Sunday, February 17, 2008

Baby Please Don't Go

Few Blues songs have been as frequently covered as 'Baby Please Don’t Go'; it has a distinct family tree where as often as not the cover versions covered the covers! The original copyrighted version was recorded by Joe Williams on Thursday 31st October 1935 in Chicago, but the song is undoubtedly much older. Not that Williams was the only one to copyright it, there are numerous versions with different writing credits, including McKinley Morganfield a.k.a. Muddy Waters.

The 1935 original was released on Bluebird by Joe Williams’ Washboard Blues Singers. This riotous dance version featured Joe on vocals and guitar along with Dad Tracy on one string fiddle and Kokomo Collins on Washboard. Joe recorded it again for Bluebird in 1941 and in 1947 for Columbia; both records featured Sonny Boy Williamson No.1 on harmonica. The 1947 version had Ransom Knowling on bass and Judge Riley on drums, which gave to it the ‘feel’ that featured on most of the subsequent versions.

Baby Please Don’t Go (Recorded July 22nd 1947 - Chicago)
Baby please d
on’t go, baby please don’t go
Baby please don’t go back to New Orleans and get your cold ice cream

Turn your lamp down low, turn your l
amp down low
Turn your lamp down low, now baby all night long

Now baby please don’t go, baby please don’t go

Seventeen years after this version Van Morrison was in Decca’s studio in the autumn of 1964 to record his version although he was there without the band members of the group for which he was the lead singer. Them was the band with which Van sang, but Decca decided that they did not want the rest of the group on the band’s new single - possibly because their first record had flopped. They brought in Peter Bardens to play organ and Jimmy Page to play guitar. A wise move as the single peaked at No.10 in the UK early in 1965 and scrapped into the American Hot 100 at No.93. Van had heard a 1959 John Lee Hooker album that included the song, Van later said “It struck me as being something really unique and different, with a lot of soul”

In the song’s family tree, the version by Paul Revere and the Raiders undoubtedly took their lead from Them. Georgie Fame must have been listening to Mose Allison’s version on ‘Mose Alive’; Georgie always championed Moses’ work. I’m still working out how Gary Glitter came to record the song.

Muddy Waters 1960 version was recorded on July 3rd at the Newport Jazz Festival and is taken from the wonderful album ‘Muddy Waters at Newport’. Lyrically it is similar to Big Joe’s version, but amongst other things he drops the reference to ice cream! Just before James Cotton’s harmonica solo Muddy says, “Look out Sonny Boy”.

Selected Versions

Tampa Kid 1936
Sam Montgomery 1936
Lightnin’ Hopkins 1948
John Lee Hooker 1949
Big Bill Broonzy 1952
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee 1959
Muddy Waters 1960
Them 1964
John Hammond 1965
Paul Revere & The Raiders 1966
Mose Allison 1966
The Amboy Dukes 1967
Georgie Fame 1968
Al Kooper 1970
Gary Glitter 1972
Thin Lizzy 1983
Beausoleil 1989
Willie & The Poor Boys 1994
John Mooney 1997

1 comment:

Richard Evans said...

Oh yes indeed, look out Sonny Boy! Because here comes James Cotton, the best blues harp blower in my book. Just listen to him on Muddy's 'Hard Again' album. If I ever have a gig blowing some harp I put on 'Hard Again' and play along for a couple or three numbers to loosen up and, Sonny Boy, I'm ready!

'Another Man Done Gone' on 'Bluesbreakers' album lifts a lot of 'Baby Please Don't Go' too. Just John Mayall, a green bullet mic and some nice harp and singing.