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    A Boy Named Sue

    Johnny Cash (lyrics by Shel Silverstein)

     

    Note:  Johnny Cash’s loose delivery in the At San Quentin recording meant that his band didn’t always know when to start a new chord progression.  Rather than try to re-create every quirk from that still-fantastic performance, I’ve charted the song the way I imagine it was intended to be played.  Deviate as you see fit.

     

    Capo 4

     

    Each chord is played for two measures unless otherwise noted.

     

    Chord Guide

          3    4

    G:    3x0003

           32 1

    C:    x32010

             132

    D:    xx0232

     

     

            B   D U B   D U     w/alternating bass

    Strum:  1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

     

     

    Intro: / G - - - / - - - - / - - - - / - - - - /

     

           G

    My daddy left home when I was three

                C
    And he didn't leave much to ma and me

                 D                                                        G
    Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze.

            G
    Now, I don't blame him ‘cause he run and hid

                   C
    But the meanest thing that he ever did

                D                                                   G
    Was before he left, he went and named me "Sue."

                    G
    Well, he must o' thought that is quite a joke

                C
    And it got a lot of laughs from a-lots of folk,

          D                                                        G
    It seems I had to fight my whole life through.

              G
    Some gal would giggle and I'd get red

                      C
    And some guy'd laugh and I'd bust his head,

               D                                                      G
    I tell ya, life ain't easy for a boy named "Sue."


                 G
    Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean,

          C
    My fist got hard and my wits got keen,

           D                                                        G
    I'd roam from town to town to hide my shame.

               G
    But I made a vow to the moon and stars

                   C
    That I'd search the honky-tonks and bars

           D                                                            G
    And kill that man who gave me that awful name.


                         G
    Well, it was Gatlinburg in mid-July

              C
    And I just hit town and my throat was dry,

    D                                                         G
        I thought I'd stop and have myself a brew.

             G
    At an old saloon on a street of mud,

       C
    There at a table, dealing stud,

    D                                                            G
    Sat the dirty, mangy dog that named me "Sue."


                 G
    Well, I knew that snake was my own sweet dad

                C
    From a worn-out picture that my mother'd had,

                D                                                        G
    And I knew that scar on his cheek and his evil eye.

                G
    He was big and bent and gray and old,

               C
    And I looked at him and my blood ran cold

                   D                          G (4)
    And I said: "My name is 'Sue!' How do you do! Now you’re gonna die!!"

         

               G
    Well, I hit him hard right between the eyes

         C
    And he went down, but to my surprise,

           D                                                               G
    He come up with a knife and cut off a piece of my ear.

             G
    But I busted a chair right across his teeth

                   C
    And we crashed through the wall and into the street

      D                                                                                 G
    Kicking and a' gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer.


    G
    I tell ya, I've fought tougher men

               C
    But I really can't remember when,

          D                                                        G
    He kicked like a mule and he bit like a crocodile.

        G
    I heard him laugh and then I heard him cuss, and

    C
       He went for his gun and I pulled mine first,

           D                                                          G
    He stood there lookin' at me and I saw him smile.


           G
    And he said: "Son, this world is rough

                  C
    And if a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough

                 D                                                        G
    And I knew I wouldn't be there to help ya along.

            G
    So I give ya that name and I said goodbye

         C
    I knew you'd have to get tough or die

           D                                                          G
    And it's the name that helped to make you strong."

                           G
    He said: "Now you just fought one hell of a fight

                C
    And I know you hate me, and you got the right

         D                                                             G
    To kill me now, and I wouldn't blame you if you do.

              G
    But ya ought to thank me, before I die,

                   C
    For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye

                D                                                          G
    Cause I'm the son-of-a-bitch that named you "Sue.'"


            G
    I got all choked up and I threw down my gun

               C
    And I called him my pa, and he called me his son,

               D                                                 G
    And I came away with a different point of view.

             G
    And I think about him, now and then,

               C
    Every time I try and every time I win,

             D (hold)                                                       
    And if I ever have a son, I think I'm gonna name him

                                                   G (hold)
    Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I still hate that name!

     


    This file is the author's own work and represents his interpretation of this song. It's intended solely for private study, scholarship or research.