"Sneakin' Up on the Blues"

© 1974-1982 Lee Ruth

Jack Williams
Jack Williams - Vocal, Guitar, & Finger Snaps
The Sneaks:
Lee Ruth - Harmony Vocal
Jerome Wheeler - Harmony Vocal
Jack Williams - Harmony Vocal
  MP3 Sample of Lee's Original


Song Lyrics:
Lee's Lyrics:

Try to live a good life, and make a good run,
A-lovin' the night.... work and play in the sun.
When the bill's in the mail and I'm payin' some dues,
I've got a sneakin' suspicion I'm sneakin' up on the blues.

Got an old guitar and a bag full of songs.
Got an old truck, barely rollin' along.
If I'm drivin' alone when day is through
The highway says, "Son, you're sneakin' up on the blues"

Sneakin' up on the blues
Sneakin' up on the blues
It's hard to believe that's the way that we choose
Gettin' closer each day, we get farther away
One step at a time, sneakin' up on the blues.

I got some good friends. Maybe they're happy too,
Most of the time, and I hope that they're you.
But in the evening, when I'm watching the news,
Seems like the whole world's sneakin' up on the blues.

There's fish in the river... there's fish in the sea....
I ain't fishin' for them... they ain't fishin' for me....
But we poison their waters... what will the fish do?
Looks like we're all sneakin' up on the blues.

Try to live a good life, and make a good run
Love in the night, work and play in the sun
But when the bill's in the mail, and I'm payin' some dues
Got a sneakin' suspicion, I'm sneakin' up on the blues

Sneakin' up on the blues, sneakin' up on the blues
It's hard to believe, that's the way that we choose
Gettin' closer each day, we get farther away
One step at a time, sneakin' up on the blues

Got an old guitar, and a bag full of songs
Got an old truck that's barely rollin' along
If I'm drivin' alone, when day is through
The highway says, "Son, you're sneakin' up on the blues"


Got some good friends, seems like they're happy too
At least most of the time, and I hope that they're you
But in the evening, when I'm watching the news (which doesn't happen too often)
Looks like the whole world, is sneakin' up on the blues


There's fish in the river, there's fish in the sea
I ain't fishin' for them, they ain't fishin' for me
If we poison their waters, what will the fish do?
Looks like we'll all be sneakin' up on the blues


Artist on the Song:
Lee on the Song:
As to why I chose this song to sing, I can tell you nothing of interest, except that I wanted to play a Lee Ruth song, and after he suggested a couple of possibilities (based on his knowledge of what I do best), I settled on "Sneakin' Up on the Blues" because it was nearest to the realm of my own music. I started working on this song in 1974 but set it aside unfinished and didn't pick it up again until 1982, when I found it in an old notebook full of writings/addresses/phone numbers/miscellaneous notes/etc., decided I liked it and was pleased to find that it almost finished itself as soon as I resumed working on it. I'm not a blues man and this song doesn't follow a traditional blues structure, but I have listened to a lot of blues music in my life. I've had my share of hard times along with the good times (as we all have), and this song is a musical meditation on that juxtaposition of good times and hard times in my own life and in the lives of friends and family.
Artist on Lee Ruth:
Lee on the Artist:

I met Lee around 1971, on my first trip through Columbia, MO. I was a musician escaping reality by travelling endlessly and aimlessly across the country, looking for whatever felt good and satisfied my need to play good music. In a world of people pursuing music as a livelihood for all the wrong reasons, Lee struck me immediately as someone to whom music was as real
as a homeless person's next meal.

Although we shared a knowledge (and an understanding) of much music from previous generations, Lee was a true "folkie," in the best sense, and I was a rocker with a taste for acoustic, non-rock music. Despite this difference, we became friends and began playing music together almost every time we were together--breaking out the guitars on a friend's front porch, on the hood of a car, or on Broadway, in front of the (now defunct) Columbia Doughnut Company, with musician friends, playing and singing till dawn.

Over the years, I often returned to Columbia, MO, as I continued travelling (although no longer "escaping"--just doing my job), and always sought Lee out for a little music and conversation. Sometimes, I would drive directly from South Carolina and arrive in the middle of the night, just as Lee's KOPN show would be going on the air. On more than one occasion, we'd jaw and pick our way through the night, regaling the late-night hospital workers, cops, restless students, and general sleepless population with tales, lies, and songs.

My admiration for Lee and his honest musicality grows as the stinking swamp of commercial music rises around our ears. Now, I intensely work the U.S. "folk" singer/songwriter circuit, making my living and driving 60,000 or more miles a year. But I feel more of a kinship with Lee's simple, direct connection with music than I do with that of the vast majority of my colleagues out on the circuit. If it weren't for the great satisfaction I receive from performing concerts nightly, meeting new people, seeing new places, and being paid well for doing what I love, I'm certain I'd seek a simpler, less complicated life and means for playing my music for people--much in the way Lee Ruth has done it for decades. His music, his relationship with music, and his example are rare treasures in a world where money has misdirected listener, creator, and performer to the point that the "real thing"--honest from-the-heart music and art--can hardly be found.

Jack first came rolling into Columbia in the spring of 1971… out, I suppose, on the trail of his own musical Muse (I too thought She might be living in Columbia). As much hanging out as I was doing those days, it's likely I was among the first few local musicians that he met. As I recall, the first time I heard him play, it only took a few notes for me to know that he was as good a guitarist as I had ever met. Though I was a folkie and he was out on the rock and roll road, I was a former traveler on that same road, we both had played across a broad spectrum of what is now called "roots music," and we had lived somewhat parallel musical lives in different parts of the country for close to the same length of time. We both knew a lot of the same music. We both did a lot of playing and singing for our own enjoyment, so it was natural that we would enjoy playing together. Jack, at that time, more than any player I knew, was ready to play all day and all night just for the sheer love of playing (thirty some years later he still is almost as ready to do so as he was then).

Over the years Jack has continued to make Columbia a regular stop on his travels and we have found many opportunities to play. One summer I ran into him in a park in Aspen, Colorado, and we just picked up our guitars and resumed playing. When this album project was started up last winter, Jack was one of the first people I thought of to get to do a song, and I actually targeted him with "Sneakin' Up on the Blues," even though I knew he would say he wasn't a blues player. Much of his playing has strong blues elements in it, and I felt that stylistically it paralleled his own songs. Furthermore, I knew he'd be able to devise his own take on the intricate guitar part that the song demanded. I'm glad. I was right.

Producer's Notes:
Recording Credits:
When Jack Williams showed up at the studio, it was for the very first recording session of this whole project. He was traveling through town and playing a gig in Lupus, Missouri. Lee had sort of hand selected "Sneakin' Up on the Blues" for Jack, since Lee thought it fit his style and also thought there were few others who might find their way around the musical complexities of the song. Jack came in and laid down some amazing tracks. He overdubbed another guitar part and added finger snaps and fish tail flaps on other tracks. Lee Ruth and Jerome Wheeler were recruited as "The Sneakers" to help sing background harmony on the song. The line in the song about "stepping over the mines" seemed eerily poignant at the time, with the country poised to go to war with Iraq. When Pete and I listened to the rough mix daily after the session, we both looked at each other and said, "WOW what a sweet start to a long journey of recording this project!" Thanks Jack! ixed:

Recorded at Pete Szkolka's Studio

Record Date: 2/12/03

Mixed: 11/18/03

Mixed by Pete Szkolka and Steve Donofrio



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