Back door man

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The 'Back door man' is a phrase common in blues lyrics to denote a secret lover of a married woman. The back door as an entrance and/or exit for blacks working in white homes during and after slavery perhaps gave the idea of the back door a great presence in the psyches of African Americans.[1] The concept of the back door man as lover may also stem from the post-slavery phenomenon of the sweet back papas. These were men who dodged a lifetime of manual labour by becoming itinerant blues players and living off women.[2] Back door men were the ones scooting out the back door just as the man of the house or husband is turning his key in the front door. The lyrics written by Willie Dixon and sung by Chester Burnett in 'Evil (Is Going On)' (1969), spells out the story:

If you make it to your house, knock on the front door

Run around to the back, you'll catch him, just before he go
That's evil, evil is goin' on
I am warnin' ya brother, you better watch your happy home[3]

References to the 'back door man' can also be found in Lillian Glinn's 'I'm a Front Door Woman with a Back Door Man' (1927), Fulton Allen's 'I Crave My Pigmeat' (1935), Willie Dixon's 'Back Door Man' (1962), Sam Hopkin's '(Letter to My) Back Door Friend' (1963), Led Zeppelin's 'Whole Lotta Love' (1969), 'Since I've Been Loving You' (1970), and 'Custard Pie' (1975), and The Allman Brother's 'Black Hearted Woman' (1969).

Notes

  1. Major, Clarence (1994). Juba to Jive: A Dictionary of African-American Slang (in English), 1st. New York: Penguin Books, 15. ISBN 0-14-051306-X. 
  2. DeSalvo, Deborah (2006). The Language of the Blues: From Alcorub to Zulu (in English), 1st. New York: Billboard Books, 4. ISBN 0-8230-8389-6. 
  3. 'Evil (Is Going On)' by Willie Dixon. Copyright © 1969 Hoochie Coochie Music. BMI 393640