Extra Credit: 1914 Blues Challenge

Listener Challenge

Thursday, May 08, 2014 - 11:58 AM

Sheet music for The Yellow Dog Blues by W.C. Handy (Public Domain)

W.C. Handy was called “the father of the blues” — he gave himself the title and put it on his letterhead. It wasn’t an idle boast. The son of former slaves raised in a log cabin, Handy became a major force in music publishing. He was the first to publish a body of songs identified as blues, based on lyrics and melodies he heard in black Southern communities. If he didn’t father the blues, he took it under his wing, introduced it to the rest of America, and made it a star.

Two of his biggest hits, “St. Louis Blues” and “Yellow Dog Blues,” were published in 1914, making the year a turning point in the history of the blues. In honor of the songs’ centennial, your assignment is to create your own version of “Yellow Dog Blues.”

We'll feature our favorites, and crown a winner, on the show.

UPDATE 6/27: Marc Anthony Thompson has chosen two winners.

Thanks to everyone who participated!


→ STEP 1: Learn "Yellow Dog Blues"

Download the sheet music HERE.

→ STEP 2: Record your own version
of the song
Cover the song in any style, with any instrumentation; as traditional or as radically different as you'd like.

→ STEP 3: Upload the audio file

Send us your version

In the Description for your track, make sure to tell us:

  • Your name and/or band name
  • Where you're from

By uploading your track, you are representing to us that you have the right to post it (every performer is okay with your doing so), and, if any performers are under 18, that each one has permission from a parent or guardian to do so.

You should also make sure to follow the SoundCloud Terms of Use.

→ STEP 4: Listen to and comment on other people's covers


Questions? Post them below or
e-mail us.

Thanks for participating — we're excited to hear your covers!


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Comments [23]

Jason Dake from Traverse City, MI

My station always plays reruns and I always miss the deadlines for these great competitions. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Jun. 18 2014 09:42 AM
Brandon Terzic from BROOKLYN REPRESENT!!!!!!!!

Cannot wait to hear everybodies interpretation---I am doing a version with Rabbits foot--Featuring Pyeng Threadgill and Tim Keiper....

Jun. 16 2014 09:56 PM
man_on_an_island from New York

So i finally got my nutty interpretation up there!


Hope it makes someone grin :-)

Jun. 16 2014 01:55 PM
Herman Dexter from NJ USA

HI---we recorded a version of the song ONLINE using the Ohm Studio recording software ( http://www.ohmstudio.com ).. 3 guys from the USA and one from France. Our submission is https://soundcloud.com/herm-dexter/yellow-dog-blues

Thanks for listening!

Jun. 11 2014 08:43 PM
Debra Devi from Jersey City, NJ

If you'd like to find out what the line "He's gone where the Southern cross the Yellow Dog" means, check out my book THE LANGUAGE OF THE BLUES: FROM ALCORUB TO ZUZU (Foreword by Dr. John). Can't wait to hear your versions of the tune!

Jun. 11 2014 10:46 AM
Alana from Studio 360

Hi Bob,

To upload your track, click on the Soundcloud DropBox link above (it's under Step 3) and once the page opens, click "Upload to group" to send us your file. You'll need a Soundcloud account to upload, but you don't have to join the group. (You're welcome to though!)

Looking forward to hearing your cover!

Jun. 05 2014 12:20 PM
Ramblin Bob from Kingston WA

I'm going to try and enter the contest, I've registered on soundcloud but I don' get how my uploaded post gets from soundcloud to you guys. Do I need to join the group or is there something that tells me where to send it after it's uploaded or is Studio 360 searching for Yellow Dogs? Thanks for any help this is my first foray into recording and posting my "hard listening" style of music. Thanks, Bob

Jun. 04 2014 12:40 PM


Unfortunately, part of the problem with the original recording is that it was recorded to tape and sounds like the tape machine wasn't running at the right speed during the time of recording, so her version is slightly slower than it should be. As a result, the key of Eb that the song is in is actually shifted down a few cents to notes that are slightly below what is considered "standard." To record anything to her vocals, you'd have to tune EVERY instrument down ever so slightly to match the pitch shifting that happened on the original tape. Either that, or speed her vocal up. Additionally, this was all done as a "live performance" recording and there's a lot of drifting around the beat, so it would be next to impossible to try and feel the beat like she was.

