There are already many publications on poker & gambling in film & television, books, novels and other stories. Actually it is clear that the topic must also be reflected musically. And indeed, if you take a closer look, you will find songs in all music genres of the last 100 years.
Whether blues, soul, country & country pop, classic rock. Speed or hard rock, folk, rap and pop. Music & gambling topics actually go together wonderfully. Many musicians have dealt with the subject – some directly and others, most of them actually, more in a figurative sense. There are love ballads and of course film music for poker films and many of the lyrics deal directly with failure in gambling. The number of huge hits from top artists from all over the world is large with great, profound lines of text and wonderful catchy tunes such as Queen of Hearts, The Winner Takes it All or Poker Face .
The subject of poker and gambling has certainly been reflected in the music texts for longer than we can exactly understand. Therefore, chronologically speaking, one of the oldest songs about this is by an artist named Bert Williams. In 1914 he sang The Darktown Poker Club , inspired by a fictional New York club from the 1880s, the Thompson Street Poker Club, which had a series of comic strips about it at the time. Made of shellac, the song sounds weird to our ears today, but the melody was so popular that it was played again in the 1940s and 1973 by Jerry Reed as The Uptown Poker Club . Artists Fanny Watson and Al Jolson wrote the really funny song Who Played Poker with Pocahantas (When John Smith Went Away)? for the musical Monte Cristo Jr.
A wonderful example of the blues genre was Gambling Bar Room Blues , sung by Jimmie Rodgers in 1932. It starts with “Hoho-heyhey, the gamblin ‘bar room blues” and covers everything from girls, alcohol and the police. And the blues, as a musical style of the 1930s, was really made for gambling. The Mississippi Sheiks also sang Bed Spring Poker Blues in typical blues tones in 1932 with the rather funny lyrics “Oh, look at that old bed shakin ‘. That’s what you call bed spring poker! ”. Robert Johnson sang Little Queen of Spades in 1938 so impressively that Eric Clapton reissued it in 2007. The song is about catching a “lucky woman”.
From the 1940s onwards, the country and western music style took over more and more of the songs related to gambling. But before that, Blind Willie McTell sang his Dying Crapshooter’s Blues in 1940 about the gambler Jesse with all his ups and downs and gambling in general. In 1944, Woody Guthrie was with his country blues song Gambling Man and the very popular T. Texas Tyler in the postwar year 1948 with The Deck of Cards, a chant about an American soldier very popular. This song is not really a feast for the ears, but rather profound and an older folk song. Many other artists sang it in the decades that followed. The folk song is about a soldier who is caught by his sergeant playing cards in the church. The soldier explains that the cards represent his Bible. The ace of God, the three is the Holy Trinity, the jack stands for the devil, the ten for the ten commandments and the queen is the Virgin Mary, etc.