SHEDNOTES 52: Last Clean Shirt and some other good things

Three opinions into its 100-day election commentary, The Shed has been taking a break.
It voted to spend a wet afternoon uploading some old notes on Last Clean Shirt, a hilariously rueful lament for Brother Bill, performed by Rufus Thomas on a couple of 1990s albums. We’ve got it on a Stax retrospective.
Bro Bill’s last clean shirt had to be put on him for his funeral because he could never resist the urge to straighten out other people’s problems. There is a fair bit of blues and country on the same theme – if it ain’t your business, don’t make it your business. Actually, we could do with them all being played right now.
The Shed can get the Rufus track for you and it will be added in here when the techies are in. We would normally offer a YouTube link, but there doesn’t seem to be one, which is rare. However, the search is complicated by the fact there is, amazingly, at least one other Brother Bill wearing his last clean shirt, although apparently not dead yet, written by Leiber and Stoller in 1964 and recorded by many. The Rufus Thomas chant is credited at to both Trad and Thomas, so probably a bit of both, and The Shed can’t find another version of it, although there surely must be one.
We did find a song about putting the last clean shirt on Leroy Jones, YouTubed at

by Shirley of Shirley and Lee, post Lee. Still not sure if that is related to one of the others, but it’s not obviously the Rufus Thomas story. Please discuss.
While investigating the other Brother Bill, The Shed came across a version of him by Eric Burdon & The Animals on a 1976 post-California album called Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted, which sounded terrific even though it was not what we were after. Check out Eric’s soulful Baby Blue and Many Rivers To Cross and catch up on him some more is The Shed’s recommendation, based on a wine-stained note from the time.
Rufus Thomas had his first hit for Sun in 1963, with Bear Cat, an answer to Big Mama Thornton’s Hound Dog, and then went international with Walking The Dog but he then overdid the dog themeon his records, although he remained a great live performer to the end. The Shed would propose Last Clean Shirt as his overlooked best work.
It’s a cynical song, however, so The Shed sees an opportunity to throw in a recommendation for something more romantic, and that’s as linked as we can do it to get to … I Wish I Was Married (To You) by Greg Brown – guaranteed to moisten the eye of any wife.
You can hear that on YouTube, and see a fan video made to go with it, at


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