A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

Did the Allman Brothers change "Ramblin' Man" to make it more PC?

October 9, 1999

Dear Straight Dope:

When I heard the Allman Brothers song "Ramblin' Man" years ago, I distinctly recall the line, "Cajun women think the world of me." But when I heard the song on the radio the other day, to my surprise this had been changed to, "Delta women think the world of me." What gives? Is the term "Cajun" now politically incorrect? Did the band get together (minus expired members) just to re-record that one line? Or has it always been "Delta" and I am suffering from the aftereffects of a misspent youth?

I agreed to research this question so that I'd have the opportunity to tell the story about an old high school boyfriend of mine who later became the equipment manager for the Allman Brothers, traveling with the band. They showed up in Albuquerque, New Mexico (where I live) one weekend when I was away camping, and I came home to a note on my door from Alan, telling me that if I was around I should come on over and he'd take me backstage to hear the concert and meet the band. But it was too late.

Then I remembered it was the Doobie Brothers that Alan worked for, but I'm still stuck with the question about the Allman Brothers. At least I got to tell the story, unrelated though it is.

So back to the question. I went to the internet for this one. The song "Ramblin' Man" was written by Forrest Richard Betts of the Allman Brothers band in 1973. The lyrics on the official band site, www.allmanbrothersband.com/ music/lyrics/rm.html, say "Delta women think the world of me." Several other sources quoted the same line. One site, however (www.wmich.edu/mus-the o/mus152/lyrics/ramblinm.html), changes the line to "bayou women think the world of me." I didn't find any sources that said "Cajun women," though actually that would be more appropriate than Delta, I would think, considering the lines before it:

"I'm on my way to New Orleans this mornin'
Leaving out of Nashville, Tennessee,
They're always having a good time down on the bayou,
Lord, them Delta women think the world of me."

Although most of the Delta is in Louisiana, it's a fairly broad area. Bayou country is more closely associated with Louisiana (the term "bayou" = Louisiana French, from Choctaw bayuk), and Cajuns (Louisianians descended from French-speaking immigrants from Acadia) live there.

It's possible--and this is pure speculation on my part--that the Allman Brothers (or maybe even somebody else singing this song?) substituted the term "Cajun" while performing the song in Louisiana some time, just to get brownie points with the audience. It isn't a politically incorrect term at all. Bands performing in New Mexico often butcher some Spanish, trying to butter up audiences around here.

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