"912 Greens" lyrics - RAMBLIN' JACK ELLIOTT

"912 Greens"

[Version 1 from Young Brigham (1968)]

Around about 1953 I went down to New Orleans
Perhaps I should say many years ago
It was in the summer time
I went down there with Frank and Guy
We sang and bust our way through the Smoky Mountains
And on down to New Orleans

And while we were down there, we had a name of a fella to look up
Billy Fair was a five-string banjo picker
Lived in a house called 912 Toulouse Street
And the way we found him, well that was a whole 'nother song
Let's just say we found Billy Fair
And he took us over there to 912 Toulouse Street

The only entrance I knew to this place
Was over a back fence up an alley
And over a fence, by some garbage cans, look out for that rusty nail
Now you're up, now you're over
And there was a cement over patio
With a pave of concrete, with a banana tree in the middle it
Well, I never did see no banana hanging on it
As they said it was a banana tree
And a wooden staircase leading up to a wooden balcony
That connected all the various different musicians
And different various pads
And a grey cat with three legs named Grey
That used to lope along and fall down
'Cause Grey he had a stroke, couldn't run too good on them three legs no how

It was very hot there and humid in August
What with the wind coming off the Mrs Miller River by the Jack's Brewery
And around towards sundown, the weather broke and the
To a tropical rainstorm and the rain came

And there was this girl there who had once been an ex-ballet dancer
And she took all her clothes off and danced around in the rain
Around the banana tree, around and around
And I followed suit

Until the rain stopped
So naturally everybody ran indoors
And we sat around drinking Billy Fair's wine
And getting acquainted till it was almost sun-up
And as day started breaking, everybody start splitting
Over that back alley fence
Which was the only entrance I ever knew to that place
And I split too

Stayed around three weeks in New Orleans
Never did see the light of day
And I never have been back

Did you ever, stand and shiver
Just because you were, looking at a river

[Version 2 from Kerouac's Last Dream (1981)]

Here come this little blue car, I think it was a Plymouth
All the way from L.A. into New York town and
I was fooling around in Washington Square Park playing guitar
There was fiddles and banjos and mandolins
Everybody was singing songs

One Sunday afternoon, Guy and Frank
They came in this little car
They were on their way to North Carolina
Said they's going down there to hear some live music
And they invited me to come along on their trip
Threw my guitar in the back seat and we took off down Highway 301
Past Richmond, down across the North Carolina line
Guy's uncle lived on a farm near the ocean
On the coast of North Carolina
Neighbor was a fisherman, took us out on his boat
And we went shrimp fishing
We caught some shrimp, mostly we caught some sunburn
Got back just in time for dinner

Boy, was that good, Southern cooking
Black eyed peas, corn bread, oakry, buttered beans
After the dinner, dishes were put away
We're sitting on the porch watching a thunder shower
And Frank he pulled out his guitar
Started playing a weird song about California
I asked him about it the next morning as we were heading west
Heading for the Smoky Mountains
Frank was in the back seat practicing the banjo
Said "Hey Frank, what was that song you played yesterday?"
And he said it was the South Coast
So I asked him if he'd play it
No, wouldn't play it, couldn't play it
And he didn't play it for about four days till we had another thunder shower
It's just that kind of a song, I guess

By this time we were clear over Tennessee
We saw the Grand Old Opry, met Grandpa Jones
Met Earl Skruggs too
And we got back in our car and headed over to the Mississippi River
Headed south down to New Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana
We had the name of a guy to look up there, he's a banjo picker
Billy Fair, looked him up in a telephone directory
But we wasn't there
So we parked the car and took to the streets
Down Bourbon Street, up Rue Royale
Ended up down at the Waterfront
Near the Mrs Miller River there in a cafe
There was Billy, drinking a coffee
He invited us over to his pad which was located at 912 Toulouse
Just a short walk up the street and up a back alley
And over a board fence
Up over a garbage can lid and over the fence
And down you go landing lightly on your feet
For there's concrete in the patio
And there's a banana tree there, I think it was a banana tree
Had a lot of bananas hanging on it

And a three legged cat
He sat there on the stairs like it was guarding something
I ran past the cat and I went upstairs
It was a dark room, I went inside the room
There was a chair in there that was carved out of an old Mexican palm tree
And Jack Kerouac had sat in that chair
Only a month before down in Mexico
Don't ask me how I knew that
I just knew that, I sat down in the chair
Composed a ballad about Jack Kerouac, sitting in that chair
Then it started raining, I got up and went outside
Standing on the balcony over the patio, smelling the air
A delicious smell of mean fall in New Orleans
Everybody went inside and started picking the banjo
Guitar, singing songs, telling stories, getting acquainted
Before you know it the sun came up, everybody split
I guess they didn't want to be caught out in that hot New Orleans sun
Went out over that back fence
Didn't seem to be no front door on the place
We all ended up in a bar down in the Waterfront
With John Truman telling stories about the Merchant Marine
And ships and the sea for three and a half days
One night after that story, I decided to ship out

Ship out around the world
Went down to the Merchant Marine, NMU hall
Come to get our seamen papers
Well, in order to get your seamen's paper you got to get a letter
From the ship owner, to the Union
And get a letter from the Union to the Coast Guard
Get a letter from the Coast Guard to the Union
To get a letter from the Coast Guard to the ship owner
To get a letter from the ship owner to the Union
To get a letter from the Union to the ship owner
Get a letter from the Union to the Coast Guard
So it said "Frick it!", we'll build our own ship

Did you ever, stand and shiver
Just because, you were looking at a river