I'm a King Bee

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"I'm a King Bee"
Single by Slim Harpo
A-side "Got Love If You Want It"
Released 1957 (1957)
Format 7" 45 rpm record
Recorded J. D. Miller Studio, Crowley, Louisiana
1957
Genre Blues
Length 2:55
Label Excello (Cat. no. 2113)
Writer(s) James Moore aka Slim Harpo
Producer(s) J. D. Miller

"I'm a King Bee" is a swamp blues song that has been performed and recorded by numerous blues and other artists. In 2008, Slim Harpo's "I'm a King Bee" received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award, which "honor[s] recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance".[1]

Original song[edit]

Written by Slim Harpo under his real name of James Moore, the song was recorded in March 1957 and was originally released that year as the B-side to his debut solo single, "I Got Love if You Want It". Its popularity led the record company, Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based Excello Records, to swap the sides over. The recording features a spare arrangement and instrumentation typical of J. D. Miller's production approach. The other musicians on the recording were Gabriel "Guitar Gable" Perrodin (guitar); John "Fats" Perrodin (bass); and Clarence "Jockey" Etienne (drums).[2][3] The song, with an irregular number of bars (15 bar blues, as opposed to the standard 12 bars), uses the rhythm figure from "Rockin' and Rollin'" by Lil' Son Jackson.[4]

Rolling Stones version[edit]

English rock band The Rolling Stones recorded "I'm a King Bee" for their 1964 debut album (The Rolling Stones (UK), England's Newest Hit Makers (US)). Despite not being released as a single, the song has been called an early "important hit" for the Rolling Stones.[4] The band's arrangement generally follows Slim Harpo's, but includes a slide-guitar break by Brian Jones. The personnel consisted of Jagger on vocals and harmonica, Jones on slide guitar, Keith Richards on acoustic guitar, Bill Wyman on bass guitar, and Charlie Watts on drums. Later, Mick Jagger commented "What's the point in listening to us doing 'I'm a King Bee' when you can hear Slim Harpo do it?"[5]

Other versions[edit]

The Tea Set, which later morphed into Pink Floyd, recorded "I'm a King Bee" and several other songs in December 1964.[6][7][8] The recording, which features Syd Barrett, Bob Klose, Roger Waters, Richard Wright and Nick Mason, is officially unreleased. The Grateful Dead performed the song many times in concert between 1966 and 1972. It has been released on the albums Live at the Fillmore East 2-11-69, Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings, Fillmore West 1969, and Ladies and Gentlemen... the Grateful Dead. The Doors performed it at The Matrix Club in 1967, which was released on Live at the Matrix 1967. Also at a 1970 Detroit show, a version with Ray Manzarek singing the lead vocals and John Sebastian (formerly of The Lovin' Spoonful) guesting on harmonica, was recorded and subsequently released on Live in Detroit.

In the 1970s, Led Zeppelin sometimes performed "I'm a King Bee" as part of the live "Whole Lotta Love" medley. John Belushi spoofed the song on the January 17, 1976 episode of Saturday Night Live, performing it live while dressed in a bee costume. Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush included "I'm a King Bee" on their 1978 Live album. Muddy Waters recorded it for his 1981 album King Bee. In 1998, Add N to (X) released "King Wasp", which samples Harpo's song, on their album On the Wires of Our Nerves. In 2003, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry performed and recorded "I'm a King Bee" as part of the live "Lightning In a Bottle" blues tribute concert. 22-20s recorded a version of the song for their 2003 live EP 05/03. The Stone Foxes released a single version on April 26, 2011; it features vocals by Avi Vinocur and was used in a television commercial for Jack Daniels' Tennessee Honey liquor. Dirty Beaches recorded the song in 2012. Also in 2012, Rhode Island hip-hop artist, B. Dolan, sampled the Stone Foxes cover for his "King Bee", which was produced by Buddy Peace.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Grammy Hall of Fame Awards". Grammy Awards. The Recording Academy. 2008. Retrieved March 18, 2011. 
  2. ^ Stefan Wirz, "Slim Harpo: Discography", American Music. Retrieved 14 March 2014
  3. ^ Guitar Gable at BlackCatRockabilly. Retrieved 15 March 2014
  4. ^ a b Herzhaft, Gerard (1992). "I'm a King Bee". Encyclopedia of the Blues. University of Arkansas Press. p. 453. ISBN 1-55728-252-8. 
  5. ^ Everett, Tod (1989). The Best of Slim Harpo (Liner notes). Slim Harpo. Rhino Records. p. 1. RS 70169. 
  6. ^ Povey & Russell 1997, p. 19.
  7. ^ Manning, Toby (2006). "The Early Years". The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd (1st ed.). London: Rough Guides. pp. 15–16. ISBN 1-84353-575-0. 
  8. ^ Chapman, Rob (2010). "Watching Buttercups Cup the Light". Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head (Paperback ed.). London: Faber. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-571-23855-2.