A similar problem happened with the original Miles Davis 'Kind of Blue' sessions. For years, the album was always slightly slower than it was originally performed and modern performers had trouble playing along/deciphering what the notes were. They recently reissued it at the "right" speed.

Jun. 04 2014 12:38 PM
man_on_an_island from new york

would be great to be able to get her orig vocals without the music then create the new sound for her 'underneath' them. just sayin is all :-)

Jun. 03 2014 01:43 PM
Jenny from Studio 360

Sarah -- great! Looking forward to hearing your version.

Jun. 02 2014 05:20 PM
SarahKimball from NYC

Jenny, I was able to convert the pdf to Word and then was able to print it so I fixed my issue. Thanks for checking tho! Great contest and wonderful entries so far. Fun!

Jun. 02 2014 01:10 PM
Jenny from Studio 360

MD -- We just updated the SoundCloud page (thanks for the tip). The new official deadline is June 16.
Sarah -- I haven't been able to reproduce the problem you describe. Which browser are you using?

Jun. 02 2014 11:29 AM
Gene Caprioglio from LIC, Queens, NY

To Edmanwalkin and anyone else that cares: Yellow Dog Blues is in the public domain, no licensing necessary.

Jun. 01 2014 02:10 PM
MD from

Is the deadline June 1st or june 16th? The soundcloud page lists a different date than the one on this page. Just want to be sure!

May. 31 2014 10:14 PM
Sarah Kimball from NYC

Hi ... I'm having trouble downloading the music. I click the link to the PDF and it appears to download and save on my computer but then it won't print?? Any pointers on getting it to print?

May. 28 2014 05:18 PM
Jenny from Studio 360

Hi edmanwalkin --
To participate in the challenge, you'll need to upload your recording to SoundCloud -- their Terms of Use apply for all uploaded tracks. The Grant of License section should be useful in answering your question -- you can find that here: https://soundcloud.com/terms-of-use#grant-of-li....
Thanks for taking part in our challenge!

May. 25 2014 05:42 PM

I have recorded "Yellow Dog Blues". Does Studio 360 take care of my licensing on SoundCloud?

May. 25 2014 04:13 PM
Celeste Di Iorio from Fort Collins, CO

Love Cary Morin's version of Yellow Dog Blues -fantastic!

May. 24 2014 09:34 PM
Jenny from Studio 360

Hi Eric -- you should feel free to cover the song in any key, style, instrumentation you'd like!
Looking forward to hearing your entry.
And thanks everyone here who's already participated!

May. 24 2014 01:01 PM
Cary Morin from Fort Collins Colorado

Here is my version of Yellow Dog Blues recorded in a construction zone. Plenty of noise, hope you like it.


May. 22 2014 04:29 PM
Eric Grosch from Tampa, Florida

The sheet music for Yellow Dog Blues is in the key of D, partly major, partly minor. Bessie Smith recorded it in the key of Ab, partly major, partly minor. Does that mean that contestants are free to use any key too?

May. 22 2014 10:53 AM

Why do white ppl luuuuuuuuve Blues music? I have my theory but would like to hear from a person of European heritage.
Why not celebrate the great vocals of Bessie Smith singing that song! When white ppl heard her voice in the early 20th century I can understand why they fell in love with The Blues. White women tried belting ( Sophie Tucker ) like Bessie but B had it till she died. The footage of Bessie Smith singing "Saint Louie Blues" has been determined by some critics to have been when she was losing her vocal shops. REALLY!!

May. 20 2014 06:38 PM
City of Light from Texas

Hey All,
I just posted my version here.
Hope ya dig

May. 18 2014 10:52 PM

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