Please, Please, Please

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"Please, Please, Please"
Single by James Brown and the Famous Flames
from the album Please Please Please
B-side"Why Do You Do Me"
ReleasedMarch 1956 (1956-03)
RecordedFebruary 4, 1956
StudioKing, Cincinnati, Ohio,
GenreRhythm and blues
  • James Brown
  • Johnny Terry
Producer(s)Ralph Bass
James Brown and the Famous Flames singles chronology
"Please, Please, Please"
"I Don't Know"

"Please, Please, Please" is a rhythm and blues song performed by James Brown and The Famous Flames. Written by Brown and Johnny Terry and released as a single on Federal Records in 1956, it reached No. 6 on the R&B charts. The group's debut recording and first chart hit, it has come to be recognized as their signature song.


In 1952, James Brown was released from a youth detention center in Toccoa, Georgia after Bobby Byrd and his family sponsored him. Brown's warden agreed to the release on the condition that Brown not return to Augusta. After his release, Brown briefly pursued a career in sports before starting his musical career as a gospel vocalist with the group the Ever-Ready Gospel Singers. When a member of Bobby Byrd's vocal group, the Avons, died in 1954, Byrd asked Brown to join his group. A year later, after performing as the Five Royals, they became the Flames, playing all over Georgia and South Carolina.[1][2]

According to Etta James, Brown and his group came up with the idea for their first song, because Brown "used to carry around an old tattered napkin with him, because Little Richard had written the words, 'please, please, please' on it and James was determined to make a song out of it".[3]


"Please, Please, Please" was released on March 4, 1956. Though it sold slowly at first, the record reached the top ten of the R&B charts by late summer, eventually peaking at No. 6, selling between one and three million copies.[4][5]

In 2011, "Please, Please, Please" was ranked No. 143 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[6]

Live performances[edit]

The initial performances of the song were subpar though the group itself was received well. It took a number of years until the Flames developed a routine for the performance. Starting in 1959, Brown would perform the song to the point of feigned exhaustion, when he would drop to his knees and collapse on the stage. Meanwhile, a fellow Flame (sometimes Bobby Byrd and at other times Bobby Bennett) would drop either a blanket or big towel around Brown's back and help him offstage. Before completely exiting, Brown would rip the towel off and return to his microphone, adding to the excitement of his audience.

Influenced by Little Richard and professional wrestler Gorgeous George, who both wore capes, Brown began wearing capes in his act.[7]


with the Flames:

  • Bobby Byrd – background vocals
  • Johnny Terry – background vocals
  • Sylvester Keels – background vocals
  • Nash Knox – background vocals
  • Nafloyd Scott – guitar


  • Wilbert "Lee Diamond" Smith – tenor saxophone
  • Ray Felder – tenor saxophone
  • Lucas "Fats" Gonder – piano
  • Clarence Mack – bass
  • Edison Gore – drums[8]

Filmed performances[edit]

  • Brown and The Famous Flames performed "Please, Please, Please" as part of their set in The T.A.M.I. Show in 1964.
  • In the movie Blues Brothers 2000 Brown performs the song after the closing credits.
  • In Barry Levinson's Liberty Heights, an actor in the role of Brown performs the song in a theater along Baltimore's Pennsylvania Avenue.
  • a live version of the song appears in the film The Commitments
  • James Brown & The Famous Flames also sang and performed "Please Please Please" on a 1964 telecast of Dick Clark's Where The Action Is on ABC.[9]

Other versions and recordings[edit]

"Please, Please, Please"
Single by Ike & Tina Turner
from the album Ike & Tina Turner Revue Live
B-side"Am I A Fool In Love"
ReleasedNovember 1964
VenueClub Imperial, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Songwriter(s)Brown, Terry
Ike & Tina Turner singles chronology
"I Can't Believe What You Say (for Seeing What You Do)"
"Please, Please, Please"
"Ooh Poo Pah Doo"

In 1964, during a contract dispute between Brown and King Records head Syd Nathan, the label reissued the original 1956 performance of "Please, Please, Please" with overdubbed crowd noise in an attempt to pass it off as a live recording. The reissue reached No. 95 on the Billboard Hot 100.[10]

Brown also re-recorded the song several times later in his career. On his 1972 album Get on the Good Foot, he did an upbeat long version, which lasted over twelve minutes. 1974's Hell included a salsa version of the song that featured Brown speaking in Spanish. For Brown's 1976 album Hot, he recorded a more solemn, ballad rendition, which featured male background vocalists in the quiet storm style of Barry White's music.

Ike & Tina Turner released a live version of "Please, Please, Please" as single on Kent Records, which was included on their 1964 album Ike & Tina Turner Revue Live.[11] They also performed the song on The Big T.N.T Show in 1965. After their resurgence on the charts, Kent reissued the single in 1970. It reached No. 45 on Record World's R&B chart.[12]

In February 1967, Swedish band the Maniacs, featuring a young Tommy Körberg recorded the song as a single.[13] Released as a single in March of that year, backed by Paul Ferris "Visions",[14] it became the group's breakthrough hit, reaching No. 5 on Tio i Topp and No. 12 on sales chart Kvällstoppen that year.[15][16]

The song has been covered by all sorts of performers. The Residents have covered the song, and The Who on My Generation (1965) and several others.


  1. ^ "The Famous Flames Biography". Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
  2. ^ "The Famous Flames". Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  3. ^ Merlis, Bob; Seay, Davin; James, Etta (1997), p. foreword. Heart and Soul – A Celebration of Black Music Style in America 1930–1975.
  4. ^ White, Cliff (1991). Discography. In Star Time (p. 55) [CD liner notes]. London: Polydor Records.
  5. ^ Britannica Educational Publishing (2009-10-01). The 100 Most Influential Musicians of All Time, p. 251. The Rosen Publishing Group. ISBN 9781615300563. Retrieved 2012-03-14.
  6. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
  7. ^ White 2003, pp. 68–70.
  8. ^ Leeds, Alan, and Harry Weinger (1991). "Star Time: Song by Song". In Star Time (pp. 46–53) [CD booklet]. New York: PolyGram Records.
  9. ^ "YouTube". Archived from the original on 6 November 2019. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  10. ^ White, Cliff (1991). "Discography". In Star Time (pp. 54–59) [CD booklet]. New York: PolyGram Records.
  11. ^ "R&B D.J. Roundup" (PDF). Billboard. November 14, 1964. p. 16.
  12. ^ "Record World Top 50 R&B" (PDF). Record World: 31. June 20, 1970.
  13. ^ "Please, Please, Please / Visions". Svensk Pophistoria. Retrieved 13 November 2022.
  14. ^ Tom Mick & Maniacs (liner notes pg. 8). Brandels, Göran. Tom & Mick & Maniacs. Riverside Records. 2013.
  15. ^ Hallberg, Eric (1993). Eric Hallberg presenterar Kvällstoppen i P3. Drift. p. 284. ISBN 9-789-16-302-14-04.
  16. ^ Hallberg, Eric; Henningsson, Ulf (2012). Tio i Topp - med de utslagna "på försök" 1961–74 (in Swedish). Premium. p. 378. ISBN 978-91-89136-89-2.

External links[edit]