This slow-crawling blues song has Lightnin' Hopkins asking a telephone operator to patch him through to his lover. He has no luck getting her number or finding a way to get to her and ends the song singing about walking home in failure. At least, that's how it appears on the surface. Look closer, though, and there's something else going on here.
The lyrics are subtly strange if you scrutinize them. Hopkins explains to the operator that the bus lines have stopped and the train conductors won't let him ride anymore. He ends the song with the words:I went walking straight back home
I was praying in my heart asking Jesus:
"Oh, Lord, now what wrong have I done?"
That final lament can be heard as Hopkins simply wondering what he's done to have caused the Fates to separate him from his lover, but Azizi Powell, historian of African American culture, suggests a different interpretation
Powell writes that the song actually combines blues and gospel. She ties it to a tradition of songs that use phone lines and operators as metaphors for Jesus and Christianity. It seems strange at first blush, but "Give Me Central 209" actually makes more sense if it's viewed this way.