Riot in Cell Block Number 9

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"Riot In Cell Block #9"
Single by The Robins
B-side "Wrap It Up"
Released 1954
Genre R&B
Length 3:02
Label Spark Records
Writer(s) Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
The Robins singles chronology
"Key To My Heart"
(1954)
"Riot In Cell Block #9"
(1954)
"Loop De Loop Mambo"
(1954)

"Riot In Cell Block #9" is a classic and pervasive R&B song composed by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The best-known version is The Robins' song from 1954, which hit #1 in the R&B charts.


Lyrics[edit]

In this song, a man is serving his sentence in federal prison for armed robbery. At 4:00 AM on July 2, 1953, he wakes up to a rather alarming disturbance: a jail riot! It started in cell block #4 and continued through the prison hall from cell to cell. The jailhouse warden, armed with a gun, threatens to electrocute all the prisoners if the riot doesn't stop soon, but one of them, Scarface Jones, retaliates by carrying dynamite. Forty-seven hours later, 3:00 AM on July 4, 1953, the prison security let loose tear gas on the inmates and they return to their cells.

Cover versions[edit]

The song has been covered by many cross-genre artists such as The Grateful Dead, The Beach Boys (who reworked it as "Student Demonstration Time" for the album Surf's Up), Wanda Jackson, Vicki Young, Johnny Winter, Dr. Feelgood, The Blues Brothers, Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen, Johnny Cash, The Coasters and Flat Duo Jets.

It was also translated and performed in French by Michel Pagliaro as "Emeute dans la prison" (riot in the prison). In his version it was July 13, 1968 at 4:00 am and originated in cell block #3. It was later covered by Eric Lapointe.