Lightnin’ Hopkins, “Bring Me My Shotgun”

Illustration by Courtney Spencer

Recordings about men shooting women, or at least wanting to, have been around for almost as long as recording has existed. While he wasn’t the first to sing about it, blues innovator Lightnin’ Hopkins created an enduring classic when he wrote and sang about shooting his female lover, or at least trying to, when he recorded “Bring Me My Shotgun.”

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Hopkins may have been inspired to write this song by recordings like Appalachian musician Clarence Ashley’s classic “Little Sadie,” or blues songs like Roosevelt Sykes’ “Forty-Four” or Robert Johnson’s “32-20 Blues.” Hopkins was already a legend-in-the-making by the time he recorded “Bring Me My Shotgun,” by most accounts in 1960. Young British musicians in those days, ahead of their white American counterparts, were discovering his innovative acoustic guitar accompaniment and vocals that bridged the gap between rural and urban blues. In “Bring Me My Shotgun,” Hopkins has had all he can take from a woman who is cheating on him with more than just one man when he sings, Go bring me my shotgun/ You know I just got to start shootin’ again/ You know I’m gonna shoot my woman/ Cause she’s foolin’ around with too many men. And he says “start shootin’ again,” so it sounds like maybe he’s been through this before.

This song’s theme would continue to be heard in rock and pop music, in songs like Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” (written by Billy Roberts), Led Zeppelin’s “Hats Off to (Roy) Harper,” and even Kenny Rogers and the First Edition’s “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” which was written by Mel Tillis. And that’s not counting any number of rap and hip-hop songs. Hopkins cut more than one version of this song, sort of, as he also recorded a song called “Shotgun Blues” that uses some of the same lyrics. Which may have confused the Grateful Dead’s Ron “Pigpen” McKernan when he recorded a song called “Bring Me My Shotgun” while using the lyrics of “Shotgun Blues.” For those of you who are tired of violence in music, you’ll be happy to know that, in the end, no one dies, as Hopkins sings, the only reason I don’t shoot you little woman/ My double barrel shotgun, it just won’t fire.

Hopkins was possibly the most prolific blues artist ever, recording hundreds and hundreds of songs. It’s a testament to his influence overall that so many of what are today’s aging rock/blues stars, as well as folk musicians and writers like his fellow Texan Townes Van Zandt, were inspired enough by his work to start their own careers and sometimes record his songs. Even among today’s younger artists, you can find YouTube videos of alt-rockers Deer Tick performing “Bring Me My Shotgun.”

Hopkins’ “Bring Me My Shotgun” can be heard on the usual streaming music sites, on the vinyl LP Bring Me My Shotgun – The Essential Collection, or on the CD Bring Me My Shotgun.

Read the lyrics. 

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