See See Rider

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For the British band, see See See Rider (band).
"See See Rider Blues"
Single by Ma Rainey
B-side "Jealous Hearted Blues"
Released 1924 (1924)–1925
Format 10" 78 rpm record
Recorded October 16, 1924
Genre Blues
Length 3:16
Label Paramount (Cat. no. 12252)
Writer(s) Ma Rainey, Lena Arant
Ma Rainey singles chronology
"Booze and Blues"/ "Toad Frog Blues"
(1924)
"See See Rider Blues"
(1924)
"Cell Bound Blues"/ "Ya Da Do"
(1924)

"See See Rider", also known as "C.C. Rider" or "See See Rider Blues" or "Easy Rider" is a popular American 12-bar blues"[1] song. It was first recorded by Gertrude "Ma" Rainey in 1924, and since then has been recorded by many other artists.

The song uses mostly traditional blues lyrics to tell the story of an unfaithful lover, commonly called easy riders: "See See rider, see what you have done," making a play on the word see and the sound of easy.

Versions of the song[edit]

"See See Rider"
Single by The Animals
from the album Animalization
A-side "Help Me Girl" (UK)
B-side "She'll Return It" (USA)
Released September 1966
Format 7" single
Genre R&B, rock, soul, hard rock
Length 4:00 (album), 2:51 (single)
Label MGM
Writer(s) Ma Rainey
Producer(s) Tom Wilson
The Animals singles chronology
"Don't Bring Me Down"
(1966)
"See See Rider"
(1966)
"Help Me Girl"
(1966)

The song is generally regarded as being traditional in origin. Ma Rainey's version became popular during 1925, as "See See Rider Blues." It became one of the most famous of all blues songs, with well over 100 versions. It was recorded by Big Bill Broonzy, Mississippi John Hurt, Lead Belly, Lightnin' Hopkins, Peggy Lee and many others. Broonzy claimed that "when he was about 9 or 10" - that is, around 1908 - he had learned to play the blues from an itinerant songster named "See See Rider", "a former slave, who played a one-string fiddle.... one of the first singers of what would later be called the blues..."[2]

In 1943, a version by Wee Bea Booze became a #1 hit on the Billboard "Harlem Hit Parade," precursor of the rhythm and blues chart. Some blues critics consider this to be the definitive version of the song.[3]

A doo-wop version was recorded by Sonny Til and The Orioles in 1952. Later rocked-up hit versions were recorded by Chuck Willis (as "C.C. Rider," also a #1 R&B hit as well as a #12 pop hit, in 1957) and LaVern Baker (#9 R&B and #34 pop hit in 1963). Willis' version gave birth to the dance craze "The Stroll."

Other popular performances were recorded by Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels (as part of a medley entitled "Jenny Take a Ride!," #10 US pop hit in 1965) and The Animals (#10 US pop hit in 1966). The Animals' heavy version (featuring Eric Burdon's screaming and impressive keyboard accompaniment from Dave Rowberry)[4] also reached #1 on the Canadian RPM chart, and #8 in Australia. It was the last single before the group disbanded in September 1966. The arrangement of the song was credited to band member Dave Rowberry.[5]

Other renditions came from Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, The Who, The Everly Brothers, The Kingsmen, Charlie Rich, Ian & Sylvia, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Leon Thomas, Snooks Eaglin, John Fahey, Old Crow Medicine Show and many more. In later years, Presley regularly opened his performances with the song,[6] such as was captured on his 1970 On Stage album and in his Aloha from Hawaii television special. Elvis's drummer Ronnie Tutt opened Elvis's version with a rolling drum riff followed by the band entering and Elvis's famous brass melody. Similarly, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band long had "C.C. Rider" as part of their "Detroit Medley" encore romp, which achieved significant visibility on the 1980 No Nukes live album.

At the 1972 Sunbury festival in Victoria, Australia, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs played a heavy blues-rock version as a part of his late night set. This was released on the LP Aztecs Live at Sunbury.

Film director Martin Scorsese credited the song with stimulating his interest in music. He later said:

"One day, around 1958, I remember hearing something that was unlike anything I'd ever heard before...The music was demanding, "Listen to me!"...The song was called "See See Rider," which I already knew from the Chuck Willis cover version. The name of the singer was Lead Belly...I found an old Folkways record by Lead Belly...And I listened to it obsessively. Lead Belly's music opened something up for me. If I could have played guitar, really played it, I never would have become a filmmaker."[7]

American R&B and boogie-woogie pianist and singer Little Willie Littlefield recorded a version for his 1983 album I'm in the Mood.

In 2004, the original Ma Rainey recording received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.

There is a chapter in Richard Brautigan's classic Trout Fishing in America titled "Sea, Sea Rider."

