published Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Roberts: Buford, Effie Mae inspire a song


by Dalton Roberts

I have always been a sucker for a good story. The late Ralph Barger, commissioner representing Red Bank and the north end of the county, always had a basketful and was notoriously ready to pull one out. I am reluctant to tell one of his stories because anyone who knew him knows how good he was. He told me one that ended up being the inspiration for “Undertaker Blues,” one of my favorites on my blues CD.

In the story, Buford and Effie Mae (false names to protect the innocent and cut the guilty some slack) are married. If these names seem far out, bear in mind that the real names Ralph gave me were just as hard to believe.

Effie Mae may have known right from the start that she had made a mistake because Buford headed for a place of alcohol consumption as soon as he got off from work every day. However, he hit the floor the next morning and went to work.

It is entirely possible that Effie knew Buford’s lifestyle and thought she could change him. Women are prone to believe they have such magic powers. However, for 25 years Buford never missed a night at the tavern, and in those same 25 years, Effie never missed a church service. She would always request prayer for Buford.

Finally, Buford came home one night and woke her up, begging, “Get up and pray for me, darling. I’m sick as a dog.” She could tell his main problem was the booze, but nevertheless she knelt by the bed and beseeched the Almighty in behalf of her husband.

“Lord,” she began as she slipped her arm around Buford, “you know how many years I have prayed for Buford and tonight, at last, he has come home sick and drunk and requested prayer.”

Buford elbowed her and said, “Don’t tell him I’m drunk. Just tell him I’m sick.”

It was not hard to extrapolate this story into a conversation between Buford and the undertaker, as you can see from the song:

Undertaker don’t embalm me

I’ve done taken care of that

Undertaker don’t embalm me

I’ve done taken care of that.

But I do owe the bootlegger two hundred

So sing a song and pass the hat

I don’t want no preacher

Talking over this bag of bones

I don’t want no preacher

Talking over this old bag of bones

Just hug all the lovely ladies

And buy the children ice cream cones

Now don’t say I’ve gone to heaven

I don’t want no angel wings

Don’t say I’ve gone to heaven

I don’t want no angel wings

I don’t think I’d like it there anyway

’Cause they ain’t got no beans and greens

Don’t you say the devil’s got me

We both know that’s just some bull

Don’t say the devil’s got me

We both know that’s just some bull

With all them politicians and TV preachers

That place is already standing full

If you must do an autopsy

Tell my wife a little lie

Undertaker if you must do an autopsy

Tell my wife a little lie

Tell her my liver’s perfect

And you can’t determine why I died

  • Printed with permission, Happy Doghouse Music.
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