"Handy Man" is a song written by singer Jimmy Jones and songwriter Otis Blackwell. Recordings by Del Shannon and also The Sparks Of Rhythm list Charles Merenstein as a co-writer, as does BMI. The Sparks Of Rhythm version on the Apollo 541 single version released in 1959 credits Andrew Barksdale and Merenstein as writers omitting Jimmy Jones. The song is noted for Jones singing "Come-a, come-a come-a come-a, come come-a, yeah" lyrics, which are heard at the beginning as well as in the coda of the song, before the song's fade.
It was originally recorded by The Sparks Of Rhythm, a group Jones had been a member of when he wrote it, although he was not with them when they recorded it. That version was in a minor key, and had a completely different melody. When Jimmy Jones recorded it, the song was changed to a major key, with a completely different melody. In 1959, Jones recorded the song himself, in a version which had been reworked by Blackwell, who also produced the session. In addition, Blackwell also provided the whistling, which is prominently heard throughout the whole song. "Handy Man" reached No. 3 on the R&B charts and No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960 behind Theme from A Summer Place by Percy Faith, becoming a million seller.
The song was a hit again in 1964, reaching No. 22 for Del Shannon and yet again in 1977 for James Taylor. Taylor's version peaked at #1 in September, 1977 on the RPM Top Singles chart.
Allmusic critic Jason Elias compares Jones' original with Taylor's version stating that "where Jones’s version was chipper and a little obnoxious," Taylor's version "is so laid back it’s almost somnolent." Elias notes that Taylor's slowed down version has the benefit of allowing him to shade the words in new ways. Elias also praises Taylor's guitar playing.
Culture Club were accused of plagiarizing their 1983 hit "Karma Chameleon" from "Handy Man", for its apparent lifting of the "Comaa, Comma" section. Culture Club frontman Boy George has denied consciously plagiarizing the song: "I might have heard it once, but it certainly wasn't something I sat down and said, 'Yeah, I want to copy this.'"