My Babe

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"My Babe"
Single by Little Walter
B-side "Thunder Bird"
Released February 1955[1]
Format 7" 45 RPM, 10" 78 RPM
Recorded January 25, 1955
Genre R&B, Chicago blues
Length 2:44
Label Checker 811
Writer(s) Willie Dixon
Producer(s) Leonard Chess, Phil Chess
Little Walter singles chronology
"Last Night"
(1954)
"My Babe"
(1955)
"Roller Coaster"
(1955)

"My Babe" is a blues song and a blues standard written by Willie Dixon for Little Walter.[2] Released in 1955 on Checker Records, a subsidiary of Chess Records, the song was the only Dixon composition ever to become a #1 R&B single and it was one of the biggest hits of either of their careers.[2]

Background[edit]

The song was based on the traditional gospel song "This Train (Is Bound For Glory)", recorded by Sister Rosetta Tharpe as "This Train", a 1939 hit. Dixon reworked the arrangement and lyrics from the sacred (the procession of saints into Heaven) into the secular (a story about a woman that won't stand for her man to cheat): "My baby, she don't stand no cheating, my babe, she don't stand none of that midnight creeping."[3]

Recording[edit]

Although no documentation exists, the song was probably recorded at Universal Recorders in Chicago, the site of the majority of Chess and Checker sessions until Chess opened their own studio in 1956 or 1957.[citation needed] Backing Little Walter's vocals and harmonica were Robert Lockwood, Jr. and Leonard Caston on guitars, Willie Dixon on double-bass, and Fred Below on drums.[4] Guitarist Luther Tucker, then a member of Walter's band, was absent from the recording session that day. "My Babe" was re-issued in 1961 with an overdubbed female vocal backing chorus and briefly crossed over to the pop charts.[2]

Releases and charts[edit]

Ray Charles had famously, and controversially, pioneered the gospel-song-to-secular-song approach with his reworking of the gospel hymn "It Must Be Jesus" into "I Got a Woman," which hit the Billboard R&B charts on January 22, 1955, later climbing to the #1 position for one week. Within days of the appearance of Charles's song on the national charts, Little Walter entered the studio to record "My Babe" on January 25, 1955. "My Babe" was released while "I've Got A Woman" was still on the charts and eclipsed Charles's record by spending 19 weeks on the Billboard R&B charts beginning on March 12, 1955, including five weeks at the #1 position, making it one of the biggest R&B hits of 1955.[5] The "B" side of "My Babe" was the harmonica instrumental "Thunderbird," following the pattern established by the release of Little Walter's number #1 hit single from 1952, "Juke," of featuring a vocal performance one side and a harmonica instrumental on the flip side.

Recognition and influence[edit]

In 2008, "My Babe" was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in the "Classic of Blues Recording — Singles or Album Tracks" category.[6]

The success of song led to dozens of renditions by many diverse artists:[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Review Spotlight on Records". Billboard: 57. February 26, 1955. Retrieved December 21, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c Dirks, Scott; & Komara, Edward M. [ed.] (2006). Encyclopedia of the Blues. Routledge. p. 982. ISBN 0-415-92699-8
  3. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 4 - The Tribal Drum: The rise of rhythm and blues. [Part 2]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu. 
  4. ^ Obrecht, Jas. (2000). Rollin' and Tumblin': The Postwar Blues Guitarists. Backbeat Books p. 179. ISBN 0-87930-613-0
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 357. 
  6. ^ "Classic of Blues Recording — Singles or Album Tracks". Blues Foundation Hall of Fame — 2008 Inductees. The Blues Foundation. 2008. Retrieved July 14, 2013. 
  7. ^ "My Babe — Search Results". Allmusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved July 14, 2014. 
  8. ^ The Coasters, Coast Along with the Coasters Retrieved February 15, 2012.
Preceded by
"Pledging My Love" by Johnny Ace
Billboard R&B Best Sellers in Stores number-one single
April 23, 1955 - May 14, 1955
Succeeded by
"Unchained Melody" by Roy Hamilton