Language Of The Blues: Salty Dog

Originally Posted on American Blues Scene

This is the latest installment of our weekly series The Language of the Blues, in which author and rock musician Debra Devi explores the meaning of a word or phrase found in the blues.

Grab a signed copy of Devi’s entertaining, award-winning glossary The Language of the Blues: From Alcorub to Zuzu (Foreword by Dr. John) at Also available as an eBook.

LOTB_SaltyDogIn French Creole, salté means “dirty.” To jouer en salté means to play a dirty trick on someone. In Wright’s English Dialect Dictionary, salty appears to have an Old English meaning similar to “horny.” It was used to describe “of a bitch,” meaning a female dog that was maris appetens:“in heat,” or wanting to have sexual relations with a male dog.

In blues songs like “Salty Dog,” and “Candy Man,” the salty dog is someone who wants to have sex without taking on the responsibility or restraints of a love relationship. In “Candy Man,” the Reverend Gary Davis sang about a woman who told him:

If you can’t be my candy man
you can’t be my salty dog

In “Salty Dog,” Mississippi John Hurt states:

Oh baby let me be your salty dog
I don’t want to be your man at all
I want to be your salty dog

The song “Salty Dog Blues” is a folk song from the early 1900s. The earliest known recording is from 1924, by influential bluesman Papa Charlie Jackson.

In the “slang gets grosser over time” department, Urban Dictionary reports that a salty dog is “the act of having sex with one girl, and then meeting up with another shortly after and having her perform oral sex.” 

Pick up a signed copy of The Language of the Blues today!
“Candy Man”- Rev. Gary Davis
“Salty Dog”- Mississippi John Hurt (John Smith Hurt)

Mississippi John Hurt – “Salty Dog”

Debra Devi

Debra Devi

Debra Devi is the author of the award-winning blues glossary The Language of the Blues: From Alcorub to Zuzu and the singer/guitarist for the rock band DEVI.

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