes were being released; then in the 1950s and ‘60s, assorted rock renditions arose, like Joe Turner’s in 1956 and Bill Haley’s in 1959, and, of course, wild man Jerry Lee Lewis’s in 1965.

But if you listen to any — or, well, all — of those versions, you won’t hear anything that sounds much like the soulful, thoughtful version that Bob Dylan recorded in October 1962 for his landmark Freewheelin’ album, his second Columbia Records release.

As Dylan told writer Nat Hentoff for the liner notes of that disc, “I’d never heard ‘Corrina, Corrina’ exactly the way it first was, so that this version is the way it came out of me.”

In a classic understatement, Phillippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon note in their authoritative Bob Dylan: All the Songs, “As always, his adaptation is very personal.”

The Blues Notes

Margotin and Guesdon point out that, while Dylan used most of the lyrics and structure from earlier versions of the song, he also borrowed a perfect line — “I got a bird that whistles, I got a bird that sings” — from the great blues innovator Robert Johnson’s 1937 “Stones in My Pathway.”

Dylan kept elements of Johnson’s melody, but goes for a much bluesier, more soulful vibe.

Meanwhile, “the shadow of another bluesman floats over this song” as well, the book continues, “another Johnson, named Lonnie.”

The authors quote Dylan as saying, “I was lucky to meet Lonnie Johnson at the same club I was working, and I must say he greatly influenced me. I used to watch him every chance I got, and sometimes he let me play with him.”

Early Electricity

Bob’s “Corrina, Corrina” is especially noteworthy to the Dylan community because it was his first recorded work with a band, though, of course, it was the barest bones of a band, just a bit of light drumming, bass and some tasteful solo electric guitar.

And of course, that solo guitar was famously played by Bruce Langhorne, the same Bruce Langhorne who was to reappear in the Dylan orbit three years later on Bringing It All Back Home. Heeeey, Mister Tambourine Man….

Folk Process

Ultimately, whether Dylan heard any of those earlier “Corrina” tunes is irrelevant, because what emerged from his work with the song is so different from its precursors that he could have copyrighted it for himself as it is more or less a new song and not a rearranged "traditional.”

Interestingly, Dylan’s version also added another chapter to the Corrina evolutionary story, because six years after that 1962 release, Taj Mahal used the Dylan formula to craft his own "Corrina" for his Natch’l Blues album: He built it around Robert Johnson lines and completely abandoned the context of all those Corrina originals.

Our Take on the Tune

Before we played this one at a recent rehearsal, we had a bit of conversation about all those more raucous renditions of “Corrina, Corrina” of our youth (and mom and dad’s youth…. of grandma’s youth…)

But then when we kicked off the song, we all just naturally dropped into the bluesy, moody groove that Dylan established. This is our first take on the tune, but it feels like it’s campaigning to be a regular in the repertoire. Stay tuned.

The Bob Dylan Playlist

By the way, as we’ve said before in Flood Watch, the richest, deepest vein of music we have ever mined has been Dylan’s extraordinary oeuvre. From The Flood’s earliest days to just last week, we have faithfully tapped into tunes from darn-near every era in Bob’s long career.

Last spring, to celebrate Dylan’s 81st birthday, we’ve put together a special hour of music in our free Radio Floodango music streaming feature that offers Flood performances from the past four decade. To check it out, click here.

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The 1937 Flood Watch
The 1937 Flood Watch Podcast
Each week The 1937 Flood, West Virginia's most eclectic string band, offers a free tune from a recent rehearsal, show or jam session. Music styles range from blues and jazz to folk, hokum, ballad and old-time. All the podcasts, dating back to 2008, are archived on our website; you and use the archive for free at: