Led Zeppelin: Plagiarism? “Custard Pie”

“Custard Pie” opens the 1975 double-LP Physical Graffiti and it served notice that even after six albums, Robert Plant was still drawing heavily from the blues. The source to which Plant owes the greatest debt for “Custard Pie” is “Drop Down Mama” by Sleepy John Estes with Hammie Nixon, recorded in 1935. The opening lines of “Custard Pie” echo those of Sleepy John Estes’s “Drop Down Mama”. In fact, the entire first verse of “Custard Pie” is drawn from “Drop Down Mama”. In the second verse Plant uses a cut-and-paste approach to country blues lyrics, lifting lines alternately from “Help Me” by Sonny Boy Williamson and “Shake ‘Em On Down” by Bukka White before moving on to “I Want Some Of Your Pie” by Blind Boy Fuller (Sonny Terry later recorded this song as “Custard Pie Blues”). It’s interesting to look at Robert Plant’s lyrics line-by-line to see how freely he was drawing on classic blues lines.

Custard Pie
by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Source
Drop down, baby, let your daddy see Drop Down Mama
Drop down, mama, just dream of me Drop Down Mama
Well, my mama allow me to fool around all night long Drop Down Mama
Well, I may look like I’m crazy, I should know right from wrong Drop Down Mama
See me comin’, throw your man out the door Drop Down Mama
Ain’t no stranger, been this way before Drop Down Mama
See me comin’, mama, throw your man out the door Drop Down Mama
I ain’t no stranger, I been this way before. Drop Down Mama
Put on your night shirt and your morning gown Help Me
You know by night I’m gonna shake ’em on down Shake ‘Em On Down
Put on your night shirt Mama, and your morning gown Help Me
Well, you know by night I’m gonna shake ’em on down Shake ‘Em On Down
Your custard pie, yeah, sweet and nice I Want Some of Your Pie
When you cut it, mama, save me a slice I Want Some of Your Pie
Your custard pie, I declare, it’s sweet and nice I Want Some of Your Pie
I Like your custard pie I Want Some of Your Pie
When you cut it, mama… mama, please save me a slice I Want Some of Your Pie
Chewin’ a piece of your custard pie I Want Some of Your Pie
Drop down Drop Down Mama

The lyrics of “Custard Pie” pay homage to the sly sexual images of country blues, but musically, “Custard Pie” is distinct from any of the blues classics it references. While Robert Plant’s lyrics may vary a bit from those of the original songs, the source material is readily identifiable here. In a couple of cases, Robert Plant draws so heavily on the source that “Custard Pie” goes beyond homage, particularly “Drop Down Mama” and perhaps “I Want Some of Your Pie”. Sleepy John Estes and perhaps Blind Boy Fuller should have been credited much in the same way that Led Zeppelin credited Memphis Minnie for “When the Levee Breaks”.

Drop Down Mama
by Sleepy John Estes

Now, drop down, baby, let your daddy be
I know just what you’re tryin’ to pull on me

[Chorus]
Well my mama, she don’t allow me to fool ’round all night long
Now I may look like I’m crazy, poor John do know right from wrong
Go ‘way from my window quit scratchin’ on my screen
You’s a dirty mistreater I know just what you mean

[Chorus]

Some of these women sure do make me tired
Got a, a handful of “Gimme”, a mouthful of “Much obliged”

[Chorus]

Woman I’m lovin’, one teeth solid gold
That’s the onliest woman a mortgage on my soul

[Chorus]

See me comin’ put your man outdoors
You know I ain’t no stranger, has done been here before

[Chorus]

I Want Some Of Your Pie
by Blind Boy Fuller

Says, I’m not jokin’ and I’m gonna tell you no lie
I want to eat your custard pie

[Chorus]
You gotta give me some of it (3X)
‘Fore you give it all away

I’m not breakin’ but you understood
everything I do, I try to do it good

[Chorus]

Now, your custard pie is good and nice
when you cut it, please save me a slice

[Chorus]

Says, I don’t care if I live right cross that street
you cut that pie please save me a piece

[Chorus]
Oh, it’s good for a man 83
you know good well it good enough for me

[Chorus]

2 thoughts on “Led Zeppelin: Plagiarism? “Custard Pie”

  1. Pingback: Led Zeppelin | Artists Blues

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