Bottle Up and Go

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"Bottle It Up and Go"
Bottle It Up and Go - single cover.jpg
Single by Tommy McClennan
A-side"Whiskey Headed Woman"
Released1939 (1939)
Format10-inch 78 rpm record
RecordedNovember 22, 1939
StudioRCA Studio A, Chicago
LabelBluebird (no. 8373)

"Bottle Up and Go" or "Bottle It Up and Go" is a song that is a standard of the blues.[1] Based on earlier songs, Delta bluesman Tommy McClennan recorded "Bottle It Up and Go" in 1939. The song has been interpreted and recorded by numerous artists, sometimes using alternate titles, such as "Step It Up and Go", "Shake It Up and Go", etc. John Lee Hooker performed it throughout his career and recorded several versions of the song.

Earlier songs[edit]

In 1932, a jug band version of "Bottle It Up and Go" was recorded by a loose musical collective led by Will Shade and Charlie Burse, who recorded as the Memphis Jug Band, Picaninny Jug Band, Dixieland Jug Blowers, Dallas Jug Band, and other names. Based on a "traditional piece known in the South",[1] it features several verses in the hokum blues style with jug band accompaniment.[2] A second version was recorded and released by the Memphis Jug Band in 1934 (Okeh 8959).

In 1937, John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson recorded the song as "Got the Bottle Up and Go" (or "Got Bottle Up & Gone") (Bluebird 7012). It was performed as an early Chicago blues with Williamson on vocal and harmonica accompanied by Big Joe Williams and Robert Lee McCoy (later known as Robert Nighthawk) on guitars. These early versions of "Bottle Up and Go" include the refrain "High-powered mama, daddy's (or papa's) got your water on".

Tommy McClennan song[edit]

In 1939, Tommy McClennan recorded "Bottle It Up and Go" during his first recording session for Bluebird Records. His song includes "a catchy guitar lick, a stomping danceable groove and a neat structure which divided the twelve-bar [blues] stanza into verse and chorus: socking home a different coupler each time".[3] It is a solo piece with McClennan on vocal and guitar and borrows lyrics from earlier songs.[4] McClennan used verses similar to those found in "Hesitation Blues": "Now nickel is a nickel, a dime is a dime..." and "The Duck's Yas-Yas-Yas": "Now my mama killed a chicken, she thought it was a duck, she put 'im on the table with 'is legs sticking up". He also used verses similar to those in Julius Daniels' 1927 song "Can't Put the Bridle On That Mule This Morning" (Victor 21359-A): "Now the nigger and the white man playin' seven-up, nigger beat the white man [but he's] scared to pick it [the winnings] up". These verses have been traced back to 19th-century work songs, which were noted in an 1870s newspaper article.[4]

McClennan, who had recently arrived in Chicago from the Delta, was cautioned by Big Bill Broonzy about using racially loaded lyrics in northern cities.[5] According to Broonzy, McClennan stubbornly refused to compromise, resulting in a hasty exit out a window during one performance with McClennan's smashed guitar around his neck.[5] "McClennan, for his part, reflected pensively that they had indeed been forced to 'bottle it up and go'".[6]

Bluebird released the song as the B-side of "Whiskey Headed Woman" in 1939. When McClennan re-recorded the song as "Shake It Up and Go" in 1942, he used different lyrics.

John Lee Hooker versions[edit]

During his career, John Lee Hooker recorded several adaptations of "Bottle Up and Go", usually varying the lyrics. It has been identified as "one of the templates on which a significant slice of Hooker's early repertoire is based".[3] He first recorded a solo performance as "Bundle Up and Go" in 1959 for The Country Blues of John Lee Hooker album (Riverside). Around the same time, he recorded another version as "You Gotta Shake It Up and Go", which had a group arrangement (Galaxy 716). Hooker's later versions are usually titled "Bottle Up and Go" and are included on the albums John Lee Hooker on Campus (1963 Vee-Jay), It Serves You Right to Suffer, Hooker 'n Heat (with Canned Heat), and Boom Boom (1992 Point Blank).

Other versions[edit]

Most versions of "Bottle Up and Go" recorded after Tommy McClennan's single use a combination of his verses and new lyrics. Early versions (often with a variation on the title) include those by Blind Boy Fuller (as "Step It Up and Go") (1940),[7] Lead Belly (1940), and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee (1942). Western swing band Maddox Brothers and Rose recorded it as "New Step It Up and Go" (1951). B.B. King recorded a version as "Shake It Up and Go" (1952) "although he confuses himself by saying 'bottle up and go' half the time".[8] He later re-recorded it for the Blues on the Bayou album (1998). The Everly Brothers included it as "Step It Up and Go" for Instant Party! (1962) and The Everly Brothers Reunion Concert (1983). Bob Dylan recorded "Step It Up and Go" for Good as I Been to You (1992). The song has also been regularly featured by Mungo Jerry in their live performances. It has been suggested that Chuck Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business" is adapted from McClennan's song.[3]


  1. ^ a b Herzhaft, Gerard (1992). "Bottle It Up and Go". Encyclopedia of the Blues. University of Arkansas Press. p. 440. ISBN 1-55728-252-8.
  2. ^ Papa Charlie McCoy reportedly recorded a "Bottle It Up" February 3, 1932 (Vocalion 1726), but it is not available.
  3. ^ a b c Murray, Charles Shaar (2002). Boogie Man: The Adventures of John Lee Hooker in the American Twentieth Century. Macmillan. pp. 344–345. ISBN 978-0-312-27006-3.
  4. ^ a b Oakley, Giles (1997). The Devil's Music: A History of the Blues. Da Capo Press. pp. 36–37. ISBN 978-0-306-80743-5.
  5. ^ a b Aldin, Mary Katherine (1997). Tommy McClennan: The Bluebird Recordings 1939–1942 (Media notes). Tommy McClennan. RCA. pp. 7–8. 07863 67438-2.
  6. ^ Gioia, Ted (2008). Delta Blues. W. W. Norton. p. 210. ISBN 978-0-393-33750-1.
  7. ^ Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 13. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
  8. ^ Escott, Colin (2002). B.B. King: The Vintage Years (Media notes). B.B. King. Ace Records, Ltd. p. 47. Ace ABOXCD 8.