I'm a King Bee
|"I'm a King Bee"|
|Single by Slim Harpo|
|A-side||"Got Love If You Want It"|
|Format||7-inch 45 rpm record|
|Recorded||J. D. Miller Studio, Crowley, Louisiana,1957|
|Label||Excello (no. 2113)|
|Writer(s)||James Moore aka Slim Harpo|
|Producer(s)||J. D. Miller|
"I'm a King Bee" is a swamp blues song that has been performed and recorded by numerous blues and other artists. In 2008, Slim Harpo's "I'm a King Bee" received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award, which "honor[s] recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance".
Written by Slim Harpo (using his real name, James Moore), the song was recorded in March 1957. The recording features a spare arrangement and instrumentation typical of J. D. Miller's production approach. Accompanying Slim Harpo were Gabriel "Guitar Gable" Perrodin on guitar, John "Fats" Perrodin on bass, and Clarence "Jockey" Etienne on drums.
The song has an irregular number of bars (15-bar blues, as opposed to the standard 12 bars) and uses the rhythm figure from "Rockin' and Rollin'" by Lil' Son Jackson. Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based Excello Records originally released it that year as the B-side to his debut solo single, "I Got Love if You Want It".
Rolling Stones version
English rock band the Rolling Stones recorded "I'm a King Bee" for their 1964 debut album (The Rolling Stones (UK), England's Newest Hit Makers (US)). It has been identified as an early important song for the Rolling Stones, although it was not released as a single. The band's arrangement generally follows Slim Harpo's, but includes a slide-guitar break by Brian Jones. The personnel consisted of Jagger on vocals and harmonica, Jones on slide guitar, Keith Richards on acoustic guitar, Bill Wyman on bass guitar, and Charlie Watts on drums. Later, Mick Jagger commented "What's the point in listening to us doing 'I'm a King Bee' when you can hear Slim Harpo do it?"
Renditions by other artists
The Tea Set, which later grew into Pink Floyd, recorded "I'm a King Bee" and several other songs in December 1964. The recording, which features Syd Barrett, Bob Klose, Roger Waters, Richard Wright and Nick Mason, was not officially released until 2015 on 1965: Their First Recordings. The Grateful Dead performed the song often in concert between 1966 and 1972. It has been released on the albums Live at the Fillmore East 2-11-69, Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings, Fillmore West 1969, and Ladies and Gentlemen... the Grateful Dead. The Doors performed it at The Matrix Club in 1967, which was released on Live at the Matrix 1967. Also at a 1970 Detroit show, a version with Ray Manzarek singing the lead vocals and John Sebastian (formerly of The Lovin' Spoonful) guesting on harmonica, was recorded and subsequently released on Live in Detroit.
In the 1970s, Led Zeppelin sometimes performed "I'm a King Bee" as part of the live "Whole Lotta Love" medley. John Belushi spoofed the song on the January 17, 1976, episode of Saturday Night Live, performing it live while dressed in a bee costume. Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush included "I'm a King Bee" on their 1978 Live album. Muddy Waters recorded it for his 1981 album King Bee. In 1998, Add N to (X) released "King Wasp", which samples Harpo's song, on their album On the Wires of Our Nerves. In 2003, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry performed and recorded "I'm a King Bee" as part of the live "Lightning In a Bottle" blues tribute concert. 22-20s recorded a version of the song for their 2003 live EP 05/03. The Stone Foxes released a single version on April 26, 2011; it features vocals by Avi Vinocur and was used in a television commercial for Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey liquor. Dirty Beaches recorded the song in 2012. Also in 2012, Rhode Island hip-hop artist, B. Dolan, sampled the Stone Foxes cover for his "King Bee", which was produced by Buddy Peace. For their 2012 single Funky President vs. King Bee, industrial hip hop outfit Tackhead covered the song and later placed in on their album For the Love of Money.
- "Grammy Hall of Fame Awards – Past Recipients". The Recording Academy. 2008. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
- Everett, Tod (1989). The Best of Slim Harpo (Liner notes). Slim Harpo. Rhino Records. p. 1. RS 70169.
- Herzhaft, Gerard (1992). "I'm a King Bee". Encyclopedia of the Blues. University of Arkansas Press. p. 453. ISBN 1-55728-252-8.
- Manning, Toby (2006). The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd (1st ed.). London: Rough Guides. pp. 15–16. ISBN 1-84353-575-0.
- Chapman, Rob (2010). Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head (Paperback ed.). London: Faber. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-571-23855-2.