Origins of the term[edit]

The term "See See Rider" is usually taken as synonymous with "easy rider." In particular, in blues songs it often refers to a woman who had liberal sexual views, had been married more than once, or was skilled at sex. Although Ma Rainey's version seems on the face of it to refer to "See See Rider" as a man, one theory is that the term refers to a prostitute and in the lyric, "You made me love you, now your man done come," "your man" refers to the woman's pimp. So, rather than being directed to a male "easy rider," the song is in fact an admonition to a prostitute to give up her evil ways.[8][9]

There are further theories:

  • "Easy rider" was sometimes used to refer to the partner of a hypersexual woman who therefore does not have to work or pay for sex.[8][9]
  • Another incorrect theory is that the term "easy rider" sometimes originally referred to the guitar hung across the back of a travelling blues singer.[10]
  • Other confused sources indicate that 'C.C. Rider' refers to early 'Country Circuit' Riding Preachers who traveled on horseback into many towns that were without formal churches at the time.[11]
  • The Grateful Dead often played the songs "China Cat Sunflower" and "I Know You Rider" in succession, but this combination was referred to as "China>Rider" amongst Grateful Dead fans. The setlist entry "C.C. Rider" refers to the Grateful Dead's version of "C.C. Rider", sung by Bob Weir.[12]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Some versions are in an "expanded", sixteen-bar blues form; see a review of Elijah Wald (2005). Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, Amistad. ISBN 0-06-052423-5 on Google group rec.music.country.old-time
  2. ^ Roger House, Blue Smoke: The Recorded Journey of Big Bill Broonzy, p.19
  3. ^ Wee Bea Booze Biography
  4. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 38 - The Rubberization of Soul: The great pop music renaissance. [Part 4]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu. 
  5. ^ Label shot of Animals single
  6. ^ Elvis Presley in Concert
  7. ^ The Blues . Feel Like Going Home . Interview | PBS
  8. ^ a b "easy, a. and adv.", Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.), Oxford University Press, 1989, "c. easy rider (U.S. slang): (a) a sexually satisfying lover (see also quot. 1926); (b) a guitar.
    1912-13 W. C. HANDY Memphis Blues, Mr. Crump don't 'low no easy riders here. 1926 in R. de Toledano Frontiers Jazz (1947) iii. 37 ‘Rider’, ‘easy rider’, which term means both lover and (not either, or) procurer... Fidelity to his woman is expected of the easy rider. 1927 Jrnl. Abnormal & Social Psychol. XXII. 16 ‘Easy rider’. This apt expression is used to describe a man whose movements in coitus are easy and satisfying. It is frequently met both in Negro folk songs and in formal songs. ‘I wonder where my easy rider's gone’, is a sort of by-word with Southern negroes. 1949 R. BLESH Shining Trumpets vi. 128 In rural Negro parlance..easy rider meant the guitar..carried suspended by its cord. In the double meaning of Negro imagery, the femininely formed guitar..typifies also a woman companion. In Negro ‘city talk’, the term easy rider has come to mean either a sexually satisfying woman or a male lover who lives off a woman's earnings. 1958 P. OLIVER in P. Gammond Decca Bk. Jazz i. 24 For the blues singer, the most valuable instrument was the guitar,..and, as his ‘easy rider’, could be slung across his back when he wished to travel."
     
  9. ^ a b Lighter, J.E. (1994), Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang A-G I, p. 375, ISBN 0-394-54427-7, "n Black E. 1. a parasitical man usu. without a steady job who lives by gambling or sponging, (speicif.) a man who is supported by a woman, esp. a prostitute. [...] 2.a. a sexually satisfying lover. [...] b. a young woman who is sexually promiscious or easily seduced. Also easy ride. [...] c.a guitar [...] 4. a person who is not easily ruffled or provoked" 
  10. ^ Ayto, John, "The Arts, Entertainment, and the Media. 3. Music & Dance", The Oxford Dictionary of Slang, Oxford University Press, p. 351, ISBN 0-19-863157-X, "easy rider (1949) Applied to a guitar, probably from a guitar's portability, but compare earlier sense, sexually satisfying lover, perhaps suggesting a link between the guitar's curved outlines and those of a voluptuous woman." 
  11. ^ Company, Johnson Publishing (Feb 9, 1967), "Think you are soul folk, baby?", Jet 31 (18 pages=47, 55), ISSN 0021-5996, "7. In "C.C. Rider," what does "C.C." stand for? [...] (c) Country Circuit, preacher an old time rambler" 
  12. ^ "12-10-89 Great Western Forum, Inglewood, CA", Deadbase, Dec 10, 1989 

External links[edit]