Along Came Jones (song)

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"Along Came Jones"
Single by The Coasters
B-side "That Is Rock & Roll"
Released May 1959
Recorded March 26, 1959
Genre Rock and roll
Length 2:53
Label Atco
Songwriter(s) Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
The Coasters singles chronology
"Charlie Brown"
(1959)
"Along Came Jones"
(1959)
"Poison Ivy"
(1959)

"Charlie Brown"
(1959)
"Along Came Jones"
(1959)
"Poison Ivy"
(1959)

"Along Came Jones" is a comedic song written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and originally recorded by the Coasters,[1] but covered by many other groups and individuals.

The song[edit]

Told from the perspective of a person watching television, the song tells of the interaction between a gunslinger ("Jones"), a bandit ("Salty Sam") and a ranch owner ("Sweet Sue") on an unnamed television show.

The TV shows feature various "damsel in distress" scenarios, whereby Sam abducts Sue and places her in peril, intending to force her to give him the deed to her ranch or face a gruesome death:

  • In the first verse, the narrator watches Sam attempt to kill Sue by cutting her in half in an abandoned sawmill.
  • In the second verse, the narrator fixes a snack during a commercial break, and comes back to see Sam attempting to detonate Sue in an abandoned mine.
  • In the third verse, apparently tired of the show, the narrator changes channels, only to find a different episode of the show, this time with Sam attempting to stuff Sue in a burlap sack and throw her in front of an oncoming train.

However, Sue is rescued, and Sam's plans foiled, by the hero, a "tall, thin", "slow-walkin'", "slow-talkin'", "long, lean, lanky" fellow named Jones. How Jones defeats Sam and rescues Sue is never told.[1]

The tenor saxophone heard on this record by The Coasters is King Curtis, who played sax on many of their hits.

Origins and meaning[edit]

Westerns were the most popular genre on TV and film in the 1950s and early 1960s. In mocking their inescapable presence, the song takes inspiration from the 1945 Gary Cooper film Along Came Jones, a comedy Western. In the film the "long, lean, lanky" Cooper lampoons his usual "slow-walkin', slow-talkin'" screen persona. The music for the film was composed by Arthur Lange, mentor to songwriter Mike Stoller.

Historian Ken Emerson notes of the song: "What was original in the humor of 'Along Came Jones' was not its parody of shoot-'em-ups … What was new were black voices mocking an iconic Caucasian genre fifteen years before Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles. Leiber's original lyrics sharpened the racial angle by calling attention to the hero's white hat, white boots, and faithful white horse. Those lines did not pass muster with Jerry Wexler, the executive producer at Atlantic to whom Leiber and Stoller generally reported."[2]

Cover versions[edit]

The Righteous Brothers covered the song on their Sayin' Something album (1967).[3] In their version, by the third verse Bill Medley, who says the repeated line "And then ...", has lost patience with the story as told by Bobby Hatfield. A cover version by novelty pop artist Ray Stevens in 1969, reached a peak of #27 on the Billboard Hot 100.[4] Stevens was also the voice of "Salty Sam," and (in falsetto) of "Sweet Sue," who screams for help and makes humorous ad-libs (e.g. "there he go again, tyin' me up, same routine" and "here comes the train, here comes the train"). The track features dubbed-in laughter and cheering from a "live" audience, and includes a brief quote from Rossini's "William Tell Overture" at the end.

Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones (of Monkees fame) did a cover version with Monkees songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, on the album Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart in 1976.[5] Jones makes humorous comments in a mock-posh British accent ("That's not cricket, old chap"). "Yakety Sax" is interpolated during the saxophone solo.

The French singer Henri Salvador covered the song in French, but with different lyrics and a children's television hero in the starring role: "Zorro est arrivé" (1964).[6]

The song is alluded to in the song "Million Dollar Bash" by Bob Dylan.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Leiber & Stoller interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
  2. ^ Emerson, Ken (2005). Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era. Viking Adult. p. 56. ISBN 978-0670034567. 
  3. ^ The Righteous Brothers, Sayin' Something Retrieved February 7, 2012
  4. ^ Ray Stevens chart positions Retrieved February 7, 2012.
  5. ^ Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart, Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart Retrieved February 7, 2012
  6. ^ Henri Salvador - Zorro est Arrivé - EMI Records (France) Archived 2011-09-29 at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]