In the Midnight Hour

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"In the Midnight Hour"
In the Midnight Hour.jpg
Single by Wilson Pickett
from the album In the Midnight Hour
B-side"I'm Not Tired"
ReleasedJune 1965 (1965-06)
Format7-inch single
RecordedMay 12, 1965
StudioStax, Memphis, Tennessee

"In the Midnight Hour" is a song originally performed by Wilson Pickett in 1965 and released on his 1965 album of the same name, also appearing on the 1966 album The Exciting Wilson Pickett. The song was composed by Pickett and Steve Cropper at the historic Lorraine Motel in Memphis where Martin Luther King, Jr. would later be assassinated in April 1968. Pickett's first hit on Atlantic Records,[1] it reached number one on the R&B charts and peaked at number 21 on the pop charts.[2]

In 2017, the song was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or artistically significant."[3]

Wilson Pickett version[edit]

Wilson Pickett recorded "In the Midnight Hour" at Stax Studios, Memphis, May 12, 1965. The song's co-writer Steve Cropper recalls: "[Atlantic Records president] Jerry Wexler said he was going to bring down this great singer Wilson Pickett" to record at Stax Studio where Cropper was a session guitarist "and I didn’t know what groups he'd been in or whatever. But I used to work in [a] record shop, and I found some gospel songs that Wilson Pickett had sung on. On a couple [at] the end, he goes: 'I'll see my Jesus in the midnight hour! Oh, in the midnight hour. I'll see my Jesus in the midnight hour.'" and Cropper got the idea of using the phrase "in the midnight hour" as the basis for an R&B song.[4] More likely, Cropper was remembering the Falcon's 1962 song "I Found a Love," on which Pickett sings lead and says "And sometimes I call in the midnight hour!" The only gospel record Pickett had appeared on before this was the Violinaires' "Sign of the Judgement," which includes no such phrase.[5]

Besides Cropper the band on "In the Midnight Hour" featured Stax session regulars Al Jackson (drums) and Donald "Duck" Dunn (bass). According to Cropper, "Wexler was responsible for the track's innovative delayed backbeat", as Cropper revamped his planned groove for "In the Midnight Hour" based on a dance step which Wexler demonstrated in the studio - "(quote Cropper) this was the way the kids were dancing; they were putting the accent on two. Basically, we'd been one-beat-accenters with an afterbeat; it was like 'boom dah,' but here was a thing that went 'um-chaw,' just the reverse as far as the accent goes."[6]

"In the Midnight Hour" reached number one on the R&B chart in Billboard magazine dated August 7, 1965 and crossed over to the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 reaching number 21: however according to Stax owner Jim Stewart the domestic sales total of the single in its original release was a moderate 300,000 units.[7] However "In the Midnight Hour" by Wilson Pickett has become an iconic R&B track, placing at number 134 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time, Wilson Pickett's first of two entries on the list (the other being "Mustang Sally" at number 434). It is also one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll, Pickett's only such entry. The song is currently ranked as the 175th greatest song of all time, as well as the eleventh best song of 1965, by Acclaimed Music.[8] Pickett re-recorded the song for his 1987 album American Soul Man.

The Mirettes version[edit]

The Mirettes had a Top 20 R&B hit with their version of "In the Midnight Hour" which reached number 18 on the R&B chart in Billboard magazine in the spring of 1968, almost crossing-over to the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 with a chart peak of number 45.

Cross Country version[edit]

Cross Country, which consisted of three members of the Tokens quartet, recorded a ballad version of "In the Midnight Hour" for the group's sole album release which was entitled Cross Country and otherwise consisted of original material: group member Jay Siegel states that Cross Country re-invented "In the Midnight Hour" taking as prototype the recordings of Crosby Stills and Nash.[9] Issued as a single in July 1973, "In the Midnight Hour" debuted at number 100 on the Hot 100 in Billboard magazine dated August 18, 1973, rising to a peak of number 30 in October 1973: the Cashbox Top 100 Singles chart ranked "In the Midnight Hour" by Cross Country as high as #18 besting the number 22 peak afforded to the Wilson Pickett original by the Cashbox Top 100 Singles chart. "In the Midnight Hour" by Cross Country also ranked on the Billboard Easy Listening chart with a number six peak, and was a moderate hit in Canada with an RPM100 peak of number 34, also charting in Australia (number 63).

Razzy Bailey version[edit]

"In the Midnight Hour" became a C&W hit in 1984 via a remake by Razzy Bailey which reached number 14 C&W. The single was taken from Bailey's The Midnight Hour album recorded in 1983 at producer Bob Montgomery's Soundshop Studio, Nashville. (Bailey followed up "In the Midnight Hour" with another Steve Cropper co-write "Knock on Wood".)

Other versions[edit]

Listed chronologically, "In the Midnight Hour" has also been recorded by:


  1. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 51 - The Soul Reformation: Phase three, soul music at the summit. [Part 7] : UNT Digital Library" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 461.
  3. ^ "National Recording Registry Picks Are "Over the Rainbow"". Library of Congress. March 29, 2016. Retrieved March 29, 2016.
  4. ^ Else, Something. "Steve Cropper's research into Wilson Pickett sparked initial hit". Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  5. ^ Simpson, Kim. ""I Found a Love" (1962) - The Falcons". Retrieved 2017-03-09.
  6. ^ Pickett-New, Louella (2015). Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You. NYC: Fulton Books. ISBN 9781499052855.
  7. ^ Bowman, Rob (1997). Soulsville, U.S.A.: the story of Stax Records. NYC: Schirmer Trade Books. p. 62. ISBN 978-0825672842.
  8. ^ "Acclaimed Music Top 3000 songs". Acclaimed Music. 27 May 2009.
  9. ^ "Gary James' Interview With Jay Siegel of the Tokens". Retrieved 14 September 2015.